Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jazz, Bucks make it night of the comebacks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking there are some really screwed up people in Germany….

Nets 96, Knicks 89 (OT): It certainly wasn’t the best-played, prettiest game of the young season, but it was the most intense. The one with the most playoff feel, both in the stands and on the court. The Knicks had their chances but had key lapses on offense and defense, and I broke those down in our game of the night post.

Thunder 114, Bobcats 69: The game wasn’t really as close as the score indicates. No, seriously it wasn’t. This was a 40-point game at halftime – 64-24 OKC — and Scott Brooks called off the dogs and benched his starters five minutes into the second half. The Bobcats have the only bench that made the struggling Thunder bench look good. If you want to see the number on this ugliness, we broke it down right here.

Jazz 105, Nuggets 103: The only thing hotter than the Nuggets and their four-game winning streak was the Jazz at home, where they have yet to lose this season. The Nuggets were running and gunning through the first 20 minutes of this game and were up 16, shooting 73 percent and getting 48 points in the paint in the first half.

But in the second half the Jazz were able to use their physicality to slow the game down to a pace they were more comfortable at, which led to a 14-0 third quarter run that made it a game. Denver got frustrated. Andre Iguodala got ejected. Utah also closed the game out with key bench players — Derrick Favors had 7 of his 19 in the fourth quarter. Al Jefferson had 28 to lead Utah.

Bucks 93, Bulls 92: If the Bucks can stretch out their lead early in the season and hold on to win the Central division once Chicago and Indiana get healthy, this will be the game they look back on. The Bulls had a 27-point third quarter lead but a 31-4 Bucks run by their bench keyed he comeback win. Milwaukee bench players had 56 points, Bulls reserves 10. Ersan Ilyasova — just moved to the bench so rookie John Henson could get more run, had a game-high 18. Rip Hamilton did have 30 for the Bulls.

Pistons 108, Trail Blazers 91: It was a tale of two young point guard. The Pistons raced out to an early 9 point lead as the shots fell, then in the second quarter Brandon Knight took over with 11 points on his way to 26 for the night. On the other end, the Pistons did good job cutting off Portland’s Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, plus he was just off, and he started 0-11 from the floor. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. LaMarcus Aldridge had a season-high 32 points for the Trail Blazers. Detroit has won three in a row on their hone court.

Spurs 118, Wizards 91: Seriously, how did you expect this to end? Nene and Trevor Booker were out for Washington and the Spurs are now a ridiculous 8-1 on the road. To the Wizards credit they came out with some desperate play early and kept it close for a quarter. Martell Webster had 13 first half points and played well. But the Spurs were the machine that is the Spurs. They wear you down with execution until they get open shots or have or Parker drawing fouls on drives. They went on a 17-6 run to take the lead in the second quarter, then a 10-0 run a few minutes later to stretch out that lead. And then it was over — seven Spurs scored in double figures, led by Boris Diaw with 16.

Grizzlies 84, Cavaliers 78: No Mike Conley for Grizzlies and if you look at the season-long numbers their offense takes a nose dive without him (it drops 10 points per 100 possessions when he sits). That proved true here. Meanwhile the Cavaliers got a fantastic effort from Anderson Varejao, who had 15 points and 22 rebounds, and Dion Waiters added 15 as well. Cleveland led most of the way but in the fourth quarter the Grizzlies defense woke up — Cleveland shot only 20 percent (4 of 20) and had one bucked in the final 5:30 of the game. That will do a team in pretty much every time.

Hornets 105, Clippers 98: It was bombs away — the to teams combined to take 33 three pointers, second most in NBA history (for a regulation game). Caron Butler had 9 threes (on 15 tries) and as a team the Clippers were 18-of-37 (48.6 percent). Impressive. But the Hornets were even better from deep —15-for-25 (60 percent), with Greivis Vasquez (5-for-8) and Ryan Anderson (5-for-9) leading the way.

The key moment was late in the third quarter, when the Clippers made and 8-0 run to tie things up and you expected the home team to pull away, instead they seemed to relax and the Hornets went on a 13-2 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. For the Clippers, the key things they need to do right this season went horribly wrong for a night. DeAndre Jordan was terrible (and played just 15 minutes). Their defense allowed the Hornets to score 117.8 points per 100 possessions and was terrible. I’d say chalk it up to an off night, but the Clippers are now 1-4 in their last five.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.