Baseline to Baseline recaps: One half of Heat bests half of Spurs

5 Comments

What you missed while buying the paintings of a squirrel

Heat 120, Spurs 98: It was a tale of two halves. In the first half the Spurs controlled the tempo and forced the heat into the half court. LeBron James, fighting a cold that might have kept him home if Dwyane Wade could have played, was sloppy. Not just missed shots but slowed and bad decisions — where he normally attacks he hesitated. San Antonio shot 67 percent in the first quarter and were up 14 at the half.

And then it flipped. Miami stepped up its defensive pressure and the Spurs offense stalled. Then the Heat turned those stops in to fast break opportunities. Then LeBron James’ jumper started falling — he knocked down three from beyond the arc and outscored the Spurs 17 to 10 that quarter. The Spurs shot 34.4 percent in the second half. LeBron had 33 points and looked like his old self, Chris Bosh had 30.

There are still questions for the Heat about the severity of Wade’s injury and late game execution, but when they overwhelm a team it is an impressive site.

Magic 96, Bobcats 89: Charlotte hung in this one — they were up three at the break and it was tied heading into the fourth — as the Bobcats didn’t double Dwight Howard and stuck with guys on the perimeter, and Orlando could only knock down 31.8 percent of its threes (Howard’s foul trouble didn’t help). Orlando needs those threes. It eventually got them. While Dwight Howard led the way with 25 points on the night it was Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Von Wafer — yes, Von Wafer — who each had 8 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic pull away.

Warriors 105, Cavaliers 95: The Cleveland Cavaliers turned the ball over on 25 of their 101 possessions — essentially one in four trips down the court they coughed it up without a shot. Hard to win games that way. Very hard. Kyrie Irving showed flashes of quality play but he had six turnovers. Antwan Jamison led a third quarter charge by the Cavs with his dozen, but he could not cover David Le, who had 29, 13 of them in the fourth quarter when the Cavs pulled away. Anderson Varejao had no answers for Lee either, who pulled out a few good post moves to put the game away. As an aside, this was an “on” night for Nate Robinson who had 17 points and 10 dimes.

Nuggets 105, Bucks 95: The Bucks can lose at home. Denver pretty much controlled this one from the start and only a big fourth quarter run by Milwaukee made it this close. Denver attacked from the start and got to the line 37 times on the night (23 more free throws than Milwaukee). The Bucks got 30 from Brandon Jennings but Stephen Jackson and Andrew Bogut combined to shoot 1-of-11.

Rockets 97, Pistons 80: I’m not sure the Rockets were good so much as just less bad. The attacked and moved the ball and shot 49 percent. The Pistons were more passive (their first free throw didn’t come until midway through the third quarter). Tayshaun Prince had 20 but the Rockets had six guys in double figures — balance won out.

Bulls 118, Suns 97: Derrick Rose was out again and Steve Nash tried to take advantage with 13 points in the first quarter as he and the Suns tried to pick up the tempo. But the Bulls just ground the Suns down (while shooting 69 percent early themselves). The Suns shot 37 percent in the second quarter while Carlos Boozer got hot (26 in the first half, 31 for the game) and it was over. Chicago pulled away and never looked back.

Jazz 108, Clippers 79: The Clippers were on the second night of a road back-to-back without Chris Paul or Mo Williams — this set up well for the Clippers to fall flat, and they didn’t disappoints. Credit the Jazz for taking advantage of this and blowing the Clippers out, taking charge early with an 11-0 run and just stretching it out most of the rest of the game. The Clippers starters sat the fourth. Paul Millsap had 20 for Utah. Not much to take away from this other than another a win the Jazz will add to the collection.

Report: Cavaliers GM David Griffin ‘the top candidate’ in Magic’s front-office search

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

A week ago, David Griffin was just someone the Magic were researching to run their front office.

It seems the Cavaliers general manager has since moved up in the search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For now, Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin remains the top candidate in the Magic’s search, but Orlando hasn’t yet asked for permission to speak with Griffin, largely because of the Cavaliers’ playoff status, sources said.

This could end a couple ways.

Here’s betting Griffin – who has LeBron James‘ endorsement – leverages the Orlando interest into a bigger offer from Cleveland. Griffin was just too integral to the Cavs’ first championship to discard him.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has shown much more willingness to spend than The Devos Family, which owns the Magic. If this is a bidding war, I’ll take Cleveland. If it isn’t a bidding war, the Cavs have a far more attractive roster than Orlando.

Thunder’s Andre Roberson entering free agency after impactful playoff series

Leave a comment

The Rockets were starting to pull away from the Thunder in Game 5 of their first-round series, and the Houston crowd was looking for a reason to erupt. The Rockets provided one by intentionally fouling Roberson despite holding Oklahoma City without a basket for the previous five minutes. The Thunder wing stepped to the line in the loudening arena and, of course, missed both free throws.

But Roberson didn’t go down quietly.

On the ensuing defensive possession, he picked up James Harden in the backcourt and hounded the Rockets star on the perimeter. Harden passed to Nene, and Roberson doubled the center in the post and stole the ball. Roberson passed to Russell Westbrook then laid out Patrick Beverley with an open-court screen, freeing Westbrook to score.

Of course, that wasn’t enough. Oklahoma City fell in five games, Westbrook’s supporting cast unable to keep up enough with its MVP candidate.

“That’ll definitely be one thing that haunt me, Roberson said of his free-throw shooting against Houston, “and something I’ll work on extremely hard this summer.”

Roberson’s postseason confirmed everything we thought we knew about him: He’s a defensive dynamo, and he can’t shoot.

But understanding Roberson’s skill set is only a small step in evaluating him. Teams are better than ever at exposing perimeter players who can’t shoot, and that makes Roberson’s price point difficult to read as he enters restricted free agency. The Thunder delayed the decision – extending Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo last year while allowing Roberson to complete his rookie-scale contract without an extension – but time is practically up.

For better or worse, it was all there in the playoffs.

Roberson made just 3-of-21 free throws (14%), the worst percentage by anyone with so many attempts in a postseason series (since 1964, as far as Basketball-Reference go back). Here are the worst free-throw percentages in a series since 1964 (minimum: 100 attempts):

image

This was hardly out of the norm for Roberson, who made just 42% of his free throws during the regular season.

His postseason 3-point percentage (41%) was way better than his regular-season baseline (25%), but he attempted just 17 3-pointers in 185 playoff minutes. Not only is that a small sample, it speaks to another problem. The Rockets typically left him open, and he was reluctant to shoot. That allowed Houston to defend 5-on-4 elsewhere with only minimal repercussions. Despite playing more than 90% of his minutes with Westbrook, the Thunder still scored worse with Roberson on the court.

So why did Roberson receive such a prominent role in the series?

He’s a defensive stud. Roberson ranks fourth among players who regularly defend opposing guards in defensive real plus-minus:

image

Roberson shadowed Harden for too much of the series to gauge on-off splits, but adding regular-season Thunder-Rockets games reveals a clearer (though still limited) picture:

James Harden Roberson on Roberson off
Minutes 320 16
Points per 36 minutes 25.3 51.8
Turnovers per 36 minutes 6.0 0.0
Free-throw attempts per 36 minutes 10.9 22.5
2-point percentage 50.5% 60.0%
3-point percentage 21.1% 60.0%
Effective field-goal percentage 41.9% 75.0%

Harden, arguably the NBA’s best offensive player, was held in relative check with Roberson on the floor. When Roberson sat, Harden went wild.

There has to be a place for a defender like Roberson in this league.

Is it in Oklahoma City?

Roberson was effective in last year’s playoffs as a small-ball big. He cut and crashed the offensive glass. That got harder with two of Adams, Taj Gibson and Enes Kanter occupying the paint. The Thunder maximizing Roberson’s production might mean losing a big man or two. Gibson will be a free agent and said he wants to return. Adams and Kanter are locked into lucrative long-term deals.

When it comes to Roberson, it’s always complicated.

Report: Magic’s search firm inquiring about Larry Bird

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Leave a comment

Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.

Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).

Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.

Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob HenniganDoc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.

It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
6 Comments

Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.