CPaul_drive

Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): The night the Grizzlies were thieves

2 Comments

What you missed while carving your pumpkin to look like the Death Star

Hornets 99, Spurs 90: It’s really a simple game at the end of the day — just put the ball in the bucket. The Spurs struggled mightily to do that. They missed the tough shots as the clock was winding down, they missed wide-open looks, they missed from the midrange, they missed at the rim, they just missed. It was just not their night.

Well, to be clear they missed for three quarters — they shot 31.7 percent through the first three quarters and were down 18 early in the fourth. Then they shot 59 percent for the final quarter, had a 16-3 run and made a game of it at the end. They got within three and Richard Jefferson even got a good look at a three to tie, but the Spurs were 6-26 from beyond the arc for the game so that didn’t go down.

That Spurs run, by the way, came with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on the bench.

The Spurs defense did what it does — tried to take Chris Paul out of the game and force long twos, taking away easy stuff inside. But the Hornets were hitting — they shot 53.9 percent on long twos (16 feet or more) and drained 7 of 11 from three.

Big win for the Hornets, which David West celebrated by punching Chris Paul over and over as he dribbled out the clock. In a good way. The Hornets are now 3-0 to start the season. Didn’t see that coming.

Grizzlies 109, Timberwolves 89: Memphis had 22 steals in this game. Minnesota turned the ball over on 26 percent of their possessions — when you turn it over one in four times down the court, you lose. Big.

Trail Blazers 100, Knicks 95: Early on Portland was just an efficient offense — lots of cuts off the ball, movement and attacking the mismatch on offense (and the mismatch was whomever Raymond Felton was guarding). They sprinted out to a big lead. Then they stopped doing it. Just because. The Knicks started to step up their defense, started rebounding (they had 18 offensive boards, which never should happen against the Blazers) and generally outplayed Portland for a stretch.

The Knicks would have won if Portland hadn’t reverted to form and went on a 17-3 run to close out the game and secure the win. You can thank Andre Miller for that late run and the win.

Hawks 99, Wizards 95: Washington got off to an early lead because a zone defense confused the Hawks, while Washington was hot and shot 60 percent for the first quarter. The Hawks didn’t shoot terribly well most of the game, but they battled back, then Joe Johnson took over in the fourth with 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting — because he stopped taking the long twos he was missing and started driving, hitting shorter pull ups or draining the three.

This just in: John Wall is a stud. He had 28 and was the reason Washington hung around.

Kings 107, Cavaliers 104: It’s weird to say this, but Beno Udrih is playing well so far this season. Smart, in control, had 12 points (6-9 shooting) and 11 dimes in this one. He almost looks like a guy who deserves that contract. Almost.

Fun game to watch if you don’t care about good defense, because that was missing. Really a tale of two halves, the Cavs dominated the second quarter, were up 14 at the break then the second half was just the Kings playing smarter and better.

Pacers 99, Sixers 86: Indiana started out the second half on an 18-5 run, sparked by 8 from Danny Granger, and that’s your ballgame. The Pacers were just more aggressive, they got to the line more often, got the offensive boards and just seemed to win all the hustle plays.

Bulls 101, Pistons 91: Chicago won the fourth quarter 34-9. Damn. Derrick Rose put up 39 and led the charge, looking like a stud. He has to carry that team’s offense, and it’s quite a show.

Aside that, not much to love here, just a fast-paced game (102 possessions) with a lot of missed shots from both teams.

Bucks 98, Bobcats 88: Andrew Bogut had four blocks on the night and really seemed to control the paint on defense, with the Bobcats shooting just 47.7 percent on shots near the rim. When you miss the chippies, it’s a long night.

Nuggets 107, Rockets 94: Carmelo Anthony had 24 points but needed 20 shots to get there. Al Harrington had 28 points but needed 24 shots to get there. Basically, the Nuggets were their usual, inefficient selves on offense. But, they attacked the rim and so got to the line more, they rebounded better, they were just more aggressive. Some night’s that’s enough. Houston just fouled and took bad shots rather than attack, they really don’t know who they are on offense. The fact Aaron Brooks sat a lot for foul trouble didn’t help.

Coach Steve Kerr: Warriors on brink but ready to rally

1 Comment

OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr gave his Golden State players a much-needed mental day off with time to rest their weary bodies, and he got back to work trying to figure out how to save the season against a powerful Thunder team that shows no signs of slowing down.

Back to the basics, back to doing the little things that got the Warriors this far.

After a record 73 wins in the regular season, the Warriors are on the brink as they go into Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Thursday night in Oakland trailing the Thunder 3-1 after a second straight lopsided loss in Oklahoma City.

No denying it’s a daunting task for the defending champs – especially given that MVP Stephen Curry is a far cry from being completely healthy.

“Well, it’s a sense of reality staring us in the face. We’re down 3-1,” Kerr said Wednesday. “Momentum can shift quickly in the playoffs. We’ve seen that the last couple years. Let’s take care of business at home, get some momentum back and we’ve got a chance.”

All season long, the Warriors have taken the best efforts from every opponent. The just haven’t shown the vulnerabilities that appeared the past two games in Oklahoma City, where Golden State lost back-to-back games for the first time during its record-setting season.

The flight home was hardly fun following Tuesday’s 118-94 defeat.

“It was not festive. It was quiet,” Kerr said.

The Warriors shot 41 percent and committed 21 turnovers that led to 18 Thunder points. Curry was 6 for 20 and missed eight of his 10 3-point attempts to score 19 points, sparking further talk that he’s far from full strength. The unanimous MVP has dealt with ankle, knee and elbow injuries this postseason alone.

Kerr isn’t about to put a percentage on his superstar’s health.

“I don’t do that. If he were struggling with anything, I would know,” Kerr said. “Nobody has said anything about Steph being 70 percent to me. Our training staff, relatives, friends, sources with knowledge of our team’s thinking, nobody has told me he’s 70 percent.”

Golden State will likely need a big night from Curry to get back in this.

Only nine teams in NBA history have rallied from being down 3-1 to win a postseason series, yet Kerr was quick to note, “I’m guessing most of them weren’t the defending champs.”

With the season on the line, first-year Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan expects the Warriors to bring their best while back in front of their home fans.

“Again, we have great respect for Golden State. We know how good of a team they are. You’ve got to get to a place after each game – what happened in the game, what do we need to get better, what do we do well, what are some changes or adjustments we need to make – and then you’ve got to move into the next one,” Donovan said.

“I just don’t believe that Game 5 is a continuation from Game 4. This is its own separate game and we’re going to have to go now on the road to play in a very difficult environment against a great team.”

The Thunder know full well how close they are but also that nothing will be given to them easily. They last reached the NBA Finals in 2012, losing in five games to the Miami Heat.

Oklahoma City stole Game 1 on the Warriors’ raucous home floor in Oracle Arena, where Golden State has lost just three times all season.

“Every game you have a sense of urgency, it’s the playoffs and you know what everybody’s playing for. We’ve just got to come out there and be who we are,” Kevin Durant said. “We can’t put too much pressure on ourselves. We have to go out, play the game, and play with passion and energy. And we know the whole crowd’s going to be against us and we have to stick together even more.”

The Thunder are playing with all the poise and passion on both ends, while the Warriors haven’t been able to hang around the past two games, in part because of uncharacteristic miscues.

“They’ve had a lot of frustration over the years. They’re healthy. They’re whole. They are determined, and they want what we have,” Kerr said. “We have a banner hanging up in here and we take great pride in that. It’s a hard thing to accomplish, and they’ve been close, but they haven’t done it, and they’re coming after us. They’re really getting after it and playing well and competing. We’ve got to stand up to that.”

Report: Bismack Biyombo could command $17 million per year in free agency

TORONTO, ON - MAY 15:  Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates late in the second half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
5 Comments

Last summer, Bismack Biyombo signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Raptors with a player option for the second year, following four unremarkable seasons in Charlotte. After his performance in the playoffs, it’s a no-brainer that he’ll opt out, and he’s in line for a huge payday. Perhaps bigger than most people expected, even with the rising salary cap.

An unnamed GM told the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney that Biyombo’s price tag this summer could be $17 million per year:

“For someone like (Biyombo), I think when you look at a guy like Tyson Chandler and what he got from Phoenix last summer (four years, $52 million), that’s where you start for a contract,” one Eastern Conference GM told Sporting News. “But you factor in the cap spike and it’s probably going to be high, I’d say, $16-17 million. It’ll be a heck of a $17 million-per-year gamble.”

Honestly, $17 million a year seems low given what next year’s market is shaping up to be. He’s arguably the third-best center available, after Al Horford (unlikely to leave Atlanta) and Hassan Whiteside (a lock for a max deal somewhere). With the amount of cap space teams around the league will have, and the top-heaviness of the free-agent class (there isn’t much beyond Horford, Kevin Durant and Mike Conley), it’s a good bet that somebody will overpay for Biyombo, especially after a playoff run that’s seen him average 20.5 rebounds per 100 possessions, per Basketball Reference. Whether he’s worth that money is a different discussion, but he’ll get it from somebody.

Steve Kerr on Stephen Curry: “it’s not an injury”

4 Comments

In the age of social media and spin, the idea of a nuanced answer — where there is some truth to a statement, but it is not the only reason for something — gets drowned out.

For example, let’s take the case of Stephen Curry‘s below-par performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder (he was 6-of-20 shooting with six turnovers in Game 4 and is 5-of-21 from three in the last two games). A report came out Wednesday morning saying Curry was only 70 percent following his knee surgery, which first led to a lot of silly “excuses” comments on Twitter. This led to Steve Kerr denying the injury, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s a radical idea: Curry’s struggles are a combination of things.

Yes, the improved, athletic, and lengthy Thunder defense is giving Curry problems. They are meeting him out high, often doubling off the pick-and-roll, and when that pick is set by Draymond Green Kevin Durant and his length is doing a great job of blowing that play up. Also, it is clear the physical exertion of guarding Russell Westbrook is wearing Curry down.

But also, he has lacked the explosiveness we saw lift him to a second consecutive MVP during the season. He’s had great quarters — the fourth and OT in Game 4 vs. Portland, and the second quarter of Game 2 vs. OKC — but he has not been the consistent force we are used to seeing.

Welcome to the playoffs, where if someone is a little bit off that gets exploited by the other team.

That is what is going on, the rest is just spin.

Frank Vogel says it would be “inaccurate” to say he begged for his job with Pacers

TORONTO, ON - MAY 01:  Head Coach Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers looks on in the first half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 01, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

This is all moot now. Frank Vogel has landed on his feet with a promising young Orlando team; Nate McMillan slid up a chair to take over the head coaching job in Indiana (which is an odd hire if Larry Bird wants the Pacers to play faster). But…

Frank Vogel wants you to know he did not beg for his job.

At the post-firing press conference of Pacers’ coach Larry Bird, he said that Vogel basically begged for his job. Vogel, speaking on ESPN Indianapolis Radio’s Dan Dakich Show Tuesday, via the Indianapolis Star:

Larry’s going to speak his mind. A lot of people talked to me about it who didn’t like that and it’s probably an inaccurate perception that I was begging him to stay. … I fully respect Larry and the process. He knew it was going to be an unpopular move but he did what he had to do.

“I felt like we were on the verge of some big things. We stood toe-to-toe with a 56-win team. I told my team after the series that were poised … I felt like I was going to be able to do that with this group. That was my only mention to Larry.”

Again, this is all moot.

The reality is Vogel was never Bird’s guy, Bird wanted the Pacers to play faster than they did last season (11th in the NBA in pace), and Bird thought it time for a change. He’s the team president, it’s his call.

But did Bird make the Pacers better with this move? Begging discussion aside, that is the question to which he must answer.