Baseline to Baseline recaps: Are the Hawks and Jazz still playing?


What you missed while welcoming Don Draper back into your life…

Thunder 103, Heat 87: Kevin Durant outdueled LeBron James (making a nice MVP case), but the bigger concern for Miami should be that Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka combined to drop 35 on them. Matt Moore has a lot more as this was our game of the night.

Hawks 139, Jazz 133 (4OT): You’re reading that right — four overtimes. Twenty free minutes of hoop for the paying customers. First time the league has had a four OT game since 1997.

Let us not confuse a long and entertaining game with one that was well played — the Jazz went 2-18 at the end of the fourth quarter and first OT, the Hawks 2-10. First overtime saw the teams combine for four total points. Four. Joe Johnson took over in the fourth overtime and scored 8 of his 37 to ensure the win. Al Jefferson had 28 and Paul Millsap 25. Great game for fantasy leagues as each team had seven players in double figures.

Grizzlies 102, Lakers 93: Usually it is the length and size of the Lakers front line that bothers other teams, but today the size of the Grizzlies — one of the few teams that can match up with the Lakers — that really bothered Los Angeles. Andrew Bynum had just four rebounds. Pau Gasol shot 4-15. The Lakers as a squad just seemed thrown off their game. Memphis got 18 from Rudy Gay but it was O.J. Mayo (feeling at home back in his old USC neighborhood) who had 12 in the fourth quarter and helped Memphis get a win it needed to snap a three-game losing streak.

Mike Brown sat Kobe Bryant for a key four minute stretch of the fourth quarter. Kobe didn’t like it but wouldn’t talk about it after the game. This story is going to come up again. But for the record, the Lakers were +7 in that time he sat (and -13 the rest of the quarter). Also for the record, the Lakers lost because they couldn’t stop the Grizzlies, not that four minutes Kobe sat.

Spurs 93, Sixers 76: This makes a sweep of a back-to-back-to-back by the Spurs, but maybe the most impressive thing is they were the team playing with more energy in the second half. Great showing by Kawhi Leonard who seemed to control the paint. This game stayed pretty close until a San Antonio 8-0 run near the end of the third quarter, then a 12-2 Spurs run to start the fourth. Tony Parker had 21 for San Antonio, DeJuan Blair had 19. No Tim Duncan for the Spurs — he’s just old — and no Andre Iguodala, who was a late scratch for the Sixers.

Suns, 108, Cavaliers, 83: The Suns pretty much owned this game, being up 21 at the half and cruising in for the win. If the book on Steve Nash is to make him score not pass, well he had 4 points but 13 dimes. Marcin Gortat led the way with 20. The Cavaliers shot 38 percent as a team. Antawn Jamison was 1-for-8. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Timberwolves 117, Nuggets 100: Minnesota was in control from the start and up 25 at the half. Here’s all you need to know about Denver in this one: JaVale McGee was their best player (13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 11 boards). Kevin Love had 30 points, 21 rebounds, while Luke Ridnour added 25.

While they both are fighting to get one of those last playoff spots in the West, you get the feeling both of these teams may be lottery bound.

Celtics 88, Wizards 76: Boston has quietly been playing better offense of late, particularly at the start of games, and they did that in the start of this one with 21 points in the first 8 minutes. Avery Bradley led the way with 15 of his team-best 23 in the first quarter. Yes, You read that right, Avery Bradley. But forget the offense, what really mattered is the Celtics defense — the Wizards scored just 12 points in the first quarter. It was kind of a route from there on out.

Trail Blazers 90, Warriors 87: Two teams trying to tank the season — not officially, but if feels like it — yet someone had to win. Raymond Felton may have been the key here for Portland, scoring 19 points in the second half and draining three from beyond the arc in the final quarter. Charles Jenkins had 27 for Golden State, and if you just had to ask who that is remind yourself these teams are playing for ping pong balls at this point.

Cavaliers beat Raptors, become first team in 27 years to surrender 79 first-half points and win

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The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.

But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.

Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.

LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.

And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.

It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate
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Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: James Harden ‘best offensive player I’ve ever seen’

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

James Harden torched a solid Trail Blazers defense for 42 points on 13-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers, and seven assists.

That prompted his coach to heap praise on the runaway MVP.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“That’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden. “They’re running guys to him and he just steps a little further back and makes a 3. The way he can pass and see the floor, get layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner — he has so many weapons, and now he’s shooting those step-back 3s.

“It’s impossible to guard him. It’s impossible.”

At first, that sounds like hyperbole from a biased source. But Harden might actually the best offensive player ever. (D’Antoni has been around for all the major contenders.)

Michael Jordan gets overlooked because he was also excellent defensively. Ditto LeBron James to a lesser extent. Another contender: Stephen Curry, whose Warriors might file away D’Antoni’s assessment for if they meet Houston in the playoffs. (The Rockets provide plenty of motivational fodder.)

The list of contenders definitely skews toward the present. Players have gotten progressively more skilled, especially the generation that grew up with the 3-point arc and didn’t suddenly have to adjust to it.

And Harden might be the cream of the crop. He’s an incredible shooter with very deep range off the dribble or spotting up, and he can drive with the best of them. Yes, foul-drawing is a skill. Harden’s combination of scoring volume and efficiency is unprecedented. He’s also an impressive passer, a skill fully unleashed by D’Antoni making Harden a point guard.

I think I’d lean toward Curry, who’s an even better shooter and screener. But it’s very close, and Harden keeps raising his level. Curry probably peaked two years ago (though he obviously remains elite). I definitely wouldn’t dismiss anyone who picks Harden as biased or misguided.

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.