Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where Boston got dominated along the front line

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What you missed while mourning Elizabeth Taylor…

Grizzlies 90, Celtics 87: This is why teams out west would like to avoid Memphis in the first round (even without Rudy Gay) — Memphis outscored Boston 52-26 in the paint. Memphis grabbed the offensive rebound on 25 percent of their missed shots. The vaunted Boston front line was out played. Certainly, Boston is without either of the O’Neals (both of whom should return in the next week) but don’t take anything away from Memphis, they played to their strengths and won. Plus, ex-Celtics Leon Powe (13 points) and Tony Allen (9) played key roles off the bench for the Griz.

Key playoff implications here. Memphis is now a full two games ahead of Houston for the 8 seed in the West, Boston has now fallen one game back of Chicago for best record in the East.

Sixers 105, Hawks 100: On the bright side, the Hawks played with more passion than they did 24 hours before when the Bulls whipped them. The Hawks put up 59 first half points to lead by 6. But on the second night of a back they looked tired come the fourth quarter and with that their defense got worse (the Sixers shot 53 percent for the quarter) and the Hawks settled for jump shots that were not falling (they shot 36 percent for the quarter).

The win seems to lock the Sixers more into the six seed, however, they are now 2.5 games back of the Hawks for the five seed with just a couple weeks left.

Pacers 111, Bobcats 88: This was a huge win for the Pacers as it gives them a full three game lead over Charlotte and Milwaukee for the eight seed in the East. Charlotte seemed to be in control for the first 16 minutes or so of this game, then it was all Pacers. Danny Granger had 33 points on 19 shots and was a +28. Stephen Jackson tried for Charlotte but his hamstring is just not healed and he is not right.

Nets 98, Cavaliers 94: One of the more meaningless games of the night standings wise, one with some less-than-stellar execution, but one of the more entertaining endings. Brook Lopez tipped in his own miss with :04 left to send the game to overtime. An overtime where scoring was rampant — 28 total points were scored in five minutes. Jordan Farmar scored five points in OT, all from the free throw line.

Heat 100, Pistons 94: Detroit was up 27-21 after one quarter shooting 60 percent while the Heat started 2-10 from outside the paint. Detroit held that lead until the start of the fourth quarter, when Miami went on a 15-0 run that changed the game. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and James Jones off the bench led that charge. Not going to read much into the Heat beating another below .500 team, but it still counts as a win.

Thunder 106, Jazz: 94: Kind of a veteran, professional win for the Thunder. They shot better (54.5 percent on the night) and their superior bench changed the game with a 15-6 run late in the third that helped the Thunder pull away.

Kings 97, Bucks 90: Marcus Thornton really likes having a green light again and put up 27 points. Beno Udrih added 25. Carlos Delfino was hot and dropped 30 for the Bucks, but it wasn’t enough. We’re sure a win over the Bucks really made the Kings fans forget all that relocation talk.

Magic 111, Knicks 99: After giving up 59 points in the first half (and being down 4 at the break) credit the Magic for falling back on their strengths in the second half. For one, they tightened their defense and held the Knicks to 31.8 percent shooting for the half. (Although the Knicks certainly helped out there — they seem to tighten up in the stretch.) Orlando also keep feeding Dwight Howard the ball because the Knicks have no answer for a big man like that, and Howard finished with 33. The Magic also grabbed the offensive rebound on one-third of their missed shots on the night, they owned the glass.

Rockets 131, Warriors 112: Chuck Hayes had a triple-double. No, I’m not making that up, check the box score for yourself. This is something you’ll tell the grandkids about.

Up tempo game with lots of good shooting, but the key was the Rockets were attacking and drawing fouls, too — Houston got to the line 35 times and had 27 points from there compared to just 18 chances and 11 points for the Warriors. Also, the Rockets hit 12-26 threes, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc for Courtney Lee.

Suns 114, Raptors 106: Coming into the second game of a back-to-back where the Suns played to triple overtime the night before, Phoenix’s depth mattered here — they got 63 points from their bench in this win.

Nuggets 115, Spurs 112: Just how hot is Denver? Two of the better, more unselfish teams in the league were putting on a show (although Denver ran a lot of iso early for some reason). The Spurs led most of the way until an 11-0 run by Denver in the fourth gave them the lead for good. Al Harrington’s 9 points in the fourth quarter, all on threes, were key for Denver. That would be a bench player — Denver got 65 points off the bench from J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Harrington (who had 25 of those).

Clippers 127, Warriors 119 (2OT): Blake Griffin had his first triple-double in this one, and we don’t care that it took him an extra 10 minutes of game time to do it. On the other side, fellow dunk contestant JaVale McGee had a good night with 22 points on 14 shots, 13 rebounds and a massive block on Blake Griffin. McGee also got faked into about the third row by Eric Gordon at the end of the first overtime, then Gordon drained the three that sent it to an extra frame.

Down 3-0 to Warriors, Spurs still joking about their predicament

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San Antonio’s sense of humor was still there Sunday.

Gregg Popovich predicted that Golden State stayed out way late after winning Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, celebrating with burgers and sundaes before spending Sunday playing poker. Manu Ginobili, amid plenty of questions about whether his career is ending, said the Spurs planned to lose the first three games of this series simply to make their comeback look more impressive.

The laughs seemed helpful.

The reality is that Golden State is just better, especially against a seriously undermanned Spurs team.

All jokes aside, the Spurs – and everyone else watching this West final – know it’s just about over. No team has successfully rallied from 3-0 down in an NBA playoff series, and a San Antonio team that is without Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and now David Lee is facing that most precarious deficit. Game 4 is Monday in San Antonio, with Golden State now on the brink of clinching its third straight NBA Finals trip.

“Circumstances were such that we could be in a totally different position now,” said Popovich, the Spurs coach whose teams have been swept only twice in 52 previous series on his watch. “That didn’t happen. It’s called life. Slap yourself. Quit your crying and move on. Game 4.”

He’s right, of course. How different this could have been if Leonard didn’t re-injure his ankle when San Antonio was rolling with a 23-point lead in the third quarter of Game 1. The Spurs led by at least 22 points in each of their first four games against the Warriors this season. What they did against Golden State worked better than what anyone else did against Golden State.

Then, thud.

Leonard – who won’t play in Game 4 barring something “miraculous,” Popovich said – has been out since landing on Zaza Pachulia‘s foot in a hotly debated was-it-dirty-or-not closeout by the Warriors’ center. Game 1 changed in that instant, the whole series changed along with it and the Warriors will become the first team in NBA history to start a postseason 12-0 if they win on Monday.

“You know what the Spurs are about. … They’ve got a lot of pride. These guys are pros, man,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “We can’t come out here and feel like we’ve won already before the game has started. We’ve got to go take it.”

The Warriors have made it look easy, which is their normal. Golden State has won 12 consecutive games, the third time this season the Warriors have enjoyed such a streak. Combine the regular season and the postseason, and this Golden State team (78-15, .839) has a better record so far than last year’s regular-season record-setting club (88-18, .830).

Still, they’re not satisfied.

“We’ve got to play better,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said.

As impressive as they have been, the Warriors have had lapses. Golden State turned the ball over 21 times in Game 3 , leading to 25 San Antonio points. The Warriors also yielded 15 offensive rebounds, which San Antonio turned into 18 more points.

They won by 12 anyway. And if closing a team out on the road is supposed to be among the toughest postseason tasks, the Warriors have apparently missed that memo: Golden State won by 25 in Portland to clinch the first round, and by 26 in Utah to close out the second round.

“You let those guys get rolling, they’re a handful,” Spurs forward Pau Gasol said.

Ginobili helped keep San Antonio close in Game 3 with 21 points. He’ll likely get an emotional welcome Monday, just in case the veteran decides this season will be his last – a topic he wanted really no part of on Sunday, saying he’ll decide over the summer.

“This is getting a little weird,” Ginobili said after questions hinting at retirement. “It truly is.”

NOTES: The only teams to sweep a Popovich-coached team were the Suns in 2010 (when Warriors coach Steve Kerr was GM in Phoenix) and the Lakers in 2001 (when Kerr played for the Spurs). … Warriors acting coach Mike Brown said there’s no change in Pachulia’s condition. Pachulia played only 7 minutes of Game 2 with a heel injury, and didn’t play Saturday. … Durant lauded Popovich for not playing Leonard through the bad ankle, saying other players appreciate when teams put the future of their own players first.

 

Report: John Wall contract extension Wizards’ top priority, but he’s unsure about committing

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Wizards guard John Wall can sign a contract extension this year, sign an extension next year or become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. No matter when he signs – because he’s still under contract for two more seasons – the new terms would take effect in 2019-20.

When will he lock in?

By making the All-NBA third team, Wall became eligible to sign a designated-veteran-player contract extension with Washington this summer. But because he has two years left on his current deal ($18,063,850 in 2017-18 and $19,169,800 in 2018-19), an extension could add just four years to his contract.

This is the only time Wall is guaranteed be eligible for a designated-veteran-player salary, though. He could add five years at the designated-veteran-player rate by making All-NBA in 2017-18 or 2018-19, but that’s obviously no guarantee.

Does Wall want to sign now, even for fewer years, while he’s designated-veteran-player eligible? Do the Wizards want to give him that higher max in order to secure his services for just four additional years?

J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

An extension with Wall will be the top priority of the offseason in which Otto Porter is also a restricted free agent, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.

From league sources close to the situation, Wall wants to see a bigger picture plan on where the franchise is headed before committing for longer.

Wall has never advanced past the second round, and he sounded disappointed in his supporting cast after the Wizards lost to the Celtics in this year’s second round. He has also expressed unhappiness about his lack of popularity in Washington.

But that’s a lot of money to turn down. Wall can’t simply pencil himself onto another All-NBA team is this guard-dominant league.

A designated-veteran-player projects to be worth $217 million over five years. If Wall plays out his contract without making an All-NBA team the next two years, his projected max – even if he re-signs with the Wizards – projects be worth $186 million over five years. That’s a $31 million difference!*

*Using Albert Nahmad’s $107 million salary-cap projection for 2019-20

Would Wall take such a large financial risk?

He must weigh his priorities (security vs. flexibility, staying in Washington vs. leaving) and his chances of making another All-NBA team in a league with Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker.

Here’s a flowchart showing Wall’s possible outcomes and what his max contract projects to be in each scenario:

John Wall extension (4)

Report: Paul Millsap opts out of Hawks contract

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Even after the Hawks’ season ended, Paul Millsap wouldn’t confirm he’d opt out of the final year of his contract.

But the All-Star finally made the inevitable official.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Atlanta Hawks All-Star forward Paul Millsap has opted out of his $21.4 million contract for next season to become a free agent, league sources told The Vertical.

The 32-year-old Millsap would have earned $21,472,407 if he opted in. It’s a virtual certainty he’ll earn more than that next season – and gain long-term security in a multi-year contract.

He might even get a max starting salary, which projects to be worth more than $35 million. Over a five-year contract with Atlanta, his max projects to be worth $205 million ($41 million annually). If he leaves, his projected max is $152 million over four years ($38 million annually).

The Hawks don’t yet have a general manager, but Millsap will reportedly negotiate directly with owner Tony Ressler, who said they’d make “every effort imaginable” to re-sign Millsap.

With that commitment and certain interest from other teams, how could Millsap do anything but opt out?

This isn’t a tell about his future with Atlanta. It’s an obvious financial decision.

Called out by LeBron James, reporter Kenny Roda defends himself

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LeBron James reacted to the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics by jawing with a fan and saying he was glad Cleveland lost.

The peculiarities didn’t end there.

LeBron called out Kenny Roda of WHBC for asking a question.

For full context, the earlier times LeBron addressed his individual performance and both of Roda’s questions are included in the above video. So is the funny look LeBron shot someone (Roda?) after the press conference. Here’s the noteworthy exchange:

  • Roda: “For you, you said it was just your game. Couldn’t get into a rhythm tonight, is that what it was? Based on their defense or just not feeling it or or what?”
  • LeBron: “Nah, I was just pretty poor. I mean, what do you want me to say? It sees like you only ask questions when we lose. It’s a weird thing with you, Kenny. You always come around when we lose, I swear. Yeah, OK.”

Roda:

“You cover us only when we lose” is a too-common complaint in high school sports. It’s odd to see LeBron employ it, though saying Roda asks questions only when the Cavs lose is a wrinkle that adds plausibility to LeBron’s claim. Still, it’s tough to believe.

Even if LeBron is right that Roda asks questions only when Cleveland loses, so what? Asking a question isn’t a sign Roda is happy the team lost or is trying to rub it in. Players tend to be testier after losses (case in point), and asking question then can be more difficult. If Roda puts himself out there after only losses, kudos to him.

LeBron’s struggles were the dominant storyline in Game 3. Getting him to expand on what went wrong was a worthy goal. Roda’s question probably wasn’t distinctive enough to get more out of LeBron after his first two responses about his performance, but the inquiry was on the right path. Asking a vague question on a topic already covered vaguely is only a minor offense.

LeBron understands the media better than most. This was a weird time to pick a public battle, which makes me think this was more frustration than ploy.