Sasha Vujacic

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.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 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)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.

Report: No, J.R. Smith isn’t talking to Sixers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.

The latest silliness follows this logic:

This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).

The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.

The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.

So…

No. Not happening.

Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.

I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?

Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.