Trevor Booker

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the living game-winning shot

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What you missed while realizing you figured out who is going to win the Darwin Award this year….

Sixers 103, Celtics 71: This battle for the top spot in the Atlantic division — and the four seed at least in the playoffs, allowing a team to avoid Miami and Chicago in the first round — was our game of the night. Although it wasn’t much of a game.

Wizards 106, Lakers 101: Lakers fans aren’t just reaching for the panic button, they are pounding it.

Los Angeles was in control of this one, coming out with renewed energy after an ugly loss in Detroit Tuesday. They pulled away in the second quarter with everyone contributing — Steve Blake the shooter came in and got 6 assists and no turnovers. Oh, that Kobe Bryant guy was pretty good, too, he had 14 in the first quarter and 20 for the half. Early in third the Lakers were up 21 and cruising.

But a 22-4 third quarter run changed everything. It was one sparked not by the Wizards stars (John Wall was awful, as Mike Prada at SBN noted, length bothers him and the Lakers are nothing if not long). No it was Nick Young and guys like Shelvin Mack, Trevor Booker and even Kevin Seraphin who dominated the Lakers bench. Mike Brown tried to ride Kobe Bryant but was 1-for-10 in the fourth quarter. Kobe had 30 points for the game but was 9-of-31 shooting to get there. In an age-old story Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 38 points on 12-of-18 shooting but the Lakers didn’t feed them enough, especially when things got tight.

From this, we bring you the funniest play of the night:

Bulls 106, Bucks 104: This game was pretty close the entire way, with Ersan Ilyasova keeping the Bucks within arms reach thanks to his 32, plus Drew Gooden had 16 in the first quarter and finished with 27. But really, all we need to do is show you the last two of Derrick Rose’s 30.

Nets 101, Clippers 100: Yes, the Nets won this on Jordan Farmar’s three in the final seconds, but they deserved this win — New Jersey led most of the way. If the Clippers won this they would have stolen it behind a great hustling effort from Blake Griffin (28 points, 17 rebounds, the Nets had nobody who could contain him). The Clippers defensive rotations were poor all night long so it’s fitting nobody rotated out on Farmar for the game winner. The Clippers are still learning how to be an elite team, about bringing effort every night on the road. Deron Williams had 21, MarShon Brooks 19.

Heat 89, Hawks 86: With the game on the line in a close, playoff-style game Wednesday night Dwyane Wade passed — twice to Udonis Haslem and once to Chris Bosh, all in the final 1:10. They each hit their shots and the Heat got the win. All of which is to say that the Heat are what they are — not a team of guys playing hero ball, rather a team of guys trying to make smart basketball plays. It gets them a lot of wins. Joe Johnson was out for the Hawks with his knee still bothering him.

Timberwolves 106, Trail Blazers 94: Minnesota’s win combined with a Houston loss moves Minny into the eighth playoff spot in the West. Making the postseason would be a huge accomplishment. Portland lived by Raymond Felton and the jumper in the first half and died by it when they shot 35 percent in the third quarter. Kevin Love had 29, Luke Ridnour took advantage of unimpressive Blazers perimeter defense for 22.

Raptors 116, Rockets 98: Houston falls out of the eighth spot in the West with the loss. This was a schedule makers loss — the Rockets just faded in the fourth quarter on the second night of a road back-to-back. Toronto went on a 25-5 run in the fourth to seal the win.

Jazz 99, Bobcats 93: You didn’t really expect a winning streak for Charlotte, did you? Utah took control of this game in the third and only a too-late 8-0 run by Charlotte made it look close. Al Jefferson had 31 for Utah; Corey Maggette had 25 for Charlotte.

Thunder 115, Suns 104: Another day, another come-from-behind win for Oklahoma City. Thanks to a dozen first quarter points from Marcin Gorat the Suns took control early and led by as many as 16 in the third. But midway through that quarter the Thunder went on a 16-4 run, and we had a ballgame. In the fourth it was what you expect from the Thunder — Kevin Durant with 12, Russell Westbrook with 9 and James Harden finished with 8.

Spurs 118, Knicks 115: The Spurs are Tony Parker’s team right now, he had 32 points and is playing the best of the San Antonio big three — the Spurs are following his lead. He is playing with incredible confidence. On the flip side, the Knicks are no longer Jeremy Lin’s team — they are Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire’s — and it shows in his game (Lin had 20 points, but 8 came in garbage time at the end). No Tyson Chandler so the Spurs owned the paint all night, Tim Duncan had 17. Anthony had 27 for the Knicks but was his black hole self, stopping the ball on offense all night long.

Cavaliers 100, Nuggets 98: Kyrie Irving, ladies and gentlemen. He had 10 of the Cavaliers final 12 points and seemed to get into the lane with ease all night long. It was not exactly Denver’s finest defensive performance of the year. Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo could not stay in front of him all night long. Antawn Jamison dropped 33 on Denver also. I’m guessing George Karl swore a lot after this one.

Grizzlies 110, Warriors 92: Good play inside beats good play outside. Not that Memphis doesn’t have some perimeter players — Rudy Gay had 10 in the fourth quarter and 26 overall to lead the Griz — but Marc Gasol is the kind of big man Golden State needs. Memphis took control of this game with an 11-0 run in the third and never looked back.

Kings 99, Hornets 98: Kings fans had been celebrating the new arena deal, not much on the court of late, they needed a win to pump up the crowd. They got one thanks to Isaiah Thomas’ defense.

Revived in crunch time, LeBron James pushes Cavaliers past Hawks in Game 1

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) reacts against the Atlanta Hawks in the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, May 2, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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LeBron James  hadn’t scored in more than 10 minutes, and it was getting late in the fourth quarter. The Hawks had gone on 11-0 and 10-0 runs since his last points. And Paul Millsap forced LeBron to lose control of the ball as he went up for a left-handed layup.

A moment of truth for the Cavaliers?

LeBron pushed the ball through the hoop with his right hand while being fouled.

If you didn’t get the message, he flexed and slapped his right bicep once he landed.

It wasn’t always smooth, but Cleveland overpowered Atlanta 104-93 in Game 1 of their second-round series Monday. The Cavaliers have won seven straight overall against the Hawks, including a sweep in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, and LeBron is now 9-0 against Atlanta in the playoffs.

“Obviously, you could tell that they went through a longer series than us,” said LeBron, whose Cavs swept the Pistons eight days ago. The Hawks beat the Celtics in six four days later.

Home Game 1 winners have won the series 85% of the time, and Atlanta will have its work cut out to become an exception.

LeBron’s offensive passiveness during Atlanta’s comeback was unwelcome, but when needed, he delivered. His 3-point play highlighted a 17-2 run that would’ve ended the game if not for a garbage-time 3-pointer by the Hawks. LeBron (25 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, five steals and a block) also stole the ball from red-hot Dennis Schröder on consecutive late possessions. This was two-way excellence when it counted, the type of production that has taken LeBron to five straight Finals.

The Cavaliers had such a big lead (18) to blow because they were hot from beyond the arc (15-for-31, 48%). When they missed, Tristan Thompson (seven offensive rebounds) got them extra opportunities.

Kevin Love (17 points and 11 rebounds) threw his body around enough to get a double-double despite shooting 4-for-17. Kyrie Irving (21 points on 8-of-18 shooting and eight assists) forced too many bad shots, but he made some tough ones and kept the ball moving.

At times, it seemed Irving was going one-on-one with Schröder (27 points on 5-of-10 3-point shooting and six assists). As impressive as Schröder was from beyond the arc and attacking the rim, Kent Bazemore (16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) was his only reliable scoring sidekick.

After allowing 30 points in the first quarter, Atlanta cranked up it defense to the frenetic level showed against Boston. Millsap (17 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals), Al Horford (10 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals) and Bazemore (two steals) led the effort.

And Cleveland surrendered open 3s when the Hawks moved the ball, which they usually did. If they make more of those open looks, it’s easy to see them winning.

But can they win four of the next six games?

As long as LeBron plays for the Cavs, that’s a monumental challenge.

Larry Bird on Frank Vogel’s future with Pacers: “I don’t know what’s going to happen”

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Team President Larry Bird of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the Miami Heat during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 24, 2014 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Larry Bird wanted the Pacers to play smaller and faster this season. The Pacers started the season doing that, but they weren’t defending consistently and not winning enough (dropping 7-of-11 through one stretch in December), so coach Frank Vogel started to play bigger and slower. It worked well enough for the Pacers to make the playoffs and go seven games deep in the first round against the Raptors.

Team president Larry Bird isn’t happy — he doesn’t like that Vogel changed the team’s style. For that reason, it’s unclear if Vogel — whose contract is up — will be back with the Pacers next season. Here is what Bird told Greg Doyle of the Indianapolis Star.

Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird said Monday he hasn’t decided whether to bring back coach Frank Vogel for a seventh season, telling IndyStar: “It’s no secret — I want us to score more points…

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bird said….

“Frank’s a great guy. He’s going to be fine no matter what happens. If he’s back, he’ll be fine here. If he’s not, he’s not. We’ll see.”

If Vogel were allowed to walk away, a host of other teams would line up to pay him. Houston would be an interesting fit (although that franchise reportedly has its sights set on Jeff Van Gundy).

Here’s the question Bird and team owner Herb Simon need to answer: If not Vogel, who do you have that’s better? Think about the coaches still on the market, who is better than Vogel?

Vogel gets his teams to defend like few other coaches in the league (the Pacers were third in the league in defensive rating this season with a largely overhauled roster), and that is the foundation of any winning team. Force an “offensive coordinator” assistant on Vogel if you want, but to give up one of the better young coaches in the NBA would be a mistake by the Pacers.

And if you want to play smaller and faster, get — and in the case of Solomon Hill try to keep — players who fit that style. Right now the Pacers roster is not constructed to be great that way.

Hornets future unclear with 4 starters becoming free agents

MIAMI, FL - MAY 01: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets takes the floor during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The Charlotte Hornets have a major decision ahead of them this offseason – keep the core group from a team that tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference or revamp the roster by adding new pieces.

With four starters set to become free agents and only seven players under contract next season, the Hornets have the flexibility to make major changes if they so choose.

Coach Steve Clifford said Monday he’d prefer to coach the same group again, but acknowledged it might be difficult to re-sign everyone given the NBA salary cap.

Much of the Hornets future could be predicated on what happens with unrestricted free agent Nicolas Batum, whom Clifford acknowledged will be the team’s No. 1 priority in free agency. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points along with 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Hornets during the regular season, although his production was limited in the postseason due to a foot injury. The Hornets lost in seven games to the Miami Heat on Sunday.

Batum could command a max contract this offseason due to the increase in the NBA salary cap. And while it is debatable if he’s worth that much, Clifford knows he’s a valuable cog in the starting lineup.

When asked if he wants to return next year, Batum said, “Why not?,” saying this past season was one of the most enjoyable of his eight-year NBA career. He liked the freedom Clifford gave him and the idea of being one of first two options on offense.

“I want to talk to (the Hornets) first, for sure,” Batum said of free agency. “July 1 will be a crazy day, but will Charlotte be my first call? Yes.”

However, Batum indicated he only wants to return if the Hornets make an effort to bring back the nucleus of this year’s team.

He said the chemistry of this year’s Hornets team was outstanding, on and off the court.

Along with Batum, three others starters – Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson – are also unrestricted free agents. Backup Jeremy Lin is almost certainly going to opt out of the final year of his contract given he has outperformed the $2 million salary he’s set to make in 2016-17.

“If you asked me would I be interested in coming back, there’s no question in my mind – it’s a resounding yes,” Lin said. “I would be very interested in coming back.”

Lee, Williams and Jefferson also indicated their desire to return to the Hornets as well, but it remains unclear if general manager Rich Cho can – or even wants to – bring everyone back for another run at the playoffs or if he’ll look in a different direction to upgrade.

Cho is expected to meet with the media later this week.

“I feel like any time, especially in pro sports, when you keep a group of guys together for three or four years, whatever the case may be, you can do some really good things,” Williams said.

A look at what the Hornets face this offseason:

BIGGEST NEED: Rebounding. The Hornets rebounded well in the regular season, but Clifford said the team’s struggles on the glass in Games 6 and 7 against the Heat was a big reason it was ousted from the playoffs.

GOOD NEWS: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed all but seven games due to shoulder injuries, is expected back next season. The former No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft is considered the team’s top defensive player.

BAD NEWS: By virtue of making the playoffs, the Hornets don’t have a lottery pick and may not have a chance to find the dominant offensive player that Clifford so desperately covets in the draft.

TOUGH ENDING: Kemba Walker said while losing to Miami in Game 7 was disappointing, the season is “one to be proud of.” Walked add, “At one point we were 17-20 and then we finished the season with 48 wins. I don’t think anybody expected that. Nobody even thought we would make the playoffs, so for us to force a Game 7 against a really good team like Miami.”

ZELLER AT CENTER: The Hornets plan to stick with Cody Zeller at center next season – instead of power forward – but Clifford said he still wants the 7-footer to work on his outside shot.

Doc Rivers says he doesn’t plan to break up Clippers’ core

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers leans on the scorer's table during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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Once again the Clippers had an impressive 53-win season where they were sixth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating — something done without Blake Griffin for large stretches of it — but it ended early in the playoffs. This time the reason was a legitimate one — Chris Paul and Griffin were lost to injuries — but the results are the same.

Is it time for a major overhaul in Los Angeles?

Not if you ask coach/GM Doc Rivers. Here is what he said on Monday, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times and Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

Those free agents Rivers likes are key bench guys: Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jeff Green. In the summer of 2017, Rivers and everyone else on the planet expects Paul and Griffin to opt out.

While the Clippers are good there is one big problem — Golden State is better and not going anywhere. They loom over the West like Everest. And that’s not to mention the Spurs will continue to be good and, depending on what happens with their key free agent, Oklahoma City is a very good team. The top of the West is stacked, and it’s hard to see the Clippers climbing out of it as currently constructed. They are in a loop where they are good but not good enough.

Changing that is not simple.

There are plenty of rumors that the Clippers will seriously listen to offers for Griffin this summer, and that they laid the groundwork for it at the deadline. But with Griffin showing some age and wanting a long max contract a year from now, how much are teams going to give up to get him if they could lose him in free agency? And will those teams want to keep him at that price in 2017? While the Clippers may be open to a deal they are a win-now team that can’t just get prospects and picks back for him, they need to get better now. That deal may not be available.

The Clippers most likely will come back with their core next season and make one more run at it, just because better options will not present themselves.

But the Clippers will be out there looking for a blockbuster.