Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Heat are running and cruising

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What you missed while listening to Johnny Depp read Keith Richards autobiography…

Our game of the night is a reminder that the Spurs are still the Spurs, click for details.

Heat 123, Suns 96: The Heat came out and wanted to make sure Chris Bosh felt loved and wanted — he had the first eight points (on 4 of 4 shooting) and they went to him exclusively for a bit. They kept going there because it worked, he finished with 35 on 12-17 (plus he got to the line 11 times).

This was close for a quarter until the Heat settled in for a fast-paced game then really just took over at both ends — the Suns scored only two field goals in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. The Heat got up big and never looked back. There were 97 possessions in this game, six faster than a normal Heat contest, but with their athleticism and finishers they need to play up-tempo like this more. They are not, should not be a D’Antoni style team, but they should be playing a lot faster than they are (which was 22nd in the league before Thursday). This game was the proof of that.

Hornets 99, Mavericks 97: Mavs raced out to 12-2 lead but you knew the Hornets would battle back, that this one would be close and it would come down to execution at the end.

With the game on the line the Hornets ran the same play three times in a row — a wing pick-and-pop with Chris Paul and David West that the Mavericks had no answer for. Go read the NBA Playbook breakdown. The Hornets executed with the game on the line and they get

Raptors 94, Sixers 86: With 25 seconds left and down six, the Sixers missed a shot and the Raptors got the rebound. Instantly Philly coach Doug Collins started yelling “foul, foul” hoping to extend the game, but his team moved at half speed and seemed disinterested. At best. It took 12 seconds before someone committed the requested foul. And that tells you pretty much all you need to know about where the Sixers are right now.

Nice 2-2 road trip for the Raptors.

Lakers 103, Pistons 90: Kobe was hot, the Lakers jumped out to an early lead and cruised…yada, yada, yada. Best tweet of the night comes to us courtesy Dave McMenimen of of ESPNLA:

A 12-yr old girl sitting behind Lakers bench just screamed: “The triangle offense failed in ’04, Phil! You’ll always have to live w/ that!”

Thunder 116, Rockets 99: Oklahoma City’s most complete game start-to-finish in weeks — combined with a struggling opponent — made this one the easy win the Thunder have needed after some tough ones lately.

Celtics 114, Wizards 83: This was close for a while as the Wizards made contested shots and played with the energy that the Celtics are greeted with every night. But the Wizards play poor defense, and you’re not going to stay hot forever against the Celtics, they make you work too hard to get your shots. The blowout was inevitable, if a bit delayed in this one.

Timberwolves 113, Clippers 111: Michael Beasley had 33 points on 14-23 shooting, including the game winner with 2.3 left. Beasley has been big lately but count me among the still skeptical — he his 6 of 10 long twos in this game. He has been doing that for games now, don’t expect him to keep hitting from range like that.

Clippers have now lost to the Pistons, Nets and Wolves in a row.

Jazz 98, Nets 88: Turns out the Jazz can win a game they never trail in during the final 35 minutes.

Knicks 113, Kings 106: It was Glee night at ARCO arena. The Kings deserved to lose for karma reasons alone.

It’s all about having shooters on the floor in the Mike D’Antoni system. In the first quarter, the Knicks are 5-23 overall and 0-6 from three and they are down 27-14. Second quarter they start
9-12, 4-for-4 from three and they outscore Kings 40-22. The Suns were good when they had five shooters on the floor at a time, the Knicks are not there yet.

As for the Kings, you can tell Paul Westphal is looking different rotations (new starting lineup tonight) trying to find combos that work. But the formula is eluding him.

Spain’s national coach said both Gasol brothers, Ibaka, Mirotic all want to play in EuroBasket

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Spain is the defending EuroBasket champions, the best team in Europe (they won the Bronze medal in Rio after two consecutive silver medal Olympics). Which shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the talent pool: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Nicola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, and a host of top international players who were in the NBA (Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos-Navarro, Sergio Rodriguez, and on down the line).

Spain could bring a loaded team to the tournament, their coach Sergio Scariolo said in a radio interview, transcribed at FIBA.com.

“Pau has also told me he’s coming,” Scariolo said. “All of them want to see how they finish the season. For them to say that they’re looking forward to coming and asking what we’re going to do is a first good step, but then we have to wait and see how they end the season – the physical status of those that have to take part in the play-offs. We have to wait until then to have a definite idea but the pre-disposition of all of the players is very good.”

“We’ll begin training on 28 July and we’ll have to change our way of playing with respect to the last two years when Marc hasn’t been here,” Scariolo said. “We’ll have to incorporate him. It’s an important readjustment and there are many things that we’re working on.”

“(Nikola) Mirotic and (Serge) Ibaka have confirmed their availability,” Scariolo said to Onda Cero radio. “Obviously there is a different status and situation, but all of the players have confirmed to me their availability, although with certain provisos. Each has his own circumstances and own situation, but the availability of all is very good.”

Scariolo will have to choose between Mirotic and Ibaka if both want to play, they are both naturalized Spanish citizens, and only one of those can be on the roster.

That said, Spain heads into EuroBasket this summer as the team to beat. So long as all those players decide they are healthy enough to play.

Stan Van Gundy on slumping Pistons: “We’re just bad all the way around”

Associated Press
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If the playoffs started today, the Detroit Pistons would be out golfing. Or fishing. Or partying in Cabo. The point is, they would not be playing.

Which is stunning — this was a 44-win team a year ago that seemed on the rise and is anchored by Andre Drummond in the paint. This year they’re four games below .500 and lost five of their last six, including back-to-back losses to the Nets and Bulls the last two days. In the month of March, the Pistons have been outscored by  4.4 points per 100 possessions. They are now tied with the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Heat for the last playoff slot in the East.

Stan Van Gundy, you’re coach and GM in Detroit, what do you think of all this? (Via ESPN’s Nick Friedell)

“The message I gave them is, ‘Look, we got 10 games left,” he said. “And if we don’t change the way we’re playing, this is going to get really, really ugly.

“We didn’t defend at any point in the second half. We didn’t defend much in the first half, either. Just really disappointing. We were 33-33, got tied, back to .500 after that New York game [on March 11], ran into a buzz saw in Cleveland [three nights later], and that’s it. We haven’t bounced back. It’s like we took that one hit and have not recovered at all. Have not played a decent game since then. This is six bad games in a row.”

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of life in us, and we got to find some by Friday,” Van Gundy added. “It’s just not one position, either. We’re just not playing. We’re not. We’re just bad all the way around.”

The Pistons have what should be winnable games against Orlando and New York coming up on the road, followed by an important matchup next Tuesday against Miami. Detroit needs wins now, because their schedule the rest of the way is about as tough as Miami’s, but Chicago has a soft finish to the season that could see them string together wins (maybe, Chicago has its own issues).

Whatever happens the final 10 games, Van Gundy and his team have some serious assessing to do this summer, some trades to make, they need to figure out what works and go with it. Because this season did not work.

Timberwolves to unveil new logo at final home game

AP Photo/Jim Mone
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The Timberwolves’ were the trendy pick for a breakout team this season with Tom Thibodeau coaching Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Instead, Minnesota fell flat. At, 28-42 the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight year – the NBA’s longest active postseason drought.

But they’ve shown progress lately and could carry that momentum into next season.

It’ll be a fresh start in at least one way.

Timberwolves release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves begin a new chapter in their franchise history by unveiling a new team logo as part of Fan Appreciation Night at Target Center on Tuesday, April 11. The Wolves will conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule that evening by hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m.

The logo will be unveiled during a special halftime show and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative t-shirt with the new identity featured.

While the new identity won’t fully take effect until the 2017-18 season, the unveiling marks only the fourth identity in the franchise’s 28-year history.  The announcement is also the beginning of an eventful summer as the Wolves brand continues to evolve. There will be several future announcements regarding the unveiling of the new team uniforms, new court designs and additional events throughout the coming months.

I’m glad these uniforms are coming out next year. I always enjoy when a style change coincides with a team changing on the court, and it seems the Timberwolves could truly do that.

Shaq on flat-earth claim: ‘I’m joking, you idiots’

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After Kyrie Irving claimed the Earth is flat, he doubled down and insisted he truly believed that.

After Shaquille O’Neal claimed the Earth is flat

Shaq on Art of Charm (hat tip: Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports):

The Earth is flat. Would you like to hear my theory?

The first part of the theory is, I’m joking, you idiots. That’s the first part of the theory.

This world we live in, people take things too seriously. But I’m going to give the people answers to my test. Knowing that I’m a funny guy, if something seems controversial or boom, boom, boom, you’ve got to have my funny points on, right? So now, once you have my funny points on, that should eradicate and get rid of all your negative thoughts, right? That’s what you should do when you hear Shaquille O’Neal’s statement, OK? You should know that he has funny points right over here, and what did he say? The guy had, boom, boom, boom. Add the funny points. You either laugh, or you don’t laugh. But don’t take me seriously. When I want you to take me seriously, you will know by the tone of my voice that I’m being serious.

Shaq is excellent at drawing attention to himself. The only surprise is that he didn’t keep this ruse up longer.

If Irving is pulling our collective legs to put the focus on him, at least credit the Cavaliers guard for maintaining the story longer. That Shaq lasted only a few days is revelatory.