Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rando look on from the bench against the Brooklyn Nets in the second quarter of their NBA basketball game in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston falls and fails in Detroit

10 Comments

Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while watching the Andrew Bynum bowling gif over and over.

Lakers 119, Rockets 108: Two straight games with big point totals for the Lakers — 114 last game, 119 this one — and two wins. And that’s with Mike D’Antoni not even on the bench yet. Kobe Bryant fueled this one and Brett Pollakoff broke it down for us.

Pistons 103, Celtics 83: Well, this was ugly for Boston. On a lot of levels. Mostly that they came in against a weak team on the second night of a back-to-back and played like they wanted to be anywhere else. A little secret is that Boston’s defense hasn’t been that great this season — they were 19th in the league in points per possession before the Pistons lit them up shooting 54 percent. And scoring 44 points in the paint. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 13 boards.

Then came the fourth quarter sham where the Celtics kept Rajon Rondo on the court trying to get him to 10 assists to keep his streak alive. It felt like Wilt’s 100 point game (where his team started fouling to stop the clock and get the ball back so they could feed him). It was just ugly.

Sixers 86, Cavaliers 79: Jrue Holiday deserves the credit for this win — his defense on Kyrie Irving was fantastic all night, holding Irving to 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting, with 4 assists and 5 turnovers. Holiday was Irving’s blanket. Still the Cavs hung in until late in the game the Sixers hit five straight — two from Evan Turner (who finished with 19), two corner threes from Spencer Hawes, and that was enough. It wasn’t just Irving, Dion Waiters struggled in Philly with five points on 2-of-13 shooting and not a rebound or assist.

Nets 99, Kings 90: That would be five straight wins for the Nets, heading into a good test with the suddenly run-and-gun Lakers Tuesday. Andray Blatche was the star, dropping 29 points, 11 in the fourth quarter when they needed it. This was a two-point game early in the fourth quarter until a 13-2 Brooklyn run changed the dynamic. This was also the Kings fifth straight loss but they actually played better than in recent efforts. Maybe that was a new starting lineup, maybe a players-only meeting. Who knows? But it was a step in the right direction, led by DeMarcus Cousins’ 29 points.

Thunder 119, Warriors 109: Kevin Durant has his first ever career triple-double, Russell Westbrook dropped 30 and when that’s going on beating the Thunder is almost impossible. The Warriors made a go of it, they were getting balanced scoring (five guys in double figures) and Curry had 22. But it wasn’t enough because, well, the Thunder are just really good.

Knicks 88, Pacers 76: This is a game where the winning team shot 36.7 percent from the floor. You wouldn’t use the word pretty. The Knicks took control with a 13-3 run in the second quarter (they won the period 20-12) and that was enough. The Pacers offense without Danny Granger to create shots or as a safety valve late in the clock can just struggle. Carmelo Anthony had 26 to lead all scorers and still looks great when he gets the ball on the block.

Trail Blazers 102, Bulls 94: This game was tied up 73-73 but an 8-0 run gave Portland a lead they never let go of. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum each scored 21 points; LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 13 rebounds. Maybe the best player on the floor was Joakim Noah, who had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists. Both teams are now 5-5.

Raptors 97, Magic 86: Toronto is simply the more athletic, longer, more skilled squad and it showed in a couple runs. There was a 14-2 first quarter run sparked by DeMar DeRozan (11 points in the first quarter, 20 for the game), but to the Magic’s credit they fought back. Until the fourth quarter when a 19-4 Toronto run sealed it. Orlando shot just 26.3 percent and hit one three in the fourth. That won’t cut it. Meanwhile the Raptors bench took over — Amir Johnson had 14 in the fourth, Linas Kleiza 10. Quick shout out to former Celtic E’Twaun Moore who had 16 points and four assists.

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  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: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
3 Comments

The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
1 Comment

2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.