Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Saturday while you were remembering there is no spoon, nor floating kitty

Hawks 86, Magic 84: Best. Finish. Ever. Of The Season. Words are inadequate. Seriously. Just watch the video.

This felt like a second round playoff matchup because both teams played very good defense. Atlanta got a signature win, a confidence booster. Orlando can say they lost because of two things: 1) Box out on the weak side, just box out; 2) Defend the three point line, Atlanta shot 53.8 percent from there.

Man, this little taste made me hungry — the playoffs can’t get here soon enough.

Jazz 113 Raptors 87: It’s going to be a rough couple of years, Toronto.

Kyle Korver is a huge swing vote for the Jazz. When he plays well, like he di tonight, there’s just a lot of trouble in stopping the Jazz offense. And that’s if you’re a good defense and not the affront to nature that the Raptors defense is.

The Jazz were all over the passing lanes and if you disrupt the Raptors, they fall over and go to sleep. Meanwhile, Deron Williams always, always initiates, and had himself 16 assists. The Jazz look like a lock for homecourt in the first round.

Celtics 113 Nuggets 99: Write this one down. Pay attention to it and come back to it later. Because the Celtics looked as fearsome in the second quarter of this game as they did in the first part of this season. Tough, determined, focused, and nigh on unstoppable.

Denver on the other hand just looked pedestrian. Some teams go from terrible to awesome, from sharp to dull. The Nuggets just fade into mediocrity so comfortably, it makes me uncomfortable.

Pierce is the go-go-gadget-engine, and that is the truth.

Nets 93 Kings 79: A double digit win for the Nets? It can’t be!

There was no Tyreke Evans. There was a Devin Harris. That ended, well, not as you’d expect, but somewhere in there.

Sixers 101 Bucks 86: How odd.

The Sixers can defend. They don’t care to more often than not. And they’re not usually aware of what they should be doing, but the Bucks didn’t really disguise anything. And the Bucks couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Couldn’t hit a ban door with spray paint. Couldn’t shoot a lick and the Sixers got their offense going inside out. Still very weird.

Thunder 122 Rockets 84: This baby was close, but then something weird happened in the second quarter and it just ballooned. The Rockets were trying to grab soap in a bath, that was their offense, and they just couldn’t grip it. Mostly because the Thunder was locked in. And when Jeff Green is spreading the floor and driving, it’s a tough matcuhup. Even for Luis Scola.

Lakers 92 Spurs 83: Ron Artest blew this open. You can say Odom, but that was in the gameplan, in the flow, in the script. It was Artest, changing the script on both sides, that made this thing happen. Meanwhile, the Lakers adjusted to Greg Hill by respecting him and concentrating on him.

And when they do that, your night is over.

Bobcats 108, Timberwolves 95: You knew the Timberwolves were in trouble at the half –Al Jefferson was 7 of 10, but rest of team shot 33 percent. And they were down 10 to a good Charlotte team that would figure out how to slow Jefferson.

Stephen Jackson 17 in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 37. As a whole the Bobcats shot well, 53.6%. The win moves Charlotte into the sixth spot in the East, by the way.

Pacers 99, Wizards 82: Lottery be damned! That is four wins in a row for the Pacers. And 13 losses in a row for the Wizards.

Washington is just a terrible offensive team right now. It’s hard to watch. They had plenty of chances, plenty of really good looks and shots at the rim, and they shot 36.5 percent. And after all the drama last night, Andray Blatche got the start and scored a team-best 21 on 8 of 17 from the floor. But Danny Granger was the best player on the floor, he had 31 and seemed to be everywhere.

Cavaliers 105, Hornets 92: Cleveland is better than New Orleans. What? You want more detail? Cleveland is a lot better than New Orleans, Aside that, both Chris Paul and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are adjusting to playing again and neither was impressive. There wasn’t much to see here.

Warriors 128, Grizzlies 110: Memphis got sucked in to playing the Warriors game at the Warriors pace in the first half. That is a cardinal sin — letting the other team dictate the game to you. There were 60 first-half possessions (league average is 46) and at that pace Golden State put up 78 points. Memphis played a nice second half (45 possessions, 50 Warriors points) but at that point the damage was done and they couldn’t come close to making up the deficit.
 

Charlotte awarded 2019 NBA All-Star Game

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This isn’t a surprise.

Disappointing by the NBA, but not a surprise.

A month after the NBA Board of Governors cleared the way for the NBA’s showcase All-Star Game to return to Charlotte — saying the steps the state took to reverse the controversial “bathroom bill” that cost the state the 2017 game were enough — the NBA has awarded the 2019 game to Charlotte.

“For three decades, the NBA has had a home in Charlotte. Generations of families have attended games there, and fans from many different walks of life have come together to share a passion for a team that is an anchor in the community,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We have decided to award NBA All-Star 2019 to Charlotte based on this deep connection and the belief that we can honor our shared values of equality and inclusion, and we are excited to bring the All-Star Game back to Charlotte for the first time in 28 years.

“While we understand the concerns of those who say the repeal of HB2 did not go far enough, we believe the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law. Additionally, it allows us to work with the leadership of the Hornets organization to apply a set of equality principles to ensure that every All-Star event will proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies. All venues, hotels and businesses we work with during All-Star will adhere to these policies as well.”

“We are thrilled the league has awarded NBA All-Star 2019 to the city of Charlotte,” Hornets primary owner Michael Jordan said. “All-Star Weekend is an international event that will provide a tremendous economic impact to our community while showcasing our city, our franchise and our passionate Hornets fan base to people around the world.”

The weekend of events will take place Friday through Sunday, Feb. 15-17, 2019, mostly at The Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte. (The 2018 All-Star Game is in Los Angeles.)

All the controversy was due to the discriminatory bill HB2, commonly called “the bathroom law,” which was passed by the North Carolina legislature in 2016. The law restricted transgender bathroom use (you had to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from the city, one of a number of events that pulled, or businesses that reduced their footprint in the state due to the bill, ultimately costing North Carolina $3.76 billion in economic impact, according to an Associated Press report.

The repeal of the law was not complete, some LBGT restrictions remained in place, such as a ban on cities (such as Charlotte) passing any nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation until 2020. Gay-rights advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, and mayors from multiple other cities (which did not lift their government business travel bans to the state) said the compromise repeal did not go far enough. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who was elected in part due to this issue, said this compromise repeal was the best that the legislature would approve.

This was not enough of a repeal. The NBA returning the All-Star Game to Charlotte is the moral and economic equivalent of liking a post on Facebook complaining about Chick-fil-A’s history of anti-LGBT donations and activism, then going and eating at the restaurant.

But the NBA is a business and it wants to make that fan base happy. No doubt Jordan and his ownership group have brought stability to the franchise and worked hard to rebuild an NBA market that the previous owner had completely destroyed (ending with George Shin moving his team to New Orleans, if it wasn’t for Donald Sterling Shin would be seen as maybe the worst NBA owner of the past couple decades).

So the 2019 game is headed to Buzz City.

Pau Gasol on Warriors: “In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now”

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Pau Gasol has two rings from playing alongside Kobe Bryant on a Phil Jackson coached team in Los Angeles. He knows what elite basketball looks like.

And he’s very impressed with the Golden State Warriors.

Via Courtney Cronin of the San Jose Mercury News.

“They’re in a groove,” Gasol said. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship. In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”

This kind of praise was heaped on the Warriors last year, but Cleveland was able to come from 3-1 down in the Finals. Cleveland is an excellent team led by the best player on the planet.

Still, this year feels different. As Boston has shown in recent games, Cleveland’s help defense can be exposed with good ball and player movement. And even if the Cavaliers can again slow down Stephen Curry, this year there is Kevin Durant, too.

Danny Green was one who thinks the Cavaliers have a chance.

“They’re a great team, but Cleveland’s a great team, too,” Spurs forward Danny Green said. “Cleveland’s done it before. Do I think they can do it again? It’s possible. I wouldn’t say anything’s impossible. It’s a really good team and they have pretty good chances if they stay healthy and keep rolling like they are to win again.”

Kyrie Irving rubs salt in wound, gets 42nd point with behind-the-back ball fake (VIDEO)

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Kyrie Irving was awesome Tuesday night.

Unless you are a Boston Celtics fan, in which case it was hard to watch him carve up and embarrass your team for a career-best 42 points. He did a lot of that damage after rolling his ankle.

Particularly embarrassing was the final play of the game, when he drove past Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, then went with the behind-the-back ball fake that burned Jae Crowder and opened up a lane for an uncontested layup.

Check out Irving’s entire night here.

Utah Utes forward Kyle Kuzma reportedly rising up draft boards

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Kyle Kuzma wasn’t sure how things would play out when he announced plans in late March to test the NBA draft. The Utah Utes junior forward was well aware of the doubters and didn’t immediately hire an agent to keep open the option to return for his senior year.

A month later, Kuzma has hired an agent and is rising up the pre-draft rankings after a superb NBA combine and strong individual workouts. He’s considered an early to mid second round pick.

“I just got more confident, I’m not going to lie, throughout the whole process,” Kuzma said Tuesday. “Working out every day with the NBA ball and just imagining yourself down the road. Once I declared with an agent prior to the combine, people’s ears raised up. But I just knew it in my heart it was the right decision for me. Everything’s really falling in line right now. It’s looking good.”

The Flint, Michigan, native had a pre-draft workout with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and continued to show evaluators an ability to shoot the ball from NBA 3-point range. Kuzma was named first-team All-Pac-12 after a 2016-17 season during which he averaged 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds. The 6-foot-9, 223-pounder has a versatile game that allows him to handle the ball on the perimeter as a playmaker with good size, but he shot just 32.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Kuzma turned heads with 20 points and four-for-five shooting on 3-pointers in his lone 5-on-5 scrimmage at the combine.

“I changed my jump shot up a little bit,” Kuzma said. “Being more fluid and more comfortable shooting the ball from the NBA 3. I feel like I’m more comfortable shooting from that 3 than from college 3 right now. A lot of people were surprised, but I really wasn’t. I put a lot of work into my game every single day.”

Kuzma had another quality workout Tuesday, according to Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin, and continued to shoot the ball well. Perrin said Kuzma was by far the best player at the six-man workout and that he wished he could have brought Kuzma in to face a more talented group.

The versatility of Kuzma’s game is a positive even though he falls into a tweener category – a little slight to be a true power forward and not quite quick enough to be a pure small forward. That may not matter in today’s NBA.

“We’re going more and more toward positionless players,” Perrin said. “You look at Golden State … they don’t have guys that play certain positions. They have the best players on their team playing. … We’ve gone to nobody posting up, basically, to everybody being able to put the ball on the floor and create shots on the perimeter, penetrate and kick to guys wide open in the corner for threes.

“The guys on the floor have to be able to guard their so-called position. And I think we’re looking more and more at that in terms of he can have an advantage on offense, but where is his disadvantage or advantage defensively?”

The Utes were well represented at the workout with forward David Collette joining the group.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder hasn’t hired an agent and is expected to return to school. Perrin couldn’t discuss Collette because of that, and he couldn’t talk to the media, but Kuzma said the rising senior showed off a newly refined midrange jump shot. The Utes will rely heavily on Collette as the lone returning starter, who averaged 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.

Utah will lose its best player to the NBA draft for a third consecutive season as Kuzma follows Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright. The process has kept Kuzma smiling as he met childhood idol Magic Johnson, watched his stock rise and is on the verge of playing basketball for a living.

“I feel like you’ve got to be two feet in with everything you do,” Kuzma said. “I definitely looked at the pros and cons, but my heart was in getting to this level and trying to prove people wrong again like I’ve done my entire life.”