San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs lose and we have a DeAndre Jordan sighting

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while you were watching the first episode of the new season of Top Chef and thinking you could make an omelet….

Jazz 95, Lakers 86: Well, that was about as ugly as the Lakers have looked this season. Utah’s front line owned the Lakers, our own Darius Soranio broke it down.

Nuggets 93, Rockets 87: The Nuggets looked more like the Nuggets team a lot of us thought would give the better teams in the West trouble. D.J. Foster broke this down as our Game of the Night.

Clippers 106, Spurs 84: If DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin came out and played like this every night, we’d all be thinking the Clippers could be contenders. Jordan had 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds and was aggressive rolling to the basket like we almost never see from him, while Griffin added 22 points (on 16 shots) and 10 rebounds. The Clippers hit their first seven shots of the second half to pull away and never look back in this one.

The Clippers didn’t play with this kind of defensive energy against the Cavaliers or Warriors in recent games, they floated through those. This time they came out with a real focus to stop the other team. We’ll see if they can find that consistently. San Antonio falls to 4-1, after the game they just called it an off night for them. Which is also true, no Spur hit more than 4 shots from the field, but the Clips deserve some credit for causing part of it as well.

Celtics 98, Wizards 94 (OT): Boston didn’t look impressive but they got the win and that’s what counts. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead but never led by more, they shot 36 percent in the first half and let the depleted Wizards hang around. They got away with it.

Boston had a chance to end this on the last play of regulation, but rather than running a play we got to see a Rondo isolation three with no imagination whatsoever, and he missed it. In overtime Brandon Bass scored 5 to get Boston the win. Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 boards. Bradley Beal had 16 in his best game as a Wizard.

Suns 117, Bobcats 110: This ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the night, a game was tied 85-85 late before Phoenix pulled away. Mind you it was not one of the best played games — it lacked little things like defense, but it was fun. Shannon Brown had 24 points — 18 in the fourth quarter — and was a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc to lead the Suns to the win. He got help from Michael Beasley who had his best game as a Sun with 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Marcin Gortat had seven blocks. Byron Mullens had 24 to lead the Bobcats.

Hawks 89, Pacers 86: Welcome to the game of wild second half swings. Atlanta had been in the lead until an 18-0 run by the Pacers not only gave them a lead but a comfortable 14 point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Then Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver took over and Atlanta had an 18-0 run of its own to get the win.

Roy Hibbert continues to struggle this season — 9 points on 4-11 shooting and 7 boards. They need more from him with Danny Granger out.

Heat 103, Nets 77: Brooklyn is not a good defensive team. Miami is. That is what this game really was about.

Miami hadn’t shown a lot of defense yet this season but they held the Nets to 37 percent shooting overall and 3-of-21 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile the Nets could not figure out how to matchup with the Heat (they missed Gerald Wallace who was out injured). Brook Lopez was chasing Chris Bosh around and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade beat their men off the dribble and found nobody between them and the rim. The Heat were moving the ball crisply and it seems every shot they took was an open one. Wade had 22 points, LeBron 20 points (on 12 shots) and 12 rebounds. Rashard Lewis added 13 off the bench.

Grizzlies 108, Bucks 90: Memphis started the second quarter with a 9-0 run to take a comfortable lead and never looked back, cruising to a win on the road. Zach Randolph was a force with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Marreese Speights added 18 points and 11 boards off the bench. Everyone was pitching in for Memphis — Milwaukee made a run to get the lead down to 7 in the third quarter and Quincy Pondexter first then Wayne Ellington knocked down key threes and that was all she wrote.

Sixers 77, Hornets 62: No Anthony Davis, no Eric Gordon and no Austin Rivers meant no points — New Orleans scored a record franchise low as they shot just 33.8 percent and had 24 turnovers. The first half of this game was sloppy and ugly, but Philly opened the second half on a 10-0 run, took care of the rock and defended. Jrue Holiday had 14 points and 12 assists.

Mavericks 109, Raptors 104: Dirk who? Dallas is off to a fast 4-1 start with another win, this one earned without Elton Brand (wife having a baby), Shawn Marion (left knee), Rodrigue Beaubois (left ankle) and Dirk Nowitizki (knee surgery). Still Dallas was in control from the start, up double digits most of the night and got 22 from Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo. Andrea Bargnani led Toronto with 25 points.

Kings 105, Pistons 103: Well, someone had to win this one. The Kings picked up their second straight win at home over a Pistons team that is winless and playing worse than pretty much anyone in the NBA. Sacramento took charge in the second quarter and never really looked back, DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way. Greg Monroe had a triple-double in a loosing effort — 21 points, 12 boards and 11 assists.

Warriors 106, Cavaliers 96: No Anderson Varejao and no Tyler Zeller for Cleveland due to injuries meant it was the David Lee show for Golden State as he racked up 22 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Warriors to victory. The Warriors took control with a 17-4 run late in the third quarter, a run fueled by Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry (he finished with 19 points).

Timberwolves 90, Magic 75: This was a thrashing — Orlando needed a late 14-2 run to get the finals score as close as it was. To be fair, they got the lead down to five in the third quarter but Minny responded with a 28-6 run fueled by Greg Stiemsma scoring 10 of his 12 on the night, and that was it. Luke Ridnour led the Timberwolves with 19 points. Orlando shot just 35 percent for the game.

Stephen Curry says he will try to return faster than two weeks

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry watches while standing on the bench during the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets Monday, April 18, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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So far, the Golden State Warriors have looked just fine — thank you very much — without one Stephen Curry in the lineup. And as Dan Feldman and I discussed in the latest PBT podcast, they likely will be able to handle the Portland Trail Blazers without him as well. They don’t need to rush him back.

But Curry is rushing himself back and wants to beat the two-week timeline for his strained MCL that the doctors put out there, reports Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

Coach Steve Kerr said Curry looked good in treatment but did not do any work on the court.

Athletes are the worst people to ask about their own recovery timelines; they don’t get to top levels of their sport without supreme confidence and a certain feeling of invulnerability. They are always sure they can bounce back faster than the doctors say — sometimes that’s true, but not often.

So long as the Warriors are not pressured by Portland (sorry Clipper fans, you’re not advancing without CP3 and Griffin), they are under no pressure to rush him back. That second round series is expected to start Sunday in the Bay Area, if the Warriors can hold serve through the first two games then they can keep Curry on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, let the knee rest completely, and bring him back on their own terms.

The Warriors will need him back for the Conference Finals and beyond, but more than that this is a Golden State team set up to be a contender for the next four or five years, you don’t want to create a bigger problem for future years pushing too hard for a title this season if he’s not right.

PBT Podcast: Thunder/Spurs, Hawks/Cavs, and Game 6s talk with Dan Feldman

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to block Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Center on October 28, 2015 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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Friday night sees some big Game 6s across the NBA playoffs — Indiana has the best chance of forcing a Game 7 — but everyone is looking ahead to Oklahoma vs. San Antonio in the next round.

That includes Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com, who in this latest podcast discuss that series and the Atlanta and Cleveland series that tips off next week. Also they talk about the Friday night Game 6 matchups, and if Portland could beat Golden State if the Warriors do not get Stephen Curry back.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Report: Celtics believe they’ll get meeting with Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (35) looks to move on Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart (36) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The Thunder won 130-109. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
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The Celtics will chase Kevin Durant this summer.

Will it work?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

Ainge will be aggressive in free agency, team sources told The Vertical, and yes, that means a run at Kevin Durant. The Celtics believe Durant will meet with them this summer, but they know that meeting won’t accomplish much unless there are significant moves leading into it.

The Celtics are optimistic about meeting with Durant. The Warriors are optimistic about signing Durant.

That might just speak to different mindsets within the organizations – why shouldn’t Golden State be confident about everything? – but it also might handicap the odds of Durant’s next team. The Warriors definitely appear more likely than the Celtics.

Boston has plenty going for it: Brad Stevens, a solid young roster, extra draft picks (including the Nets’ first-rounder this year) and cap flexibility. But Durant wants to win now, so those more youthful assets mean only so much. It’s on Danny Ainge to prove he can turn that cap space into another helpful player, deal a Brooklyn pick or two for a veteran. That would become much easier if the Celtics win the lottery.

There’s a lot happening at once. If Durant isn’t coming, Boston might prefer to keep its draft picks and build slowly. Other free agents might not come. But if Durant is on board, that makes trades preferable and other free agents landable.

Of course, Durant should be the top option.

It appears the Celtics at least have their foot in the door.

Playoff preview: Four key questions about San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, center, scores against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Between 2011 and 2014, the Spurs and Thunder combined for six Western Conferences Finals appearances with at least one reaching it each year. Last season featured Warriors vs. Rockets. This year, one – but only one – of San Antonio and Oklahoma City will return.

1. Are these Kevin Durant‘s final games with the Thunder?

Let’s get this out of the way. Durant, as you well know, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. At this point, the best thing Oklahoma City can do to keep him is win. He knows the city. He knows the franchise. He knows the roster (which would likely return in similar form if he re-signs). Whether the Thunder send him into free agency with a good taste in his mouth is the biggest variable.

Will Durant leave just because Oklahoma City loses to the Spurs? Of course not. Will Durant stay just because Oklahoma City beats the Spurs? Of course not.

But this is a big opportunity for the Thunder to accentuate their positives – and the Spurs, another team in the Durant hunt, to do the same.

2. Who wins the Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup?

More directly on the court… Durant is involved in what might be the best individual matchup of the 2016 playoffs

Durant and Leonard should both finish top five in MVP voting. If they do, it’d be the first time two players top five in MVP voting who play the same position met in the playoffs since 2012, when LeBron James and Durant faced off in the Finals.

The matchup should be fun on both ends of the court, but it’ll be particularly intriguing when Oklahoma City has the ball. Durant is one of the NBA’s best offensive players, Leonard the best defender. I can’t wait to watch them go at it.

3. How do the Spurs handle Oklahoma City’s athleticism?

In his last 20 games against San Antonio, Serge Ibaka is 15-5. Ibaka embodies the athletic advantage the Thunder hold over the Spurs. At his best, Ibaka attacks with hops and speed the Spurs’ bigs can’t match. Ibaka looked old throughout much of the regular season, but he appeared rejuvenated in the first round against the Mavericks. If he was just saving his energy for the playoffs, following the Dwight Howard model in previous years, Ibaka could play a major role.

Ditto Russell Westbrook, who will challenge Tony Parker to keep up. San Antonio could cross match with Danny Green, but that presents complications in transition.

The Spurs are collectively more skilled, but the Thunder have done a better job than most at neutralizing that advantage.

4. Has Billy Donovan found a rotation that narrows the gap?

Billy Donovan passed his first playoff test against Rick Carlisle. Now the challenge grows even greater against Gregg Popovich.

One thing Donovan did right: Putting Nick Collison, not Kyle Singler, in the playoff rotation. Collison’s minutes could be key against a Spurs team that often plays two slower bigs. I guesses Singler rather than Collison would play regularly, which lowered Oklahoma City’s adjusted net rating by a few points per 100 possessions when projecting using only players in the playoff rotation.

I’ll again use nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s postseason rotation, once the first round ends. But for now, here are San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s ratings, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the playoff rotation:

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

Both teams — already strong by this measure — benefited from beating up on their first-round competition, and the Thunder got a bump for using Collison over Singler. Oklahoma City still trails the Spurs, but the gap is much closer than overall regular-season results would suggest.

Prediction: Spurs in 7