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.


51 Questions: Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

It has been five years since the Phoenix Suns made the playoffs, tying the franchise record for longest playoff drought. It’s the fourth longest active drought in the NBA (Timberwolves at 11, Kings at nine, and Pistons at six).

Think about it this way: The Magic, Sixers, and Jazz have been to the playoffs more recently than the Suns.

Phoenix hasn’t bottomed out on a rebuild, they’ve actually been pretty good — they surprised everyone and won 48 games two seasons ago, then had 39 wins last season when things went very wrong and injuries crushed the team after the All-Star break. However, in a deep Western Conference pretty good isn’t good enough.

Suns management and ownership wants that to change. They want back in the playoff dance. Now.

It’s why they went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, coming in a surprising second to a Spurs team that nobody was likely to catch in that chase.

This summer the Suns made other moves to address needs. They went out and got Tyson Chandler as a free agent. The first reaction was he was there to provide a shot blocking and defensive quarterbacking, two things the Suns sorely lacked. However, just as importantly, they needed a vocal locker room leader, a vacuum that was part of the problem in Phoenix’s implosion last season.

The Suns also needed shooting, they went out and got Mirza Teletovic and drafted Devin Booker.

It’s easy to think the Suns regressed because they lost a lot of talent since the last trade deadline — Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright — but they believe the pieces they have now fit together better.

Phoenix believes it can make the playoffs; it thinks it finally has the right formula.

Maybe. They will be in the mix. But a four things have to happen to make that a reality.

First is Chandler has to lead a defensive renaissance on this team. Last season they were average, 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Chandler can help change that. First, he gives them defensive rebounding that they lacked. He gives them a quarterback that they needed to call things out and have everyone on the same page (reports of how he talks on defense are already pouring out of camp). And he helps protects the paint — that means Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and P.J. Tucker can pressure the ball more and take risks out on the perimeter knowing Chandler can erase some mistakes.

The second is an obvious one: Bledsoe and Knight need to be able to work well together. They are going to share playmaking duties, and both are going to spend time working off the ball, both need to be ready for that mental adjustment. We haven’t seen that much yet, we need to see how it works out.

Third, there needs to be shooting to space the floor. Bledsoe is a penetrator who is a career 32 percent from three, while Knight shot just 31.3 percent from three after being traded to the Suns (likely due to ankle injuries that required off-season surgery). Those two men will be running the pick-and-roll with Chandler, who sets a good pick, rolls hard and can finish, but doesn’t have shooting range. The Suns other two starters are likely P.J. Tucker, who is not a huge threat from three but shot a respectable 34.5 percent from there last season, and Markieff Morris, who is a career 32.8 percent from three.

If I’m an opposing defense, what’s to keep me from going under picks and packing the lane against the Suns? Phoenix needs Knight to return to the guy who is a career 36 percent from three, they need Morris to improve from the outside, and they need guys like Teletovic and Booker to play key minutes and space the floor at times.

Fourth, and finally, they need the potentially volatile mixture of an unhappy Morris and a coach in Jeff Hornacek in the last year of his contract not to combust. Everyone is saying all the right things at the start of camp, and this is why guys like Chandler and Ronnie Price were brought in, but there is the potential for things to go sideways, especially if some early losses pile up.

The biggest hurdle for the Suns in ending their playoff drought is they are in the Western Conference.

Even if all four of things mentioned above go right for them — if they run and hit more threes plus play better defense — this is likely a 45 win team (give or take a few, and probably take). The problem is that in the West that may not be enough. Barring injuries, there are likely seven lock playoff teams in the West — Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans. That leaves the Suns battling teams such as the Jazz, Mavericks and maybe the Kings for that final playoff spot. It may take more than 45 wins, and things are going to have to break the Suns’ way to get there.

Maybe Robert Sarver gets his way and the playoff drought ends this season, it’s more likely than snow in Phoenix this winter. But I wouldn’t bet much on either happening.

LeBron says “get it done” message was for both Cavaliers, Thompson

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Everything LeBron James does and says gets magnified and scrutinized.

So when he put out this photo on Instagram standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Tristan Thompson and the caption “get it done” it seemed a message to the Cavaliers.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron clarified that on Sunday, saying this has become a distraction, and the message was for both sides to bend, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

When Thompson didn’t sign the qualifying offer he surrendered a lot of leverage, the Cavaliers don’t have to raise their five-year, $80 million offer — but reportedly they still would, a little. Thompson and his agent Rich Paul have pushed for a max contract, but that’s not happening.

At some point, the two sides will come to an agreement. For the Cavaliers, this is a distraction, their star is unhappy with that, and ultimately if they are going to make a title run they need the energy and rebounding Thompson brings (even if it is just off the bench). For Thompson, he can’t make up a year of lost salary, he has to come in and start getting paid at some point.

The two sides will get it done. Eventually. Likely before the season tips off.