Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

5 Comments

What happened Friday while you were debating Tiger’s human touch:

Mavericks 95 Magic 85: And things were going so well for the Magic, too. Dwight Howard was beastin’-flat-out-beastin’ with 29 points, six rebounds, and five blocks. Those weren’t easy stats, either, as Brendan Haywood fits into this team like a glove. But Howard had the turnaround bank going, and that’s incredibly hard to stop. The Magic had ball movement, were rolling, everything looked good for a home win.

But two things helped sink the Magic. One, and stop me if you’ve heard this one, the Magic’s threes stopped falling, ending up just 4 for 25 (!). You’d think at some point they’d stop shooting them, but if the defense is able to deny penetration and tease them into taking 3’s, Orlando will bomb all day. And if they’re not hitting, they’re sunk.

Two, a 19-0 run between the 3rd and 4th periods. The Mavericks just absolutely blew the doors off the hinges during this stretch, and that was really the run. It was marked by contributions from everyone. Butler created off the cut, Haywood finished off of weakside draws, Shawn Marion controlled the boards, and Dirk and Terry rang up the points like a pinball machine.

I know Dirk is the obvious point here (23 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks), but you expect Dirk to do that kind of damage (and usually off fewer than 24 shots).  Throw in some defense and Dirk, and a huge road win for the Mavs.

J.J Redick, Jason Williams, and Ryan Anderson were 0-10 from the field. Now that’s a Whiteout.

Wizards 107 Nuggets 97: Hell hath no fury like scoring wings spurned. Josh Howard and Al Thornton, two scoring small forwards whose teams thought they were expendable and shipped them out before the trade deadline, went OFF. Try 15 of 23 shooting for 41 points and an inspiring win for the hard-luck Wizards.

The Wizards definitely benefited from the Nuggets being on the second game of a back to back (SEGABABA). Nuggets defenders were pretty much giving the “one-try, oh, he’s too far, nevermind”approach.And the Nuggets are built to attack super-long, big forwards in the West, like Amaré Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, etc. They’re less adept at shutting down athletic thin-wings like Horford and Howard, especially when they’re motivated.

James Singleton, largely considered a throw-away in the Butler trade, had 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks (including a weakside erasure of J.R. Smith at the rim early in the fourth) in 20 minutes. It’s had not to root for the Wizards, who are showing the most effort they have all year.

Bobcats 110 Cavaliers 93: We already covered the Jamison FAIL escapade, so what else fell into this little blip on the radar screen? LeBron James and Anderson Varejao had eight rebounds combined. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson had eight rebounds each. Mo Williams got thoroughly outplayed by D.J. Augustine, who looked as if Flip Murray took whatever funk had been holding over Augustine with him.

Stephen Jackson’s ability to simply create shots is huge for this squad. It allows them to focus on the defensive end, where they are absolutely phenomenal. Charlotte kills itself to run off threes, disrupts passing lanes in whatever way it can, and and focuses on consistent, efficient offense. Big win for the Çats, who are looking more and more like the team you don’t want to run into in the playoffs, first round.

Tyrus Thomas with 9 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks in 25 minutes. Big up yourself, youngster.

Philadelphia 106, San Antonio 94: There was a time, not so many years ago, when in the fourth quarter the Spurs were always the aggressor. Those days have largely gone the way of the Dodo, especially on the road. San Antonio was up three going into the fourth but the Sixers stepped up the defensive pressure and forced five turnovers, then were rewarded with some easy transition hoops. The Sixers attacked the rim and got to the line 11 times in the final stanza. That was the ball game. In the NBA the aggressors get the calls and the wins.

Raptors 106 Nets 89: Seven Raptors were in double figures, three Nets were. This is a terrible matchup for the Nets, who don’t have many matchup advantages all season long to begin with. But a fast-paced offensively geared team with tall players? Doom.

Brook Lopez had 22 points on 12 shots, and a whole bunch of sadness.

Hornets 107 Pacers 106: The Pacers let a rookie point guard, a sensational point guard, but still, rack up 13 rebounds on his way to a triple-double. I don’t know what else to tell you about this one.

The Hornets’ focus was largely the difference in this one. The Pacers got some points, had some opportunities, but when they need a stop, when they absolutely must get a stop, they have neither the personnel nor the system to get them.

Darren Collison may not win rookie of the year, but he’s going to warrant a few votes.

Heat 100 Grizzlies 87: If the Grizzlies had not started the game in the refrigerator. or not ended the game melting in the oven, they would have beaten a Dwyane-Wade-less Heat team. But an abysmal first half that saw the Grizzlies score only 31 points total dug them a hole they spent the rest of the game crawling out of, unable to kick the Heat off towards the end of regulation thanks to Michael Beasley. Then in the second overtime, Udonis Haslem took over, and that was that.

At one point in the 2nd overtime, Mike Conley simply lost his dribble, right into a steal, then fouled the stealer, racking up his fifth foul. It is largely representative of his career.

Ronnie Brewer strained his hamstring, limiting the Grizzlies’ pathetic depth even more.

Michael Beasley’s jumper is as pure as mountain snow.

Bulls 100 Wolves 84: The Wolves actually hung around in this one, actually leading at the break. But Kirk Hinrich may be slowly finding his shot (7-12, 2-2 from the arc), and that makes the Bulls a lot tougher to beat when combined with that defense.

Vinny Del Negro takes a lot of flack for his coaching, but defense is tough to coach in the NBA, and the Bulls just go out and do it. Without Joakim Noah, with Derrick Rose only getting to the stripe four times, the Bulls just lock down and made a bad offensive team play badly.

Bucks 91 Pistons 84:

Dribble-dribble-dribble.

Dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble.

Dribble-dribble-miss-rebound-dribble-dribble.

And that was 48 minutes of life the fans wish
they had back. The winning t
eam shot 38% from the floor. The Pistons just are discombobulated, all the time, both sides of the floor. They know what they want to run, they just don’t know how to do it.

Ersan Ilyasova needs more attention for the Bucks. 6-6 for 16 points and his ability to have the offense run through him is notable for a rookie. He’s like the anti-Ben Gordon. Efficient, underpaid, and fluid.

Suns 88 Hawks 80: I would have expected that total at the half.

The Hawks just didn’t have it. Not their usual effort defensively, not their usual efficiency offensively. The Suns were able to get easy buckets inside when they wanted and able to deny Atlanta the same. When that happens, the Hawks become pedestrian, human, mortal. Amaré Stoudemire, who still plays for the Suns, had 22 points and 8 boards.

Celtics 96 Blazers 76: A focused, angry, veteran team came in and punched a young, injured, uncertain team in the face. They did not get up.

KG was in full-on bully mode, getting into it with Andre Miller among others. The Celtics set up shop in the paint, charged rent, with interest, and had this thing wrapped up by the end of the 1st.

Jazz 100, Warriors 89: Simplest game of the night to explain — the more talented, more disciplined team won. The Jazz ran their flex offense, exploited the mismatches with Boozer (30 points) and Kirilenko (22 points), plus played smart defense and jumped obvious passing lanes. That was more than enough. The game wasn’t as close as the final score. 

Heat hang on with Wade’s heroics, force Game 7 vs. Hornets

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 29:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat directs teammates against the Charlotte Hornets during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 29, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
1 Comment

“It’s a make-or-miss league” has been a worn-out cliche in the NBA for years, but it was never more apt than Friday night. Dwyane Wade, a career 28.4 percent three-point shooter who hadn’t hit a shot from beyond the arc in the calendar year of 2016, knocked down two threes late to help the Miami Heat hold on and beat the Charlotte Hornets, 97-90, to force a Game 7 on Sunday.

Wade finished with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists to lead Miami, and had a key block in the closing minute to stave off a Charlotte comeback. The Heat held off Kemba Walker‘s 37-point explosion, which kept Charlotte in the game for much of the second half even as they never led in the third or fourth quarters.

Neither team got much out of their benches, and Miami overcame a rough night from Goran Dragic (6-for-17 from the field) and Hassan Whiteside fouling out in just 28 minutes of action. A three by Walker cut Miami’s lead to 90-88, the closest the Hornets got in the second half.

The two teams will now play a Game 7 in Miami on Sunday, with the winner facing the winner of that same day’s Game 7 between the Raptors and Pacers.

Lakers announce hire of Luke Walton as head coach

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors chats with referee Derrick Stafford #9 during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 20, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
6 Comments

Less than a week after firing head coach Byron Scott, the Lakers have their man to replace him: Luke Walton, who is currently associate head coach with the Warriors and coached the team to a 39-4 start to the season while Steve Kerr was out recovering from offseason back surgery.

The Lakers announced the hiring of Walton in a press release on Friday evening:

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Lakers and Luke Walton reached an agreement on a multi-year contract for Walton to become the next Head Coach of the team, it was announced by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Walton will begin his new duties at the conclusion of the Golden State Warriors season.
“We’re excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he’s going to start an outstanding coaching career,” said Kupchak. “He’s one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game and we feel fortunate that he’ll be leading the on-court future of our team.”

The Warriors released statements from Kerr and GM Bob Myers after the Lakers’ announcement:

“We are thrilled for Luke,” said Warriors GM Bob Myers.  “This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return home and serve as head coach for one of the most storied franchises in sports.   Luke has done an incredible job during his two-year stint with our team and has played a significant role in our success, including last year’s championship and again this season under some very unique circumstances.  We are certainly going to miss Luke after we conclude our playoff run this season, but we wish him the very best with the Lakers.”

“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” said Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr.  “As we witnessed earlier this season, he has all of the intangibles necessary to be an outstanding head coach in this league, including a terrific understanding of the game the ability to communicate with a wide range of people.   He’s certainly ready for this opportunity and I’m confident he’ll do a great job with the Lakers once our season is complete.”

Walton had long been rumored to be the Lakers’ top target, given his successful run with the Warriors and his ties to the organization, where he played for nine seasons. It’s a solid hire, not a big name but someone with a good reputation around the league.

Drake performs free concert outside Air Canada Centre before Raptors playoff game

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Game 6 of the Raptors-Pacers series is in Indianapolis, but that didn’t stop a large crowd from gathering outside the Air Canada Centre to watch it. And those people got rewarded for their trouble with a free impromptu performance by Drake. Here’s a video:

https://twitter.com/DilTamber/status/726213270986579968/video/1

Drake just released his latest album, Views, last night, and it includes several NBA references in the lyrics.

Optimism high as Celtics enter a likely active offseason

2 Comments

BOSTON — The emergence of an All-Star and lots of victories made the Celtics one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season.

It also left Boston with lots of questions following its second straight first-round exit from the playoffs – this one, a six-game loss to the Atlanta Hawks – with a young roster that probably still needs a few more pieces to make the next step.

It has lots of draft picks and salary cap space to play with, which promises to make the summer an active one for the Celtics.

“This is probably the closest them I’ve been on. I love being around the guys. But everybody sees it. We do need a little more,” said point guard Isaiah Thomas, who averaged a career-best 22.2 points and was named to his first All-Star appearance in February. “(Celtics President Danny Ainge) will do his part. I know he will and this organization will come back even better.”

The rebuilding project that began three years ago under coach Brad Stevens is clearly ahead of schedule. The franchise that hit the reset button after the departure of Doc Rivers and its Big Three has gotten production from a young core anchored by Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.

Under Stevens’ defensive-minded approach Boston blossomed into one of the NBA’s stingiest teams.

“You go from…under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eking in at the end by winning six straight, to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East. And so yes, there’s progress,” he said.

As much as Stevens recognizes the improvements, he said he also knows the bar only goes up from here.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right? One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there,” Stevens said.

Here are some other things to note as the Celtics head into the offseason:

HEALING UP: Before the Celtics can think about potential roster changes, they first have to make sure the players they have are healthy. Seven-footer Kelly Olynyk was only able to suit up in four of Boston’s playoff games after aggravating a right shoulder injury in Game 1 against the Hawks. Guard Avery Bradley was lost for the playoffs in that game with a strained right hamstring.

Olynyk said he planned to get multiple opinions from doctors on what his next step will be. They haven’t discussed a need for surgery, though he said nothing has been ruled out.

DRAFT PICKS GALORE: Ainge is known for his deal-making abilities and will have eight total draft picks in June, including three in the first round. The biggest, is the Nets’ unprotected first-round pick Boston acquired in 2013 when it traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. The Nets finished with the league’s third-worst record and have about a 16 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in May’s lottery.

Ainge has made it clear to Thomas that he wants him to be involved in the wooing of potential free agents this summer, and is in a symbolic move will send Thomas to represent the team at the lottery.

“I can get a few guys here,” Thomas said. “I’m gonna do my job…I’m gonna do the best I can to put my recruiting hat on.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Boston only has a handful of decisions to make with the roster it currently has. Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are both restricted free agents who could be expendable. Meanwhile the contacts of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko aren’t fully guaranteed for next season if they are waived by July 3. The most interesting question is what to do with unrestricted free agent Evan Turner. His second year in Boston was his best season since 2013-14, but his production will certainly garner interest around the league. He said he wants to return, but that could depend on just how high his price tag winds up being.

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower