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.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.