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.

Draymond Green tells Kyrie Irving: ‘I know your moves’ (video)

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Only Draymond Green can endearingly brag about his defensive intelligence while admitting getting fooled on a play.

In the Warriors’ blowout win over the Cavaliers last night, Green guarded Kyrie Irving and anticipated the Cleveland guard would go one way. After Irving went the other way to score, the two shared a moment during a stoppage.

“I know your  moves,” Green said.

“I know,” replied Irving, whose vast offensive repertoire allowed him to find an unexpected counter.

Thaddeus Young shakes backboard with dunk on Terrence Jones (video)

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Terrence Jones isn’t much of a rim protector.

Thaddeus Young took advantage.

This ferocious jam helped the Pacers beat the Pelicans, 98-85.

Rudy Gobert block secures Utah’s win over Phoenix (VIDEO)

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At the season’s midway point, Rudy Gobert is probably the leader frontrunner in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Kawhi Leonard will have a say, and there is a lot of basketball yet to play, but Gobert anchors the NBA’s best defense and he is a force in the paint.

Just ask the Phoenix Suns.

Down three with 13 seconds left Monday night, the Suns wanted a three to tie, but when that was not easily open Eric Bledsoe decided to drive for two (then the Suns would foul and extend the game), he was cut off so Bledsoe dished to rookie Marquese Chriss, who went in for the layup — and found the long arms of Gobert. Blocked shot and game over.

Utah is for real, folks.

Three Things We Learned, Cavaliers/Warriors edition: What can we take away from Monday to NBA Finals?

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 16:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds his face after being fouled by Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 16, 2017 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The NBA goes big on Martin Luther King Jr. day — as they should — but if you missed the action because you were busy counting to 100,000 for no reason, we’ve got you covered with the key takeaways from the biggest game on the schedule.

And we’re doubling our usual three things we learned to six for a day.

Six things from Warriors’ thrashing of Cavaliers that could play out in NBA Finals.
 Nothing that happens in the regular season guarantees anything come the NBA playoffs, let alone the Finals. Last season’s 73-win Warriors were just the latest in a long line of teams to prove that. Which means we need to be careful reading much into Golden State’s thrashing of Cleveland on Martin Luther King Jr. day. The Finals are a little less than six months away — both of these teams will be different by then (the Cavaliers hope to have a healthy J.R. Smith and Kevin Love by then, for example).  Remember, in January one year ago the Warriors thrashed the Cavaliers on national television, and how did the following Finals turn out?

However, when these teams meet some strategies are tested, little things in the game that we could see — or teams will need to at least account for — come the Finals meeting we all expect. Here are six things from Monday’s game that could well play out in June in the NBA Finals.

1) In the four straight wins the Cavaliers had in this series prior to Monday, they were very aggressive in defending Stephen Curry — they trapped him off picks, were physical, tried to pressure him into decisions to give up the ball, then when Curry tried to make the playground passes that worked against other teams the Cavaliers help defenders made steals and were off in transition the other way. All of that made Curry passive — remember the guy floating on the perimeter taking just 11 shots on Christmas Day?

On Monday night Curry took that pressure in stride, attacked Kyrie Irving from the opening tip (remember Curry’s first possession he blew right by him), used his handles to create space, used his gravity to draw defenders to him, then he whipped smart passes around the floor. In the first half, Curry had 10 assists and zero turnovers. For the game Curry had 20 shots. If he can match that, or even come close, in the Finals, the Cavs are going to struggle to slow this offense down. Like every mortal team has.

2) In January 2016 the Warriors thrashed the Cavaliers on national television, and that was a critical step in the Cavaliers deciding they needed to let David Blatt go, hire Tyronn Lue, and make changes that put them on Golden State’s level. With Monday’s loss, one thing that was evident was the depth of playmaking options the Warriors have and how that can be difficult to guard. Cleveland has two playmakers right now, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Cavs’ GM David Griffin has talked about wanting to add playmakers, LeBron has called for a backup point guard, but it’s clear whatever position they could use to add another playmaker or two heading into the trade deadline.

3) Can Kevin Durant guard LeBron? Chris Haynes of ESPN with an interesting stat:

The Cavaliers were on the last night of a six-game, 12-day road trip — they were not at their best. LeBron clearly wasn’t. However, if KD can even do a reasonable job on LeBron — or can switch on to him without getting torched — the Warriors will be a lot more comfortable and have more options on defense.

4) How did Warriors handle Kyle Korver? They went right at him and made him play defense, which has never been a strong suit (to put it kindly). The Warriors have enough playmakers that whoever Korver was guarding just went at him, and it worked — particularly during the stretch that saw the Warriors first push their lead north of 20. Korver didn’t have a great shooting night, by June he likely is far more comfortable, but if the Warriors can expose him on the other end it will be hard to keep Korver on the court for extended periods.

5) When JaVale McGee checked in for the Warriors, Tyronn Lue countered with Channing Frye. JaVale is not a strong defender, doesn’t step out away from the basket if he can help it, and the Cavs saw an advantage. JaVale’s offense covered that in this game scoring inside, but it’s something to watch.

6) DeAndre Liggins is a good defender, but he’s more focused on-ball than off, and in the fourth quarter Klay Thompson torched him a few times making Liggins chase him off screens away from the ball. You can be sure Steve Kerr noticed and filed that away.