Duncan_Howard

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Spurs are legit

1 Comment

What you missed while freaking out that there are flying snakes

The Clippers with the upset of the Hornets is our Game of the Night

Spurs 106, Magic 97: The Spurs are legit. Not sure they can beat the Lakers in the playoffs, but if that’s the standard then no other team in the NBA may be legit. But the Spurs — if they can stay healthy — look like the one team in the West that can push LA. San Antonio racked up an 11-1 record against one of the softer schedules in the league, but Monday they faced off against Orlando and knocked off the Magic. And looked good doing it.

The Spurs got fantastic guard play — Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 49 points on 53 percent shooting, 5-9 from three and they had 19 assists. It was a counter to the Magic, who early on tried to establish Dwight Howard inside — and if you think he has one move you need to watch him again. He has developed some shots. He’s not Hakeem, but there are some different shots and he used them on Tim Duncan. Howard finished with 26 points and 18 boards.

But in crunch time the Spurs were making the plays. —Parker, Ginobili and Richard Jefferson all had key late threes. And just before that, Matt Bonner hit a shot from roughly El Paso. Then at the game’s key moment Ginobili shocked the world by going to his right got the and-one. Meanwhile the Magic were turning it over. The Spurs are back, baby

Pacer 93, Heat 77: If the Miami Heat played with the pace and off-the-ball player movement in the halfcourt offense that the Indiana Pacers have, they would be far more dangerous.

The Heat looked terrible in this one. Dwyane Wade was a surprise starter returning from injuring his non- shooting hand but he did not look right — he was 1 of 13 from the field for three points. The Heat offense was all isolation and looked listless. The defensive rotations were, frankly, pathetic.

The Heat had 4 points off the bench — all from Jamaal Magloire, who could be cut tomorrow to make way for Erick Dampier. The Heat were 4-20 from three. Credit the Pacers for playing some good defense and taking advantage of all the miscues. But the Heat are making a lot of miscues.

Celtics 99, Hawks 76: The first quarter was as good as the Celtics can play. The Hawks were flat, but the Celtics intimidating intensity was part of that. The Celtics shot 72 percent, their defense pressured the ball on the strong side (as they long have done) and contested every shot, it overwhelmed the Hawks — 39-13 overwhelmed. The Hawks settled in and played better as the game went on, but this one was over early. Really solid game for Shaq, he was too much for the Hawks inside from the start.

After the game, the Hawks closed their locker room to the media. They needed a team meeting after that ugly performance.

Thunder 117, Timberwolves 107: Don’t tell anyone, but Darko Milicic played really well down the stretch in this one. And Kevin Love had 24-17. Still wasn’t enough because the Thunder are just the vastly better team.

Suns 123, Rockets 116: Steve Nash was back and the Suns looked like the Suns again — an offensive rating of 124.2 (points per 100 possessions).

The Rockets were 0-12 from three in the first half of this game. They didn’t stop shooting it and attack the rim more, they kept launching threes. On some level you should applaud their determination in the face of adversity. Then again, you could say the same thing about the Confederates at Gettysburg. They finished with 26 threes, recalling the Rudy T. era.

The Suns did what they wanted and went on a 11-0 second quarter run, pulled away and never looked back.

Jazz 94, Kings 83: What you expected out of this game is what you got. The Jazz are just the better squad.

Nuggets 106, Warriors 89: Denver was attacking, which means Carmelo Anthony is attacking. He was an impressively perfect 17-17 from the free throw line and finished with 39. Al Harington was 5-7 from three. Denver and the Warriors have similar records, but it was pretty clear who is the better team here.

Playoff Preview: Five question to answer in Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, left, looks to pass as Toronto Raptors' Corey Joseph (6) and Bismack Biyombo defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

The last of the four second round — or, conference semi-finals if you prefer — will tip off Tuesday with two teams that had to go seven games in the first round. That means mentally tired players who had little time to prep for Game 1 — expect some sloppy play at points. Here are five things to watch that could decide the series.

1) With a series win that led to a sigh of relief throughout Canada, will the Raptors play more free and loose? Toronto was tight in its first round series, and it was obvious to everyone. Never was that more evident than the final seven minutes of Game 7, when the Raptors had a 16-point lead and got conservative with a time-killing “prevent offense” that almost squandered the entire lead and the game. Toronto hung on thanks to some slashing Kyle Lowry layups and some Pacers turnovers, but you could see how the pressure got to this team.

If the Raptors play anywhere near that tight in the next round, they are toast. Miami showed in the first round they have guys who know how to close out games — Dwyane Wade leads that charge, but those guys are up and down the roster. Miami will not wilt late in games; we don’t know if that is true of Toronto.

2) Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will have more room to operate, what will they do with it? After having Paul George (on DeRozan) and George Hill (on Lowry) draped all over them last series, the slower Heat defenders in the starting lineup will mean more room for the Raptors guards to operate. Wade, Goran Dragic, and Joe Johnson are not great defenders, the question is can the Raptors take advantage of that extra space? DeRozan will attack as he did in Game 7 against the Pacers, but he needs to be more efficient (he needed 32 shots to get 30 points in that final game). Lowry hasn’t been his All-Star level self for the last month of the season, whether due to a bad elbow (which has been drained) or something else we don’t know about. Whatever the reason, Toronto needs All-Star Lowry to win this series — and Miami did a good job making Kemba Walker work for his shots and be inefficient last round.

Two things to watch from Miami. First, how quickly will coach Erik Spoelstra go to Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson off the bench — those rookies are the best perimeter defenders the Heat have (along with Luol Deng, who will get time on DeRozan). Spoelstra will lean on them heavily in this series. Probably more and more each game. The second thing to watch is rim protection, which leads us to….

3) Can Hassan Whiteside stay out of foul trouble and on the floor protecting the rim? Lowry isn’t afraid to shoot the three and will make teams pay that give him space beyond the arc, but the core of his game is to drive and create. DeMar DeRozan avoids the three like he tries to avoid eating too much poutine in season — he wants to drive and attack. That is what the entire Raptors offense is based around.

Which is why Hassan Whiteside and his shot blocking is crucial to Miami’s chances this round — if Lowry and DeRozan drive and get shots erased or altered by Whiteside, an essential part of the Toronto attack becomes far less efficient. The challenge for Whiteside will be staying out of foul trouble — not only can DeRozan draw fouls with the best of them, but also the Raptors will post up Jonas Valanciunas and have him go at Whiteside, looking to tack on some fouls. If Whiteside can stay on the court it is a huge boost for Miami.

4) Conversely, how is Toronto going to protect the paint? Miami’s season took off after the All-Star break when Spoelstra’s hand was forced by the Chris Bosh injury and he went small with Luol Deng at the four. The result was an aggressive, attacking Heat team that gets a lot of points in the paint off drives (and in transition). When Charlotte was able to slow the pace and protect the paint with a big lineup that forced Miami to shoot jumpers, Miami struggled. Valanciunas gives the Raptors quality offense and a big body inside, but he’s not a rim protector. Miami is going to attack and the Raptors need to limit the Heat’s efficiency.

One way to do that may be more Bismack Biyombo off the bench.

5) How are Raptors going to defend Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic? The match-ups for Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey are not ideal. Expect Lowry to matchup on Dragic for much of the series, which may not go well for Miami defensively. But the bigger challenge is DeRozan needs to guard Wade, Johnson, or Deng (who had a strong offensive first round) — Miami can attack wherever he plays. Toronto’s guards also are smaller and we could see a lot of Heat post ups this series.

Prediction: Miami in six. This is not a prediction I feel strongly about, I’d say it’s about 60 percent this and 40 percent Toronto in seven — the Raptors have a real chance in this series. But I think the matcheups favor Miami slightly, Miami was the better team after the All-Star break with a better defense, and the Heat are the team I trust to close out tight games.

Your daily Kings coaching search update: Add Jeff Hornacek, Corliss Williamson to the list

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 18:  Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns reacts on the bench during the second half of the NBA game against the Chicago Bulls at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 18, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Bulls defeated the Suns 103-97. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Give Vlade Divac and the Kings credit for this: They said they were going to cast a wide net and interview a lot of people for their head coaching position, and he is doing just that.

Two more names popped up as guys who will get interviews — former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, and Corliss Williamson.

Hornacek and Williamson join Mark Jackson, Luke Walton, Nate McMillan, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodson, Sam Mitchell, Kevin McHale, Patrick Ewing, and David Blatt as guys that the Kings have at least reached out to, if not outright interviewed.

Who is the frontrunner? We’ll see when the second round of interviews start. Someday. Divac and the Kings are in no rush, and know they need to nail this hire.

Portland’s coach Terry Stotts has no contract after this season, but that will change soon

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 17: Head coach Terry Stotts of the Portland Trail Blazers follows the action against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Portland’s Terry Stotts came in second in the Coach of the Year voting after taking a Portland team expected to be in the bottom of the West to the second round of the playoffs (where they currently are facing Golden State). He’s earned a raise.

Which he will get. But once the Trail Blazers’ season ends Stotts will be a man without a contract, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today. Just don’t expect that situation to last long.

Speaking of paydays, Portland coach Terry Stotts should be due for one in the not-so-distant future. Yet Stotts, the former head coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee who came to the Blazers in 2012 after four years as a Dallas Mavericks assistant, has a team option on his contract for next season that has yet to be picked up. What’s more, according to a person with knowledge of his situation, he has yet to discuss a possible extension with Blazers management.

The person expressed optimism that a deal will eventually get done, but one never truly knows until it happens. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of that process.

As other reports have noted, just don’t expect this to last long.  For one thing, Trail Blazer players love him. Portland’s GM Neil Olshey is one of the smartest in the business, and it would be a pretty stupid move to let Stotts go, Olshey just doesn’t like to talk contracts during the season. Once it ends (likely to Golden State in the next couple weeks) a new deal will get worked out.

Stotts made $3 million this season, which was pretty close to average when he signed his deal but low now. Expect him to get a deal at around $5 million a year and maybe for five years — he has earned that security. And that raise.

Kyrie Irving had sensational block on Dennis Schroder (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

At this point the game was pretty much decided, the Cavaliers were up 11 with :50 to go, but the Hawks were not giving up. Not point guard Dennis Schroder,  who tried to use his speed to get a quick two with a layup.

Kyrie Irving shut him down.

Irving had 21 points on the night and hit some threes that the Cavaliers needed. He had a strong game.

And we may see more of this matchup, as Schroder scored 27 points and was the best Hawk player on the night, earning more run in Game 2.