Boston Celtics v Miami Heat

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Celtics smack Heat around. Again.

25 Comments

What you missed while eating a pizza stuffed with hot dogs in the crust (no, that does not come with a free side of angioplasty)…

Bulls 98, Knicks 86: Derrick Rose missed another game — that is now 23 this season — but the Bulls were the better team and got the win in our game of the night.

Celtics 115, Heat 107: If you want, go ahead and dismiss this as “just one of those games” where Boston was hot — they shot nearly 61 percent on the night as a team. Those random nights happen in an NBA season. But when you combine this win with the Celtics mopping the floor with the Heat nine days before, you have to wonder if the Celtics have to be mentioned as contenders as well.

Miami played fairly well in this one, but it wasn’t enough. In a battle of defensive teams there was a whole lot of offense and the Celtics had more of it — 27 points from Paul Pierce, 24 from Kevin Garnett. Boston knocked down its jumpers — they hit 61.5 percent from 10 feet out to the arc and were 9-of-14 from three. Even Rajon Rondo was knocking down midrange jumpers consistently. Boston had fantastic ball movement. Boston had the better and more timely runs, including a 15-4 one in the fourth quarter that gave them a comfortable lead they would not relinquish.

You can argue that kind of offensive performance is not something Boston can sustain. Maybe not. But they have the league’s best defense and they have now beaten the Heat twice in the last 10 days. Convincingly. There may be a third team in the East we need to talk about as a contender now.

Wizards 93, Magic 85: Dwight Howard was out again and Orlando was terrible on offense again, shooting just 37 percent as a team. The Magic shot 20.8 percent in the second quarter and scored 12 points. Meanwhile Kevin Seraphin dropped 24 for Washington with no Howard in his way, and Jordan Crawford continued to play well and scored 17. This loss shows you just how bad Orlando is right now.

Cavaliers 103, Bobcats 90: Charlotte has been blown out by the Wizards and Cavaliers this week. It’s not that they are trying to tank, they are just that bad. The Bobcats need one more win this season to avoid finishing the year with the worst winning percentage in league history, and you begin to wonder if they can do that. For the Cavs, Lester Hudson keeps on scoring, he had 25.

Mavericks 110, Kings 100: Dirk Nowitzki was off (4-of-14 shooting) but Dallas responded with a balanced attack that Sacramento could not match. No Mavericks player had more than 15 points but six scored in double figures and even Yi Jianlian came in off the bench and scored 8. DeMarcus Cousins had 25 points, 18 rebounds to lead the Kings.

Sixers 107, Nets 88: Philly moved the struggling Spencer Hawes to the bench and started Nikola Vucevic at the five… but come on, that was not the difference here. The reason the Sixers found a groove and pulled away in the second half for an easy win is this is the Nets. The Sixers looked like their early season selves with a balanced attack — five guys with at least 13 points — and good defense that held the Nets to 39 percent shooting. The question is can Philly build on this kind of win?

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was in the building for this one. He must be proud.

Damian Lillard added to Team USA Olympic roster pool

Damian Lillard
Getty Images
Leave a comment

If you’re looking for a point guard who can flat-out score the rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many better than Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers’ guard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, with an above-average true shooting percentage of 54.6 percent, and a very high usage rate of 30.9.

He’s the kind of guy who might have a place on the Team USA Roster.

Which is why USA Basketball has added him to the pool to be considered for the Rio Olympics summer. The reason for the change is both Lillard’s level of play this season, and the fact he called USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to ask for a spot, as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Lillard deserves consideration, but there are two key reasons he likely doesn’t make the team:

1) He is still a terrible defender.

2) The list of guards for the USA Roster is ridiculous: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. And now Lillard. That’s 10 guys for likely five spots. It’s hard to see Lillard making that cut.

But he deserves consideration.

Kings co-owner Shaq: Vivek Ranadivé told me George Karl would coach rest of season

Shaquille O'Neal
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Leave a comment

Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”

How long is “for now”?

Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.

Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.

Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.

Chauncey Billups explains why not every player wants to go home

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
Leave a comment

LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.

Not every player wants to do it.

Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.

“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”

“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”

There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.

Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.

Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie.  Billups is honest.

And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.

Did Marcus Thornton steal free throws from Rockets teammate Clint Capela?

Leave a comment

Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.

Thornton went to the line.

Should he have? Or should Capela have?

Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.

It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.

So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.

I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.

Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.