Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s the Deron Williams show

2 Comments

What you missed while suing your college because your dorm roommate had too much sex

Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT): Rajon Rondo dominated Jeremy Lin, put up a monster line — 18 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds — and got the Celtics a big win in one of our games of the day.

Lakers 93, Heat, 83: You knew Kobe Bryant would have a big game. The other keys were the Lakers bigs and Metta World Peace having big days too in our other game of the day.

Nets 104, Bobcats 101: Deron Williams was a force of nature — 57 points, 21-of-21 from the free throw line. And that was still barely enough to get the Nets a win against the worst team in the league. Which tells you all you need to know about the Nets.

The Bobcats chose to single cover Williams coming off the pick-and-roll. Why? Because you really need to fear all those other guys on the Nets roster? Brook Lopez is good but you take the ball out Williams’ hands.

Bulls 96, Sixers 91: This was a hard-fought, close game until in the first half of the fourth quarter Derrick Rose and Luol Deng sparked a 15-2 run and suddenly the Bulls started to pull away. You would think that was it, and most teams would roll over. Not the 76ers. They fought back with a 10-1 run of their own and made this a game late — they trapped Rose and dared any other Bull to beat them. C.J. Watson tried with 7 in the fourth quarter. But down the stretch Rose still got a key bucket (a 15-foot leaner baseline) and finished with 35. And the win.

Suns 96, Kings 88: Our man Brett Pollakoff was at this game and sends along this report:

The Suns won their third straight game coming out of the All-Star break, but for the third straight game, it took overcoming a double-digit deficit to do so. It’s the first time since 2002 that’s happened in Phoenix, and that wasn’t the only milestone the Suns were able to reach against the woeful Sacramento Kings.

It was also the third straight game the Suns held their opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field, something the team hasn’t done since 2008. Phoenix obviously hasn’t been known for its defense, but the players have seemed to figure out that it’s the only way to win with the way the roster is currently constructed.

After a slow start, the Suns held the Kings to 20, 19, and 17 points in each quarter following the first, and ended up ahead in the rebound column for the third straight game, as well. Channing Frye continued his horrific shooting with a 3-of-12 outing, after going just 2-for-18 on Friday while checking the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. That’s 5-for-30 in the last two games for the advanced stats crowd out there, but Frye did grab 10 boards and was active inside defensively, which is more important to what this Phoenix team is trying to do anyway. The usually affable Frye clearly isn’t pleased with his lack of offense, as evidenced by the fact that he’s bounced from the locker room two games in a row without speaking to reporters.

Marcin Gortat continues to put up big numbers in this system, and finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Nash was average by his standards, leading Phoenix in scoring with 19 while dishing out just seven assists. Shannon Brown provided a nice spark off the bench, hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth which pushed a three-point lead up to nine, and ultimately provided enough separation for the Suns to improve their record to 17-20 on the season.

Raptors 83, Warriors 75: Golden State had a nine-point lead at the break, then scored just 11 points on 23 percent shooting in the third quarter, then 17 points on 33 percent shooting in the fourth. That all added up to a season-low 75 points and a loss. Toronto got 25 out of DeMar DeRozan and 18 from Leandro Barbosa.

Clippers 105, Rockets 103 (OT): It looked like the Rockets were going to win this until the Clippers ended the overtime on a 5-0 run. This is the third loss in a row for the Rockets and has to sting a little, especially for Kevin Martin who was ice cold down the stretch (he hit just one of his last nine shots). Houston did a good job keeping Blake Griffin in check (mostly that was Luis Scola) but the Clippers had the best player on the floor in Chris Paul who had 28.

Nuggets 99, Spurs 94: The key to this game was Denver was able to control the pace — they play at the fastest pace in the league, the Spurs like it slow and Denver won that battle of wills. They got a lot of those transition points in the first half and were able to hold off the Spurs late for the win. It was a fun point guard battle, Tony Parker had 25 and Ty Lawson had 22.

Stephen Curry, was Warriors/Celtics a Finals preview? “Very, very likely, right?”

Leave a comment

The Golden State Warriors remain the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title.

Thursday night, the Boston Celtics earned some validation that they belong in the conversation. Using a stymieing defense that threw off the vaunted Warriors offense, Boston came from 17 down in the third quarter to beat the Warriors.

With the Cavaliers stumbling out of the gate, does this make the Warriors/Celtics game a Finals preview? Stephen Curry (who was 3-of-14 shooting with four turnovers on the night) said yes, as you can see in the NBC Sports Bay Area video above.

“Very, very likely, right?” Curry said. “They’re playing the best right now in the East. Obviously, they need to beat Cleveland, who’s done it three years in a row. We’ll see, but I heard the weather’s great here in June.”

The weather in Boston is great for a short window in the spring, then the humidity kicks in. But that’s not the point.

I came into this season thinking the Celtics were a year away still, and when Gordon Hayward went down it strengthened that belief. But this team is a contender now — they are far better defensively than expected, and young players Jaylen Brown (22 points against the Warriors) and Jayson Tatum have stepped up more than expected. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have developed a fast chemistry. And Brad Stephens is proving he is in the very upper echelon of NBA coaches.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, talk of the NBA Finals is premature. Curry is right, the Celtics still have to go through LeBron James and his Cavaliers to reach the Finals, which will not be easy.

Still, June basketball in Boston seems like a real possibility again.

Report: Momentum building toward ending one-and-done rule

Associated Press
Leave a comment

“My sense is it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working certainly from the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They’re not happy with the current system. And I know our teams aren’t happy either in part because they don’t necessarily think that the players are coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see among top draft picks in the league.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that during the NBA Finals last year about the one-and-done rule for players trying to enter the NBA — they can’t be drafted by NBA teams for one season after their high school class graduates, so the best players go to college for one season (and most go to classes for less than that). As Silver said, nobody really likes the system, but it was the compromise struck between the owners (who would like to raise the draft age to 20 or higher) and the players’ union (who want the draft age at 18, as soon as guys come out of high school).

However, momentum is building to change the rule, something we have written about before and now is gaining more traction, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With momentum gathering to reshape the one-and-done draft entry rule, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts met with the new Commission on College Basketball in Washington on Thursday, league sources told ESPN….

Nevertheless, there’s a growing belief within the league that Silver’s desire to end the one-and-done — the ability of college basketball players to enter the NBA draft after playing one year in college — could be pushing the sport closer to high school players having the opportunity to directly enter the league again. For that change to happen, though, the union would probably need to cede the one-and-done rule and agree to a mandate that players entering college must stay two years before declaring for the draft.

While the NBA and players’ union will talk to the NCAA about their plans, ultimately the college body has no say in what the NBA draft and eligibility rules are.

The best players of their generations came straight to the NBA out of high school — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and others —  however, what bothered owners were the misses in the draft. There were busts, and owners/GMs want to reduce as much risk as they can in the draft (even though there are busts on guys who they saw plenty of in college, hello Michael Olowokandi).

NBA teams are now better suited to develop players than they were a couple of decades ago — every team has an assistant coach focused on just that. The best teams in the NBA right now — Golden State, Boston, San Antonio — are the best at developing players. That’s not a coincidence, and it has teams copying (or attempting to) what the successful ones do. Combine that with the growth of the G-League and teams growing their understanding how to use it, and they are better positioned to draft a player out of high school and develop him over time than they ever have been.

 

There are still a lot of questions and hurdles. If a player declares for the draft and has an agent, but isn’t drafted (or even isn’t drafted in the first round, so no guaranteed contract) will he have the option to come to college for two (or three) years anyway? Will the NCAA allow that? And Silver has talked before about the changes in the draft needing to reflect changes in how we develop players down to the AAU level, which is its own complex set of problems.

It’s not moving quickly, but these are steps in the right direction. One-and-done doesn’t work well for anyone. The college baseball style rule (go straight to the pros or spend three years in college in that sport’s case) isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the system in place. There seems to be momentum toward change. Finally.

Watch James Harden, Rockets drop 90 on Suns — in first half

Leave a comment

This game had all the drama of The Last Airbender. Which is to say none. It was essentially over when the Rockets went on a 21-6 first-quarter run — unlike Boston in the earlier Thursday game, Phoenix isn’t built to come back against elite teams.

When the 15-1 Rockets run came at the end of the first quarter, it was clear Houston could do what it wanted on offense, and by half the Rockets put up 90 points. The Rockets were putting on a show (and eventually won 142-116).

James Harden had 33 points on 12 shots in the first half (he finished with 48 points for the night). Ryan Anderson hit four threes on his way to 18 before the break. Eric Gordon had 10. As a team, Houston shot 62.2 percent, and 60 percent from three in the first half. They got to the line 25 times. I could go on, but you get the picture.

If you want more highlights, here is Harden’s 48 for the night. Enjoy.

 

Paul George getting comfortable with new Thunder teammates

Getty Images
Leave a comment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George couldn’t find a rhythm on offense his first few weeks with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The four-time All-Star struggled to fit in with fellow All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony after he was traded from the Indiana Pacers. He settled for jumpers too often, shot too quickly at times and didn’t get to the free throw line as often as usual. As he adjusted, the Thunder started the season with a 4-7 record.

Once George broke out, the Thunder turned their fortunes. George erupted for 42 points in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday, then scored 37 points in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. He scored just 13 points in a win over Chicago on Monday, but his shots were higher quality and flowed with the offense better.

The Thunder take a three-game win streak into Friday’s game with San Antonio.

“I’m just staying in attack mode, playing downhill, being aggressive when I have the ball, being aggressive off the ball,” George said.

George leads the Thunder with 21.9 points per game. It’s quite a feat to be the top scorer on a team with Westbrook, a two-time scoring champion and the reigning league MVP, and Anthony, the No. 24 scorer in NBA history. But George has that kind of talent, and he gets to play off the other two stars.

“It’s hard because they have so many options,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “A lot of times you have the one-two option, but they have the one-two-three option. It’s tough.”

George said during the preseason that he was adjusting to how fast Westbrook moves in transition. Now, he’s in better position to attack because he is prepared. That has led to easy baskets and more free throws. He has shot 26 free throws the past three games after shooting just 27 in the previous 11 games.

“I think just trying to get out ahead of him as much as possible, I think, is key,” George said. “That way, when he’s making plays in full court, I’m already in position ready to receive the ball instead of catching up, getting my feet ready, trying to decide what to do. I’m ready to shoot or attack at that point.”

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said George is starting to figure out how to use his shot selection to keep defenses guessing.

“I think he’s just been balanced,” Donovan said. “He’s an elite scorer. He can do it a lot of different ways. He’s done it off the dribble, he’s done it off of catch and shoot, he’s done it off the drive. I think it’s just his balance of getting more comfortable with what we’re doing offensively and trying to figure out spots where he can be aggressive.”

Donovan said the best part of George’s performances against the Clippers and Mavericks was his efficiency – he only took 22 shots in each contest.

Even when George doesn’t shoot well, he’s effective as both an on-ball and off-ball defender. He leads the league with 2.4 steals per game.

“Honestly, defense is the part that I lock in at,” George said. “Offensively it is going to come, defensively is where I like to leave a mark and really try to be special on that end. It’s just sticking to the game plan personally in matchups, sticking to the gifts that God has given me.”