Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Heat were setting records (but not playing defense)


What you missed while watching the last days of Spring Training…

The Spurs falling to the Grizzlies (and picking up another injury in the process) plus the Mavericks knocking off (and out?) the Suns are our games of the night.

Heat 125, Rockets 119: We got to see a little bit of history from Miami’s big three — LeBron James had 33 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Bosh had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Dwyane Wade had 30 points and 11 rebounds. According to ESPN, the last team to have three players with 30 and 10 was the Portland Trail Blazers in 1987 with saw Arvydas Sabonis, Isaiah “J.R.” Rider and Brian Grant — and it took them four overtimes. The last time any team did it in regulation was 1961 with the Cincinnati Royals and the trio of Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman.

What the Heat did not do was play much defense — this game was 38-37 Heat after one quarter. Neither side could stop the other. Miami went on to give up 120 points per 100 possessions. That will cost you most games but they got away with it in this one.

Kings 114, Sixers 111 (OT): Don’t look now, but the Kings went 4-1 on their recent road trip. Marcus Thornton led the win getting 29 of his 32 after half time. I’m sure Thornton’s performance will be what Kings fans are talking about tomorrow.

Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83: Atlanta had the lead because the Cavs had no answer for Al Horford, who finished with 20 and had 10 of them in the first quarter. Marvin Williams stepped up with 13 in the final quarter seal it for Atlanta.

Celtics 85, Timberwolves 82: Well, this was a win for Boston. It was ugly, it doesn’t really quell any concerns about the team, but it is a win and keeps them half a game ahead (and one ahead in the loss column) of Miami in the race for the two seed in the East. Rondo was out injured but Boston still was up 19 in the first quarter and 25 in the second on a lowly Wolves team without Kevin Love. But a series of runs — with Darko Milicic leading the charge at times — made this a game again in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce had a dozen in the fourth or this might have been an ugly loss in Boston.

Thunder 99, Trail Blazers 90: Gerald Wallace was a beast for the Blazers and put up 40, but his teammates were not as consistent as the Thunder players in this one. Kind of a veteran win for the Thunder as they withstood the Blazers runs and then took over in the second half of the fourth quarter.

Warriors 114, Wizards 104: The Wizards lost on the road. Stunning. The only bright spot for the Wizards was JaVale McGee had a career high 28. Monta Ellis was the best player on the floor and finished with 37 points and 13 assists. There was also a David Lee sighting as he dropped 33

Lakers 102, Hornets 84: No David West and Carl Landry led the Hornets with 13 first half points and 24 for the game. But he is no David West, and even if he was the Hornets were outmatched from the start here. Kobe Bryant had 19 and Pau Gasol had 15 in the first half and the Lakers were up by as many as 18 before the break and cruised on in for their seventh win in a row.

With the undersized Landry and Emeka Okafor, the Hornets are going to struggle to stop any team with real length in the West in the playoffs

Report: 76ers supporting, not blaming, Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor
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76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor fought a man in a Boston street.

The team has released a short, vague statement. CSN Philly:

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”

But what do the 76ers really think?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

I spoke with somebody close to him. They’ve talked to the 76ers. They’ve talked with the NBA.

The Sixers are very supportive of Okafor. They understand the situation, but they have to do their due diligence and look into it.

The Sixers are supporting him. They’re not blaming him. If they have to discipline, it still won’t sully him in their eyes.

Again, I’m told that they’re very supportive of him.

If the 76ers really support Okafor, they’ll do so publicly. Leaking their support anonymously doesn’t really move the needle.

I also find this report a little dubious, because Broussard only said he talked to someone close to Okafor. If the 76ers’ viewpoint came filtered through an Okafor rep, there could be a lot of spin – though it’s possible Broussard also spoke with someone from the team.

What choice do the 76ers have but to support Okafor, anyway? He’s a promising young player on a team that desperately needs hope. It seems he made a major mistake, but it’s not a career-ender. And as long as the 76ers are keeping him, they might as well stand by him.

However – based on what we’ve seen, which is obviously not everything – this incident should “sully him in their eyes.” He appeared to be the aggressor, and the team should be concerned by that. Perhaps, further investigation has provided extenuating circumstances, but absent new evidence, the 76ers should view him less favorably – and be proactive about helping him correct any underlying issues.

That’s the support Okafor needs from them.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.