Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs, Knicks remain undefeated

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while you were finding out where Superman’s home planet Krypton actually was….

Spurs 101, Pacers 79: Don’t look now, but the Spurs are defending again this year. Which is how they crushed the Pacers. We broke it down.

Knicks 110, 76ers 88: Second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home but it felt a lot like the first game. The Knicks are still defending well and the 76ers are still willing to take bad shots in the face of it. Carmelo Anthony had a few more minutes where he wanted to go to isolation, but he had 21 points on 16 shots and was again playing defense. Raymond Felton destroyed Kwame Brown on the pick and roll on his way to 16 points.

And Rasheed Wallace had 10. When ‘Sheed is hitting shots like the one below you know it is his night.

Heat 124, Suns 99: This one felt over pretty quickly — Miami was up by 14 less than 10 minutes into the game, moving the ball and getting good looks on offense that the Suns couldn’t stop. Miami hit 15-of-26 from three, and when they do that they are basically unbeatable. Michael Beasley tried to fire up the Suns offense and score the only way he knows how — attacking with his athleticism. But that’s not going to work against the Heat. It doesn’t work most nights in the NBA period, but especially not against the Heat. Beasley went 3-for -13 on the night.

Credit the Suns for fighting to keep it in the teens for a while, but this was never in doubt. LeBron had 25 points and 11 boards, Dwyane Wade had 23, Ray Allen had 15 because the Suns stopped closing out on him on corner threes. Not smart. Shannon Brown had 18, Luis Scola had 15.

Timberwolves 107, Nets 96: The Nets had a 22-point lead in the third quarter and gave it all back — that happens when you shoot 4-of-22 to close out the game — in a painful loss at home. Alexey Shved had all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback along with Dante Cunningham, who finished with 11 points, 11 boards and was +18 on the night.

Brooklyn still had a chance late, this one was 96-96 with less than four minutes to go. But in those final minutes, Shved was the guy making plays, attacking off the pick-and-roll and getting a floater in the lane and setting up Nikola Pekovic for a bucket in the paint. Then a skip pass from J.J. Barea to Chase Budinger for a three had the Timberwolves up 7 with: 38 seconds left and it was over. Brooklyn did not execute a team offense at all, they went to too much isolation late and Minnesota could defend it.

Grizzlies 103, Jazz 94: Utah looked like the better side early with Memphis struggling to score and Gordon Hayward racking up 11 points in the first quarter. But the Jazz never pulled away and Memphis came storming back. Mike Conley was key with a dozen second half points and disruptive defense that kept Mo Williams off balance. Marc Gasol had 22 points, Zach Randolph 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Mavericks 114, Trail Blazers 91: For three quarters Portland fought and scrapped to stay with a Mavericks team that was hot shooting from the time the doors opened — Dallas put up 31 points in the first quarter. Wesley Mathews and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 20 for Portland. But Dallas got even hotter in the fourth and hit 78 percent of their shots in the final 12 minutes to pull away. O.J. Mayo had 32 on the night and was hot from the start (12 in the first quarter) then it was rookie Jae Crowder with 9 in the fourth quarter to help seal it.

Cavaliers 108, Clippers 101: Cleveland’s three best players just flat out were better than anyone the Clippers had to stop them. Kyrie Irving came out on fire and had 16 first quarter points mostly matched up on Chris Paul. Then Irving had the dagger three late (when the Clips had it at a three-point game) because Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan both laid back and let him take the shot uncontested. Dion Waiters had 28 points, hit 7-of-11 threes (including a couple from north Orange County) and just abused Willie Green. And Anderson Varejao had 15 points, 15 boards and made life hard for Blake Griffin (who still got 20 points on 14 shots). How a team with a front line of Griffin and Jordan gets abused on the boards nightly is beyond me.

Kings 94, Warriors 92: The Kings took control of this game in the third quarter, going up by 16 behind a strong quarter from DeMarcus Cousins (11 of his 23 came in the third). The Kings were still up 11 with just more than 4 minutes left but the Warriors came storming back and had their chances late — Klay Thompson missed a 17-footer and Stephen Curry back ironed a 30-footer for the win as time expired. The Kings get a win at home but their execution isn’t striking fear in anyone’s hearts.

Best part of this game was Keith Smart having to run out and get a black tarp off the court that had been covering an advertisement on the scoreboard but fell off midgame.

PBT Podcast: Celtics win over Warriors, all things Boston with A. Sherrod Blakely

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The Boston Celtics are for real.

In case you had any doubts, they ran their streak to 14 wins in a row by coming from 17 down – twice — to beat the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics have the best defense in the NBA, and it threw the Warriors off their game, something few teams have been able to do over the past few years.

Kurt Helin welcomes in A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston to talk about what this win means to the Celtics, why their defense is so good, how Kyrie Irving is fitting in, how young stars such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are rising up, and what is the deal with Marcus Smart. Also, there is a lot of Brad Stevens love.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley out at least two weeks with sore heel, Achilles

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Injuries are already starting to shape the playoff chase in the West — Rudy Gobert is out for at least a month in Utah, and the Clippers have lost six in a row as they battle injuries to three starters.

Now add the Memphis Grizzlies to the mix.

Mike Conley, the point guard who, along with Marc Gasol, is crucial to Memphis’ success, will be out at least two weeks to rest a sore left heel and Achilles, the team announced Friday. He could be out longer, Conley has had issues with this Achilles before, the team will want to be cautious, and by far the best treatment is rest.

Conley averages 17.1 points per game, is a great floor general running the offense, and is a quality defender at the point.

Memphis is 7-7 on the season and tied with Oklahoma City for the final playoff slot in the West, but the Grizzlies have dropped six of their last eight. What’s more, they are entering a gauntlet part of the schedule without Conley: Their next game is against Houston, then Portland, and in the next 10 they have the Nuggets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Spurs (twice). The danger is they fall far enough back from the playoff chase they struggle to catch up again.

Expect to see a lot more Tyreke Evans, who has been strong as a sixth man but now will have much more asked of him. Also, more playmaking duties will fall to Gasol, working out of the elbow, and both Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers will get the ball in their hands. The question is what do they do with it.

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

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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

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“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.