Baseline to Baseline recaps: Robin Lopez, Luke Babbitt key wins. It was that kind of night.

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while trying to decide if you love or hate the new Air Jordan XX8….

Clippers 105, Jazz 104: Blake Griffin has his biggest scoring game of the year and the Clippers hand the Jazz their first home loss of the year. Our man D.J. Foster broke it all down for us.

Trail Blazers 118, Bobcats 112 (OT): You can’t stop Luke Babbitt, you can only hope to contain him. And up by 18 points with five minutes to go the Bobcats couldn’t contain Babbitt. Or LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists). Or Damian Lillard (12 points in the fourth quarter). Frustrating loss for the Bobcats because they owned the first 42 minutes of the game, but the last six and the five more in overtime were all Portland, and you can guess who won. Ben Gordon was himself, out there gunning away, and had 29.

Hornets 102, Bucks 81: To continue a theme… you can’t stop Robin Lopez, you can only hope to contain him. He had a single-handed 11-point run in the third quarter that had New Orleans pull away for good. Lopez finished with 21, Ryan Anderson 22. For Milwaukee, they over-dribbled and became easy to defend. Brandon Jennings had 25 and Monta Ellis 17 combined shot 28.6 percent and were not efficient. No other Buck got into double digits.

Nuggets 113, Raptors 110: Denver was in control of this one, up by as many as 19 in the middle of the fourth quarter, the game was up-tempo the way the Nuggets like it. Then the Raptors went on an 18-2 run, sparked by Kyle Lowry who had 12 of his 24 in the quarter. The Raptors got it to 105-104 with three and a half minutes left. But Ty Lawson hit a key three and the Nuggets hung on. Kenneth Faried had 18 points and 10 rebounds, we also had a sighting of good JaVale McGee, he had 17 points and five blocks.

Magic 102, Warriors 94: This was an impressive game for Orlando. You really shouldn’t underestimate the emotional investment they had in beating the Lakers and embarrassing Dwight Howard on Sunday night (why do you think they went to hack-a-Dwight?). Often a game like that there can be a let down, but the Magic showed up for the second game of a back-to-back and earned a win.

This game was tied 72-72 in the fourth when the Magic took control with a 17-6 run. Key in that run was J.J. Redick, who nailed a couple threes and finished with 22 points on 13 shots. Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo each had 24 points in the win. Stephen Curry had 25 points and 11 assists, but down the stretch the Warriors could not get a stop.

Pistons 89, Cavaliers 79: Cleveland shot 33.7 percent — Detroit owned the paint and blocked 13 shots on the night, meanwhile Cleveland shot just 3-of-20 from beyond the arc. Andre Drummond had three of those blocks plus a dozen rebounds (nine offensive), Jason Maxiell added five blocks. Detroit was in control the entire way with Brandon Knight leading the way with 17 points. The lone bright spot for Cleveland is that Anderson Varejao’s trade value went up with his 17 points and 18 rebounds.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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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 and 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 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.