Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dirk Nowitzki is still good

1 Comment

What you missed while trying to find something to watch now that Downton Abbey is over…..

Nets 100, Knicks 92: Deron Williams would like you to know he is the best point guard in the greater New York area, and will be next year when the Nets move to Brooklyn (unless he leaves to play in Dallas). Anyway, this is our game of the night.

Mavericks 89, Celtics 73: Dirk Nowitzki re-entered midway through the second quarter, proceeded to score 14 of his 26, with that Dallas pulled away from Boston and never looked back. No real shock as Boston was without Kevin Garnett (personal reasons), Brandon Bass (knee) and Rajon Rondo (suspension). Add in the fact Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox got injured (and are likely out for Oklahoma City) and Boston had little chance. Still, All Hail Dirk!

Bulls 90, Hawks 79: Derrick Rose returned to the lineup and scored 23, but that was not the reason the Bulls won. This was about Chicago’s defense, which had Atlanta second-guessing its every shot and decision. The Hawks hesitated, they faked, and that gets you in a lot of trouble against the aggressive Bulls. Carlos Boozer had 16 points including some key threes in the second quarter to help the Bulls pull away.

Rockets 97, Grizzlies 93: Remember that the Grizzlies traded Kyle Lowry for the draft pick that became Mike Conley. Lowry always gets up for the Grizzlies and he had 24 points (on 17 shots) and 9 assists to lead the Rockets. Kevin Martin added 22 and Patrick Patterson had a good game for Houston.

Magic 93, Bucks 90: It seems odd to criticize Dwight Howard after a 28 point, 16 rebound performance — which included him stealing the ball from Brandon Jennings and scoring on the one-man fast break at one point — but we can’t help ourselves. His defensive effort is inconsistent. He is so talented he puts up numbers, but it’s hard to watch him and think he is fully invested. Ryan Anderson had the go-ahead three for the Magic in what was a close game. Jennings had 22 for the Bucks.

Thunder 101, Hornets 93: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant only combined for 62 points in this game. Slackers. This game was not as close as the final score would indicate — OKC led 60-38 at the half and by as many as 26 at points, then got bored and let New Orleans make it close late. But the talent gap in this one was HUGE.

Suns 104, Wizards 88: This game was tied early in the third quarter, but Phoenix went to a zone defense that confounded Washington, and the Suns wen on a 31-7 run and that was it. The Wizards can vacillate between good play and moments of horrible decision making so quickly, that was something the Suns happily exploited. Marcin Gortat had 20, Steve Nash had 12 points and 11 assists.

Nuggets 103, Timberwolves 101 (OT): Kenneth Faried had a good game, locked up on Kevin Love he held the All-Star forward to 7-of-22 shooting and 22 points. But Love had key free throws at the end of regulation thanks to an Al Harrington foul — Harrington had 31 and was taking on the scoring load for the Nuggets in the first half and finished with 31. This entire game had that tired-legged lockout feel to it.

Ty Lawson tweaked his ankle again, which could be bad for Denver.

Spurs 106, Jazz 102: The way the Spurs will make the extra pass is a thing of beauty— as they did up two with less than 10 seconds left, the game in the balance, and Gary Neal passed up a good look to get Richard Jefferson a great look at a three that he nailed to seal the win with six seconds left. The Jazz tried to exploit the Spurs in the paint — they outscored San Antonio by 26 in there — but Tony Parker was again the difference with 23 points and 11 assists.

Lakers 103, Trail Blazers 92: The Lakers were in total control of this one from the start, up 22 after the first quarter (29-7, Portland shot 18 percent in the opening frame) and by as much as 30 at times. The Lakers got the ball inside, the Blazers defense collapsed and the Lakers exploited them inside and on the perimeter. The Blazers made a late run to make the final score more respectable, but it was never close. Kobe Bryant had 28 to lead the Lakers.

Warriors 104, Clippers 97: When Monta Ellis is hot like he was in this game, the Warriors have a puncher’s chance against any team on a given night. The Clippers were up 2 with 2:10 left in the game, but a Brandon Rush three-pointer sparked a 9-0 Warrior run to end the game. This is the second poor closeout of a game by the Clippers in a row, and they could use the steady hand of Chauncey Billups late in games. Ellis had 32, Ekpe Udoh had a career high 19.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
6 Comments

Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.