Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Playoff impacts everywhere you look

2 Comments

What you missed while getting drunk on peanut butter and jelly flavored vodka….

Heat 98, Thunder 93: Don’t read too much into “statements” before the playoffs start, but the Heat made one in one of our games of the night.

Lakers 113, Clippers 108: The Clippers had the big highlights, but the Lakers will take the win and likely the Pacific Division (and third seed) in our other game of the night.

Spurs 87, Celtics 86: Two veteran playoff teams put kept the Garden fans entertained in a close one… but when did Avery Bradley (19 points) become the best Celtic? For that matter, you could say Danny Green was the best Spur on the night (he had 14 and played good defense on Rajon Rondo). Stephen Jackson came off the bench for a good night for the Spurs. Be careful about saying this was a statement game of any kind — Boston scored 38 points in the second half, the Spurs 28 and both shot under 40 percent. This wasn’t pretty.

Mavericks 95, Grizzlies 85: Dallas used a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead and get the win, a run sparked by Shawn Marion’s dozen in the final frame. Dirk Nowitzki had 23, Jason Terry changed the tone of the game with his 15 and energy off the bench. O.J. Mayo had 17 to lead the Grizzlies.

Raptors 99, Sixers 78: Philadelphia is just falling apart. The Sixers scored 15 points in the third quarter and 7 in the fourth, allowing Toronto to pull away behind Andrea Bargnani (24 on the night). Philly looked good in the first half (58 percent shooting) but a different team came out of the locker room for the second half. Which is starting to sound like the Sixers season.

Pacers 109, Wizards 96: Washington fell behind big early, fought back in the second and stayed close =until a 16-6 third quarter run by the Pacers broke the game open and from there the rout was on. Darren Collison had 17 points and 11 dimes, Danny Granger had 20 points. The Wizards traded Nick Young in part to get Jordan Crawford more run and he is responding, he had 28 in the loss.

Suns 107, Jazz 105: Utah went on a late 16-6 run in the fourth quarter to make this a close game and tied it on an Al Jefferson bucket, but Steve Nash hit the game winning bucket by splitting the defenders and hitting a 15-footer. With the win the Suns move to within a game Denver for the last playoff spot in the West and are now half a game ahead of the Jazz. Seven Suns scored in double figures. Paul Millsap had 25 for the Jazz.

Hawks 120, Bobcats 93: The Hawks shot 57 percent as a team. Good on them, but most of the reason for that falls on what the Bobcats call “defense.” This was over by halftime. Josh Smith had 24.

Hornets 94, Nuggets 92: Eric Gordon was back and he had 15 including the game-winning free throws after drawing the foul. They missed him so. The Hornets led pretty much the entire second half. If the Nuggets fall out of the playoffs by a game or so, they can look back to this one.

Warriors 97, Timberwolves 94: After the game Kevin Love said the Timberwolves deserved every boo they got. I say if you are booing the Timberwolves at home your perspective on what this team is right now is way, way out of line. Enjoy the improvement and support them. Love had 29, the Warriors took a night off from tanking behind David Lee’s 31.

Trail Blazers 101, Nets 88: LaMarcus Aldridge is better than Kris Humphries and dropped 24. Portland used a 16-1 run in the fourth quarter to take back the lead and pull away.

Bucks 107, Cavaliers 98: Milwaukee went on a 12-0 run in the first quarter to take the lead and never looked back. Monta Ellis dropped 30 and the Cavs had no answer for him.

Pelicans’ rookie guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has died at age 23

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 04:  Bryce Dejean-Jones #31 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Smoothie King Center on February 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
1 Comment

This is a sad and stunning development.

Bryce Dejean-Jones, the rookie guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, has died, the Dallas, Texas, County Coroner has confirmed to NBC Sports. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune broke the news.

Dejean-Jones was just 23.

“It is with deep sadness that the Pelicans Organization acknowledges the sudden passing of Bryce Dejean-Jones,” the Pelicans’ organization said in a statement. “We are devastated at the loss of this young man’s life who had such a promising future ahead of him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family during this difficult time.”

The coroner’s office would not give a cause of death, but Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had the tragic detail.

The account of him being shot has been confirmed by multiple sources.

Dejean-Jones was undrafted out of Iowa State, he was picked up on a 10-day contract by New Orleans this season, but the rash of injuries the Pelicans suffered pushed him into a starting role for 11 games. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game, and to his credit did shoot 37.5 percent from three. On Feb. 19 he took a hard fall and fractured his wrist, which eventually required surgery and ended his season. He was a guy known for attitude problems at the start of his college career at USC the UNLV, but had seemed to mature and his game had as well. He looked like someone who could stick as a reserve guard in the NBA.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

LeBron James first player to reach six straight finals in 50 years

4 Comments

It speaks to an incredible level of talent — talent that was honed in countless hours in the gym.

It speaks to an amazing durability.

It speaks to leadership.

LeBron James has a long resume of accomplishments — two titles, four MVPs, and he hasn’t missed an All-Star Game or an All-NBA team for a decade — but he reached one of his more impressive milestones in leading the Cavaliers past the Raptors to the NBA Finals on Friday night.

LeBron has reached six straight NBA Finals.

He’s the first player to do so in 50 years.

The last guys to do this were Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy and other members of the 1950s-60s Celtics dynasty. Nobody since has done it — not Magic, Bird, Jordan, Wilt or the rest.

Yes, it helps cement LeBron’s legacy as one of the all-time greats, but more than that it’s something we need to step back and appreciate. These were all LeBron-led teams — he has been the leader on and off the court, setting the tone. That requires incredible talent and skill on the court, plus knowing how to make those guys better not just drag them along on your coat tails. It also takes incredible physical durability. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

“There’s only one LeBron James,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after his team was eliminated by James and company. “He makes a difference on whatever team he plays on.”

I can feel the typing in the comment section already: “But he’s 2-4 in the Finals, Jordan was 6-0” or “But he’s done it in a weak East” or “He keeps just jumping teams to where he has the most help.” It’s all just sad. Because LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age he faces a volume of criticism that past stars did not. It’s not that LeBron hasn’t brought some criticism on himself, but there is a need to tear him down that the mythologized Jordan never dealt with. We savored Jordan at the time; LeBron has never gotten that. Jordan took 13 NBA teams to the playoffs, six made the Finals; LeBron has taken 11 and seven are in the Finals. The thing is, it’s difficult to compare across eras in the NBA:

All of this is not to say LeBron’s record is better than Jordan’s, you and your buddies can debate that while sitting on bar stools until last call, but LeBron has been on an epic run through the peak of his career the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re a fan of the game, you should appreciate that, not try to tear it down (as if Jordan’s legacy somehow needs protecting).

What LeBron has done is a stunning accomplishment. If you’re in the same sentence with the legendary Russell Celtics teams, you’re doing something right.

Warriors/Thunder Game 6: Four things to watch as Oklahoma City tries to close out series

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors react in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

For the Thunder, it is a chance for validation and an opportunity to get the ring Kevin Durant (and Russell Westbrook, and the rest of them) crave. For the Warriors, it is their biggest test of the last two seasons. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, here are four things to watch.

1) Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson need to play better for the Thunder. After a couple of series where Waiters suddenly has been reborn as a quality NBA player who is the third playmaker the Thunder need, and after Andre Roberson dropped a career playoff high of 17 points the game before, both were MIA in Game 5. Roberson was 2-of-5 shooting and had as many points as fouls (six). Waiters didn’t hit a shot all night. This was tied to the Thunder returning to the bad habits of too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant taking on the world and OKC not enough ball movement in the halfcourt. The Scott Brooks Thunder of the past few seasons showed up in Game 5, if the Thunder fall back to those bad habits again, they will lose again.

I expect the Thunder to treat this like their Game 7 and play much better. They will have a real sense of urgency; their defense will again be energized. The question becomes can the Warriors match it?

2) Can Andrew Bogut keep the Thunder from scoring in the paint?
In Game 5, the Thunder were 8-of-18 shooting in the restricted area, and 7-of-19 in the rest of the paint. That’s not going to get it done. A lot of that was the impact Bogut had in the paint — plus he got help, the Warriors switched pick-and-rolls more, they packed the paint more and took away driving lanes. It all worked, in part because Bogut and Draymond Green played with much better energy than in previous games. Steve Kerr said he didn’t play Bogut as many minutes in the first four games due to foul trouble, he has to trust the veteran to play through fouls in this game. The Warriors have simply been better with him on the court this series and they need close to 30 minutes from him this game.

Tied to Bogut’s play…

3) Golden State defense needs to show up on the road. As noted above, the Warriors went back to a more traditional defense in Game 5 — they started guarding Roberson (rather than having a big “guard” and ignore him to protect the paint), they switched, they stayed home in the paint, and they just trusted each other and played their system better. It was a marked improvement. However, they did it at home — now they need to do it on the road, where Green, in particular, has been more prone to mistakes and frustration.

One key here worth emphasizing is the Warriors got back to switching most pick-and-rolls — that’s what they did all season, that’s part of why the “death lineup” is so successful defensively, yet in this series they increasingly went away from it (in part because of how they guarded Roberson). Switching is part of who the Warriors are, and while it will create some mismatches teams don’t want to stray too far from their core identity.

4) Stephen Curry needs to be MVP level Curry. Draymond Green needs to be his All-NBA self.
I’m not saying the same thing about Durant and Westbrook because I have no doubt they will show up with urgency in their games Saturday night. However, Curry and Draymond have been shadows of themselves in the two previous games in Oklahoma City, and if that happens again only one team is flying back to the Bay Area postgame.

Curry finished his drives a little better in Game 5, and at moments he blew by bigs switched onto him off of picks, something we have seen far less of this series than during the season. Green played well defensively in Game 5, he hit the boards hard, but he made some head-scratching offensive decisions. If the Warriors are going to force a Game 7, those two guys have to be elite in this game. The Warriors best players must lead. It’s that simple.

Watch LeBron James drop 33 on Raptors in Game 6 win

3 Comments

Friday night was a step forward in maturity for the Cleveland Cavaliers — given the chance to close out a conference finals on the road, in a place they had struggled, the team stepped up and did so convincingly.

They did it following the lead of LeBron James, who attack the basket from the start on his way to a team-high 33 points and 11 assists. LeBron set the tone and the rest of the Cavaliers followed.

Above you can see just how LeBron racked up those points. It’s an impressive display.