PRO BASKETBALL TALKPBT Select Team

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Cavs and Raptors almost got wins. Almost.

Leave a comment

What you missed while planning to your trip to Flavor Flav’s new fried chicken restaurant in Iowa (Yo! Bum Rush the Restaurant)….

Nets 103, Cavaliers 101: To lose 17 in a row takes a combination of bad luck and very bad execution at the end of the game. There was plenty of bad execution on both sides at the end of this one, but that made it oddly entertaining.

Joey Graham was almost a hero for the Cavaliers. Down three late the Cavs ran their set and New Jersey’s Anthony Morrow slid down to stand in the paint to help on penetration when the only thing the Nets needed to avoid was giving up a three. He left Graham open and he nailed it from the corner. Tie game but with plenty of time for the Nets to run a final set.

New Jersey’s plan is to get the ball into Brook Lopez, and they do. Cleveland’s plan in this case to foul Lopez so they get one last shot to win or tie — Ryan Hollins tries to foul Lopez by slapping his back. It was sadly comical. That’s not going to get you the call at this point in the game, not even close (you’ve got to wrap the guy up, Hollins). Lopez ignores the slaps, gets into the middle and hits a jump hook to put New Jersey up two with 1.4 seconds left. Daniel Gibson had a decent look three that almost fell for Cleveland, but it hit the iron and the Nets got the win.

Grizzlies 100, Raptors 98: Another game that went right down to the wire — but Memphis has a legit end of game option in Rudy Gay. Tie game at 98-98 late, Memphis has a final shot and the call was Gay in isolation from the top of the key — he executed it like a max-deal guy. He waited, drove deep right until he was level with the basket then pulled up and nailed the 14-foot baseline jumper with .05 left. Big time play. The Grizzlies Marc Gasol had a good game against what passes for the interior defense of the Raptors, scoring 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds.

Sixers 105, Suns 95: The Suns made a late 11-0 run to make this look a lot closer than it was. These are two teams heading in opposite directions (the Sixers aren’t great but you can see improvement). Thaddeus Young had a good game in the win — 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting plus seven boards and five dimes. Free Steve Nash!

Pistons 103, Magic 96: Orlando is one of the league’s better defensive teams, the Pistons one of the worst offenses, yet Detroit scored at a ridiculously good 114.4 points per 100 possessions in this one. The Pistons wing players were key — Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye each had 20 points. What mattered more, as a team the Pistons only had 6 turnovers, 10 fewer than the Magic. You kids at home, remember to take care of the ball.

Knicks 115, Wizards 106: Flip Saunders needs to just sit Andray Blatche on nights like this. Some nights he’s fantastic, but on nights like this the Wizards are just better off with someone — anyone — off the bench. Saunders got desperate enough to run out a lineup of Mustafa Shakur, Al Thornton, Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee — and it worked. Better than the starters. Made of game of it, but at the end of the day the Knicks are better.

Rockets 129, Timberwolves 125: Minnesota lets teams take a lot of threes (fourth most in the league) and they don’t defend it well (teams shoot 38.5 percent from three this season, fourth worst in the leauge). In a close game, the 14-of-30 from Houston three and Kevin Martin earning 18 free throws were really the key.

Bulls 92, Bucks 83: The best defense in the league against the worst offense in the league — how did you think this would end?

Hornets 91, Thunder 89: First things first — Chris Paul did leave at the end with what looked like a sprained ankle but he said later it was fine. We’ll take him at his word. For now.

As for the game, it certainly didn’t look like the Hornets were the hot team early with the Thunder up 14 in the first quarter. But these Hornets are nothing if not resilient. They battled back while the Thunder had 17 turnovers — 20 percent of their possessions. If Thunder fans want to blame something for the loss, blame that (and the fact two of those turnovers were in the last 14 seconds of the game).

Meanwhile with it tied 89-89 the Hornets beautifully executed their last shot. Chris Paul was sitting so it fell to David West, who got it up near the three point line, drove to he elbow, pulled up and hit the 18-foot fade away for the lead with 0.5 on the clock. Ballgame.

Kings 96, Trail Blazers 81: The tape of this game is not headed to Springfield and the Hall of Fame — it was not pretty. In the least. But when it got tight late the Kings got a big three from Tyreke Evans, a great tip in from Omri Casspi, solid defense from Samuel Dalembert. All the injuries have caught up with Portland. The effort is there, but you can only lose so many key guys.

Spurs 113, Warriors 102: The two best three point shooting teams by percentage in the league so we expected some real fireworks… 10-of-30 combined shooting by these teams from deep. Disappointing.

David Lee was just on fire from the midrange and finished with 31 points on 19 shots. The Warriors starters played well but the depth of the Spurs was key here — the Spurs bench outscored Golden State 46-14 (and 8 of those Warrior bench points were in garbage time).

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

Leave a comment

New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

Getty
Leave a comment

Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

Getty Images
1 Comment

This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

Getty Images
1 Comment

James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP