Baseline to Baseline recaps: Tom Thibodeau is good but still learning

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What you missed while listening to Josh Groban sing the tweets of Kanye West

The Celtics and Spurs were our Game of the Night.

Nets 96, Bulls 94: Tom Thibodeau has turned the Chicago Bulls into one of the best defensive teams in the league. He has them winning despite injuries to key players. He has proved he is more than ready to be an NBA coach.

But he is still doing some things that leave you scratching your head — like benching Carlos Boozer the entire fourth quarter of a close game. Does that seem wise? Sure, Boozer had a bad night defensively. Yes, the Bulls made a run from down 13 to get back in it with Boozer on the bench. But when you need a late basket he has to be on the court, not Kurt Thomas coming in with :49 seconds left, the team down two. You can be sure the benching of Boozer is not a dead issue.

The other thing Thibodeau cannot do is make Kyle Korver a defender — the Nets went right at him on a late 8-0 run that stemmed the Bulls fourth quarter momentum. Whoever Korver was guarding would come out and set the high pick for Devin Harris, then Harris would go right at Korver. Thibodeau had to take Korver off the floor and play Ronnie Brewer.

With the game on the line it was a driving layup by Sasha Vujacic on a broken play that won it for the Nets. Vujacic was always better when he got more minutes — he needs to get in a rhythm with the game — and he is doing that in New Jersey.

One other note: This was Derrick Favors first NBA start, but he got into early foul trouble and played just nine minutes.

Sixers 109, Wizards 97: This game featured a quick, smart, awesome young point guard who lit up the arena — Jrue Holiday. Why, who did you think I was talking about? Holiday knocked down 10-of-14 shots for 26 points, plus had nine assists. And the Wizards still don’t have a road win.

Raptors 120, Cavaliers 105: How hard is Byron Scott searching for anything that works? He started recently signed Alonzo Gee. Toronto came into this game the worst three-point shooting team in the league (31.9 percent) yet they were 9 of 18 Wednesday. Welcome to the Cavs defense.

Sign of the times: As happens when you lose eight in a row, the fans were booing the Cavaliers all night. Well, until they scored 100 points and that meant a free chalupa for everyone in attendance, then the arena erupted.

Magic 97, Bucks 87: Dwight Howard dominated the play inside with 28 points and 13 rebounds. The Bucks need Andrew Bogut to win the battle inside for the team to be competitive, but that is a tall order (literally) against Howard.

Warriors 110, Hornets 103: Chris Paul was brilliant — 24 points, 13 assists and just two turnovers — but as a whole the Hornets turned the ball over 18 times. That proved to just be too many empty possessions against the hot-shooting Warriors.

Bobcats 108, Timberwolves 105 (OT): Charlotte picks up a win on a night Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson sit out. Charlotte played well when the game was close late, then Tyrus Thomas had five points and D.J. Augustin had four in the overtime.

Blazers 103, Rockets 100: Portland just has Houston’s number lately. LaMarcus Aldridge’s 10 fourth quarter points sparked a rally from 13 down to get Portland the win. Kevin Martin dropped 45 and was just ridiculous.

Hawks 110, Jazz 87: Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were able to get the shots they wanted with little resistance, which is why Johnson had 28, Crawford 26 and hey were a combined 9 of 14 from three. The Jazz have been a pretty average defensive team this season, and there are nights that really comes back to bite them.

Lakers 99, Suns 95: The Lakers are now 5-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season. The Suns acquired Marcin Gortat to join with Robin Lopez and protect the rim on defense, but they really don’t know what to do with two big men on offense. The bigs set picks for Nash then serve no real purpose. Not a pretty win for the Lakers but a win.

Clippers 106, Nuggets 93: Neither bench did much, this was about the Clipper starters out playing he Nugget starters. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin form a crazy athletic front line and they combined for 36 points, 38 rebounds and seven blocked shots (Jordan had six of those). Denver is such a different, inconsistent team on the road (they are 15-3 at home but on the road you get good games and ugly ones). That’s not the Carmelo Anthony saga, they just don’t play like a unit some nights.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.