Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Kobe_game.jpgOur game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while your wife had control of the remote so she could watch women’s figure skating.

L.A. Lakers 99, Memphis 98:
Kobe Bryant can cover up a multitude of sins for a team. Memphis deserved this one, largely because the Lakers decision making is often terrible. Shannon Brown over dribbles then jacks up bad shots, Jordan Farmar breaks the offense, Derek Fisher has lost a few steps, and seemingly the only guy who can consistently make a good post entry pass is Pau Gasol, but he is usually in the post.

The game winner from Kobe, and the ensuing miss by OJ Mayo, came because of better execution by the Lakers. When the Lakers had to shoot, they inbounded the ball to Gasol, who passed to Odom then Gasol set a moving downscreen pick that took Rudy right out of the play and Kobe got a clean look at a three. You cannot give Kobe a clean look like that. Cannot.

When the Grizzlies get their chance they run the high pick-and-roll for their last shot and the Lakers switch it so Pau Gasol and his massive wingspan are there to disrupt Mayo, who is forced to take a fade away a fade away three and misses it. Bottom line: Gasol and Bryant executed under pressure, and the Lakers win a lot of games because of that.

Cleveland 105, New Orleans 95: Marcus Thornton? Who? Rookie second rounder Marcus Thornton? The scouting report back on draft night said he could score and eventually might develop into a nice spark plug off the bench.  Turns out eventually is now. He had 37 on 15 of 22 shooting, with 23 in the second quarter alone.

Thornton took advantage of something that other teams are going to try to exploit in the playoffs — against really quick guards, whether on penetration or the high pick-and-roll, Shaq has to lay back and give up the jumper. He is just not quick enough to recover and guys can just blow by him, so rather than give up the layup he concedes the jumper. Which is fine, until you run into somebody as hot as Thornton with the jumper. Then all bets are off. Not that it mattered that much, Cleveland still won.

It says a lot about the Cavs — and the expectations of the fan base now — that they snapped a three-game losing streak and Cleveland guru/beat writer Brian Windhorst tweeted after the game that it still “felt like a loss.” They not only expect wins, but convincing ones. They will learn that in an 82 game season sometimes you just take the win. (Well, maybe not, Lakers fans never learned that.)

Boston 110, New York 106: For three quarters this was played exactly in the pace and style the Knicks would want — fast and without defense. Then the fourth quarter was an ugly cocktail of bad decisions, missed shots and a splash of good defense. Left a bad taste in your mouth if you watched it. The Knicks stayed true to themselves in that quarter — they kept shooting threes and they kept missing them, hitting zero of their last seven attempts. The Celtics played about five minutes of good defense. That is basically your ballgame.

But you want to know about Nate Robinson, don’t you? He looked a little uncomfortable, like he was thinking not just reacting and playing. He was trying to facilitate the offense, not just score (and when he did he was just 2 of 7 and got rejected by Lee once). Don’t read too much into one game, there is going to be an adjustment for the Celtics second unit, getting used to Nate’s game and him adjusting to their team style.

Minnesota 91, Miami 88: What do you want me to say, Miami without Wade is just not very good.

Portland 102, New Jersey 93: He’s a Blazers big man so this was bound to happen — Marcus Camby twisted his ankle five minutes into the game, left and did not return. Post-game X-rays were negative, but it is unknown how long he will be out.

As for the game itself, a very slow pace (81 possessions, about 10 off the Nets normal speed of play). But Portland jumped out early and if they had cared about playing defense at the end it wouldn’t have been this close.

Phoenix 104, Oklahoma City 102: Just like so many games this year, the Suns blow a 15 point lead and find themselves down by 10 in the fourth quarter as the Thunder were on their way to another… what do you mean the Suns came back and won? That’s not how the story has gone this year for the Suns. Well, good on them for showing some grit.

Impressive game winner for Phoenix — Jason Richardson beat the Thunder’s defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha off the dribble, found all the help defenders late to arrive and got to put up a pretty little floater in the lane that dropped in with 0.7 left. On another note, credit to Goran Dragic, who took over for Steve Nash but played within himself and didn’t make too many mistakes. He finished with 16 and 10.

Detroit 101 Sacramento 98: This is the kind of game the Pistons lost for much of the season, when Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were out. Those two combined for 52 points on 62 percent shooting.

Philadelphia 110, Golden State 102: The Sixers were up by 24 in the third in this battle of mismatched rosters, in part because Lou Williams stepped into AI’s starting spot and had a night, finishing 26 points, 10 rebounds and 7 dimes. But the Sixers lost interest, the Warriors got hot from the outside as they do at times, and a 16-2 run later the end was in doubt. Williams hit a late three to seal Philly’s win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in, series goes 2-2 (VIDEO)

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.

Report: Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina, David Fizdale to interview for Hornets job

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The Charlotte Hornets have a new GM in Mitch Kupchak. Upon taking the helm, Kupchak made short work of firing head coach Steve Clifford.

Now, the Hornets need a new coach and they have quite a few names to choose from.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hornets will be interviewing current San Antonio Spurs assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina along with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

Via Twitter:

All three have extensive coaching experience under their belts. Udoka played in the NBA for seven seasons and has been an assistant coach in San Antonio since 2012.

Messina is a four-time Euroleague champion as a coach, and a two-time winner of the Euroleague Coach of the Year award. He’s coached abroad and in the U.S. since 1989, and he’s been with the Spurs since 2014.

Fizdale coached the Grizzlies for two seasons. Before that he was a longtime assistant coach with the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra.

Hornets star Kemba Walker said that who the team chose as GM would influence his decision to re-sign after 2018-19. Walker loved Clifford, so who Charlotte picks as coach could carry significant weight with Walker as well.

LeBron James, Cavaliers hope to even series with Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — LeBron James has been in this playoff position before, just not in the first round.

With Cleveland down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James was asked if Game 4 in Indianapolis Sunday was a must win.

“It’s the postseason,” said James, who is 10-0 in his career in first-round playoff series with Cleveland and Miami. “Every game is a must win. You want to come in and play well and win no matter what. No matter if you have home-court advantage or if you’re starting on the road, that’s the mindset you have to have. I felt like (Friday) was a must win. We didn’t win, obviously, but it’s the same mindset on Sunday.”

James, who scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and delivered eight assists in a 92-90 road loss Friday night, rejected what he felt were reporters’ attempts to ask if the other players needed to do more.

“You guys think I’m going to throw my teammates under the bus? I’m not about that,” James said. “Guys just, we have to be better, including myself. Had six turnovers (Friday). I was horrible in the third quarter, couldn’t make a shot. If I had made some better plays in the third quarter, the lead doesn’t skip.”

The Pacers cut a 17-point halftime deficit to six points in the third quarter and finally took their first lead in the fourth quarter.

“We know we all gotta play better as a collective group, no matter who it is,” James said. “We got production to start the game and in the second half there wasn’t much production. We still had a chance to win. We’ve got to regroup and figure how we can be better in Game 4.”

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the Cavaliers were limited because George Hill‘s back “locked up” in the second half. Hill played only nine minutes in the second half, scoring two of his 13 points. Lue used James and Jordan Clarkson rather than backup point guard Jose Calderon in the fourth quarter. If Hill can’t go Sunday, Lue said he will likely start Calderon.

Hill had an MRI on Saturday, but the results weren’t back. He is listed as questionable for Game 4 with back spasms. Hill was hurt during Game 1 when Trevor Booker set a back screen and felt stiffness before Game 2, but played 20 minutes.

For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanovic was the difference maker, scoring 15 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic struggled shooting the first two games of the series.

Bogdanovic, who made 7 of 9 3-pointers, kept his focus after two quick fouls in the first quarter and had to leave briefly in the fourth when he picked up his fifth foul. The seven 3-pointers tied a franchise playoff record, also held by Reggie Miller twice, Chuck Person and Paul George.

“I thought it was going to be another poor performance from myself, but in the second half I started hitting shots and started feeling (much) better and I think a did a great job (Friday night),” the Croatian forward said.

Bogdanovic said he was most pleased with his defense against James.

“Everybody thought before this season that I cannot play defense,” he said. “I don’t say that I am playing great defense, but I am working hard at trying to make it tough for each offensive player that I am guarding.”

Bogdanovic said he tries to push James so he catches the ball far from the basket.

“Against those type of players you just try to stay aggressive on them,” Bogdanovic said.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan was impressed with his ability to produce both ways.

“You’re taking a pounding if you’re on the defensive end of the floor if you’re guarding LeBron,” McMillan said. “But offensively he found some energy. He got some good looks and he knocked them down.”

The Pacers came back to win eight times during the regular season after being down 15 or more points.

“We’ve been resilient,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “We made an adjustment in the second half and it helped us. But it’s only one game; I’m looking forward to Sunday.”

Rumor: Portland coach Terry Stotts could lose job after being swept out of playoffs

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Regular season: Terry Stotts was mentioned as a Coach of the Year candidate after leading the Portland Trail Blazers to 49 wins and the three seed in the West, led by a top 10 defense.

Playoffs: Portland was swept out of the postseason in the first round by Anthony Davis.

The latter part of that is going to lead to some real soul searching and changes coming to the Trail Blazers. That could include Stotts losing his job, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

There is plenty of blame to go around for Portland’s quick exit from the postseason, Stein is right that it’s not all on Stott’s shoulders. In fact, I would argue most of it is not.

However, this is the third time in four years Portland is out in the first round, and it leads to the question “what is it about their style that makes them so defendable and beatable in the playoffs?” This is a little like Toronto in recent years, where despite a lot of talent they were predictable and therefore defendable in the postseason. How much of that falls on Stotts vs. the roster he has to coach?

After a period of reflection in Portland, there are going to be changes in the wake of this sweep. Stotts’ job will be part of that discussion, no matter how good a job he did. The question for Blazers management is, if not Stotts then who is next? Who are they getting that’s better?

That said, if Stotts were to be let go he would hand on his feet very quickly.