Baseline to Baseline; the NBA: Where overtime happens

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What you missed while figuring out how you were going to pay for Ferris Bueller’s Ferrari

Heat 105, Pacers 96 (OT):
You wouldn’t have expected a fun finish after an ugly first half, where both teams shooting 36.1 percent. It wasn’t even about great defense, it was about bad offense. But this one does get to be entertaining at the end.

It goes to overtime and the Pacers play the percentages — Dwyane Wade is shooting 29 percent from three point range this year, you want him to take that shot, not drive the lane where he is a force of nature. Two minutes left in OT, Heat up two, and two straight trips down they entice Wade into the three. And he drains them both. Ballgame. Wade has 43. What are you going to do?

Bobcats 87, Bucks 86 (OT): Larry Brown missed a good one. He got tossed two minutes into the second quarter, apparently saying something pretty special to referee Bill Spooner after a no-call on Kurt Thomas when he set what we’ll call a veteran pick (alternately, a hip check) on Gerald Wallace that flattened him. Spooner was quick with the hook, but the best part was Brown stopping at the end of the bench to plead his case to Michael Jordan. Who sat there stone-faced.

This game was a defensive coach’s dream — two that took away every easy shot, contested everything, closed out on shooters. Kind of a purists game. So I liked it. Then with everything on the line the Bobcats made some veteran plays. Stephen Jackson created some space then drained the three that was the Bobcats final points. Then when the Bobcats had the ball at the very end — five seconds in the game but two on the 24 second clock — Raymond Felton missed the shot but Tyson Chandler made the veteran move, just tipping the ball out to teammates and killing the clock rather than grabbing the board and getting fouled.

Charlotte is going to be a tough out in the playoffs.

Bulls 95, Wizards 87: The Bulls can’t afford to lose to the Wizards at this point. They can’t really afford to lose to anyone. That motivation was enough in this one.

Rockets 119, Celtics 114 (OT) : No Shane Battier. No Kevin Martin. No Trevor Ariza. But what was left was still the scrappy, tenacious Rockets that do not give up. And Chase Budinger, who looks good when he gets minutes. Once again the Celtics had trouble with speed, specifically in the form of Aaron Brooks. When the Rockets ran, even after made baskets, they got good looks. Houston recognized this and essentially stretched their offense out to 94 feet. And when they did the Celtics looked old. Sorry Danny Ainge, they did.

Paul Pierce just cannot create his own shot like he could two years ago.

Cavaliers 93, Hawks 88: As it has been in every meeting between these teams this season, it’s basically even for three quarters, then in the clutch Cleveland has another gear — particularly on defense — that the Hawks cannot match.

That intensified defense turned the slashing Hawks into jumpshooters, and Atlanta shot 31.6 percent in the fourth. Cleveland also dominated the boards in the clutch, doing that takes away Atlanta’s vital transition game. It’s the old Pat Riley coaching axiom: rebounds = rings.

Suns 109, Pistons 94: Phoenix had won nine in a row coming in. Detroit had lost nine in a row coming in. So how did you think this was going to go?

Grizzlies 107, Hornet 96: Remember before the season, the common prediction was the Grizzlies would rack up like 2 assists per game and finish as one of the worst teams in the NBA. Missed that one. This team is pretty good and going to finish over .500 (but not be rewarded with a trip to the playoffs, because that happens in the West).

As for the game, the Grizzlies jumped out early, were up 20 and this was never really in doubt.

Spurs 112, Magic 100: Thursday night the Magic looked dominant against the Mavericks, with Dallas on the second night of a back-to-back and looking a step slow. Friday night it was  the Magic’s turn. One of the best defensive teams in the land looked sluggish ad  had no answers for Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan. Although a lot of teams have had that problem over the years.

Not much to read into this, back-to-backs do that.

Warriors 128, Knicks 117: Huge night for David Lee — 35 point, 20 boards, 10 assists. He’s busting it out there. He’s alone, most of the rest of team quit. Two high paced teams that can score, this should have been more fun to watch than it was.

Lakers 106, Jazz 92: When the Lakers really defend — like they did through most of this one — they are a very good team. (They’ll defend even better when Bynum returns.) When Lamar Odom plays well, dropping 26 and 10, the Lakers are a very good team.

This was not a four quarter performance from Los Angeles, but if you’re going to dominate two quarters the first and the fourth are the ones. The Lakers keep making it hard to believe anybody in the West beats them, despite the inconsistent effort.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.