Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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nash_game.jpgWhat you missed while noticing Lady Gaga looks like Gozer the Gozerian…

Suns 152, Timberwolves 114: Yes, you see that score correctly, it was play-like-it-was-1982 flashback night in Phoenix. And yes, that would be a new high water mark for scoring this season, thank you very much.

The Suns had a redonkulous 150 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions). The game had 101 possessions, by the way. The Suns shot 48% from three. They grabbed 40% of the shots they did miss with an offensive board, so they could get another chance. Minny did not play good defense — duh! — but it just snowballed on them. Phoenix could not miss. Steve Nash gets to rest his back and Goran Dragic comes in and looks like he’s been learning at the foot of the master.

Bottom line, if Louis Amundson shoots 10 of 13 from the field against you, you are doomed. When the Suns offense gets going though, it is fun to watch.

Cavaliers113, Pistons 101: Cleveland beats who it is supposed to beat — the last time Cleveland lost to a team under .500 was Nov. 18 (stat courtesy Brian Windhorst and @realcavsfan). They are not all going to be pretty — Tuesday’s certainly wasn’t — but the NBA does not award style points, so who cares?

This game was tied 91-91 with just more than five minutes left, then the Cavaliers took control. That is what good teams do some nights — dominate enough for a key stretch to win. Take the win and move on. Mo Williams has three late threes in that stretch. Oh, and LeBron had another triple double. Ho hum.

Spurs 88, Heat 76: The second half of this game bordered on unwatchable. San Antonio scored 33 second half points and won by 12 (and it wasn’t that close). San Antonio had an offensive rating of 95 (points per 100 possessions), which is four points worse than the Nets on the season. And the Spurs still controlled the game. That is really about just how bad Miami was, especially early — they shot 23 percent for most of the first half. And that was the watchable half of this game. All we learned from this — the seven seed in the West is a lot better than the seven seed in the East. But we knew that already, didn’t we?

Hawks 108, Nets 84: Both teams were shooting poorly to start this one, then Jamal Crawford came in and started lighting the board up. The Hawks have guys that can do that, come in and just change a game. Crawford had 16 in the first half, finished with 25 on 11 of 18. Who do the Nets have? Josh Boone having a big night (13 points, 20 boards). It’s not the same.

Pacers 99, Bobcats 94: Recently the Bobcats have beaten the Lakers, Celtics and Cavaliers, but they can’t beat the Pacers? And they lost to New Jersey. Have fun figuring this team out, MJ.

Grizzlies 104, Bulls 97: Memphis tried to give this one away. Really tried. After a tight first quarter the Grizzlies — playing without the younger Gasol — started dominating inside and grabbing tons of offensive rebounds. In the second and third quarters Memphis outscored Chicago by 19. They led by 23, and then they started turning the ball over and that led to a fall all the way to four.  Memphis held on, but guys should have been putting ice on their knees early, not coming in to secure a win.

Recent D-League call up (and number two pick overall) Hasheem Thabeet got the start and acquitted himself well — 10 points, nine boards and a couple of blocks.

Nuggets 97, Wizards 87: George Karl was back on the bench, that was the best thing about this game. Aside that, just professional, solid home win for the Nuggets. The only down side is Chauncey Billups streak of 36 straight games with a made three came to and end (he was 0-6).

Lakers 106, Kings 99: First, your Tyreke Evans moment of the night — in the first quarter he put a spin move on Ron Artest that made one of the best defenders in the league look like a statue. It is just fun to watch Evans.

The Lakers looked a lot better in the fourth quarter of this one — the second night of the back-to-back — than they did against Golden State Monday. All night long they got the ball inside, where their advantage always is. Crisp passing on the perimeter, better decision making, the entire team involved so it was not just The Kobe Show. Sacramento played well, they played with energy, this was no gimme win for LA. They earned it.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.