Dwight Howard

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Orlando tries to throw it away but still wins

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What you missed while watching Wile. E. Coyote in 127 hours….

The latest beat down of the Heat, this time by the Thunder, was our game of the night.

Magic 93, Bucks 89 (OT): The way the Magic played the end of regulation they are lucky to have won (and earned a playoff spout with the win). Up three with 5.1 left, coach Stan Van Gundy called for the Magic to foul (and give up two free throws) rather than allow the three — Jameer Nelson did a weak job of it, reaching in and fouling Brandon Jennings on a three point shot. Jennings nailed all three to tie it. But the Magic still had four seconds to win it in regulation — somehow I doubt the call was for Jason Richardson to pound the ball for three seconds then attempt a 26-foot contested pull-up three. Terrible shot.

Hedo Turkoglu took over and had 8 points in the OT to get the Magic the win. The real key to this game: No Andrew Bogut for the Bucks (due to a migraine), and without someone to really counter him Dwight Howard scored 31 points and pulled in 22 rebounds.

Nuggets 102, Hawks 87: Both teams struggled to find their shot early but the Nuggets found theirs while keeping their hot defense going (the Hawks Josh Smith was just 4-of-16 from the field). Nene had some big blocks inside, and J.R. Smith blew the game open with 15 points in the fourth quarter. Denver is playing with the kind of fire you wish we’d see more often from Atlanta.

Celtics 92, Pacers 80: We told you Tyler Hansbrough was playing well — Kevin Garnett noticed, too, and came out ready to lock him down. Hansbrough had just 10 points (and 11 boards). Boston was more aggressive and got to the lines 20 more times, and the Celtics took control in the second quarter when Jeff Green came in and dropped a dozen (he finished with 19).

Pistons 107, Raptors 93: Rip Hamilton walked into the building hot, he had 10 points on 4 shots in the first quarter, Detroit raced out to an early lead and never looked back.

Hornets 100, Suns 95: This is the kind of game the Suns need to win if they are going to make the playoffs. But instead they were behind by 17 in the fourth quarter, mostly because Chris Paul was knocking it down for New Orleans (he finished with 26). Steve Nash was back but he was not right.

Rockets 94, Bobcats 78: Charlotte wilted, shooting 37 percent and just 2-11 from three. The Bobcats are going to have a hard time catching the Pacers with these kinds of performances. Kevin Martin with 21 points, Chuck Hayes with 17 boards for the Rockets.

Jazz 119, Timberwolves 104: Long live the streak — Kevin Love had 22 points and 11 rebounds to record his first double-double in a row. Utah put up 71 first half points and took charge of this one in the second quarter with a lineup of Al Jefferson and the Jazz bench. C.J. Miles dropped 40 on the Wolves.

Cavaliers 97, Kings 93: So few home games left, it would be nice if the Kings put out a better effort for the fans, rather than shooting 38 percent and letting their opponent shoot 51 percent. Still, it took a late 6-0 run by the Cavs to seal it.

Mavericks 112, Warriors 106: Golden State started 7-of-7 from the field and was up 18 points in the first quarter. Turns out, how you end the game matters more, and Dallas had a 15-3 fourth quarter run to win. Dirk Nowitzki had 34 points and 12 rebounds. Dallas will take the win but it wasn’t pretty.

Sixers 104, Clippers 94: Is this any way to celebrate Blake Griffin’s birthday? It was the 17 Clipper turnovers that really did them in.

Dave Joerger: Kings will play more small ball

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger talks to reporters during the Kings basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Joerger, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season, was hired by Kings to replace George Karl, who was fired by the Kings.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.

At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.

Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:

I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.

I’m not playing big.

Oh.

This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.

Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.

Dwane Casey: Jared Sullinger has Raptors’ starting PF job to lose

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.

Well, he lost it.

Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.

A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.

Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.

Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.

There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.

Report: Cavaliers giving championship rings to 1,000+ workers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 20: The Cleveland Cavaliers mascot Moon Dog cheers on the fans prior to the arrival of the Cavs players return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.

They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.

Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.

It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.

Mike D’Antoni: Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony rejected my system, but new (old) approach with James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I can’t understate how revolutionary Mike D’Antoni’s offense looked with the Suns. In his first full season, 2004-05, they scored 110.4 points per game – the most anyone had scored in a decade. And it wasn’t even close. Phoenix played fast and scored efficiently.

That offense eventually got D’Antoni jobs in the NBA’s biggest markets and with two of the league’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:

But his coaching relationships with Anthony and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles did not turn out so well. The last two stars essentially rejected his system.

“They did,” acknowledged D’Antoni. “And they were paid 20-something million dollars for it — they were successful. So I don’t blame them. Nothing’s been proven up to that point.”

The Warriors had yet to show that D’Antoni’s offense could thrive in late May and June.

“They’re thinking, like, he’s crazy,” D’Antoni said of Anthony and Bryant. “So I don’t blame them at all. This is a much better situation.”

With the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni edged back from his own offensive principles in part because he wasn’t sure, either. He was in a lonely place as the proponent of a style that was rejected by NBA fundamentalists. In New York and L.A., D’Antoni lacked the proof that would be provided years later by the Warriors of Kerr, who when serving as GM of the Suns had himself objected to D’Antoni’s point of view. The inventor didn’t believe fully in his own invention.

“I wasn’t that confident,” D’Antoni insisted. “It was a little bit before analytics. Everybody was telling us that we couldn’t do it, no one was telling us we could. Analytics came in and said, hey, you can do this — this is good, actually. So now you’ve got (GM) Daryl Morey with the Rockets and how they play and different teams trying to do it, and now it’s kind of caught on.

This bucks the narrative that D’Antoni’s offense can’t work with a score-first star. If D’Antoni compromised his scheme for Kobe and Melo, we haven’t yet seen it full bore with a player like that.

We will this season in Houston, where D’Antoni has turned score-first James Harden into the Rockets’ point guard.

As D’Antoni said, it’ll be easier to sell his scheme now that it has been proven to work. But as other teams adopt elements of it, he’ll have less of a strategic advantage.

The best coaches have revolutionary ideas AND get their players to buy into them. D’Antoni’s methods are no longer as cutting-edge, but he’ll have an easier time selling his players. That’s a justifiable knock on D’Antoni’s overall coaching prowess, but he still brings positives.

We’ve seen D’Antoni’s system at full throttle, and we’ve seen him coach generational scorers. To get both simultaneously will be a fun experiment in Houston this year.