Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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d harris.jpgOur game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while getting addicted to snowboard-cross from Vancouver.

Oklahoma City 99, Dallas 86 It’s going to take a while to integrate all the new players in Mavericks’ uniforms with each other. A tough way to start that process is against a very hot Oklahoma City squad.

For one quarter, the Mavericks’ play on the court looked fantastic, then the whole thing fell apart. Blame Dallas on not adjusting to their new roles, or credit the Thunder defense  — I’m not sure it was either, just ice cold shooting — but after that fast start Dallas could not find the basket. Caron Butler was 4 of 16 in his debut. Jason Terry was 4 of 15 off the bench. Dirk Nowitzki was 9 of 22. Jason Kidd 4 of 15. After an 11-point third quarter by Dallas, this one was over.

There was excitement at the end of the game, and thankfully it wasn’t about pizzas or tacos — Durant’s shot at the rim with 20 seconds left gave him 25 points for the 26th straight game. That guy is special.

New Jersey 103, Charlotte 94 Once again it was another Nets fast start, as they put up 31 points in the first quarter against one of the best defensive teams in the league. Courtney Lee led the way with 10 that first stanza. But we all know the drill, that’s not going to last, right?

Not this time. Lee stayed hot, and Brook Lopez and Devin Harris joined him. Josh Boone even made good contributions off the bench. The Nets shot 51.9 percent from the field, while Charlotte started to feel a little desperate on offense in the fourth quarter and at one point jacked up three pointers on five straight trips down the court. Charlotte was not nearly so hot from the floor as for that to be a good strategy.

The Nets are now 2-1 against the Bobcats this season.

Boston 95 Sacramento 92 The Kings are an athletic team, and that gave the Celtics trouble. For example, with 30 seconds to go Kevin Garnett was going for a game sealing dunk, when Jason Thompson raced over and blocked the shot. Then Thompson ran the floor and got the ball on the block and made his move to tie the game, but was fouled in the act, two shots.

The Kings are an inexperienced team, and that is why the Celtics won this game. Thompson missed both his free throws — Sacramento was 2-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Next trip down the Kings had to foul and Rasheed Wallace (he of a team-high 17 points), an experienced veteran who hit both his free throws. Next rookie Tyreke Evans missed a layup then Ray Allen hit both of his key late free throws. See the pattern. It won’t be like that for these teams in a year or two, but for now Boston gets these games, even when they are not pretty.

Miami 105 Philadelphia 78 The Sixers use a lot of isolation offense — you can try to blame that on the return of Allen Iverson if you want, but it is a team wide epidemic– and that can be very inconsistent. Tonight was one of the off nights, as they started 11 of 35 from the floor and were down from the start. All night the Sixers settled for jumpers and did not attack the rim with any consistent ferocity. Only one Sixer starter scored double digits (Andre Iguodala with 11).

Credit the Heat for taking advantage of this off Philadelphia team, Miami has won three straight and have looked good (Dwyane Wade dropped 24 in the win).

Chicago 118, New York 85 Basketball is a game about shooting. The Bulls shot 60.5 percent, the Knicks shot 34.6 percent. Maybe the Bulls play with trade rumors hanging over their head better than the Knicks. (Jordan Hill did not make any other GMs covet him with his 0-4 performance). Chris Duhon was back as the starter, and he was back to being his old self, with an unimpressive showing. But really, this game was all about the shooting.

Phoenix 108 Memphis 95 This was a fast-paced game — 99 possessions each. It made for an entertaining game, but one that was played on the Suns terms. They made a big run in the second quarter and essentially that was the ballgame. Amare Stoudemire tempted his suitors with possibilities, finishing with 21 and 10. Robin Lopez finished with 18 and 10 but tempted no one.

Utah 104, Houston 95 This is not that insightful, but I think it true: Utah has more talented players. Both teams play well as units, and when both play at about the same level as team units, the squad with the better players wins.

Portland 109, Los Angeles Clippers 87 When interim coach Kim Hughes loosened the reins on the Clipper offense, I’m sure he did not mean “play only isolation and stop all the ball movement.” But Tuesday night that was pretty much the effect. Even without Brandon Roy for a half — the Trail Blazers must have done something horrible to offend the basketball gods this year — they are a much better team than the collection of Clipper individuals.

Los Angeles Lakers 104, Golden State 94 This one was tied at 89 with 4:30 left in the contest, but the Lakers got serious about their defense and went on a 15-5 run to close the game out. The first 43 minutes of this game were just sloppy, by both teams. Actually, we shouldn’t blame all the Lakers — Andrew Bynum did what he needed to do punishing Golden State inside. Then there was Shannon Brown, who started in place of Kobe and once he stepped inside the arc (1 of 6 from three) was 10 of 13 for a career high 27 points. No Kobe for the Lakers, and their bench returned to its poor play for a night, but Golden State is not good enough to really take advantage of these things/

Detroit 105, Minnesota 85. I care about recapping this game about as much as the Timberwolves cared about defending. Which is to say not at all.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.