Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston rolls over, Miami gets two seed

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Heat 98, Hawks 90: The Heat came out playing with real energy — they wanted to win this and take care of the second seed.

Miami got help early on because Atlanta just played lazy defense in the first half. Hawks players did not fight over screens, did not get back in transition, and the Heat are too good to just let have quality looks. The result was the Heat had 62 points on 63.4 percent shooting in the first half.

But it got close late thanks Miami shooting 33 percent in the fourth and Atlanta going on a 16-2 run sparked by the Hawks bench — Larry Drew ran with the subs the entire fourth quarter. Atlanta got a gift after a frustrated Big Z threw the ball off Zaza Pachulia’s back and got ejected — Atlanta’s technical free throw tied it at 88 with less than three on the clock. But then Hawks fouled James Jones on a three to make it a four-point play. On their next possession the Hawks looked lost and got a 24 second violation. Then another Jones three and Miami was up 7 with 2:30 left the Heat basically had it wrapped up.

Miami now gets Philadelphia in the first round.

Wizard 95, Boston 94 (OT): Boston chose rest over pushing to see if they could get the two seed — the big four all sat. That meant a sloppy game where the winning team shot 40 percent. It also showed us that Boston’s bench is basically as good as the Wizards’ starters. Jordan Crawford hit the game-tying shot at the end of regulation, John Wall had 24 points and got to the line 15 times.

Boston gets New York in the first round.

Mavericks 98, Rockets 91 (OT): Dallas sleepwalked through three quarters of this than woke up in the fourth, made some nice runs and forced overtime (they might not have needed that if Jason Terry had not missed some free throws to win the game). That the Mavs needed overtime against a Houston team without Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry shows you how seriously they seemed to take most of the game.

Magic 95, Sixers 85: No Lou Williams or Andre Iguodala for Philly, and they had no way to stop the Magic inside. Orlando only shot 43.8 percent on the night but they were grabbed 19 offensive rebounds — Ryan Anderson had seven by himself. The Magic grabbed the offensive rebound on 45 percent of their missed shots, and that was the difference.

Bobcats 105, Nets 103: With the game on the line late D.J. Augustin was patient, came off a Boris Diaw pick and hit the fade-away jumper with 1.1 seconds left to seal the Bobcats win. Diaw, by the way, had 18 second half points. Not much defense played in this one but the ending was entertaining.

Cavaliers 110, Pistons 101: CLEVELAND IS NOT THE WORST! Neither team seemed to care in this one, Daniel Gibson sparked a 12-1 run at the end of the third and the result was a Cavs win. That win moved them out of having the worst record in the NBA. Congratulations Timberwolves, wear that crown with pride.

Jazz 90, Hornets 78: Utah started hot, shooting 60 percent for the first 18 minutes, including C.J. Miles taking charge early with 10 first quarter points. Utah never really backed off and won handily. New Orleans is playing poorly heading into the playoffs.

Bucks 93, Raptors 86: Stat of the night from Raptors Republic: Of the nine Raptors that played against the Bucks, only one played on opening night – DeMar DeRozan. Toronto led most of the way but a 15- fourth-quarter run sparked by Drew Gooden got the Bucks the win.

Nuggets 134, Warriors 111: Very fast pace — 102 possessions — suited Denver well as nine Nuggets scored in double digits and they shot 53.2 percent as a team. J.R. Smith had 22, Kosta Koufos had 18 points on 8 shots. This gave Denver win number 50 on the season.

Suns 135, Timberwolves 127 (OT): For a meaningless game both teams really brought some effort to this one. Not defense, nobody brought that. But there was effort. Channing Frye had 33 points and was 9-of-14 from three. The Suns went on an 8-0 run in overtime to earn the win.

Thunder 120, Kings 112: Credit the Thunder for winning what could have been a trap game after beating the Lakers Sunday. The Thunder shot 57 percent, Kevin Durant had 32 points on 16 shots and Serge Ibaka had some big blocks that sparked the Thunder win.

Charles Barkley: Klay Thompson is a better player than Kevin Durant

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You know the NBA season is back when Charles Barkley is just talking out his… er, saying ridiculous things.

On Inside the NBA before the tip off of San Antonio thrashing Golden State, Barkley said then tried to defend the idea that Klay Thompson is a better all-around player than Kevin Durant. It was vintage Barkley — and it’s what makes the barbershop feel of Inside the NBA must-watch television every week.

The flaw in Barkley’s argument is that he tries to use the “two-way player” argument to try and balance out Durant’s and Thompson’s offensive contributions. Is Thompson a better defender than Durant? Yes. Even though people underestimate Durant’s defense a little, I will stipulate Thompson is a better defender. But does that defense make up for how much more offensive versatility and shot creation Durant brings to the table compared to Thompson? No. Again, Thompson is an excellent offensive player and probably the second best shooter in the game, but he does not create shots or force a defense to adjust the way Durant does. KD’s amazing offense tips the scales more than Thompson’s defense. KD is the better overall player.

And The Jet is way too quick to dismiss Kawhi Leonard as maybe the second best player in the league. But Leonard made his case just after these comments.

Watch Jonathan Simmons posterize JaVale McGee

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This was the exclamation point on the Spurs thrashing of the Warriors on opening night.

Jonathan Simmons — who was a beast in the first half and finished the night with 20 points off the bench — was pounding the ball out top, then as the clock wound down blew by rookie Patrick McCaw, got into the lane looking for the two-handed slam. When JaVale McGee slid over to contest Simmons switched to the one-hander and finished over the big man.

That’s the way to start an NBA season.

Three things we learned Tuesday: Kawhi’s Spurs are not to be trifled with

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 25:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs dribbles the ball up court against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter in an NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on October 25, 2016 Oakland, California. 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The NBA season has returned, and we are back with our morning recap of what you need to know from the night before around the NBA — three things we learned. So if you were busy watching the Cubs bats go cold, here is what you missed.

1) The Spurs are Kawhi Leonard’s team — and they are magnificent. Every year we give lip service to the “don’t sleep on the Spurs” idea, and then we get wrapped up talking about some other bright, shiny new object. Like say a move from Oklahoma City to the Bay Area. We do exactly what we said we weren’t going to do.

Then San Antonio reminds us they are fierce competitors and contenders. Tuesday night the Spurs went into Oracle Arena and slapped Kevin Durant and the Warriors around. This was an old-school beatdown. In a game where the Warriors had the winners of the last three MVP awards, Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the court — a career-high 35 points on 21 shots, he got to the line 15 times, and he had five steals. Tim Duncan is gone and this is now Leonard’s team, without question. He was simply unfair, just torturing the Warriors on both ends and leading a physical Spurs team that dominated the glass — the Spurs had 24 second chance points to the Warriors 4.

Leonard didn’t do it alone, LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and 14 boards, Jonathan Simmons came off the bench for 20 and had a highlight chasedown block on Stephen Curry. But make no mistake, this was Leonard’s team and night.

Games in October are incredibly poor predictors of the outcome of a May playoff series. Both of these teams will evolve over the course of the season, and the Warriors will get things figured out. But we learned on opening night there is no doubt the Spurs are Kawhi’s team — and they are not to be trifled with.

2) Golden State’s defense needs some work. It was easy to see the rough spots in the Warriors offense the team still needs to be smoothed out — the passes to teammates who had already vacated the spot, the threes not being in rhythm (7-of-33 from deep, a number of those looks uncontested), and all those stars playing next to each other rather than with each other. It was to be expected.

However, offense wasn’t the Warriors’ big problem — their defense was atrocious. The Spurs scored at a ridiculous 125.9 points per 100 possessions pace, because literally half of their shot attempts were uncontested (according to the player tracking stats). San Antonio had an eFG% of 54.1, and the Spurs grabbed the offensive rebound on 41.2 percent of their shots when they did miss. Leonard had a career-high 35 points, Aldridge 26, and the Spurs time after time got the shot they wanted — and they had 24 fast break points, the Warriors did not get back in transition defense. The Warriors missed Andrew Bogut inside, both as a rim protector and on the glass (this was not Zaza Pachulia’s best night).

The past two years, the Warriors had a top five NBA defense, and that as much as their vaunted shooting was the reason they went to back-to-back Finals. No doubt they made the right move adding Durant to the roster — they are going to figure this all out. This was the first game of 82, and we knew there would be some bumps at the start. But more than the offense, Steve Kerr and his staff need to get the Warriors back to being a defensive force.

3) Damian Lillard’s brilliant offense overcame his defense. Again. Damian Lillard came into this season saying he wanted to be MVP, and on opening night he put up those kinds of numbers — 39 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and he led his team to an opening night win against Utah. Portland did a great job of setting their high picks especially high, then letting Lillard go downhill fast off them right at Rudy Gobert — and Lillard finished around and over the big man all night.

Portland had an eight-point lead at the half and led by double digits for chunks of the second quarter, but in the third Utah took the lead because they exposed Lillard on the other end. Utah started running a George Hill/Joe Johnson pick-and-roll (1/3 action) and when Lillard switched it they got the ball to Johnson and he just overpowered Lillard on his way to 29 points. Johnson shot 6-of-7 in the paint and scored at will all night.

Lillard came back and had 16 of his points in the fourth quarter to help Portland get the win, he was nothing short of brilliant on offense. The Blazers got enough stops to rack up the victory at home. But their small backcourt of Lillard and C.J. McCollum is going to be a defensive challenge all season long.

Opening night bonus note: LeBron James was having fun at the expense of the Knicks’ defense. The Cavaliers cruised to a win over New York, and LeBron James had a triple-double and did whatever he wished. And what he wished was to dunk. A lot.

Watch Jonathan Simmons’ chasedown block on Stephen Curry


Jonathan Simmons did his best LeBron James impression on opening night.

While the Spurs were running the Warriors out of Oracle Arena — a 129-100 Spurs win — Simmons had a fantastic chasedown block on Stephen Curry. It was one of the plays of the game (most of the rest came from Kawhi Leonard).

Simmons had 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting off the bench for the Spurs in the win, which included a poster dunk on JaVale McGee late. Just to put some icing on the win.