Pacers Cavaliers Basketball

Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Cavaliers almost won one. Almost.

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What you missed while thinking about every move Nicolas Cage ever made

Pacers 117, Cavaliers 112: And we are at 22 losses in a row — but it was so, so close. This game was tied at 110-110 with just over a minute left. First the Pacers’ Darren Collison knocked down a three pointer. After a timeout Christian Eyenga — who I like more and more every game — hit difficult jumper to cut that lead to one.

Then the Cavs got a stop and hand a chance. Anthony Parker drove into the paint and put up the little runner, which ran around the rim and out. A few seconds later Danny Granger was fouled, knocked down two and it was 115-112 Pacers. Ramon Session drove the lane for Cleveland, drew defenders, dropped the ball of to J.J. Hickson, who fumbled it out of bounds, and with it went the Cavs chances.

It’s only been two games, but the Pacers are running again under interim head coach Frank Vogel — 99 possessions in this one.

Sixers 106, Nets 92: Some guys just have another guy’s number. Jrue Holiday just beats Devin Harris. I have no idea why but Harris cannot keep Holiday in front of him and while Holiday only scored 11 (he has averaged 19.5 against the Nets) he also had 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He had the triple double and set up the win.

Hawks 100, Raptors 87: Atlanta shot 55.3 percent overall and hit 10 of 24 from three, with Joe Johnson dropping 37. Of course, if there is one thing the Hawks know how to do it is look good against bad teams. The Raptors have lost 13 in a row and if it wasn’t for the Cavs we’d be talking about how awful they are.

Bobcats 97, Pistons 87: The Pistons started with Tracy McGrady on Stephen Jackson, but T-Mac doesn’t have the body to keep up with him anymore. So they went to Austin Daye, not exactly the best defender ever. Or even close to that. As you might imagine, Jackson got it going. The Pistons finally put Tayshaun Prince on him but now Jackson is feeling it. He drops 39 on the Pistons and that ‘s about it.

Mavericks 113, Knicks 97: The best bench player in the league the last week has been J.J. Barea, and he dropped 22 on the Knicks in this one. That’s six wins in a row for a Mavs team getting hot again.

Grizzlies 102, Timberwolves 84: They are talking playoffs in Memphis (in between bites of barbecue) and with this win the Grizzlies are now just half a game back of Portland for the last spot in the West. The Grizzlies starting five completely outplayed the starters for the Wolves and an 18-4 third quarter run put this one away for Memphis. Kevin Love kept his double-double streak alive with 10 and 10. So barely.

Thunder 104, Hornets 93: Kevin Durant is good. How good was he in this one? Try 43 points on 19 shots good. That first month of the season really seemed to quell his MVP campaign (everyone was high on him before the season) but he has 40 in three of the Thunder’s last four and if he keeps it up (and the Thunder keep winning) the campaign could revive.

Rockets 97, Jazz 96: Kevin Martin got the old-fashioned three — hitting a lob layup in traffic while being fouled by Al Jefferson — to give the Rockets the win. The real credit for the play goes to Shane Battier, who threw the pass to Martin with the kind of accuracy Aaron Rodgers can only hope to have this Sunday evening.

Nuggets 109, Trail Blazers 90: The West Coast to Denver back-to-back is the most brutal in the NBA. This one was one of those games — this was a close game until the final couple minutes of the third quarter, when Denver went on a 7-0 run against a weary Portland team and started to pull away.

Bulls 106, Clippers 88: The Clippers actually played pretty well against a stingy Bulls defense in the first half, but they couldn’t get a stop for 48 minutes and that was the difference. The Bulls were getting points inside so the Clippers went to a 2-1-2 zone that the Bulls shot over the top of, hitting 12-26 three pointers. Blake Griffin did his dunk thing but he had 25 in the first half and just 7 in the second as the Bulls did a good job frustrating him, bringing extra bodies to clog the lane. Kurt Thomas’ crazy eyes made an appearance as well.

Suns 92, Bucks 77: The Bucks shot 31.1 percent. Against the Suns defense, ranked 29th in the league in defensive efficiency. That’s just bad.

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!