Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

Leave a comment

ginobili_game.jpgOur game recaps from Monday, or what you missed while taking the day off to visit Dunder Mifflin

Cavaliers 97, Spurs 95: Got to start with this — Manu Ginobili is a beast right now. Beast. Best player suited up for this one. Scored 38 points and was killing it from the outside — 7 of 11 from downtown. Attacked and got to the line seven times (hitting every one). This is the player opposing coaches feared in 2007 but had been slowed by injury. He is back.  But it still wasn’t enough as the Cavaliers gutted one out while LeBron was in street clothes, Shaq was still out, and Jamison had to leave early because of his knee.

First Cleveland with without LeBron in three years. In honor of that three other guys of note: Delonte West just makes smart plays for the Cavaliers — he had his hand in the final five Cavaliers baskets. Tim Duncan was up against a small lineup and only had 13. The Spurs should get more out of him in this one. Finally was Roger Mason — he was 0-8 on a Spurs bench that shot 27% on the evening. That is what lost the game more than anything, Cleveland’s backups stepped up and San Antonio’s did not.

Knicks 99, Hawks 98: I really have no idea how Atlanta ha lost three times this season to the Knicks. I think you’d have a better chance of explaining how a particle accelerator works to me than this.

This one got exciting because the predictable Knicks late game collapse made it so. With five minutes left and the Knicks up 10, it was just a matter of time — the bad shot choices, missed open looks and turnovers were coming. And they did. And he Hawks took advantage. But this time the Knicks survived a horrific late-game turnover by Toney Douglas (who played very well otherwise) thanks to a dramatic game-saving block by Wilson Chandler on Josh Smith. Came from the weakside and just shut down one of the best finishers in the game. Al Harrington’s only contribution — other than taking away shots from the hot hand of Danilo Gallinari (8 of 12 from the outside) — was a clutch late jumper. David Lee also had a nice dunk late.

The Hawks struggled against the Knicks zone defense. They got sucked into settling for jumpers rather than attacking the soft middle of a zone. The Hawks had the advantage along the front line and didn’t exploit it.

Grizzlies 107, Nets 101: You cannot waste the rare good shooting night by Mike Conley, who just dominated the first half like he was still feeding the ball to Greg Oden at Ohio State (Conley finished with 21). Memphis took the second half off so this one got close, but it was never really in doubt.

Mavericks 125, Timberwolves 112: This game was played at a blistering, Golden State in the late 1980s pace, 108 possessions. (That’s eight possessions more than the Warriors average this year, and they are the fastest-playing team in the Association.) The Mavericks are built to handle that kind of pace much better than the Timberwolves, and it showed. Minnesota turned the ball over on 24 percent of their possessions, which fueled Dallas. Shawn Marion felt at home and dropped 29, Kidd had 10 dimes. Great night for Al Jefferson though, attacking that soft inside of the Mavericks, scoring 36 on 15 of 21. Wasn’t nearly enough at that pace, though.

Hornets 135, Warriors 131: Another fast paced game (101 possessions) but as always, it was about the Warriors getting dominated inside — New Orleans grabbed the offensive rebound on 44 percent of their missed shots. David West had more offensive rebounds (six) than the entire Warriors team (4), and West finished with 28. Another big night for Darren Collison — 20 assists and 16 points. 

Bill Laimbeer on LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons: “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely”

Getty Images
2 Comments

LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. He just passed Michael Jordan to take over the top spot on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Fourteen years into his NBA career, he has put together a resume that few in the game’s history can match — and he’s not done.

You don’t have to think that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, however, if you don’t think it’s a valid discussion, you’re blinded by bias.

Former NBA All-Star, champion, and WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer of the “bad boy” Detroit Pistons was asked about the LeBron/Jordan comparison on “The Rematch” podcast, and he said we’ve never seen anyone like LeBron (hat tip the USA Today).

“I’ll take Lebron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to host Etan Thomas… “He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything. Michael was a guard. Yeah, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.

It was Laimbeer and the Pistons who taught Jordan to win — they beat the Bulls year after year in the playoffs, until Jordan broadened his game (and got better teammates) and the Pistons started to fade. People point to MJ’s unblemished Finals record, but he was seen for years as a guy who couldn’t get a team to the Finals because of those Pistons (LeBron learned his lessons on a different stage, taking some early Cavs teams that had no business in the Finals to that stage anyway, only to get crushed).

LeBron has a more versatile game than Jordan, which better suits this era: When Jordan was a force in the ’80s and ’90s there was no zone defense, which led to a lot of clear-out sets where eight guys watched a one-on-one battle from the other side of the key, and if the double-team came it was obvious from where. Jordan’s skill as a guy who could get his shot, kill it from the midrange or get to the rim, his ability to physically play through contact, and the legendary killer instinct made him great. But he was aided by timing — the booming popularity of the sport in the 1990s, the rise of Nike as a marketing giant, and the fact he didn’t have a true rival, a Bird to his Magic, that could best him.

LeBron has reached the point in his career that the legacy talk and where he ranks all-time is the only real discussion left — and Jordan sits as the bar to clear. Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell, and a few others should be on that tier as well, part of the discussion, but the point is LeBron has moved on to that level of discussion. He’s earned it. The fact some people on Twitter/sports talk radio feel the need to rip him for everything doesn’t change that — if Jordan played the social media era he would have heard the same things from the same people.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
3 Comments

Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

Harry How/Getty Images
2 Comments

The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

2 Comments

The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.