Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pierce, Rondo lead Celtics to win

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching the Sandy relief concert and thinking the Who looked really old…

Celtics 117, Mavericks 115 (2OT): This game was fun. It entertained. Oh, no it wasn’t pretty at all — Dallas had 27 turnovers — but it had its moments. Like Dallas’ comeback from 14 down to make this game close. Like O.J. Mayo’s driving layup around Rajon Rondo and pulling and up-and-under on Kevin Garnett to send the game to a second overtime. Or like Rondo’s own driving layup in that second OT that really turned the tide.

Mayo had another big game, 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting — he’s starting to make a case he should be included on the West’s All-Star team. Vince Carter found the fountain of youth and added 20, while Shawn Marion came back from injury and 16.

Paul Pierce had 8 points in the second overtime (mostly from the free throw line) and finished with 34 points on 25 shots. Rajon Rondo had 16 points and 15 assists. Jeff Green had 15 points but needed 16 shots to get them. Dallas did a good job defensively and if it hadn’t been for the turnovers they would have won it.

Warriors 97, Heat 95: Golden State has been winning games but felt left out of the conversation of really good teams in the West. So they made a statement — and that was that they could win without Stephen Curry having a monster night (9 points) and without a super efficient night from their shooters (Klay Thompson had 27 points and was 5-of-13 from three). They gutted out a win. Golden State has five straight road wins now, they are 15-7 and you have to give them some credit.

And you have to check out Draymond Green’s game winner and a smart pass from Jarrett Jack.

Suns 82, Grizzlies 80: This is your upset of the night special and the dagger fell with a Goran Dragic shot. Just like we all expected. Brett Pollakoff broke this game for us.

Bulls 96, 76ers 89: With Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich out (actually the Bulls only had 8 players), it was Nate Robinson to start at the point for the Bulls and that sent Jrue Holiday into gunner mode — he had 26 points but needed 28 shots to do it. He took a lot of bad shots, which seemed to be the theme of this game. Chicago doesn’t have the firepower to pull away — Joakim Noah led them with 21 — but down one in the fourth quarter the Bulls rattled off a 7-0 run to take the lead. They then had another 8-2 run, they executed better late and got the win.

Nets 94, Raptors 88: It’s a wonder that the Raptors were able to compete at all in this one, let alone hang within a couple of possessions for most of the night given their depleted roster.

But the Nets were playing on the second night of a back-to-back after an emotional loss to the Knicks on Tuesday, so perhaps the general malaise against an inferior opponent was to be expected.

Ed Davis did everything he could for the Raptors, with 24 points and 12 rebounds on 11-of-13 shooting in 45 minutes of action. Jonas Valanciunas didn’t miss a shot, and finished 6-of-6 from the field. But the other six players in uniform couldn’t prevent a big third quarter from the Nets, which ultimately turned the game around and sealed it for Brooklyn.
—Brett Pollakoff

Jazz 99, Spurs 96: Mo Williams had missed a three 10 seconds earlier, but Paul Millsap got the offensive rebound and in the end Williams got one more shot — and buried the three as time expired to lift Utah over San Antonio. This was all about a late push for Utah, who was down but got a 9-1 in the final four minutes just to tie the game and give Williams a shot at heroics.

Millsap had a big line on the night, 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Al Jefferson added 21 points and Gordon Hayward had 19. Tim Duncan had 22 points and 21 boards for the Spurs.

By the way, Gregg Popovich ripped Danny Green for his defense on this last play, saying you can never step back on williams and give him room.

Pacers 96, Cavaliers 81: You could see a letdown game coming a mile away from this Cavaliers team, after going on the road to face the Pacers the night after Kyrie Irving returned from injury to lead Cleveland past the Los Angeles Lakers. It just took a little longer than most expected.

Cleveland actually came out strong, and led by 16 points late in the second period. But Indiana eventually showed up, and held the less-talented Cavaliers to just 23 second-half points.

Had C.J. Miles not dropped 28 points in 28 minutes for Cleveland, things might have been even more lopsided in favor of the Pacers.
—Brett Pollakoff

Hawks 86, Magic 80: Orlando has the ability to get you into low-scoring, grind-it-out contests, where the team hopes that execution late can help it to victory.

This was one of those games, but it’s tough to recover from a 15-point first quarter and a 34-point first half, no matter how much you make life miserable for your opponent.

The Magic cut a 16-point fourth quarter deficit down to six with just 2:10 remaining, but couldn’t pull any closer, and neither team scored in the game’s final 1:02.

Let’s just say that this one won’t exactly be sent to Springfield, Massachusetts for archiving.
—Brett Pollakoff

Rockets 99, Wizards 93: James Harden was back after missing a game with a sprained ankle and looked like his old self with 31 points on 20 shots. The Rockets led most of the way but it helped to have Chandler Parsons drop 11 of his 18 in the fourth. Washington was in this, actually taking a one-point lead in the third, but the Rockets immediately answered with a 15-2 run and never looked back. Bradley Beal dropped 20 for Washington.

Clippers 100, Bobcats 94: This makes it eight straight wins for the Clippers, a team people should start talking about as a potential contender in the West. Los Angeles led pretty much the entire way but give Charlotte credit for the fight — every time the Clippers started to pull away all game, the Bobcats clawed back. But never all the way back. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Matt Barnes each had 19 points, but Barnes got 11 of his in the fourth quarter.

Bucks 98, Kings 85: The Bucks led wire to wire in a game where the Kings were without DeMarcus Cousins (turns out you can’t punch a guy on the other team in the groin). That’s not to say the game wasn’t close, the Kings always seemed to be lurking, but when they started the fourth quarter 1-for-12 shooting, that pretty much did them in. Brandon Jennings scored 19 points, and Monta Ellis added 17 points and 11 assists for the victors. One bright spot for the Kings — Tyreke Evans was back and had 17 points.

Timberwolves 108, Nuggets 105: Minnesota took control of the game with a 12-5 run to start the fourth and were able to hang on for the win. A scrappy win because Kevin Love had an off night (3-of-17 shooting for 8 points). Nikola Pekovic led the Timberwolves 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting while Andrei Kirilenko added 18 points. Denver got the tempo up where they wanted it (100 possessions) and shot well (50.6 percent as a team) but Minnesota turned the ball over less, got more offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line more often. Minnesota also had J.J. Barea, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Kenneth Farried had 26 points and 14 rebounds, Danilo Gallinari added 24. Denver got within three and had chances late but Ty Lawson had a key turnover inside 30 seconds left in the game, then missed (and put his foot on the line) trying to hit a game-tying three as the clock ran out.

Thunder 92, Hornets 88: The Hornets were playing well with their young roster (three rookies finished in double-digits scoring) and were up 11 late in the third quarter when Thunder coach Scott Brooks went with a small lineup off the bench — Reggie Jackson, Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin, Kevin Durant and Nick Collison. It worked, OKC went on an immediate 11-0 run and took the lead. Durant had 25 of his 35 in the second half and Jackson hit a key three. The Thunder had to work for this one but they got it.

As for the Hornets rookies, Brian Roberts had 16, Austin Rivers 12 and Anthony Davis finished with 11.

Report: LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball have deal to play professionally in Lithuania

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This feels like a publicity stunt. Whatever the under/over is on how long it will last, bet the under.

That said, the two younger brothers of Lonzo Ball — LiAngelo, 18, and LaMelo, 16 — have reached a deal to play for a team in the highest level of the Lithuanian league. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN (before the signing became official).

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are in serious discussions to sign professional basketball contracts with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, sources told ESPN.

The club plans to decide in the next 24-to-48 hours whether to finalize agreements with the two American teenagers, sources told ESPN.

If signed, the franchise has hopes that the Balls – including their father LaVar — could be a marketing boon for the fledgling franchise, sources told ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports the deal is done.

Lithuania is a hoops-mad Baltic country of an estimated 2.9 million people who has three players currently in the NBA — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total, including Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis. You might remember the Lithuanian National Team wearing Grateful Dead inspired uniforms and taking the bronze medal in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics.

This is a country that takes its basketball seriously, and the Balls are a traveling circus and reality show. This could be a real culture clash, the kind of thing that ends quickly and spectacularly poorly. Here is some insight into the team from FIBA’s Lithuanian hoops writer.

Don’t expect the Ball children to play much, especially not at first.

The pay at this level is reportedly north of $1,500 a month, but that could be higher if the brothers are seen as a draw. With the report of the tight financial squeeze, this is likely a gambit on the coach’s part to boost revenue (in Europe, coaches are the CEOs of the organization, much more akin to the power top college coaches have than an NBA coach).

This is a league where men play and the game is taken seriously, it has produced not only Lithuanian players but Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes played there. This team apparently does not run the (suprisingly standard in Europe) two-a-day practices on non-game days, but their practices are longer and harder than most American versions. There are a lot of quality players — former American college/D-League guys, as well as good Europeans — who would love a shot like this. Who deserve a chance like this. If the younger Ball children do not perform and do not take this seriously, it will turn on them quickly.

LiAngelo Ball had gone to UCLA to play basketball this season, but after being suspended for shoplifting in China, his father LaVar pulled him out of college, designed a “Gelo 3” signature shoe for his son from the Big Baller Brand, and started looking for a professional contract. I’m not sure LiAngelo belongs at this level. As one scout told me last summer, LiAngelo was only at UCLA because Lonzo was a top recruit and LaMelo had a lot of potential. That scout wasn’t sure LiAngelo could stick in Europe.

LaMelo is a generally highly-rated recruit, a guy with crazy shooting range for a high-school Junior, but scouts had a lot of questions about his defense and the rest of his game outside of just shooting. LaMelo put up 70 points in an AAU game, but he cherry-picked the entire time, and the sense is there is a lot of that in his game. His father LaVar pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills High School this season after a new basketball coach said he was going to push his guys to play within a system on both ends. How well LaMelo adapts to a very different culture on and off the court at his age is a big question.

Maybe this works out. Maybe the Ball children are more mature in personality and game than I think, maybe this is the financial boost that Prienu Vytautas needs and it works for them. It’s possible. I just don’t expect it.

Matt Barnes announces retirement from NBA after 15 seasons

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When too many fans think of Matt Barnes, they think of the guy who tried to fight Derek Fisher, the nightclub incident in New York, the guy who was a pest on the court and racked up more than his share of technicals and fines in a 15-year NBA career.

Ask Barnes former teammates about him, and they loved him — off the court and on. He was the quintessential guy you wanted on your team and hated to play against.

Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.

Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well for the team after signing in Golden State — Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes stepped up his role and play. He earned that ring. However, this season there seemed to be no fit for him in the league.

Barnes was drafted in the second round out of UCLA by the Memphis Grizzlies and went on to play for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

I’m going to miss him. While he had a rough exterior and was plenty chippy on the court, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off. I wish him the best and know he’ll enjoy life after basketball.

Shaq on free throws: ‘I told Rick Barry I’d rather shoot 0% than shoot underhand’

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Rick Barry famously made 90% of his free throws while shooting underhand.

Shaquille O’Neal infamously shot just 53% on his free throws, inspiring hack-a-Shaq.

Why didn’t Shaq use Barry’s technique?

Shaq, via Emmanuel Ocbazghi, Noah Friedman and Graham Flanagan of Business Insider:

Shaquille O’Neal: Because it’s boring.

Business Insider: But it’s been proven to be somewhat effective.

O’Neal: No, it’s not. It’s not proven. Just ’cause a couple guys did it doesn’t mean anybody can do it.

I told Rick Barry I’d rather shoot 0% than shoot underhand. I’m too cool for that.

O’Neal is somewhat trying to protect his larger-than-life, jokester image. But he’s also speaking to truth.

Barry would have been a good free-throw shooter overhand, too. Shooting underhand wasn’t necessarily going to fix Shaq’s problems at the line. Just because it worked for Barry doesn’t make it a “proven” technique.

Yet, every poor free-throw shooter – from Shaq to Andre Drummond to Andre Roberson – has been pestered about shooting underhand. It might be the right form for some players, but it’s no silver bullet.

Report: George Hill unhappy after Scott Perry promised him, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter that Kings would compete for playoffs

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After a recent Kings loss, George Hill tweeted:

Reading too much into vague tweets is often folly, but Hill hasn’t looked happy in Sacramento. Despite signing him, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter last summer, the Kings are 8-18.

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune:

These are vets brought in to help a young team, and according to sources, were brought in with the promise of a team aiming to be playoff competitive.

But that promise was made to them by Scott Perry, who since left Sacramento and now makes personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. So the direction of the franchise has shifted since Perry left. An organization that brought in veterans aiming to win now is aiming to lose.

Not surprisingly, Hill isn’t happy, according to multiple sources

The Kings aren’t bad because they shifted direction after Perry left for the Knicks. They’re bad because they lack talent.

This team was mostly assembled by the time Perry departed, and it looked lousy. To whatever degree Sacramento is emphasizing youth post-Perry – Garrett Temple, Randolph and Hill rank in the top four in minutes – the won-loss record wasn’t changing much.

If Hill, Randolph and Carter didn’t know that, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Smart veterans like them should have understood the bargain they accepted.

Hill ($40 million guaranteed over two years), Randolph (two years, $24 million) and Vince Carter (one year, $8 million) took the money. In exchange, they’re stuck on a bad team. And that’s fine. Many of us prioritize salary in career decisions.

But now they’re dealing with the downside of that arrangement – grinding through a long, losing season. It’s disingenuous to sulk and blame Perry (though, if Perry pledged a team realistically competing for the playoffs, he overpromised).

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Sacramento isn’t making rapid improvement overnight. So, something might have to give with Hill’s mood.