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.

What does Boston do without Gordon Hayward? Five things to watch

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Gordon Hayward’s injury sucked the air out of Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night. Cavaliers fans were buzzing, gave Hayward a standing ovation as he was carted off the court, and never got back to booing Kyrie Irving with the same venom, as it seemed petty after what had just happened.

Hayward is in Boston, will soon have surgery to fix things, and start a long road of recovery.

What do the Celtics do the rest of the season? (Or, until he gets back if you want to be an optimistic Celtics’ fan.) How much does this hurt Boston?

• Long-term, not too much changes. That comes with the caveat: So long as Hayward is able to recover and be himself again. With Danny Ainge at the helm, the Celtics have always taken the long view. They have not been in a rush to challenge LeBron James and the Cavaliers for East supremacy this season, thinking more about next season and beyond. That doesn’t change now. By next season Hayward should be back and healthy (*knocking on wood*) and the plan does not change.

• Welcome to the Kyrie Irving show. Boston’s offense could resemble last season’s “turn Isaiah Thomas loose” offense at times because the Celtics are back to having one primary shot creator. Hayward was going to be the glue guy who could be a secondary shot creator, a guy who would keep the ball moving, and the new guy used to playing in Brad Steven’s motion offense. Now, it’s the Kyrie show.

Stevens will try to get Irving and the team to buy into his motion offense (Irving did move well off the ball in the opener) but last season there was a lot of IT isolation plays, and we may see that at points with Irving (one of the games’ best iso shot creators). Irving had 22 points and 10 assists in the loss opening night, and he got them in the flow of the offense without stopping the ball to go isolation. He’s going to be asked to continue to do that and put up similar numbers or better, and to take the clutch shots for this team.

• Small Ball lineups. With or without Hayward, this was always part of the plan — have Al Horford at center, Irving at the point, and a bunch of 6’6” to 6’9” interchangable wings, play fast and shoot threes (count Marcus Morris in that group when he returns). The goal was to space the floor and create driving lanes for Irving and Hayward, but the plan still works for Irving.

It didn’t work ideally late in the opener, but LeBron James and the Cavaliers create unique challenges no other team in the East does. (Jaylen Brown played hard and had a great game, but he can’t stop LeBron down low late in games, only a couple of players in the entire league stand a chance at that.) The real question for the Celtics’ small ball lineup is they have to knock down their threes or defenses will sag off. Brown was 2-of-9, Marcus Smart 0-of-4, and as a team the Celtics shot 25 percent from three for the game. That has to improve for the small ball lineups to thrive.

• Can they get enough stops? This was the biggest question about the Celtics before one of their better wing defenders on the roster went down. They don’t have a classic rim protector (Aron Baynes did a little of that off the bench, but he’s mostly a big body) and their defenders tend to be either young and inexperienced or disinterested.

Boston’s defense wasn’t going to be that good before, but how big a step back they take in wins after the Hayward injury will be more about defense than offense. Boston will miss Hayward on this end of the court.

• Young players get a lot of run, team gets to evaluate roster. Just how good is Jayson Tatum, who can make tough, contested shots but needs to find a way to get easy buckets, too? How big a step can Jaylen Brown take? Has Marcus Smart developed to the point the Celtics will pay to keep him next summer? What kind of player can Semi Ojeleye develop into?

There’s going to be more data, more minutes, more eyeball tests to answer these questions now. Brown led the Celtics with 25 points in the opener, and Tatum scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Those were promising stars, but the tests for these young Celtics stars will be season long.

Smart is the biggest question in that list, and he’s going to get the biggest minutes bump with Hayward out. He’s a restricted free agent next summer and is playing for his paycheck now. He’s going to be one guy to watch on this team.

Fake Klay Thompson almost steals show in Golden State

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Klay Thompson was everywhere Tuesday night for the Warriors.

He had 16 points, knocked down four threes, and had six boards. He was also chillin’ in the stands enjoying the game.

Well, that was “fake” Klay Thompson in the seats — fully decked out in a Golden State uniform and sitting almost right behind the team bench at Oracle — but the cameras loved him.

Heck, “fake Klay” even had a take on real Klay’s first-half performance.

I wonder if I can get fake Klay to sign my toaster?

76ers’ Markelle Fultz to make NBA debut close to home in Washington

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Markelle Fultz gets to start the next chapter of his career in a familiar setting.

The No. 1 pick in the draft will make his NBA debut for the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at the Washington Wizards, about a half-hour from home. Fultz grew up in nearby Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in Prince George’s County and played at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville and will have many friends, family members and former coaches in attendance.

“Being able to have his first game in his backyard, I’m so happy for him,” said Keith Williams, Fultz’s AAU coach, trainer and mentor. “It’s perfect. It couldn’t have worked out better.”

Not wanting to throw Fultz “into the fire,” Sixers coach Brett Brown is easing the 19-year-old in by bringing him off the bench after missing portions of the preseason with shoulder and knee injuries. Fultz will be just the third top pick since 2003 to be active and not start his season opener, joining Anthony Bennett and Andrea Bargnani.

Fultz said he’s OK with the decision to come off the bench and considers opening in Washington “almost the best thing that could happen” to him. Expectations are high on the University of Washington product, so starting in his backyard is a substantial positive for Fultz, who was cut from his high school team as a sophomore and came back to become a blue chip prospect.

“The world’s going to spin pretty quickly here,” DeMatha coach Mike Jones said. “Sometimes things are going to seem like they’re a blur to him. Him being able to get started on that journey here in front of a lot of people that supported him and looked up to him I think is a great thing.”

Fultz will face 2010 top pick John Wall, and Williams hopes Fultz doesn’t feel too many jitters in his first pro game. Because Brown said Fultz “didn’t play” enough in the preseason, perhaps getting to come off the bench eases some of the pressure.

“At the end of the day, I want to do whatever I got to do to help my team win, so if that’s coming off the bench, I’m fine with that,” Fultz said. “Just contribute in any ways I can.”

Fultz is joining a young Philadelphia team featuring Joel Embiid and 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, who will also be making his NBA debut after missing all of last season with a foot injury. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Fultz is expected to share the ball-handling duties with Simmons, and there’s plenty of intrigue about how he’ll handle the jump.

“I know he’s a strong, athletic point guard that brings a lot of toughness to the game,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “I like what I’ve seen so far, regardless of limited playing time. But he has great size. He has great size, and you can’t teach that. He’s a strong point guard that’s going to have a bright future.”

Williams thinks Fultz, if given opportunities, could average 18 to 20 points a game as a rookie. After seeing Fultz think the game beyond his age, Jones has high expectations for him.

“He’s capable of being one of the best guards in the NBA,” Jones said. “Every year he’s going to get better and better and better. I know that’s his goal, and I’ve learned through the years to never bet against him. I know that he wants to be the best player he possibly can be, and with each passing month of this season, his rookie year, he’s going to push himself to that.”

 

LeBron James on boos Kyrie Irving faced: “It was nothing”

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LeBron James knows about being booed by Cleveland fans — there was more venom thrown his way upon his return to Cleveland after bolting for Miami than Jack Tatum at a Steelers’ or Patriots’ fans bar.

He heard the boos rained down upon Kyrie Irving, upon return to Cleveland after forcing his way off the Cavaliers, and LeBron shrugged. Here is a video of his comments.

“That was nothing. What do you want me to say? I’ve experienced big boos before. That was like a pat on the back. It could never… I love our fans to death. That was nothing.”

To be fair to Cavaliers fans, the gruesome Gordon Hayward injury sucked the air out of the building and made booing someone for changing teams seem petty. The energy in the building was understandably never the same after that.

But even before the injury, this wasn’t the same level of hatred that had been reserved for LeBron before in Cleveland. In part because LeBron handled his exit poorly (not that Irving was smooth, but there were no television shows to broadcast the decision) and LeBron was the native son seen as deserting his family. It was different.

Kyrie Irving had 22 points but, with LeBron guarding him, missed a three-pointer to tie the game, and the Cavaliers won 102-99.