Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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James_dunk.jpgOur game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while trying to figure out who are the worst parents on LOST

Cavaliers 108, Celtics 88: Yes Celtics fans, that was as bad as you think. Not the game itself, although that wasn’t good for you. But because this game was a vision of your eventual playoff demise.

In the first half, the Cavaliers (whose front office has been obsessed with adding size and will get more when Big Z returns) tried to match up with the long front line of Boston. Didn’t work. The Celtics gave the Cavs trouble with penetration — Rondo got into the lane at will. He hit shots at the rim (or high banks off the backboard), and when Cleveland finally started to collapse on him Rondo set up teammates. The Celtics ran and got easy buckets.

Cleveland made its run after Shaq went out and Mike Brown was forced to go small, with an Atlanta Hawks like lineup. Something the Celtics struggled with all season. Plus Brown was forced to play JJ Hickson again, something he never should have stopped doing. Basically, Shaq’s sprained thumb forced Brown to be a smart coach. On accident.

Small, athletic bigs are hard for Boston to deal with. Cleveland moved better on defense and started trapping Rondo to take the ball out his hands. The result: Boston went 9 of 41 from the floor in the second half. The small lineup also allowed the Cavaliers to run, something else they should do more of, and they got those easy buckets.

Cleveland is one of only a handful of teams that had the roster depth and versatility to win that game. But what they did in it was provide the blueprint for the rest of the league on how to beat the Celtics come April and May.

Bucks 112, Pacers 110: The Bucks are hot and showed why they are looking like a playoff team — they controlled the tempo, they got offensive boards (30 percent of their missed shots), and they were hitting their jumpers (well, except Brandon Jennings, again). They deserved the win, it wasn’t really in doubt.

The Pacers almost stole the win anyway. Down 14 with 5:30 remaining in the game, Indiana got on fire from three, as they do. Brandon Rush hit one, Troy Murphy a couple, even T.J. Ford (who did his the old-fashioned way with the foul). But the Bucks hit their free throws (even Jennings) at the end and held on.

Nuggets 127, Warriors 112: Denver is the far superior team with the superior athletes, when they cared even a little they ran away with it. They jumped out early, were up 19, got bored and gave most of it back, got focused again and won going away. Not much else to it, but it was entertaining. JR Smith draining the three, stealing the inbounds pass then dribbling to the arc and hitting another three. Billups doing whatever he wanted on the way to 37. And it’s just fun to watch Steph Curry play. And Ronny Turiaf dunk. Fun show if not that competitive. 

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.