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Baseline to Baseline (last night's game recaps)

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Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while sitting through a 12-hour play based on a grim Dostoyevsky novel

Hawks 105, Wizards 99
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An odd little game that was closer than expected. Odd because the Wizards were beasting it inside but beaten on the outside. Washington got 48 of its points in the paint (48.5% of its points) and grabbed the offensive rebound on 42% of their missed shots. Despite the length and athleticism of the Hawks, the Wiz were stronger inside.

JaVale McGee was part of that inside beasting — he had 16 of his 20 points on dunks. Yes, eight dunks in a game (ties Dwight Howard for the league lead this season). Then there was Andray Blatche, who continues to play like it was Summer League, dropping 30 and 10 boards. From the fine people at Hoopdata — in his last 10 games Blatche is getting 9.9 shots per game at the rim or inside and is shooting 60.4% at the rim.  

To balance the scales, Washington turned the ball over 20 times and went 1 of 13 from three. The turnovers led to too many easy transition baskets for Atlanta, plus the Hawks were on fire from outside — 47% from three for the night and Jamal Crawford was four of seven from beyond the arc on his way to 29 points.

Hawks got the lead and held on at the end because they are the team more used to tight end-game situations. But the Wizards are playing their best basketball of the season.

Magic 111, Bulls 82: The Bulls have been a disaster on interior defense, and the Magic have the best center on the planet, so you would think that’s the matchup that would decide the game. But the Magic didn’t even have to go there to win, with Derrick Rose out with a sprained wrist the Magic had the advantage basically everywhere on the court. I’ll spare you the gory details on the rest of this one. It wasn’t pleasant to watch, no reason for you to relive it. Save for watching Vince Carter have a good game.

Trail Blazers 110, Warriors 105: For three quarters, Portland played Golden State’s game — long two point jumpers early in the clock, missing shots when they did bother to get the rock inside, and defense was willfully ignored. They started the game 1 for 11 from the field, and 10 of those were jumpers.

Then in the fourth quarter the Trail Blazers went to a zone, and started dominating inside. The glass suddenly was Portland’s, at both ends. Portland outscored Golden State 27-9 and held on for the win. Brandon Roy finished the night with 41 points — he’s pretty good.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

Rajon Rondo is hilarious (photo)

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Is Rajon Rondo stubborn? Yes.

Is he petty? Yes.

Is he harsh? Yes.

But the Bulls point guard is also hilarious in his own way.

 

Sean Highkin of The Athletic:

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: “We can use some more defensive players”

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For all the flipping between the triangle and a more modern offense, despite ball stopping by Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks offense is 17th in the NBA for the season. Not good, but the middle of the pack, right around Oklahoma City, Miami, and Memphis — all playoff teams (or potential ones in Miami’s case).

The reason the Knicks season ends in seven games is their defense — 25th in the NBA. Put the triangle in (and get players who fit the system) or don’t, but that’s not the end of the court where the Knicks need to improve. And while system matters on defense, the fact of the matter the Knicks roster is loaded with poor and/or indifferent individual defenders.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek emphasized all this speaking to ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“I think if you look at our defense this year, we can use some more defensive players,” Hornacek said. “[Management] will look at that. [General manager] Steve [Mills] and [president] Phil [Jackson] and those guys will look at whatever can help us out. We know we need some help there.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Now comes the time for action.

The Knicks are going to have a Top 10 draft pick (currently sixth) plus max-player money in free agency. Also, they are looking to move Anthony this summer (he has a no-trade clause so he will have to agree to it). All of which is to say they have a chance to reshape this roster into one that will have more of a defensive focus. Or any defensive focus for that matter.

It will be interesting to see if the Knicks target more defensive minded free agents this summer, ones who might fit the triangle offense such as Thabo Sefolosha, or to a lesser extent Tony Allen. It’s going to be a fascinating summer in New York.

Master P says Pelicans should hire him as assistant coach: ‘I’m serious’

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Did you know Master P had two NBA contracts?

Percy Miller was with the Hornets before the 1999 season and the Raptors before the 1999-00 season. But he was cut in the preseason both times.

These were mostly publicity stunts. Still, the rapper could actually play a bit. NBA quality? He long insisted yes, though his music career provided a convenient and lucrative excuse for sidetracking his basketball ambitions.

Yet, now, the New Orleans native says he wants back in the NBA with the Pelicans — in a different role.

Master P, via TMZ:

I think they need me to be an assistant coach.

I’m serious about coaching.

I don’t think he’s actually serious.

But if he is, would it be a good idea? Probably not. The Pelicans have real issues integrating Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and they need devoted coaches, not passing entertainers, to solve this.

Would it be fun? Heck yeah.

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