Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nuggets, Warriors win thrillers

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while being thankful you don’t live next door to the guy with 478 birds

Clippers 92, Spurs 87: The temptation is to say it’s too early to say the Clippers are legit contenders. And it is, but they have now beaten the Heat, Spurs, Lakers and Grizzlies.  If they keep defending like this they are contenders. Chris Paul and friends won again Monday and D.J. Foster broke it down for us.

Nuggets 97, Grizzlies 92: Here’s the two stats you need to know out of this game — Denver grabbed the offensive rebound on 50 percent of their missed shots on the night; The Grizzlies turned the ball over on 18.8 percent of their possessions.

Here’s why it mattered: With one minute left in the game Memphis led 92-91 but here is what happened on the final possessions. First Marc Gasol picks up an offensive foul trying to back down and draw a foul on Danilo Gallinari (that’s a turnover). On the other end Denver’s Ty Lawson drives the lane, draws the defense, dishes to Andre Miller who misses a reverse layup, but JaVale McGee gets the offensive rebound for Denver and puts it in (Denver by one on an offensive rebound).

Memphis gets the ball back and is going for the win with a Rudy Gay isolation, but Andre Iguodala cuts him off and shuts him down, and Gay in trying to pass out of it turns the ball over. At the other end Lawson drives again, this time he kicks out to Gallinari at the arc and he drains the three. Denver by 4. Memphis has 12 seconds but they need a quick bucket, instead after a timeout Jerryd Bayless turns it over. Ballgame (save for the meaningless free throws). Turnovers and offensive rebounds killed the Grizzlies. That and Denver ending the game on 8-0 run.

Warriors 105, Mavericks 101 (OT): This game was another thriller. It got to overtime because with the game on the line tied in the final seconds of regulation the Dallas play call was a Vince Carter isolation from the top of the key. Apparently Rick Carlisle thought it was 2001, back when that was a good call.

The Mavs paid a price for that thanks to Stephen Curry, who scored the final eight points of regulation for Golden State, then had six more in overtime. Curry also had 9 assists on the night, the last of those to David Lee with 32 seconds left in overtime to give the Warriors the lead for good.

Bobcats 102, Bucks 98: Charlotte started the fourth quarter 0-for-9 shooting and this looked over, but they followed it 16-4 run and we had a game down the stretch. Charlotte took the lead with 1:38 left when Kemba Walker drove drew the foul and calmly sank two free throws. The Bucks had their chances the answer but couldn’t. First Monta Ellis (31 points on the night) drove the lane but missed the little floater. Walker gave the Bucks new life by missing an ugly leaner. Next time down Ellis comes off a Samuel Dalembert pick and had both defenders go with him and try to trap, so Ellis passes back to a wide open Dalembert who then proceeds to miss a wide-open 15 footer (there was a reason they doubled Ellis and left Dalembert open).

Still the Bucks got one more shot, when Ellis got a wide open look at the three to take the lead with :08 seconds left. That came because the Bobcats’ Byron Mullens didn’t show out on the pick and roll, Jeffery Taylor went under it, and that left Ellis wide open. Sessions hits a couple free throws and it’s all over but the shouting. Sessions had 23 on the night.

Hawks 81, Magic 73: This was a close game for a half but after a 17-2 third quarter run by Atlanta it was pretty much over. The Hawks win despite shooting 38.2 percent as a team. Atlanta could get away with that because just one Orlando player scored in double digits (Glen Davis with 11). Al Horford had 15 to lead Atlanta.

Pacers 96, Wizards 89: Somebody had to win this one. The Pacers had a 20-point lead in the third quarter then gave all but four of it back by the start of the fourth quarter because, well, they’re this year’s Pacers. They go through scoring droughts, but they still defend (Washington shot 35.2 percent for the game and averaged just 92 points per 100 possessions). They also had David West, who had 30 points including three big buckets down the stretch that kept the Pacers ahead.

Jazz 102, Rockets 91: The Jazz took control with a 13-0 run to start the second quarter and never looked back at a shorthanded Rockets team. James Harden tried to play through the flu but didn’t come out for the second half. Not that it would have mattered, the Jazz are just a different, more comfortable team at home — their ball movement is better, they had 30 assists on their 37 made baskets. Al Jefferson led Utah with 14 points and 16 boards.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.

Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia cleared to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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These playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when Zaza Pachulia is on the court as opposed to on the bench. That’s a bit misleading, the reason for the gaudy number is he rounds out the dominant starting lineup, which has outscored teams by 32.6 points per 100 this postseason (that is actually better than the legendary “death lineup” in these playoffs). Pachulia is just the first big in the rotation with four All-Star, powerhouse players, but he fills his role well.

Pachulia was slowed by a sore right heel against the Spurs but is 100 percent and ready to go for the Finals when they tip-off Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Here are the details via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Zaza Pachulia, the only injured Warrior rotation player late in the Spurs series, has participated in all parts of all three practices, without restriction on that sore right heel. He is on track to start Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday.

“We’ve done running, had scrimmages and he’s done everything,” Mike Brown said.

He will have a crucial role on the glass against the Cavaliers. Cleveland brings two dominant rebounders to the party with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (plus that LeBron James guy can get some boards), the Warriors will use Pachulia to counter. Before you roll your eyes, he had 13 boards in the second meeting of these teams in the regular season, a blowout Golden State win.

He’s the first big in a rotation of them the Warriors will throw at Cleveland — JaVale McGee may get a little time, but expect a lot of small-ball lineups from the Warriors. If Pachulia can give Golden State a solid 18 minutes a night where he is strong on the glass and helps protect the rim, it will be huge for them.

Pachulia is going to get his shot, he’ll be healthy and ready to go.