Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Monday, or what you missed while deciding how many bottles of the John Calipari bourbon bottles you want to buy….

Mavericks 89, Bobcats 84: Maybe the most interesting thing about this game was the jacket new Charlotte owner Michael Jordan wore. Close first half (and the Bobcats closed that second quarter out well) as Dallas looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back. Flat as that Coke you left out last night.

But change was coming. You knew the run was coming. Everyone watching knew change was coming. Jordan’s jacket even knew the run was coming. Dallas had won seven (now eight) in a row, you don’t get that if you roll over. Charlotte did not have the players to stop the big run, the result was the Mavericks taking the lead and holding on with some key late shots.

Cavaliers 124, Knicks 93: Without Shaq or Big Z, the Cavaliers have to go small. And as Rob Mahoney pointed out, that’s not such a bad thing — especially against a Knicks team that wants to go smaller than you. The Cleveland small is so much more athletic, just so much flat out better than the Knicks’ version. Cleveland had 74 points at the half, and this was over. Of course, some New York fans want to blame this on Mike D’Antoni, as if there is some magical Xs and Os trick that turns Tracy McGrady into a superstar defender. D’Antoni could have a time machine and it would not help much with that problem.

After the game D’Antoni was asked if the 2010 plan was worth suffering losses like this. “I’ll tell you next year.”

Trail Blazers 103, Grizzlies 93: Memphis did not treat this like any other regular season game — they came in 3.5 games back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the West. It’s starting to get late, these are the wins you need. But the reason they are now 4.5 back is that Portland is the better team. Memphis was up at the half then went into hibernation on offense. They provided 15 second half turnovers to make sure the Trail Blazers got some easy transition buckets. It was ugly.

Memphis made some runs when they could get the ball inside to Zach Randolph and Mark Gasol. Still not enough, Portland’s front line defenders may be undersized but Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard did just enough, and Brandon Roy played well off the pick and roll when it mattered.

Magic 126, 76ers 105: The real Jameer Nelson is back, he had 22 points and 10 rebounds. With him at the helm Orlando played maybe their best offensive game of the season (138 points per 100 possessions), and that was far, far to much for Philly.

Hawks 116, Bulls 92: Pound it inside, work inside out. The Hawks should do that just about every night, but they really executed it in the first half against the smallish Bulls and the result was 59 first half points and a 16 point lead. The Bulls made it close in the fourth again, but when it got too close Atlanta went back to dominating inside and that was ballgame.

The result of this game — the Hawks are now two games clear of Boston for the third playoff spot in the East.

Rockets 116, Raptors 92: Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin combined for 56 points on 62.5% shooting, and they hit 9 of 17 from three. Think the Rockets may have found their backcourt?

Suns 101, Nuggets 85: In the second quarter Phoenix went to a zone, and Denver apparently has not practiced much against that. Or ever seen it before. No good shooting over the top, very little attacking the soft middle of the zone. Far too much dribble penetration, and most of it was a step slow. Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony combined for 23 first quarter points, but had none in the second. JR Smith’s always questionable shot selection killed them against the zone.

But Denver has other worries. Like that the small front line of the Suns grabbed 40% of their missed shots for offensive rebounds. Or that while Ty Lawson has been a great story, when they have to go to Anthony Carter the entire state of Colorado winces. He is not playing well.

Clippers 108, Jazz 104: The Clippers led wire-to-wife on this one. They jumped out early, and were still up 12 with 150 seconds left to play — and almost lost it. They had to hang on with free throws. Typical Clippers. Not typical Jazz, who have been red hot lately but looked like a tired team on the road.

Spurs 106, Hornets 92: The Spurs dominated this one, it looked like an old-school, vintage Spurs win. Which is to say not that fun to watch. The fun thing was Hornets rookie Marcus Thornton, who went off for 30 on 12 of 19 shooting off the bench. The kid can play. Byron Scott did a nice job of sitting on Darren Collison and Thornton to start the season, nobody knew New Orleans had this talent buried on the bench.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.

Ben Simmons earns triple-double, Sixers own fourth to win Game 4 vs. Heat, take 3-1 lead

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Joel Embiid’s biggest battle in Game 4 was with his mask — he hates that thing. A couple of times Saturday he tried to sneak into the game with it off, only to force Brett Brown to be the parent and threaten to bench him if he didn’t put it on immediately (winning Game 4 is not worth risking permanent eye/vision damage). Embiid was also battling his offensive game at times, still looking a little rusty.

More importantly, Embiid was also battling the Heat in the paint — when he was in the game Miami struggled to get good looks inside, allowing Sixers defenders to more aggressively challenge shooters on the wings.

That — and Ben Simmons’ triple-double — sparked a comeback from 12 late in the third as the Sixers held on to take Game 4 106-102, and that gives Philly a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to the City of Brotherly Love for Game 5.

Simmons is the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to post a triple-double in the playoffs, with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

This was the nail in the coffin of the Heat’s season — if the Sixers turn the ball over 26 times, shoot 7-of-31 from three and still win on the road, the Heat are overmatched.

For much of the game, Miami did not look overmatched in the least and this looked like a game they could win.

Miami brought the defense in this game, and they did it by getting physical and using their length to force turnovers — through three quarters the Sixers had turned the ball over on 28.2 percent of their possessions, more than one in four trips down the court. Miami also did a better job contesting threes in this game, and the Sixers struggled from there all game (22.6 percent from deep).

The physicality led to a chippy game.

These two teams don’t like each other. 😅

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Miami led by a dozen late in the third, but Philadelphia closed the third on a run and carried over to the fourth, a 14-0 run that put the Heat in front as they found their defense. Ersan Ilyasova was key in that stretch with a driving and-one and the next time down the court a three, two plays that changed the momentum of the game.

All series long, the Sixers have been the better team down the stretch — which is unexpected for a young team taking on a more veteran squad. Now that we’re four games in, this is a thing.

In Game 4, the Sixers kept running “horns” sets and the Heat seemed to have no answers. Then late with the game on the line Miami had a couple of terrible defensive breakdowns, one allowing Simmons a clear path to the basket without help rotations that led to a dunk, and the other was Hassan Whiteside not going out to challenge J.J. Redick in the corner and letting him have a clean look (Redick’s foot was on the line so the expected three was a two, but still).

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid owned the paint on defense. When he sat for a little fourth quarter rest, Brett Brown went to the “Ben Simmons and shooters” lineup that was so effective through the final eight games of the season for them when Embiid was out, and that worked. The Sixers kept executing and getting the shots they wanted, the Heat kept hoping Dwyane Wade would bail them out again. He couldn’t, despite a strong 25 point game. Miami also shot itself in the foot going 13-of-25 from the free throw line for the game.

Redick had 24 for the Sixers, while Embiid had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Goran Dragic had 20 points for Miami, and James Johnson added 15.