Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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fight.jpgOur game recaps from Saturday, or what you missed while wondering why anyone would shoot a man in a chicken suit

Suns 113, Pacers 105: Who knew the Pacers had any fight in them? Earl Watson kept pushing Channing Frye in the third quarter and finally Frye had had enough and one of those NBA “fights” broke out. It’s not exactly a Baylor women’s game, but by NBA standards this was a decent little fracas, with Danny Granger and Frye taking swings that missed everything. Frye got tossed, other guys picked up techs, and it was over.

As for the game, the Pacers want to run but the Suns are much better at it. Better shooters, better finishers. Ballgame.

Heat 100, Hawks 94: One of the symptoms of tired legs is a team willing to shoot jumpers rather than drive the lane. That was particularly noticeable with Atlanta — second night of a back-to-back and a team that usually attacks the rim with ferocity didn’t venture near the paint (and that was even with Jermaine O’Neal leaving the game late in the fist quarter with a knee injury). The Heat really took over late (again signs of a tired Atlanta team) and pulled away for the win.

For Miami, back-to-back wins against the Lakers and Hawks should help them in the fight for that final playoff spot in the East.

Bobcats 101, Warriors 90: It’s a sentence I could just cut and past from every Warriors game recap and just change out the opposing team’s name: The Bobcats dominated the Warriors inside, grabbing 44% of their missed shots on the offensive glass and outscoring Golden State by 34 points in the paint. The Warriors tried to shoot their way back into it from three, but until they get some interior defense that last sentence will be valid. Good win for the Bobcats on the back-to-back.

Nets 113, Knicks 93: The Knicks made history Saturday — they were 0 for 18 from three point range, a new NBA record for attempts without a make in league history. Meanwhile the Nets hit 14 of 24 (58.3%). Ballgame.

Mavericks 122, Bulls 116: Everything Rick Carlisle touches right now is gold, which happens when you win 11 in a row. He decides to start talented rookie Rodriguez Beaubois, at the two, and he goes off for a career high 24, and brings some real athleticism to the Dallas starting unit. The Maverick’s defense was not great, but the Bulls defense has gone into the tank — Tyrus Thomas is in Charlotte and Joakim Noah is out, throw in some assorted other guys playing through bumps and bruises and the Bulls are just not stopping anyone. Derrick Rose tried to lead a furious comeback in the fourth, but the Bulls didn’t get any stops.

Rockets 112, Timberwolves 98: The Rockets were just more physical, more organized and shooting better from the outset. The NBA is often described as a game of runs, but this was just more of a slow, steady beat down. Houston just was flat out better. Props to Luis Scola for the 25 and 21 on the night as he controlled the paint for Houston.

Spurs 102, Grizzlies 92: Give this win to the Spurs bench, which was the best unit on the court last night. San Antonio just got 36 points from their starters, and they lost Tony Parker. Nice win for the Spurs on a night the rest of their season seemed to just go down the toilet.

Bucks 92, Cavaliers 85: Here’s a news flash: Cleveland isn’t a very good team without that LeBron guy. Don’t worry, Mo Williams is there to pick up the backcourt slack… wait, he went 3 for 17? You get the picture. Brandon Jennings found his three-point shooting touch hitting 5 of 7 from deep and he attacked and got to the line nine times as well. (Don’t tell me he got his shooting touch back, however, as he was 1 of 7 inside the arc.) Bottom line for a Bucks team trying to make the playoffs — you beat the top seed in the East. Doesn’t matter who played when they put the mark in the win column.

Jazz 107, Clippers 85: The Clippers have a 2.5% winning percentage in Utah in the last two decades (one win there in 20 years), and this time had to go there on the second game of a back-to-back. How did you think this was going to end?

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  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: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at 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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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.