Baseline to Baseline (last night's game recaps)

1 Comment

Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while watching Lost. (Since it was a busy night, it was a team effort)

Denver 127, Dallas 91 This was a schedule-makers loss for Dallas — only one team in the last two years (Orlando) has traveled from the West Coast to Denver for the second night of a back-to-back and won. Denver is too good a team to beat tired and at altitude. Dallas knew this would be an “L” when the schedule came out.

But the fact it was a 36-point blowout says everything you need to know about where these teams are headed right now. Denver is putting it together, playing with confidence. Guys are stepping up: Kenyon Martin had to sit out with some tendonitis in his knee, and Malik Allen stepped in and was solid. Dallas has just stopped playing defense, and Denver players took their man off the dribble and there were no defensive rotations to stop them. Dallas can write off the loss in their minds, but the blowout should bother them.

Atlanta 108 Memphis 94 This was just fun. There were moments during this game when I was actually rooting for a turnover in a half court set because it leads to beautiful fast breaks by both teams. But they will run on anything, even a made basket — which led to my favorite play of the game (mid third quarter):  OJ Mayo slipped out off a Hawks make, got the long pass ahead of the pack and was heading for a layup but Marvin Williams raced down and blocked it off the backboard, right to the hands of Zach Randolph trailing the play, and as he goes up Josh Smith comes running into the play and swats it from behind. The Hawks do not make it easy on you.

Matt Moore loved the game, too: Both teams were hitting, both teams were running, The Grizzlies were dishing, the Hawks were dunking, and it was just a fun all-around game. So of course the Grizzlies, whose depth resembles that of the Mariah Carey film “Glitter,’ faded into nothingness when once again no bench savior appeared.

Meanwhile, I get that Carl Landry is a beast. Believe me, I do. But Jamal Crawford scored 28 points on 14 shots and did everything, including setting a record for most career four-point plays (breaking Reggie Miller’s record). That man is your sixth man of the year.

Oklahoma City 89 Portland 77 Watching Kevin Durant and Nicholas Bantum go at it makes you hope that the rivalry between these two young teams grows over the next five years and we get to see these two put on a dunking show with more on the line than a February win. These two teams still played young — Westbrook had his ups and downs, for example. But the biggest difference was the benches: Portland’s was unimpressive, and OKC had James Harden, who started slow then went on a 13 point tear that helped decide this one.

Utah 109 L.A. Clippers 99 The Clippers looked a lot more comfortable second game out with their new “hey, we don’t have to wait for coach to call the play every time” offense. They found a nice balance (Kim Hughes said he wants 60% called plays, 40% improvisation). The Clippers just looked better. But they are still not as good as the Jazz. The Jazz know who they are, the Clippers are trying to figure it out. Carlos Boozer had 27 points on 10 of 13 shooting, and added 12 boards. The Clipper defense seemed helpless against him and the Jazz system of cuts and picks.

Cleveland 104, New Jersey 97 Matt Moore put it perfectly: It’s not that the Nets played badly. They really didn’t. There were times when they seemed, as they’ve seemed many times this season, like they were going to bull rush the lead. Then the fourth quarter happened, LeBron did his thing, Shaq got involved, and the lead became pregnant and gave birth to puppies. The Nets would counter great possessions with Lopez-Yi give and go’s, Lopez hooks, and nifty Lee layups with contested 18 footers early in the shot clock. The defense wasn’t great, giving up 104 points on 84 possessions, but then, this is the Cavs. The bench getting outscored 39-9, let me say that again, 39-9, that, my friends, was not okay.

Charlotte 94, Washington 92 Matt Moore again: For all the talk of Nazr Mohammed versus Tyson Chandler, the Wizards bigs won that matchup handily (Blatche with 15, Hayes with 12 and 11). But if you wanted to point to the smoking elephant playing bourre in the room, the Wizards’ point guards were outscored 30-5. Still, the Wizards got a huge three from Mike Miller (who was wearing some sort of half-t-shirt monstrosity) to go up one with less than a minute remaining, but a Raymond Felton fadeaway buried the Wizards for good. Maybe no game so clearly demonstrated how wrong most people were about both of these teams in preseason.

Philadelphia 119, Minnesota 97 If you shoot 57.4% for the game, you’re going to win just about every time. The Sixers are just a better the Jrue Holliday/Willie Green backcourt, which combined for 21 points, nine assists and just two turnovers. They Sixers play better defense, get better matchups and play more cohesive offense with them in. Allen Iverson is off dealing with a sick child, but when he comes back he has to come off the bench. Eddie Jordan knows that, but he can’t be relishing the looming fight.

Miami 99, Houston 66 Every team has a few games of the 82 where they just don’t show up. Tonight was the Rockets turn– 32% shooting and they turned the ball over one in four trips down the court in the first half. Miami was up 25 at the break and they only played the second half because the rule book requires it. Not to knock the Heat, they played fine, but this was more about the Rockets’ head being out at a South Beach club.

Sacramento 118 New York 114 (OT) John Krolik watched this one: Up six points with just over three minutes left to play, New York appeared to be in good shape. Then Tyreke Evans happened. Evans scored 10 straight points in just over two minutes, which is impressive enough. What makes it flat-out scary is that Evans scored all of his points at the rim, with four driving layups and two free throws.  In contrast, on the Knicks’ final possession of regulation was having Chris Duhon dribble around the perimeter for 22 seconds and heave up a turnaround three. (He air-balled it.) There was still technically an overtime period to play after that, but the Knicks were clearly demoralized.

What may be equally heartening to Kings fans was the play of Kevin Martin in overtime, where he scored the first nine points.

Detroit 93, Milwaukee 81 Matt More caught a lot of this one: I can tell you about Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun P
rince with impressive games,
looking like what Dumars envisioned. I can tell you about Ben Gordon with 18 points, looking like what Joe Dumars paid for. But you want to know what the difference was? Jason Maxiell. 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals. And you look across at Hakim Warrick and that was a huge differential. It wasn’t the box score, though. It was Maxiell making those “Oh, come ON” plays. The ones where you can almost hear Bucks fans screaming “Oh, come ON!” at the television, as Maxiell gobbles up an offensive rebound to give the Pistons another possession (which is huge in an 82 possession game

 In other news, if you’re up one point, with the opponent driving the lane in transition for the go-ahead score, there’s one guy you want between the other guy and the rim. And it’s not Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Ron Artest, or Shaquille O’Neal. It’s Andrew Bogut. Because that sneaky Aussie is drawing the charge and getting you the ball back.

Chicago 109, Indiana 101 I find the Pacers just hard to watch play. It shouldn’t be that way, they play at a fast pace, Danny Granger is a joy, but somehow all their games seem mundane. The Bulls were efficient enough, they get the win. That’s all you really need to know.

LeBron James leads Cavaliers back to Finals doing it his way

Leave a comment

LeBron James is the first NBA star of the social media age, and with that has come a volume of criticism that the greats before him — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan — never had to deal with.

Even these playoffs, there have been chattering voices knocking LeBron for how he worked more to set up teammates — particularly Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — more than seeking out his own shot. Some people have always wanted him to be more Jordan, when he was always more Magic. Or Oscar Robertson.

And this playoff he knew that he could carry his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals through a diluted East, but if he wanted a ring he was going to need those other players to be confident, ready, and believing in the team.

You could see that all come together for LeBron James in Game 6. He attacked early and set a tone, then got everyone involved on his way to 33 points and 11 assists in what became a 113-87 win sending Cleveland back to the NBA Finals.

“I just had to bring my game,” James said in his on-court postgame interview on ESPN. “I had to bring my game, I had to be in attack mode from the beginning, trust my shot, and once my shot start going I can get my teammates involved and they was able to carry me down the stretch.”

LeBron James was getting to the rim with those attacks, check out his shot chart:

LeBron shot chart

LeBron also keyed the fourth-quarter 22-7 run that put away the game.

“There is only one LeBron James, and he makes a difference on any team he plays on, and he’s proven that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “It’s six Finals (in a row for LeBron), to compare him to our team — and I love our players, I wouldn’t trade any of our players — but you put him on any team and he’s a difference maker.”

LeBron’s critics will not be silenced. The man has made six straight finals, a feat not accomplished by anyone since a few legendary Celtics of the 1950s-60s (Bill Russell’s teams). It speaks to LeBron’s focus, skill, durability, and ability to lead teams.

Critics will point to LeBron being 2-4 in the Finals. That misses the point — making it to six straight is an amazing accomplishment, and LeBron did it his way. Not trying to be MJ or Magic or Oscar, just being LeBron James.

We should savor watching this guy play while we still can.

James scores 33, Cavaliers reach second straight NBA Finals

lebron
Getty Images
9 Comments

TORONTO — LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It’s the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it’s his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

“I had to bring my game,” he said. “I had to be in attack mode from the beginning.”

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith had 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday’s Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered “Let’s go, Raptors! Let’s go, Raptors!” throughout most of the final three minutes.

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland’s nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

TIP INS

Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. … Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

Reports: P.J. Carlesimo to join Sixers staff as Brett Brown’s lead assistant

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 02:  Head coach P.J. Carlesimo of the Brooklyn Nets watches as his team take on the Chicago Bulls in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Nets defeated the Bulls 95-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2 Comments

Last season, when new president Jerry Colangelo started shaking things up in Philadelphia, he brought in Mike D’Antoni to be a lead assistant next to Brett Brown. This led to all kinds of speculation around the league that the Colangelos were trying to bring back the old Suns brain trust (especially when Jerry hired his son Bryan to be GM).

However, D’Antoni jumped ship to be the head coach of the Houston Rockets.

Enter, P.J. Carlesimo.

Carlesimo is a good fit, but that’s not going to quell the rumors that the Colangelos are not comfortable with Brown (despite giving him a contract extension). The Sixers need to give Brown a legitimate shot — he’s been like a contestant on Chopped the past few seasons, given a ridiculous basket of ingredients and told to turn Mango, octopus and graham crackers into a four-star meal. He’s gotten them to play defense (at times) and started to build a culture. He has earned the chance to show what he can do with a better lineup.

Which is what the Sixers will have next season.

Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic likes idea of two-bigs lineup with Nikola Jokic

DENVER, CO - APRIL 5:  Jusuf Nurkic #23 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on April 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 124-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Late last season, Nuggets coach Mike Malone tried something out of the box the way the NBA is trending — playing two young bigs together. Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, the latter of whom finished in third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Small ball may be in vogue, but going big has worked pretty well these playoffs for Oklahoma City with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (and Serge Ibaka).

It didn’t work all that well for Denver — in just 92 minutes together the Nuggets were outscored by 7.1 points per 100 possessions, mostly because the offense was terrible.

But Nurkic wants to try it again next season, he told the Nuggets’ official Web site.

“I’m happy about the big lineup [with Nikola]. “Basketball has kind of changed. The NBA has gone smaller because of [the] Golden State [Warriors]. In the [Western Conference] semi-finals, look at [Oklahoma City’s Steven] Adams, [Enes] Kanter, and [Serge] Ibaka. They played all those guys and they see the difference. Me and Nikola have great communication because we played in the same league, we played against each other.”

He’s referring to their time in the Serbian league where the two played before going to the NBA.

While it could only be used situationally, expect Malone to experiment with this lineup more. There are some serious defensive questions (neither is exactly fleet of foot), and there could be spacing issues. But if the league moves one way, the smart teams and coaches think about counters.