Baseline to Baseline recaps: Orlando’s defense went to Disneyworld for the night

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What you missed while answering very hard hockey trivia questions….

Nuggets 111, Magic 94: There’s an old coaching axiom that offense can be hit or miss but defense never takes a night off. Orlando tried its best to prove that wrong Tuesday.

Orlando played defense like Golden State for a night. Carmelo Anthony (in his last game as a Nugget… oh wait, never mind) got to his favorite spots on the floor whenever he wanted and put up with 35 points. Ty Lawson looked good running the offense, JR Smith was knocking down his shots and Arron Afflalo was hot as well. Basically everyone in a Denver uniform was an efficient scorer. Orlando does have issues to deal with, but we’ll chalk this one up to a night off for the defense.

Lakers 103, Wizards 89: Andrew Bynum played just 17 minutes off the bench and was 1-5 shooting, finishing with 7 points. He looked rusty. But just his return seemed to add a bounce to Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, who finished with 18 and 16 points respectively. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so much the return of Bynum as the terrible Wizards defense. This game was really never in doubt after the first quarter — the Wizards defense and injuries (no John Wall or Andray Blatch and Yi went out early with an injured knee) had plenty to do with that.

Sixers 82, Nets 77: Two teams headed in opposite directions — the Sixers are better than their record and it showed as they got contributions from Spencer Hawes and Jrue Holliday to carry the team. Meanwhile the Nets shot just 34.1 percent as a team. Kris Humphries was 1 of 10 on the night — Derrick Favors’ time is coming soon.

Bobcats 97, Raptors 91: When Kwame Brown and Nazr Mohammed combine for 28 points and 14 rebounds you’ve got trouble. Yes those are the Bobcats centers’ actual numbers from one game, a sign of just how bad Toronto’s interior defense is. Gerald Wallace scored 16 despite tweaking his ankle in the second quarter, he is a game time decision on Wednesday now.

Pistons 103, Hawks 80: Detroit pushed the pace to get transition buckets and tried to attack whomever Mike Bibby was guarding. They are not disciplined enough to do that for 48 minutes, but they didn’t need to against a Hawks team that looked lost and a little lazy. So, they looked like the Hawks.

Rockets 118, Kings 105: The Rockets were knocking down threes like Rudy T was still the coach — 10 of 23 — and that was really the difference. Chase Buddinger had 18 on 7 of 10 shooting off the bench for the Rockets.

Warriors 108, Timberwolves 99: Darko was back. Jonny Flynn was back. Didn’t make a bit of difference as the Wolves fell to a struggling team.

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.