Baseline to Baseline, where we had ourselves a heck of a night

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What happened Wednesday while you were challenging Akinator

Cavs 101 Bucks 98: The Bucks are terrible at drawing fouls, fifth worst in the league, actually. Cleveland’s very good. So while the Bucks can probably rightfully complain about a 45-9 free throw advantage, they can’t complain too much. This team looked like they were willing to invest in the game, but not enough to force the issue against a great Cleveland defense. Lot of jump shots, lot of settling, not a lot of drive and finish.

And still, the Bucks were right there. You know what the difference was? Scott Skiles’ love of Luke Ridnour has helped him out all season, and Ridnour’s been terrific most nights. Tonight was not such a night. Not only was he the glaring shooting problem on the field, but he capped off the night by telegraphing and then missing on the pass for the game winning attempt, watching as LeBron snuck it out of the air. Even an average night from Ridnour and the Bucks walk away with this one. I don’t know if that’s better or worse.

Hawks 109 Lakers 92: The Lakers wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else. The Hawks? They looked pretty comfy. One step faster to the bucket, to the offensive rebound, to the defensive position. Lot of jog and watch by the Lakers. Pau Gasol. Wow. I don’t know how a guy finishes with 16 and 11 and looks worse.

Early in the third, Ron Artest clubbed Mo Evans with an elbow. Evans shoved him, picking up a tech, and then Artest decided to get up in his face as the teams came together. Zaza Pachulia parted the seas and walked Artest off. Pachulia isn’t a great talent, and he’s no All-Star. But if you want to go to battle? Pachulia will have your back.

Bobcats 103 Sixers 84: The Bobcats may be teh best team in the league at gamble-and-recover. They push to the perimeter edges, to the catch point so often,  you’d think they would have a much worse defense. But instead, they push to those edges, sending the offense reeling just to settle itself, and use that time to reset the defense and get position. They know where their teammates are and they race to help each other.

The Sixers are simply incomplete. And with this much money in them, they’re going to need a complete overhaul.

Suns 116 Nets 105: Steve Nash is still in that category of “guys who if you do not have a specific plan for will absolutely destroy you.”

Guess what happened?

Brook Lopez is still incredible, and consistent. There’s no fluctuation in his performance from play to play. Same effort, same ability, same focus.

Thunder 109 Celtics 104: Terrific game. The Celtics are all flustered because of the number of fouls called. Interesting development there. Usually a foul differential exists because one team was more aggressive than the other. Either that, or it’s 2002. But it wasn’t that the Thunder were more aggressive, it’s that that the Celtics were too aggressive.

The C’s depend on bullying you as part of their plan. They rely on getting away with a lot of extra contact, a lot of sneaky plays, a lot of bruising. If you call those fouls and don’t set that tone as your baseline, the game stays out of trouble and the Celtics are limited.

Russell Westbrook and Rondo didn’t know what else to do with each other outside of going to the rim a lot. And it worked.

Jeff Green nailed two threes down the stretch that were perfectly executed. Both times he peeled off KG with a back-cut screen to a perimeter curl. The Celtics didn’t know what to do with it. And it was pretty much the ballgame.

Wolves 108 Kings 99: Some young teams can keep it going to the end. but you need a lot to go your way, and you need to have the carrot of wins and a playoff series to keep them interested. The Kings have neither. And so, the things that have made them shakey all year have made them pretty bad late.

The Wolves won! 16 game losing streak snapped! This is kind of what has been built there. A terrible team that can occasionally beat other terrible teams when things go their way. The bright spot for them is Corey Brewer, who has become a serious playmaker. Hopefully he’ll end up somewhere that teaches him the things he needs to be a complete player.

Jazz 128 Warriors 104: The Jazz scored 76 points in the first half. 76.

There is no piece of analysis I can give you that will explain how one team can score 76 points in 24 minutes while the other scores 49, other than, “The losing team is not very well coached defensively.”

The Jazz mean business. Top to bottom, they’re focused, confident, and mad as hell.

Trail Blazers 118, Knicks 90: This was as bad as the Knicks have played all season. Which is saying something, this team lost to the Nets twice. New York’s defense was just a frightful mess, their rebounding nonexistent. They let a Portland team — granted, one playing well right now — put up 60 first half points on their way to a 131 points per 100 possessions pace. Which is insanely good.

Portland, that’s 12 out of the last 14, congrats. But don’t read much into beating this team on this night.

Wizards 96, Hornets, 91: The Wizards 16-game losing streak ended because Shaun Livingston outplayed Chris Paul. No, I mean it. Totally one sided. Livingston is bigger and longer and they were not afraid to post him up on CP3, usually with good result. Livingston finished with 18 points and 8 assists, Paul with 8 points and 9 assists. Credit Quinton Ross, who also saw come time on Chris Paul and defended him well.

Still, David West got a good look at a three in the final 10 seconds to tie the game — Andray Blatche played some pretty lazy defense on that one despite the game being on the line — but West missed it. Just that kind of night for the Hornets.

Heat 98, Pistons 81: Jermaine O’Neal was out and meant there was room inside and Michael Beasley stepped up, getting into the paint and scoring 28. You know, the kind of thing the Heat expect him to do nightly but actually see so rarely. Don’t bet on a repeat performance. But it got them a win Wednesday.

Raptors 114, Clippers 92: I haven’t watched a game with this little defense since Paul Westhead left the college coaching ranks. It actually offended me as a basketball fan. Drew Gooden could not begin to contain Chris Bosh down low, he got no help, so Bosh had 33. But it was all the Raptors scoring at will. The Cl
ippers tried everything, eve
n some zone, but it didn’t work.

Still Los Angeles led at the half 53-48 because they dominated the glass — in the first half they grabbed the offensive board on 40 percent of their missed shots. Then the Clippers bailed out the horrid Toronto defense in the third by settling for jumpers. Long jumpers. When they started to miss, Toronto pulled away.

Spurs 119, Rockets 102: Remember when the Rockets were a really good defensive team…

The Spurs had their way on offense, and not really simply because Manu was back (although that helped and he sas. They shot 56.8 percent as a team, led by George Hill going 11 of 15 for a career high 30. The Spurs played like a team with a purpose, like a playoff team. They were the only ones.

After Kyrie Irving trade, here are five biggest threats to Warriors

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Let’s be honest: The blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics likely means the NBA Finals goes five games instead of four.

The Golden State Warriors can be that good. They won 67 games last season with the NBA’s top offense and second-ranked defense, now they have been in the system for a year as a unit, know each other better, and made some good offseason additions. The Warriors will be better. And they still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are the clear favorites to repeat as NBA champions.

But life rarely follows the script. So who are the biggest threats to the Warriors? Here are the top five.

1) The Houston Rockets. Houston won 55 games last season with the NBA’s second-ranked offense and a style of play that can hang with the Warriors — then they added Chris Paul to the mix. Plus GM Daryl Morey added quality veteran wing defenders such as P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, guys picked up in part to match up with the Warriors firepower. On paper, Houston is the NBA’s second best team and the one best poised to challenge the Warriors. It’s fair to wonder if Chris Paul and James Harden can share the backcourt and the ball — and if they can find a tempo that works for them — but coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried. It’s also fair to question if this team can be good enough defensively, even though they added good defenders. Still, the Rockets are a threat and a contender.

2) The Cleveland Cavaliers. The reason they are here is not the trade, it’s LeBron James. He remains the best player on the planet (although Durant is close). But the trade helps. In terms of pure offensive production, Isaiah Thomas matched or even bested Irving last season, IT is an All-NBA player for a reason. Also, the Cavaliers pick up the kind of “3&D” wing they have desperately needed in Jae Crowder. And if another player they really want/need comes available, they have assets in Ante Zizic and that Brooklyn first round pick to get him. Cleveland gets this spot because they are the clear favorite to win the East again, and if they are back in the Finals they have a shot despite an aging roster. The Cavs have beaten the Warriors in the Finals before.

3) The Boston Celtics. Admittedly, there is a bit of a drop off after those first two. I see Boston as more of a threat in two seasons (2018-19) and beyond, but after this trade they have quality players at key positions — Irving at the point, Gordon Hayward on the wing, and Al Horford in the paint. Boston also has one of the best coaches in the league in Brad Stevens, who will put Irving in better situations (so long as Irving buys in and doesn’t just force isolation action, as he did at times in Cleveland). What Boston needs is guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to develop, and Marcus Smart to step up, to become real contenders. They also need to show they can defend, they traded away some of their best defenders this summer. That and a stronger defensive presence in the paint. All that said, Boston has a legitimate shot to beat Cleveland and come out of the East, and if they reach the Finals, then the Celtics at least have a puncher’s chance against the Warriors.

4) The San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs won 55 games last season, had the best defense in the NBA, and with Kawhi Leonard they have their own superstar. The Spurs are going to execute and make plays. They will miss the depth that Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons brought, but they added the scoring punch of Rudy Gay off the bench. What we know is the Spurs will not beat themselves, that they will be in the hunt, and we should know by now not to sleep on them.

5) The Oklahoma City Thunder. I think this is a dark horse contender. What we know is that the Thunder should be a top five defensive team — they were 10th in the NBA last season, they brought back their core guys (Andre Roberson and Steven Adams are key here), and they added an excellent wing defender to the mix in Paul George. The Thunder will get stops. If George and Russell Westbrook can figure out how to play well together on the offensive end — last season the Thunder were middle of the pack offensively with the Westbrook show — and get in the top 10, they become a team that could surprise some people.

Thon Maker, all 7’1″ of him, sat in economy class to get flight going

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If you are six-foot or taller, economy class on a modern airline feels cramped. But at least the airlines make up for it with a delicious full meal a bag of peanuts and a free movie.

Can you imagine a 7’1″ guy in economy?

The Bucks’ Thon Maker did it on a recent United flight and the passenger next to him Paul Kuzma posted about it on Facebook (hat tip to onmilwaukee.com).

Well, a missed #United flight found me on a rebooked one. After ending up in an upgraded Economy Plus (yay!) middle seat (not so yay!), volunteers were asked one by one, row by row, if one would relocate to the last row of the plane, middle seat….

My heart leapt again when I came to the last row and BOTH the middle AND aisle seats were open! I stowed my gear in the middle seat area but sat in the aisle seat, hoping.

Alas, it was too good to be true! Moments later, a 7’1″ tall young man who could not even stand completely straight in the aisle of the plane made his way our direction. My heart sunk, not for me, but for him! I saw him emerge from an Economy Plus window seat!

I told him I was so sorry, knowing this would be uncomfortable for him. He nonchalantly said it was worth it to get this delayed flight going. He had practice to attend in the morning and had a 2+ hour drive to get where he was headed after landing….

I had to ask how in the world he ended up in the last row. He also had missed a flight and was rebooked on this one. He was assigned his original FIRST CLASS seat. He had settled in there when a flight attendant told him the person who had paid for that seat on THIS flight had shown up, albeit very late. They had to move him to Economy Plus.

Once there for a while, his story mirrors mine. Requests were being made for someone to move to the last row and no one was volunteering. So he volunteered, wanting the flight to begin.

He couldn’t even fit his knees into the Economy seat! Every time the snack cart came by or someone had to use the restroom, he had to get up and move out of their way.

The entire flight, there was not a hint of resentment in his voice. He was even happy to allow me a picture with him and an autograph. Class act, Thon!

Somewhere a cranky old NBA player is saying “we always used to have to fly commercial…” and sorry old man, but that doesn’t make it easy or right. There’s a reason NBA teams moved away from that (and it wasn’t to save money).

Good on Maker for being willing to sacrifice when plenty of other normal-sized people couldn’t be bothered.

And if the name Kuzma is familiar, the author says his is the second cousin once removed of the Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma.

PBT Podcast: Breaking down the Kyrie Irving trade

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Is LeBron James more likely to stay in Cleveland now?

Are the Boston Celtics contenders? Are they better set up for the future?

There are a lot more questions that come out of the surprise Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick. It’s a deal that is a big win for Cleveland, they got more than they should have expected in return. However, this is in no way a bad deal for the Celtics.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest PBT Podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Report: Clippers reach deal with Michael Winger to be new GM

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We knew this was coming, now it’s about to be official.

Former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Michael Winger is about to take over as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers. They offered him the job last week, now the sides have agreed to terms, and he will sign a deal soon, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Oklahoma City Thunder executive Michael Winger has reached an agreement in principle to become the general manager of the LA Clippers, league sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Doc Rivers is no longer the guy with the hammer in Los Angeles, he will just be coaching the Clippers (and still getting $10 million a year paychecks, in case you think he’ll just walk away). The power structure now has Lawrence Frank at the top as the President of Basketball Operations, with Winger doing to work under him. The Clippers are expected to hire Trent Redden, one of David Griffin’s former right hand men in Cleveland, to work under Winger as an assistant GM. The Clippers also are expected to hire another assistant GM soon.

Frank, Winger and crew take over a team in transition. Chris Paul is gone, but the Clippers locked up Blake Griffin on a max deal this summer, they got a good veteran point guard in Patrick Beverley from Houston, and they signed Danilo Gallinari. They picked up some good young players in the CP3 trade such as Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker (who they now need to develop). The Clippers should be in the mix for one of the final three playoff slots in the West next season, but that doesn’t answer the bigger picture questions. Are the Clippers a team rebuilding for the future on the fly? Are they looking to stay good and relevant until they can get their new building in Inglewood constructed? Are they a year or two away from a total rebuild?

Steve Ballmer ultimately gets to make that call. It will be up to Winger to execute it.