Baseline to Baseline recaps: Carmelo Anthony was better but the Knicks were not

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What you missed while thinking the Big East was overrated…

Bucks 100, Knicks 95: Just when you thought things really could not get uglier for the Knick, we bring you the start to Sunday’s game. New York was dismal in the first quarter putting up just 9 points and shooting just 16 percent — the Bucks defense is good but that was about the Knicks.

The Knicks poor play meant the Bucks were up 23 early. Then the Knicks put up 32 in the second quarter (Chauncey Billups put up 13 in the quarter) and only trailed 47-41 at the half. By the middle of the third we had a game. Down the stretch the Bucks executed and got some nice buckets — Carlos Delfino on a kick-out three from John Salmons (Delfino had 30 points), Brandon Jennings with a drive into the defender then step-back elbow jumper. The Bucks executed better than the Knicks in the clutch. For a team with all that firepower New York makes some odd decisions under pressure. Carmelo Anthony was not the problem (23 points on 14 shots), but the Knicks as a whole had issues.

With this loss, the Knicks drop to seventh in the East, the Sixers have passed them.

Wizards 98, Nets 92: The Nets jumped out early with 35 first quarter points on 61.5 percent shooting and looked like they would run away with this one up 17 at one point. But they are the Nets. Washington started the second half on a 19-4 run fueled by good defense (the Nets had 12 points in the quarter) plus offense from Jordan Crawford (9 in the quarter and 21 for the game) and JaVale McGee.

But in crunch time John Wall took over. He had two pretty little free throw line jumpers and it was his play (and 26 points) that won this game.

Hawks 104, Pistons 96: Not much of a defensive showing in this one as both teams shot over 50 percent (and both finished with very good offensive efficiency numbers). But the Hawks have just a little more offensive firepower and balance — six players finished in double digits. So the Hawks get the win, but it’s not one to write home about.

Suns 108, Clippers 99: We’ve already discussed Blake Griffin fouling out on a charge call as he threw down a ridiculous dunk over Marcin Gortat. Thing is, that didn’t really matter as far as the game went. This felt like last year’s Suns team — they bench went on a 17-6 run to start the fourth quarter, open things up and pull away. Good games from both Steve Nash (23 points, 13 assists) and Channing Frye (19 points, 5 threes).

Kings 127, Timberwolves 95: Kevin Love got hurt, DeMarcus Cousins got tossed for pushing. It wasn’t a good game for big men. It was a good game for the rest of the Kings as everybody got to contribute. Maybe the most interesting one was Donte Green coming in to start the fourth quarter and had 13 points to spark a 17-0 run that turned this into a route in the third (then the Kings out scored them 42-20 in the first.

With the win, Sacramento moves out of last place in the West. Minnesota moves in.

Rockets 110, Jazz 108: This is a big win for the Rockets, moving them into 9th in the Western Conference (ahead of Phoenix and Utah), ready to pounce if Memphis or Portland or any playoff team that stumbles. Some amazing individual performances: Houston’s Kyle Lowry had his first ever triple double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) while Utah’s Paul Millsap had 35 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks — not bad for a guy in his first game back from knee tendinitis.

Raptors 95, Thunder 93: It was a very sloppy game from the Thunder, yet they have so much more talent than Toronto they were still in it. Kevin Durant was 6-of-21 shooting, Russell Westbrook was slightly better at 7-of-19. OKC coach Scott Brooks tried everything, from going small to probably a war dance in the locker room. He got his comeback the Thunder were even up three late. But among the list of things Kendrick Perkins does not do well is hit free throws. So his miss of two late that could have sealed it left the door open and Amir Johnson hit a game-winning hook for the Raptors.

Mavericks 101, Warriors 73: Dallas got out fast to an 8 point lead after one, but the Warriors hung around throughout this one. Well, until the fourth quarter. That’s when a 21-2 Mavericks run made it a total blowout. Not much to see here, but Peja Stojakovic had 17.

Lakers 84, Trail Blazers 80: It’s good to have Kobe Bryant on your team. After a pretty sloppy game up to the final five minutes (5 of 15 shooting) Kobe just took over, with 8 points and an assist, which included a steal and a dunk off Andre Miller and a pretty baseline fadeaway over Brandon Roy. Not a real pretty game for the Lakers but the 14-3 run sealed it.

The Lakers will take any win without Andrew Bynum, this one just happens to give them the Pacific Division title. Again.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.

Ben Simmons earns triple-double, Sixers own fourth to win Game 4 vs. Heat, take 3-1 lead

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Joel Embiid’s biggest battle in Game 4 was with his mask — he hates that thing. A couple of times Saturday he tried to sneak into the game with it off, only to force Brett Brown to be the parent and threaten to bench him if he didn’t put it on immediately (winning Game 4 is not worth risking permanent eye/vision damage). Embiid was also battling his offensive game at times, still looking a little rusty.

More importantly, Embiid was also battling the Heat in the paint — when he was in the game Miami struggled to get good looks inside, allowing Sixers defenders to more aggressively challenge shooters on the wings.

That — and Ben Simmons’ triple-double — sparked a comeback from 12 late in the third as the Sixers held on to take Game 4 106-102, and that gives Philly a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to the City of Brotherly Love for Game 5.

Simmons is the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to post a triple-double in the playoffs, with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

This was the nail in the coffin of the Heat’s season — if the Sixers turn the ball over 26 times, shoot 7-of-31 from three and still win on the road, the Heat are overmatched.

For much of the game, Miami did not look overmatched in the least and this looked like a game they could win.

Miami brought the defense in this game, and they did it by getting physical and using their length to force turnovers — through three quarters the Sixers had turned the ball over on 28.2 percent of their possessions, more than one in four trips down the court. Miami also did a better job contesting threes in this game, and the Sixers struggled from there all game (22.6 percent from deep).

The physicality led to a chippy game.

These two teams don’t like each other. 😅

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Miami led by a dozen late in the third, but Philadelphia closed the third on a run and carried over to the fourth, a 14-0 run that put the Heat in front as they found their defense. Ersan Ilyasova was key in that stretch with a driving and-one and the next time down the court a three, two plays that changed the momentum of the game.

All series long, the Sixers have been the better team down the stretch — which is unexpected for a young team taking on a more veteran squad. Now that we’re four games in, this is a thing.

In Game 4, the Sixers kept running “horns” sets and the Heat seemed to have no answers. Then late with the game on the line Miami had a couple of terrible defensive breakdowns, one allowing Simmons a clear path to the basket without help rotations that led to a dunk, and the other was Hassan Whiteside not going out to challenge J.J. Redick in the corner and letting him have a clean look (Redick’s foot was on the line so the expected three was a two, but still).

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid owned the paint on defense. When he sat for a little fourth quarter rest, Brett Brown went to the “Ben Simmons and shooters” lineup that was so effective through the final eight games of the season for them when Embiid was out, and that worked. The Sixers kept executing and getting the shots they wanted, the Heat kept hoping Dwyane Wade would bail them out again. He couldn’t, despite a strong 25 point game. Miami also shot itself in the foot going 13-of-25 from the free throw line for the game.

Redick had 24 for the Sixers, while Embiid had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Goran Dragic had 20 points for Miami, and James Johnson added 15.