Baseline to Baseline (last night's game recaps)

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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.


 

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.