New Orleans Hornets' Jack puts his head in his hands after being called for a foul during their NBA basketball game in New Orleans

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Vintage Tim Duncan sighting

Leave a comment

What you missed while getting that nail you didn’t know you shot into your head removed…

Celtics 87, Magic 56: Don’t go overboard with any “the Celtics are back” hype yet, but they got a quality win in our game of the night.

Spurs 104, Hornets 102: New Orleans loses a lot of games but they don’t get blown out of a lot — which feels pretty hollow after Tim Duncan sinks a game winner to give you loss number eight in a row.

This was a close game pretty much the whole way, which says a lot about how hard the Hornets played — unfortunately for them they ran into vintage Duncan and Tony Parker. Duncan sat out Saturday’s Spurs game and looked rested on his way to 28 points including the game winning shot, a running hook across the lane. Tony Parker had 20 points and 17 assists. Jarrett Jack had 26 for the Hornets, Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry had 18 each.

And by the way, Tiago Splitter is playing a lot better. Well, except on the play below (Emeka Okafor looked like he had saved the game here).

Sixers 103, Wizards 83: This statistic sums up these two teams and their place in the standings perfectly — Andre Iguodala had nine assists in the first half, the entire Wizards team had nine assists in the first half. This game went pretty much exactly like you would have expected. Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand each had 17 for the 76ers.

Rockets 107, Timberwolves 92: Houston came from behind with a 19-1 run when they went with a small lineup — Kyle Lowry, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Paterson, Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee. Kevin McHale rode with what worked in the fourth quarter, keeping his bigs on the bench against a team with Kevin Love, and the Rockets got an impressive win. Lowry had a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and Kevin Martin dropped 31. Kevin Love had 39 points and 12 boards.

Bulls 110, Nets 95: The backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton combined for 44 points… and that’s about it. This game was basically over after the Bulls 10-0 run midway through the first. The only thing that can make it better? Brian Scalbrine highlights.

Hawks 97, Bucks 92: Joe Johnson owned the fourth quarter with 14 points in the period. Well, except for the game winning three, which was a Josh Smith corner three that had Hawks fans saying “no, no, no… yes!” This was close all the way 48-48 at the half, but the Bucks first unit struggled so at the end you saw a lot of the Bucks second unit. Joe Johnson finished with 28 points and the Hawks are now 9-0 when he scores at least 21.

Mavericks 93, Suns 87: Shawn Marion has such an awkward release, when he lines up to take the three your gut says “let him shoot it.” The Suns thought that and he was 4-of-6 from three and seemed fired up for his old team as he dropped 29 on them to spark the Dallas win. Ian Mahinmi had 17 points and grabbed 9 boards. Dallas also played good defense on Steve Nash (who still had 12 assists) and the entire Suns team.

Thunder 99, Pistons 79: I could describe this game to you, but it was pretty much what you expect when one of the best teams in the league takes on one of the worst. The game was not as close as the score would indicate. And yes, I know the score says blowout. But there were some good highlights.

Trail Blazers 101, Kings 89: Sacramento did a good job focusing their efforts on stopping LaMarcus Aldridge (13 points on 14 shots). But that’s only part of the attack — Portland creators on the perimeter owned the Kings on drives and shots. Jamal Crawford had 26 points (including 12 in the second quarter when the Blazers took control), Gerald Wallace added 20. After that Crawford-led second quarter run this game was over, the Kings made a little late run to make the score respectable.

Grizzlies 91, Warriors 90: Golden State had a 20 point lead one minute into the fourth quarter, then it all came apart — nine turnovers in the quarter leading to 16 fast break points for Memphis. The Grizzlies played like the experienced team that knows how to execute under pressure, while the Warriors go deer-in-headlights late in games. Rudy Gay had 23 on the night, but Tony Allen and Mike Conley each had 9 in the fourth to key the comeback. Golden State tried to lean on Monta Ellis who had 9 in the fourth but also four turnovers.

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
5 Comments

It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.

Damian Lillard gets tested by Warriors, looks for rebound

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
2 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) First it was a chest cold, then it was a fourth-quarter dry spell. The start of Damian Lillard‘s playoff series against the Golden State Warriors has been rough.

And as Lillard goes, often the rest of the Trail Blazers follow.

Portland is down 2-0 in its Western Conference semifinal series against the defending NBA champions. And it certainly won’t get much easier when the series shifts north Saturday – even though presumptive league MVP Stephen Curry is unlikely to return from a knee injury.

But Lillard and his team have a history of stepping up after getting knocked down. In fact, that’s been the theme of their whole season.

“I know the kind of guys I’m running with. Besides that, we’ve answered the call all season long. We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away. We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different,” he said.

Lillard, who averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists during the regular season, scored 25 points in the Blazers’ 110-99 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night, including 17 points in the third quarter. But the Warriors held him scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) in the crucial final period when they came from behind to win, outscoring Portland 34-12. Portland only scored six points over the last 5:21.

With a day off on Wednesday, Lillard let the loss digest.

“After the game I was pretty frustrated by not being able to finish that game. Yesterday I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t even gonna watch the playoff game until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of 3s. So I wanted to see for myself, but I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball after that game.”

In the series opener, Lillard started cold but eventually scored 30 points in a 118-106 loss. The Oakland native admitted later to battling a cold afterward. On Thursday, he said he was healthy.

Lillard made a playoff splash in 2014 when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Rockets sent the Blazers into the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But he was the lone starter left with the Blazers this season after the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Some expected the Blazers to only win about two dozen games.

Lillard tends to rise when he’s the underdog, however. Led by Lillard and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, a first-year starter, the Blazers overcame a 2-10 stretch in November to wind up the fifth seed in the West.

A two-time All-Star, Lillard was snubbed this year. How did he respond? By dropping 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over – wait for it – the Golden State Warriors. Lillard shot over Curry at will in that Feb. 19 victory, one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.

Knowing the Blazers are capable will be key Saturday night.

“We’ll have bounce. We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the opening round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Having energy, having bounce, at the Moda Center, with our crowd? That’s the least of our concerns.”

Lillard also struggled in the opening two games against the Clippers in the first round. Portland came back to win the next four to win the series, but the Clippers were hurt when their top two scorers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were knocked out with injuries.

The Warriors also get credit for Lillard’s struggles after making defensive adjustments on both Lillard and McCollum, particularly the play of Festus Ezeli.

“They are so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond (Green), those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Lillard said the Blazers would learn from it.

“It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth,” he said. “The entire season has been growth for us.”

Erik Spoelstra calls Frank Vogel’s firing “disturbing”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
9 Comments

One thing that’s a constant in the NBA: coaches always stick up for each other. That’s what happened on Thursday, when Pacers president Larry Bird announced that he was letting Frank Vogel go. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached against Vogel in three memorable playoff series during the big three era, was unhappy to hear the news of Vogel’s fate and lamented the state of coaching, which has very little job security.

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I think it’s really disturbing, actually. I’ve only been a head coach for eight years. So what am I, the second-longest-tenured?” Spoelstra asked, with Casey in his sixth season as Toronto coach and only Gregg Popovich, in his 20th season with the San Antonio Spurs, on the bench longer. “That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now and stability of organizations.”

Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle are the second longest-tenured coaches in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich. Already this offseason, there have been five coaching changes in addition to Vogel’s: Luke Walton replaced Byron Scott with the Lakers, Tom Thibodeau replaced Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves, Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman in Washington, and the Rockets and Kings jobs are still unfilled. The Knicks job could potentially turn over as well, if Phil Jackson opts not to bring back Kurt Rambis.

This is on top of five coaches who were fired during the season: Kevin McHale in Houston, Derek Fisher in New York, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Lionel Hollins in Brooklyn and David Blatt in Cleveland. That’s a third of the league since the 2015-16 season began. Spoelstra is right about the instability, but that’s part of the business.

Photos: Bucks unveil interior of new arena

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks runs down court during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Milwaukee Bucks are set to open their new arena in time for the start of the 2018-19 season, and now they’ve unveiled the first renderings of the inside of the building. They’re pretty nice.

Here’s the court:

There will also be several public bars out in the concourse:

It’s decidedly more modern than the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center, although that building is one of the most fun atmospheres in the league to watch a game in. Hopefully the new place can recapture that vibe.