Baseline to Baseline recaps: Maybe the Spurs are going to miss Tony Parker

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What you missed while driving around in reverse

Grizzlies 109, Spurs 93: Memphis has officially taken on the mantel of “the team nobody wants to face in the first round.” They play physically, they have a long front line, they have good athletes on the wing and they can score. Memphis is going to be a tough out.

The Grizzlies were about the worst team for the Spurs to run into with Tony Parker out injured. No team forces more turnovers than the Grizzles (15.6 percent of opponent possessions end in a turnover) and the Spurs without their point guard upped that to 23.1 percent of their possessions. The Spurs struggled to score as well, with no Spur starter in double figures. In fact, Gary Neal’s 14 points led the Spurs, but he needed 13 shots to get that. For Memphis, Tony Allen had 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Timothy Varner of the fantastic Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell made a great point on twitter — when the Spurs are getting crushed in the regular season, they tend to just roll over. It’s like an energy saving defense mechanism, and they did it in this game.

But don’t let that take anything away from a Grizzlies team that has now recently beat the Lakers and Spurs. Nobody wants this team in the first round of the playoffs.

Pacers 109, Warriors 100: The stat that is the difference here — Indiana got to the free throw line 36 times and made 32 while the Warriors got to the stripe half as many times and made 13. A lot of times that leads to fans complaining about the refs, but this was simply a case of one team attacking the rim and getting the ball inside and one settling for jumpers. Indiana had 20 points in the paint, a sign of how they went at the Warriors, and with that drew fouls. Almost always the team with more foul shots was just the aggressive.

Raptors 96, Hornets 90: Jose Calderon owned this game and owned Chris Paul. Yes, you read that right. Calderon had 22 points and 16 assists and down the stretch attacked and got to the rim for buckets, then when the defense focused on him he kicked I out to a wide-open DeMar DeRozan who knocked down the three. Chris Paul on the other hand had a terrible night, couldn’t seem to penetrate or hit shots, and the Hornets offense fell apart.

Mavericks 101, Sixers 93: It’s fitting that a game between the two teams that get the most points out of their bench per game (Philly 40.1, Dallas 39.3) was decided by a bench player. Jason Terry just owned the second half and dropped 17 in the 24 minutes. He pretty much earned the Mavs a win himself.

Magic 116, Knicks 100: Let’s have a hand for our three stars of the game: Jason Phillips, David Jones, and Curtis Blair. Those would be your referees. These teams combined to shoot 97 free throws tonight. Yes, 97. In one game. There were more stops and starts than a baseball game.

Okay, the real story was Jammer Nelson, who put up 23 second half points as the Knicks had no answer for what to do with him coming off the high pick-and-roll. None. That was the ballgame. Or the game when nobody was shooting free throws.

Bucks 92, Pistons 90: Battle of the point guards — Rodney Stuckey had 25, Brandon Jennings 21 — and the Bucks won the kind of game they have to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Rip Hamilton did play, but didn’t impress shooting 4-of-17 as he tried to shake off a lot of rust.

Lakers 90, Timberwolves 79: The Lakers were not on, but even when that goes wrong they are tall and long. And that was too much for the Wolves to handle. Andrew Bynum was defending well, Pau Gasol pulled down 17 boards, Lamar Odom had 12 points and 11 boards. Ugly game but the Lakers will take the ugly win. Oh, and Kevin Love had 13 and 11 to up his double-double streak to 47.

Rockets 103, Trail Blazers 87: The Rockets just owned this game from the second quarter on. Just owned. They got inside (52 points in the paint), they shot well (57.9) percent and we could go on and on but you get the point. This is a couple ugly losses in a row for the Blazers.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.