Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Warriors are awesome in the first half, but that last 24….

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What you missed while wondering what to do with your PowerBalance bracelet

Magic 110, Warriors 90: If new Golden State owner Joe Lacob petitions the league to shorten games to 24 minutes, you can’t blame him — the Warriors have led the Heat and Magic at the half in their last two games. And lost both. Hedo Turkoglu had a triple double in the win — Stan Van Gundy’s offense just utilizes him so much better than he was used in Toronto or Phoenix. He’s not a great player, he’s solid but put in the right circumstance (the ball handler on the high pick-and-roll, not spot up shooter) he has value.

Heat 96, Bobcats 82: Considering who was out for the Bobcats — Gerald Wallace, Nazr Mohammed and DeSagana Diop, which means you are starting Kwame Brown and counting on a big night from Tyrus Thomas — the fact they hung in this game for a quarter and a half is impressive. Then they missed 18 shots in a row (second and third quarters), and that will pretty much do you in against anyone, let alone the Heat.

LeBron James had 26 points and 9 boards in the second half alone, (38 points for the game) and after one big dunk stared right at Michael Jordan. You can imagine how impressed MJ is with big dunks in January.

Celtics 96, Timberwolves 93: Nobody shot well in this one — they Celtics were just missing some shots they normally knock down — and the Timberwolves grabbed offensive rebounds on 36 percent of their missed shots to keep themselves in it. Kevin Love finished with 24 rebounds, the most anybody has ever gotten in the TD Garden.

Minnesota took the “back off Rondo and let him shoot the jumper” strategy to the extreme — Rondo would be 16 feet out and Luke Ridnour was still six feet off him. In the final minutes that came back to bite them, Boston started isolating Rondo on the wing and on one play he got a bounce pass (and ugly bounce pass) through to Shaq for a basket, on another play he got a wide open floater from 8 feet to fall, and he got a wide-open 16 footer to drop. The book is to encourage Rondo to take a jumper but someone has to contest it. Also, he had 16 assists because he had time to work.

Hornets 84, Sixers 77: The Sixers bench shot 20 percent in this one. The entire Philly team shot just 34.1 percent for the game, but the bench was atrocious, led by Evan Turner’s 2-14 and Lou Williams 1-11.

Jazz 102, Pistons 97: Pistons are down three, 50 seconds left and Ben Gordon is on the bench. Why is that exactly? You may want your best three-point shooter on the floor when you need a three. Just a thought.

Key difference in this one is that the Jazz attacked — they got 11 more trips to the free throw and scored 13 more from the stripe in the win. Deron Williams with 22 and 10 to pace Utah.

Nuggets 114, Rockets 106: Denver got to the free throw line 19 more times than the Rockets, that was the real difference. Chase Budinger had 11 points in the second quarter alone.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.