Baseline to Baseline (last night's game recaps)


I believe in yesterday. Which is why we’ve put together our thoughts on all the games of yesterday. All this without your troubles here to stay. Neat, huh? Quit smiling, Paul. You’re not as cute as you think you are.

Toronto 104 Philadelphia 96: Hedo Turkoglu was supposed to give the Raptors star power, but with him struggling, and out last night with injury, the Raptors are starting to discover that they have some pretty terrific depth. They may not have any firestarters off the pine, but they’ve got long, athletic defenders that can get buckets and finish plays. And that was a huge differential tonight for the raps. Well, that and the fact that Chris Bosh (23 points on 15 shots, 12 rebounds, 3 assists) was the best player on the floor. Philly got an impressive performance from Lou Williams (26 points on 13 shots) and made a huge run to tie this game repeatedly in the fourth. But the Raptors finished on an 11-0 run to say “Nighty night, Cheesesteaks.”

For as much as Bosh deserves credit for Toronto’s recovery and surge to a solid mid-seed in the East, Andrea Bargnani’s development is huge for that squad. His stat line wasn’t huge, but in the first quarter he was outright dominant, punishing the Sixers bigs and nailing a huge three down the stretch. Bargs also finished with seven boards in a game this close. With Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans who returned last night, Toronto may have a top three frontcourt in the East.

Marreese Speights played seven minutes tonight, scoring three points. I’m so glad Philadelphia understands the value of embracing its talented young players. Liberty Ballers thinks the issue is defense and rebounding, but Speights is still third on the team in rebounds per 40. His defense is spotty, but I have a hard time understanding so little time for him against an athletic club like Toronto

Miami 94 Atlanta 76: The Hawks I’ll give a pass. Last game before All-Star break, back to back after a burstfest against Memphis. Atlanta’s been solid enough that a loss to a hot Heat (forgive me) team isn’t something I”m going to complain about. Throw in Jamal Crawford out with a minor injury and this is a pretty normal loss.

The Heat? Man, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve known all season. Blow the Rockets out and then turn around and beat Atlanta at home? Sure, sounds like their gig. Lose in humiliating fashion to a lottery team and get throttled by a Western power? Yeah, why not?

The Heat shot 51% from the field last night, and Dorell Wright and Udonis Haslem combined for 11 of 14 from the floor. Good luck. There are a lot of things about this win (and last night’s Rockets beatdown) that reek of teams coasting into the All-Star break and the Heat on a statistical anomaly wave. But Udonis Haslem is playing fantastic ball lately. He’s making smart decisions every time he has the ball and playing like an absolute bully. Between him and Jermaine O’Neal, with Dorell Wright rising from the grave, the Heat can be tough to beat inside. Of course, I fully expect for them to lay down in an epic fashion next week to someone they should beat 100 times out of 100 (probably won’t be the Nets, they’re even worse). Only 18 for Wade in the win, the Heat kept the pace down (82 possessions), and if the Hawks can’t run, they can’t fly, and if they can’t fly, they can’t win.

Milwaukee 97 New Jersey 77: This time, the crush was the late third quarter. That’s when it got away. Nets are hanging. Nets are hanging. And then, they lose it for just a moment, just a short stretch of play, and boom. Barn doors blown open by a twelve gauge, blood on the walls, and you should go ahead and call CSI. Game over, brah. Game over.

Brook Lopez took six shots tonight. Which is all I need to tell you for you to understand how good Andrew Bogut is at basketball. But if you need more, how about 22 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, ZERO turnovers, AND he shut down the best center in the Atlantic division? The defense wasn’t the culprit tonight for the Nets. Their offense closed up, suffocated, and died. You score 77 points in a slow pace game and you’re in trouble, no matter how much of a bounce back performance Devin Harris drops.

New Orleans 93 Boston 85: Two teams that were in the final four teams two years ago combined for 178 points in a fast game (97 possessions) and 45 turnovers. Ye Gods. No Chris Paul, no Ray Allen, but still.  Boston can’t excuse this one even without Jesus Shuttlesworth. They needed a boost coming into the All-Star game and failed. Again. Rajon Rondo got Rajon Rondo’d by a young, athletic point, only scoring seven points with four assists versus Darren Collison’s 25 points and nine assists. If they had lost we’d be talking about his ten turnovers, but they didn’t, so we won’t.

Glen Davis at one point tried to run a fast break and dish a behind the back pass to Edie House, who of course dribbled it off his leg. . In the long list of acceptable results of being on  a fast break in a professional basketball game, not only is that on the list, it’s serving coffee at a 7-11 to options who can’t even get on that list. Danny Ainge says to chill out on the trade talk. We’d advise chilling on chilling on the trade talk.

Orlando 107 Chicago 87: Derrick Rose got hurt early on. The Magic came ready to play. I really don’t need to tell you much more. But if you’re curious, the Magic had seven players in double figures and had their “space you out, work you out, bleed you out” thing going. The Bulls cashed this one in pretty quickly and never recovered. Without Rose the offense that makes little boys and girls cry returned, only it was compounded by a defense where no one wanted to get back in transition. Tyrus Thomas had a nice game, which I’m sure a ton of teams are going over as we speak.

If we have an award for Most Improved Player, we should have one for Worst Depreciation Player and the award would go to John Salmons. 12 points on 11 shots, and his offensive night was the bright spot of his game.

Portland 108 Phoenix 101: Fast pace, both offenses humming, lot of fun to watch. The Suns had one of those nights. The same nights they’ve been having and will have. No way to stop anyone. When two combo points who aren’t terrific scorers throw up 40 combined? You have a problem. Goran Dragic had a great first half, and then faded into nothing. Same with Robin Lopez. The Blazers passes were sharp, accurate, ahead of the Suns’ predictions. Pretty much the opposite of last night’s game. Amare with 24 in his continued trade showcase.

Lakers 96 Jazz 81: So much for the Jazz and their big bad winning streak.

No one thinks the Lakers are better without Kobe. Nor that they can win a title without Kobe. Or Bynum, for that matter. But when faced with
out those two, the Lakers ar
e in a spot where they have no choice but to effort for 48 minutes. And that’s the only time they do. When they absolutely have to. This game? It wasn’t about the Lakers’ dominant offense and “beautiful” ball movement and blah blah blah. They took a Utah team that felt pretty good about itself and bent it over a 88 points per 100 possessions pace defense that just ruined any chance Utah may have had. This was over in the first quarter. The Lakers delivered the knockout punch, then for good measure, stalked the ring and occasionally delivered a haymaker whenever the Jazz tried to peel themselves off the floor. Andre Kirilenko was the only player with a halfway decent game, and his matchup of Lamar Odom did not end well.

Odom was brilliant. Odom had that game you always think of later when you’re screaming at the screen, trying to understand how one player could have his head that far up a taco. Odom ran point in transition several times. And it didn’t just work. It worked to deadly perfection. His hockey assist numbers would have been through the roof. Throw in a Pau-Gasol-like effort from Pau Gasol, and the Jazz should have skipped on down to Dallas and saved themselves the effort.

Carlos Boozer may be miffed about missing the All-Star Game, but he had his stuff returned to sender three times tonight by a team full of really All-Star-worthy players.

Golden State 132, Los Angeles Clippers 102 It was just one of those shooting nights for Golden State. They shot 62% overall, 59% from three. Hard for the Clippers to get their new running game going taking the ball out of the basket so much. Part of it was the Clippers defense in the second night of a back-to-back, their legs did not want to run with Golden State, they did not want to close out on shooters. It snowballed, and the Warriors, coming off a losing streak, were having too much fun winning again to take their foot off the gas. New Clippers coach Kim Hughes (now 0-3) has another problem with his “let Baron Davis be the decision maker on the floor” system — that means Baron Davis is making the decisions. Which means pull up threes with 17 seconds left on the shot clock some nights. This was one of those nights.

Charlotte 93, Minnesota 92 This was not what English Premiere League fans would call a “bad result” — the Bobcats were the better team for the majority of the game. They controlled the run of play, Stephen Jackson went off for 33 (don’t go under the screen!), Charlotte deserved the win. But oh, what a hard way to lose for the Timberwolves. Up a dozen early in the fourth quarter Charlotte tried to coast and Minnesota didn’t roll over. Good on them for that. A Ramon Sessions dunk at 1:30 left gave the Timberwolves the lead, then next trip down the Bobcats tried to single cover Al Jefferson in the low block with Nazr Mohammed and that was a mistake, Wolves up three, less than a minute to play.

Next Bobcat possession, Boris Diaw tips in a Mohammed miss and the lead is one. Then came the final Bobcat possession (still down one), where Charlotte forces Diaw into a 21-footer off-the-dribble sans screen — perfect defense — and it misses. Two Wolves battle each other for the board and the ball starts to go out of bounds. Corey Brewer jumps to save it and throws it right under the basket. To Mohammed. Dunk. Bobcats win. May have been the right outcome, didn’t feel that way for Minny.

Sacramento 103, Detroit 97: Sacramento dominated the backcourt — Kevin Martin had 26 on 9 of 15 shooting (but he can’t play with Evans, right?), Beno Udrih dropped 22 on just 10 shots, and Tyreke Evans continued his Rookie of the Year tour with 13 and six dimes. Meanwhile, Rip Hamilton was 5 of 18 from the field, Rodney Stuckey 4 of 13. Detroit led after three, largely due to Tayshaun Price going off for 23 on 15 shots, but in the end it was about the backcourt. That’s back-to-back road wins for Sacramento, by the way.


Special pass: Cavs’ Kyrie Irving to give championship ring to dad

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving is prepared to make a most memorable pass.

Cleveland’s star point guard said he’s going to give his diamond NBA championship ring to his father, Drederick. Irving, whose 3-pointer in the final two minutes of Game 7 helped the Cavs complete their historic comeback over Golden State in the finals, said following Saturday’s practice that he intends to give the keepsake to his dad.

“I give my dad almost everything,” he said. “So, every accomplishment, every MVP award, every trophy that I’ve had since I was probably about 13 or 12, I’ve given to my dad.”

Irving and his father, who was playing professionally in Australia, where the point guard was born, have an exceptionally tight bond. Kyrie’s mom died when he was young, pulling him closer to his dad.

The Cavs will receive their rings before Tuesday’s home opener against the New York Knicks. That’s also the night the Indians, who play next door to Quicken Loans Arena in Progressive Field, will host Game 1 of the World Series.

With the championship banner for any Cleveland team since 1964 also being raised, the Cavs moved the starting time up to 7:30 so fans would be able to watch the ceremony before the Indians play.

Earlier this week, superstar LeBron James and Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said they expect the ceremony to be emotional. Irving, too, said it will be great to reflect on the team’s accomplishment before beginning a new season.

“There definitely is a special aspect to it,” he said. “You don’t want to shy away from that, but it also is the start of a new journey. So you just try to find a middle ground between that and just try not to get too high or too low. The crowd will be very enthused, not only for us getting our rings but the world series is starting, which is unbelievable. So, I just try to stay even keel with it, not get too high or too low. I’m excited to give my dad the ring and really gift it to him, and now it will be time to turn over a new leaf.”

Irving is expected to play in the opener. On Tuesday, he left an exhibition in Columbus with a tight left calf but said he’s better.

Expectations sky-high as Jazz look to break playoff drought

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 05:  Gordon Hayward #20 (second from right) of the Utah Jazz stands with teammates in a huddle during the first half of the preseason NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 5, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Joe Johnson had options of where to chase a ring in the twilight of his career and the seven-time All-Star chose to sign a two-year deal with a Utah Jazz team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2012.

Johnson, 35, bought into the widespread belief that the Jazz will improve from young up-and-comers to a competitive playoff team.

“It was the talent level and knowing from talking to (coach) Quin (Snyder), they wanted some veteran guys around these young guys and help lead the way,” Johnson said. “That was probably the biggest part.”

That’s the story on the Jazz entering the 2016-17 season: a team no longer on the cusp, but one with postseason expectations.

Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey have tried to temper those expectations, but the offseason moves to add veterans spoke volumes. The Jazz traded for George Hill and Boris Diaw and signed Johnson – ending the slow rebuild. The league, however, won’t see what this roster looks like at full strength for some time.

Gordon Hayward is out for an unknown amount of time with a broken finger on his non-shooting hand. Derrick Favors played just one preseason game due to a knee issue. Key reserve Alec Burks still hasn’t returned from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and ankle in June.

So the Jazz didn’t get to fully integrate the new veterans with the established players during the preseason.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot done in spite of (injuries),” Snyder said. “(Diaw, Hill and Johnson) have probably played more preseason minutes than I intended. … It has given them a chance to get acclimated. Their roles, particularly Joe’s, will probably change and evolve when Gordon comes back. Outside of that, there’s challenges. You just don’t know. Certain players, certain lineups. … I don’t think we were able to build quite the connectivity that we’d like at this point. But I felt like this was a team that was going to take a while to develop, too. Hopefully it doesn’t set us back too much.”

The Jazz begin the season on the road against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Eight of their first 11 games are on the road.

Things to watch as the Jazz prepare to tip off the season:

STIFLING TOWER: The 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert has already established himself as one of the best defensive centers in the game, averaging 2.27 blocks over the last two seasons, but he’s shown off a little more offense this preseason. He seemed to catch and finish better than in the past and averaged 14.8 points in six games. The most notable improvement has been Gobert’s free throw shooting. He shot 56.9 percent last year and 74.5 percent this preseason.

RETURN OF EXUM: Dante Exum is back for regular season games for the first time since tearing his ACL in the summer of 2015. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft is fully healthy and still an upper echelon defender on the perimeter with his 6-foot-6 frame. He looks to become more active on the offensive end with a better floater in the lane and improved 3-point shooting. The point guard showed the ability to log minutes at shooting guard next to Hill during the preseason.

GROWTH AREAS: The Jazz hope the additions and another year of growth will affect three areas in particular. The Jazz were No. 28 in the league with a scoring average of 97.7 points per game. That must improve. Johnson, Hill and Diaw already improve the depth. The team also struggled in close games, finishing 14-28 in games that were within five points with five minutes or less left.

IMPRESSION TIME: Not making the playoffs could not only be disappointing, but a detriment to the future. Hayward has a player-option on his contract after this season and is expected to use it to become a free agent. There will be a large market for his services, so the Jazz need to prove they’re an organization that can compete for championships in the near future. Gobert will become a restricted free agent in July if he doesn’t sign an extension by Oct. 31. Favors is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season.

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Cavaliers move up ring ceremony 30 minutes so it doesn’t conflict with World Series

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It’s a good time to be a Cleveland sports fan. Finally.

Next Tuesday, Oct. 25, will be one of the great sports days in the history of the city — the Cavaliers will get their championship rings, and the Indians will open the World Series at home.

Only one little problem: the two events were going to overlap.

So in the spirit of city unity the Cavaliers have moved up the start time of their ring ceremony by 30 minutes, and the game by 30 minutes as well. The ring ceremony now begins at 7 p.m. Eastern, with tip-off against the Knicks at 7:30 (both will be broadcast on TNT, followed by the Spurs at the Warriors).

First pitch for the World Series is at 8 Eastern.

Fans attending the Cavaliers ring ceremony will be given a special silicone ring, which if viewed on their phone through the Cavs app will look like a virtual championship ring. Kind of cool idea.

Tuesday is going to be a great day to be a Cavaliers sports fan (just don’t bring up the Browns). A lucky few will be at these events.

Although personally, I’d rather watch them both on a television while eating the brisket and having a beer at the bar at Mabel’s BBQ.

Warriors first team favored over the field for championship entering season since Michael Jordan’s Bulls

7 Jun 1998:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls walks on the court during the NBA Finals Game 3 against the Utah Jazz at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls defeated the Jazz 96-54. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

When asked my prediction for the 2017 NBA champion, I say the Warriors have about a 50-50 chance. Some call that a copout answer – but it’s really not.

For a team to have even odds against 29 others combined entering the season is extraordinary.

Just how rare is it?

David Purdum of ESPN:

Jeff Sherman, head NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, remembers the 1997-98 Bulls team, which was coming off a 72-win season, being around a minus-125 title favorite entering that season.

But Sherman and other sports betting industry veterans struggled to recall another team — in basketball, baseball or football — that was an odds-on favorite to start the season.

Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen led Chicago to the championship in 1998 (which was actually two seasons removed from the 72-win year).

Will Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also meet their oversized expectations and deliver a title this year?

Flip a coin.