Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Raptors_lose.jpgWhat you missed while watching Cinderella leave the ball…

Nuggets 97, Raptors 96: In a just and fair world, Denver does not win that game. Toronto gave their best effort in, well, a long time and outplayed Denver for 28 minutes (starting at the beginning of the second quarter). It was so bad JR Smith blew the chance for three dunks in transition within a minute of each other early in the fourth, including just fumbling one out of bounds. The best in-game dunker in the league was just dropping the ball. Sad.

Then Denver started its run, got physical, and got in position to give themselves a shot at the game winner.

On the final play Toronto coach Jay Triano went with Chris Bosh and a bunch of perimeter players — a lineup that lets them switch off any pick. Smart. A lineup that can be beat for rebounds. A risk. One that came back to bite them. Melo’s first miss was volleyballed and eventually rebounded by Nene, the Nuggets quickly swung the ball around the perimeter back to to Anthony. He was covered by Jarrett Jack, a full five inches shorter, so Melo got a clean look at the game winner. That’s the risk. He drained it.

Bobcats 107, Wizards 96: Usually when Charlotte’s defense isn’t great — and it wasn’t great in this game, it wasn’t good either — they are doomed. But tonight they were playing the lowly Wizards, now losers of 14 straight. Against them, even the worst offense looks like the Showtime Lakers.

Raymond Felton has developed into a consistent, rock solid point guard — 19 points of 8 of 10 shooting with 11 assists.

Pacers 122, Jazz 106: Utah got sucked into playing at Indiana’s pace — 100 possessions in the game, seven more than the average Jazz contest. Flex offense be damned, full speed ahead. Playing that style also means taking a lot of threes — Indiana took 36 and made 17 (47 percent).

Danny Granger is a flat out stud. He dropped 44 in this one on 19 shots.

Magic 106, Timberwolves 97: Al Jefferson and Darko Milicic make a nice front line on paper, or they might if they would  play up to their potential. Dwight Howard is all about the now and he wasn’t nice. He finished with 24 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. The Magic could have played better, credit the Timberwolves for coming out fast and playing hard and making this one interesting.

Sixers 106, Hawks 98: Philadelphia is one of the few teams that can hang athletically with Atlanta. The Sixers were active on defense, which really threw Atlanta off its game. Example, with 1:25 left in the game Josh Smith got the long rebound off a Bibby missed three and drive into the lane, at 10 feet away leapt up and with no Sixer contesting the shot… tried to slip a pass between two defenders to Horford, which was stolen. The Hawks were not the aggressors we expect.

This was Iggy’s night: 25 points and 10 boards. Jrue Holiday added 13 points, 12 assists and 7 steals. Not bad rookie, not bad.

Celtics 94, Kings 86: This one went as expected. The Celtics are starting to put it together; the Kings were without Tyreke Evans. Boston was up 15 after 12 minutes and never looked back. Rondo had 18 assists.

Nets 118, Pistons 110: Break up the Nets! They have won two in a row and now have nine wins on the season — tied for the worst record ever. One win in the next three weeks and they avoid ignominy.

It is amazing what desperation — in this case to avoid embarrassment — can do. The Nets played hard on defense (not that they were still any good at it, but they tried) and got 37 from Brook Lopez and 31 from Yi Jianlian. It’s a small victory, but the Nets deserve to celebrate it.

Thunder 91, Lakers 75: Oklahoma City is long and active on defense, and that gave the Lakers huge problems at the start — they scored just 15 points on 30% shooting in the first quarter. Faced with an obstacle, the Lakers rolled over and played dead.

Kobe had nine early turnovers and was just sloppy. Darius from Forum Blue & Gold summed it up on twitter: “With all the fumbles, falling down, & passing the ball to the other team, Kobe looks like Kurt Warner, NY Giants version.”

No, Lakers fans, this game has no bearing on a future playoff meeting with the Thunder. Just relax.

Heat 87, Bucks 74: Milwaukee just could do nothing right on offense, and they finished shooting 31 percent on the night. They miss Bogut, but this wasn’t that, it was just a Mr. Magoo night. Meanwhile a Heat team that played the night before looked like they had the fresher legs.

Only concern for heat was Jermaine O’Neal hyperextending his knee and having to be helped off the court. He will be checked in the morning.

Spurs 102, Cavaliers 97: The Cavaliers had the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs executed better down the stretch. Cleveland’s unimaginative offense makes it that much easier for a good defensive team to stop them. That could be an issue come playoff time.

Suns 132, Knicks 96: You know what this game says about Mike D’Antoni’s system? That it works better with more talented players.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.