Baseline to Baseline, final night of the regular season

1 Comment

What happened Wednesday while you were crying over the end of League Pass…


Magic 125 Sixers 111: The Sixers did their part, showing up to let the fans in Orlando have something to cheer against. Marreesse Speights needs to learn to play better defense, but he can score. 23 points for the young 22 year old, and if the Sixers are going to rebuild with a new coach, he’s got to be part of the plan. 
Howard did what Howard does, and dominated. The Magic followed suit. SVG commented post game that they’ve drilled bad teams in the second half of the season. 
No more gimmes. But the Magic look ready. 
Heat 94, Nets 86 (2OT): Best thing about this game?
It’s over. 
Let us never speak of it again. 
Bucks 106 Celtics 95: A gimme game, a no-point game, a useless game. And you’re still left asking “The Bucks put up 106 on the Celtics without Bogut? Wow.” And that says a lot about Milwaukee’s balance and about how many C’s missed this game. Perkins didn’t play, which meant…
The Dan Gadzuric show! Gadzey scored 14 and added 9 boards. If the Hawks were scouting this game, they wanted to focus in on Ilyasova, who played fantastic, and could be a matchup issue if his range is working. 
Bulls 98 Bobcats 89: The ‘Cats can zone out with the best of ’em, and the Bulls can plug in with the same. 
Joakim Noah looked healthy, folks. Really healthy. Best play of the night was Noah in transition, running point on the break (you read that right), picking up his dribble, leaving his feet, and dishing to a driving Gibson for the and-one lay-in. It was Deron Williams-esque. 
After Tyson Chandler went down, Bobcats couldn’t be bothered. The Cats were just happy to not have their season ending for once. Good for you, ‘Cats. Good on you, Bulls. 
Wizards 98 Pacers 97: Cedric Jackson, a D-Leaguer, hit the game winning shot with 1:31 to play for the Wizards in a meaningless comeback win for the Wizards over the Pacers. 
And that pretty much tells you about their seasons. 
No one, not even the Nets, is happier this season is over than the Wizards. 
Mavs 96 Spurs 89: The Spurs hung here. The Mavericks played their starters but were obviously tuned out, and once they got the lead, they just cultivated it enough to hang on. But the San Antonio bench showed a lot, even if both schemes were vanilla since they meet in four days for Game 1. 
DeJuan Blair had 27 and 23. Knees or no knees, those are some huge numbers. And he actually frustrated Dirk Nowitzki a bit. Something to keep an eye on. 

Thunder 114 Grizzles 105: Grizzlies checked out once Marc Gasol went out for the season a few weeks ago. And that should be noted because for as good as Z-Bo has been, Gasol is the heart of this squad. 
Meanwhile, the Thunder were tuning up sharp. Good ball rotations, good movement, good speed, good everything. They had the answers and they had the stroke. 
Rudy Gay is still as one-sided as he was at the beginning of last season .
Pistons 103 Wolves 98: Corey Brewer was brilliant, but Charlie Villanueva came through huge in the fourth. He forced the issue and created tons of baseline space. When that happened, the Wolves lost control. And they’re not a team that can get it back. 
Darko Milicic, the franchise savior, had six rebounds. 
Hornets 123 Rockets 115: The Rockets just ran out of steam. Much like their season. 
The Hornets looked good, and forced a lot of penetration. David West was lost in the failures of the Hornets this season, but he’s been tremendous in the second half of the season, and his 35 tonight was the type of dominance that the Hornets can win with next year. 

Suns 100 Jazz 86: Be afraid of this Suns team. The threes are there, sure. Nash, yeah. Amar’e, for sure. But there was defense out there tonight. Stifling, interrupting, bothering, frustrating defense. Don’t sleep on that. 
The Jazz without Carlos Boozer are frighteningly toothless, and couldn’t counter anything for the Suns defensively. 
Warriors 122 Blazers 116: Don Nelson dressed 8 players. Then three got hurt. Then one fouled out. The refs made him play an injured guy, before eventually letting him play the fouled out guy (Devean George) in exchange for a technical. 
And that’s the Dubs. 
Portland heads to postseason play with a dark cloud over them and Stephen Curry blasting them into pieces can’t make them feel any better.

Raptors 131, Knicks 113: Not a lot of defense in this one. And by not a lot we mean none. Made it fairly entertaining to watch. The difference here was simply that Toronto played like a team that wanted it and New York played like a team that wanted its season to end. They get their wish.

Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83: You could make really good team out of the guys who did not suit up for this one: LeBron James, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Shaquille O’Neal, Mike Bibby.

Without LeBron to create shots, the Cavaliers shooting percentage plummeted, particularly the 1 for 14 from three part. It was the kind of game where Jeff Teague takes over, he had 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Jeff Teague. It was that kind of game.

Clippers 107, Lakers 91: How seriously did the Lakers take this one?  Early in the third quarter, the Lakers had Adam Morrison trying to hang with Travis Outlaw. He can’t, by the way. But you probably already guessed that.

Steve Blake had the triple-double in this one — 23 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists. The Lakers bad defensive habits helped out, at one point Derek Fisher left Blake at the three-point arc to run down to the post and help Pau Gasol (covering DeAndre Jordan). Kick out and a buried three. Kept happening in variations all game long. But credit the Clippers for taking advantage.

Now, where is the lottery party again?

Rajon Rondo strangely runs behind Rick Carlisle during play (video)

Leave a comment

This would be ignored – still odd, but ignored – if it weren’t for their history.

But Rajon Rondo running behind Rick Carlisle during the Mavericks’ win over the Bulls raised a couple eyebrows in curiosity and drew a few chuckles. What was Rondo doing?

At least Carlisle explained why he didn’t call timeout before Wesley Matthewsgame-winning 3-pointer. The Dallas coach had Rondo in mind.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Mike D’Antoni: “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center on November 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not exactly Seven Seconds or Less Part 2 in Houston, but it may be closer to Mike D’Antoni’s ultimate vision.

The Rockets are 32-12 with the third-best offense in the NBA (Toronto and Golden State), and it’s an analytics wet dream of threes and shots at the rim. It’s all come together because James Harden bought in. Steve Nash ran the offense brilliantly but differently — Harden is as good or better with his style (which gets him to the line more often).

The brilliant Howard Beck at Bleacher Report got everyone to talk about the Rockets rapid rise and how it all came together. It’s must read. Plus there are some brilliant quotes, starting with Harden about D’Antoni pitching the move to point guard:

“I thought he was crazy,” says Harden, who earned his stardom at shooting guard….

Or as D’Antoni put it, “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach.”

“People always ask, ‘You traded for him; did you know he was this good?'” (Rockets GM Daryl) Morey says. “I’m like, ‘F–k no!’ I mean, we thought he was extremely good and better than other teams probably did.”

But not top-five good or, say, top-three, which Morey would make the case for today.

Harden is MVP-level good. What’s more, the Rockets are knocking on the door of contender good. The pedestrian defense isn’t there yet (18th in the NBA for the season, 15th for the month of January), questions about depth and if young key cogs like Clint Capela can grow into the roles the Rockets need them to, and there are the health concerns considering the histories of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.

But the Rockets are dangerous right now and could reach the Western Conference Finals this season if healthy and things break right (their style and athleticism would be a tough test for the Spurs).  And the story of how it all came together is fascinating.

Carmelo Anthony on talk with Jackson: “We didn’t break bread….It was a short conversation”

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2016 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
4 Comments

It wasn’t long. It wasn’t outwardly contentious. But you can bet it was colder than the weather outside Madison Square Garden in January.

Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony sat down and talked about Anthony’s future with the Knicks Tuesday, with Anthony reiterating again he doesn’t want to be traded. And since he has a no-trade clause and two years on his deal after this one, he has the power.

Anthony seems done with the entire topic and is ready to move on. From Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“The conversation was not that long. We didn’t break bread,’’ Anthony said. “We didn’t have hours of conversation. It was a short conversation.”

This entire topic came up when Phil Rosen — a Phil Jackson confidant who swears he’s not a surrogate — penned an article saying Anthony was willing to accept a move to the Cavaliers or Clippers (or maybe the Lakers). The move felt like a classic Jackson mind game move where Anthony was forced to respond to it — and Anthony seems done with the drama.

“I’m done asking why,’’ Anthony said. “My focus is playing ball at this point. My focus is these guys. That’s all I care about at this point. Making sure these guys stay strong and positive and have their head on right and not be a distraction to them.

“I’m committed [to the Knicks]. I don’t have to prove that to anybody. I don’t have to keep saying that and keep talking about it. I know for a fact people know that and people see that.”

Anthony is ready to move on, is Jackson? Or do we see another mind game move coming?

Anthony isn’t going anywhere, not in the short term. Even if Anthony would entertain a trade to those mentioned, markets, you think the Cavaliers would like to give Kevin Love‘s minutes and some of LeBron James‘ touches to 33-year-old Anthony? You think Doc Rivers would swap 27-year-old Blake Griffin for ‘Melo? Anthony is expensive and while he can still score the other limitations in his game make it very hard to trade him.

Jackson is the master of convincing guys to do what he wants and think it’s their own idea, but I have a hard time seeing that happening with Anthony.

Kevin Durant reflects on “AAU basketball” of Durant/Westbrook/Harden Thunder

Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden
Associated Press
7 Comments

If MVP voting took place today, James Harden and Russell Westbrook would be in a photo finish for the win — they are the clear first and second choices in that race. Third could well be Kevin Durant, who is having a strong and efficient season in Golden State (it’s who Dan Feldman and I said we would pick third during the PBT Podcast, although certainly guys like LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, Kawhi Leonard and others are in the mix).

Remember when Durant, Westbrook, and Harden were all on the same team? The NBA’s ultimate “what if?”

Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News got Durant to reminisce about those days (the Warriors play the Thunder and Rockets this week).

“It’s easy to say we were supposed to be together for the rest of our careers, but it didn’t play out like that,” Durant said. “I think all three of us will have memorable careers. And it’ll be a journey we’ll always remember, something that’s different and unique, playing with two different guys who are doing incredible things in the league right now. But when you look back, think about the fun times instead of what could’ve been.”

Could they have ruled the NBA for a decade?

“No. We never looked at it that way, like we could be best of all-time,” Durant said. “It was really AAU basketball, man. We were just having fun. We weren’t listening to anyone on the outside, media, none of that. It was just pure fun. When we did hear something about the group, it was like, what is this? That was so foreign to us because we never paid attention to it.”

It was Harden that was traded — he wanted and deserved the max, the Thunder has spent on Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. They weren’t willing to pay the costs — the luxury tax bill would have come calling — to keep all three. The other side of that debate: Could Harden have continued happily in his sixth man role? This guy dominates the ball now (he leads the league in time of possession this season), would he have stayed coming off the bench to win?

“I think he’d have stayed in that role. I think so,” Durant said. “He’d have still been a really great player. You look at it, a lot of people wouldn’t have looked at him as a Sixth Man. He’d have been better. I think he’d have been better. Obviously I’m sure he loves what he’s doing now, but if we would’ve won a championship, I think the perception of him would’ve just been as a great player. ‘He’s the heart, he’s what makes us go.’ That’s what his label would’ve been, instead of just Sixth Man. He would’ve probably been the best Sixth Man that ever was.”

Maybe, and maybe that would have been enough. It’s all moot now.

But what if?