Thunder forward Durant reacts after a three point shot against the Atlanta Hawks in the second half of their NBA basketball game in Atlanta

Baseline to Baseline recaps: That Kevin Durant guy is pretty good

3 Comments

Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while being more than willing to do your part to fight breast cancer….

Knicks 100, Nets 86: Battle of New York? Not really. The Knick are an elite team that got Carmelo Anthony back and he dropped 31 (that makes it 110 points on the Nets in their three meetings). The Nets are 2-8 in their last 10 and struggling on defense. We break it all down in more detail here.

Thunder 100, Hawks 92: And the Thunder are up to an even dozen wins in a row after cruising to a win over the Hawks (don’t let the final score fool you, this simply was not that close). The Thunder started to pull away at the end of the first quarter and never lost that lead. Russell Westbrook owned the first half, scoring 21 of his 27.

The Hawks fought back and early in the fourth quarter got the lead down to 4, but then it was the Kevin Durant show, he had 18 in the fourth quarter on his way to 41 for the game. The Hawks would make runs in the fourth quarter, then Durant would happen. There was nothing anyone could do. Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 19 points, Josh Smith had 17 points and 12 boards.

Rockets 125, 76ers 103: Finally, James Harden and Jeremy Lin clicked on the same night — Harden finished with 33 (and got 17 at the free throw line as he was aggressive) and Lin 18 points on 12 shots. When they both score like that the Rockets are very difficult to beat. Of course, it helps to play the Sixers, who have been a defensive disaster for a couple weeks now. Mix those two and you Houston shooting 56 percent on the night and cruising for the win.

Celtics 103, Cavaliers 91: Paul Pierce can still take over a game — he dropped 40 and keyed the win that stopped the Celtics three game losing streak. But it wasn’t easy. Boston pulled away late in the second quarter and early in the third, eventually leading by 20. But then a 20-2 run sparked by Kyrie Irving (22 points on the night) cut that all the way down to two in the fourth. It took a key layup by Rajon Rondo and some Pierce fireworks to seal the win for Boston.

It’s a win for the Celtics, but this is a 5-22 Cavaliers team, losers of five straight, who were without Anderson Varejao, and the still were in it in the fourth quarter. The Celtics still have some issues to work out.

Grizzlies 90, Bucks 80: Good defensive teams win games because even on nights their offense goes cold they stay in the game and have a chance. That’s how Memphis won this — they can win ugly as well or better than any team in the league. The Grizzlies shot just 40.9 percent on the night, but that was better than the Bucks 35.3 percent.

The king of futility in this game goes to Monta Ellis, who started 0-for-13 shooting (he hit his last shot of the game to go 1-14). On the other end of the spectrum, Zach Randolph had 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Pacers 104, Jazz 84: This was a blowout of epic proportions for the Pacers. Indiana led by as many as 32 points on the night, and had this game wrapped up by halftime after a horrific offensive second quarter from the Jazz.

Utah managed just eight second-quarter points on 3-of-20 shooting, while missing all eight of its three-point attempts in the period. Indiana wasn’t that much better, scoring just 22 points on 42.9 percent. But it was enough to build a 22-point lead by halftime that was never in jeopardy the rest of the way.

The Pacers got balanced scoring, with five players in double figures and three — Paul George, George Hill, and Gerald Green — all getting 20-plus.

The Jazz were coming off of a nice win in Brooklyn the night before, but an effort like this tends to erase that memory pretty fast. “I don’t know if we can get past this quickly,” Utah guard Gordon Hayward said afterward, which is probably the appropriate response.
—Brett Pollakoff

Kings 131, Warriors 127: We had an old-fashioned shootout in Sacramento. There were 102 possessions (the league average is close to 94) and both teams shot 50 percent. The game was tied 118-118 with 2:13 left when the Kings when John Salmoms attacked off the dribble and Stephen Curry — who had 23 points in the second half and 32 for the game — picked up his sixth foul and went to the bench. That was followed by an Aaron Brooks three and a Marcus Thornton three (he had 19 points) to get the Kings the win. Sacramento was 11-of-19 from three and that was key in the game.

DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and Brooks had 23 — and both took just 12 shots a piece. David Lee put u 29 points and eight rebounds for Golden State, while Jarrett Jack added 28 points.

Clippers 93, Hornets 77: After the Clippers picked up their 11th win in a row, owner Donald Sterling went into the Clippers locker room and led a “hip-hip hooray” chant. Seriously.

As for the game, the Clippers are just way more talented and it showed. Lob City was in full effect, Los Angeles was having fun. They led by 10 at the half and when the Hornets made a run to get it close in the third quarter the Clippers went on a 13-3 run and that was it. Chris Paul ended up with 10 points and 12 assists.

Suns 121, Bobcats 104: Believe it or not, this game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate … which is to say, it wasn’t close at all.

A 22-6 run from Phoenix over the first six-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter ran the Suns lead to 17, and put this one out of reach. Charlotte clearly carried some feelings of disappointment from Tuesday night’s close loss to the Lakers into this one, and didn’t have the energy to fight back from a lead that reached 20 before the end of the first half.

The Suns smelled blood once the third quarter began, and Shannon Brown had 18 points in the period on 7-of-10 shooting, including hitting four of his five shots from three-point distance. It was a season-high 26-point performance for Brown, surpassing his previous season-high, which also came against the Bobcats.

The lead got as high as 30 before the fourth quarter began, and the Bobcats cut into it to get within 14 once the Suns had already checked out for the evening, but the game was never in doubt. The Suns rained down a season-best 17 three-pointers, and did so on just 28 attempts for a mark of 60.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Kemba Walker led all scorers with 27 points on just 14 shots. The Bobcats players are buying what head coach Mike Dunlap is selling to a certain extent, but it was clear in the locker room afterward that the losing streak, now at 13 games, is beginning to weigh on these guys.
—Brett Pollakoff

Raptors 97, Pistons 91: Is Toronto better without Andrea Bargnani? It’s looking that way. The Raptors won their fourth straight with Bargnani sidelined due to injury, this time over a dreadful Pistons team that is now just 2-13 on the road this season.

DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson did the heavy lifting offensively for Toronto with 23 points and 16 points respectively, while Jose Calderon continued his strong play at the point with 17 assists.

Greg Monroe had a career-high 35 points to go along with 10 rebounds, but Rodney Stuckey was the only other Piston player to finish in double figures with 13 points.
—Brett Pollakoff

Magic 90, Wizards 83: The one thing these two teams have in common is the fact that no one expected either to be very good at all this season. While Orlando has exceeded all expectations by somehow getting out to a more-than-respectable 12-13 start, Washington seems intent on making sure those preseason projections were as accurate as possible — and then some.

This one wasn’t pretty, with each team managing to score less than 15 points in one of the two final periods; the Magic outscored the Wizards 38-33 in a fairly brutal second half.

Nene and Jordan Crawford led Washington with 20 and 19 points respectively, while the Magic got big contributions in limited minutes from two of their reserves. J.J. Redick had 17 points in 26 minutes, and E’Twaun Moore chipped in 15 in 20 minutes.

Glen Davis left the game with under a minute to play, after appearing to suffer a shoulder injury following a hard foul from Emeka Okafor. His status will be worth watching in the days ahead.

The loss dropped the Wizards to 1-11 on the road, and just 3-20 on the season.
—Brett Pollakoff

Playoff preview: Four key questions about San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, center, scores against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
1 Comment

Between 2011 and 2014, the Spurs and Thunder combined for six Western Conferences Finals appearances with at least one reaching it each year. Last season featured Warriors vs. Rockets. This year, one – but only one – of San Antonio and Oklahoma City will return.

1. Are these Kevin Durant‘s final games with the Thunder?

Let’s get this out of the way. Durant, as you well know, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. At this point, the best thing Oklahoma City can do to keep him is win. He knows the city. He knows the franchise. He knows the roster (which would likely return in similar form if he re-signs). Whether the Thunder send him into free agency with a good taste in his mouth is the biggest variable.

Will Durant leave just because Oklahoma City loses to the Spurs? Of course not. Will Durant stay just because Oklahoma City beats the Spurs? Of course not.

But this is a big opportunity for the Thunder to accentuate their positives – and the Spurs, another team in the Durant hunt, to do the same.

2. Who wins the Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup?

More directly on the court… Durant is involved in what might be the best individual matchup of the 2016 playoffs

Durant and Leonard should both finish top five in MVP voting. If they do, it’d be the first time two players top five in MVP voting who play the same position met in the playoffs since 2012, when LeBron James and Durant faced off in the Finals.

The matchup should be fun on both ends of the court, but it’ll be particularly intriguing when Oklahoma City has the ball. Durant is one of the NBA’s best offensive players, Leonard the best defender. I can’t wait to watch them go at it.

3. How do the Spurs handle Oklahoma City’s athleticism?

In his last 20 games against San Antonio, Serge Ibaka is 15-5. Ibaka embodies the athletic advantage the Thunder hold over the Spurs. At his best, Ibaka attacks with hops and speed the Spurs’ bigs can’t match. Ibaka looked old throughout much of the regular season, but he appeared rejuvenated in the first round against the Mavericks. If he was just saving his energy for the playoffs, following the Dwight Howard model in previous years, Ibaka could play a major role.

Ditto Russell Westbrook, who will challenge Tony Parker to keep up. San Antonio could cross match with Danny Green, but that presents complications in transition.

The Spurs are collectively more skilled, but the Thunder have done a better job than most at neutralizing that advantage.

4. Has Billy Donovan found a rotation that narrows the gap?

Billy Donovan passed his first playoff test against Rick Carlisle. Now the challenge grows even greater against Gregg Popovich.

One thing Donovan did right: Putting Nick Collison, not Kyle Singler, in the playoff rotation. Collison’s minutes could be key against a Spurs team that often plays two slower bigs. I guesses Singler rather than Collison would play regularly, which lowered Oklahoma City’s adjusted net rating by a few points per 100 possessions when projecting using only players in the playoff rotation.

I’ll again use nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s postseason rotation, once the first round ends. But for now, here are San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s ratings, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the playoff rotation:

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

Both teams — already strong by this measure — benefited from beating up on their first-round competition, and the Thunder got a bump for using Collison over Singler. Oklahoma City still trails the Spurs, but the gap is much closer than overall regular-season results would suggest.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

Report: Deron Williams opting out of Mavericks contract

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball agains Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Center on November 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Deron Williams sacrificed $16 million to leave the Nets in a buyout last summer. He recouped $5,378,974 with the Mavericks this season.

Now – instead of exercising his $5,621,026 player option – he’s looking to get more.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Deron Williams intends to opt out of the second season of his contract with the Mavericks, sources told ESPN.com.

Williams could return to the Mavericks. They’re one of the few teams that need a starting point guard, and two others that do – the Nets and Knicks – are probably off the table given Williams’ antipathy for a large market. Expect Dallas to at least try for an upgrade like Mike Conley first.

But even if Williams signs as a backup, he can still probably command more than $6 million next season. With the salary cap skyrocketing to about $92 million and so many teams flush with cap space, the salary picture is changing.

This also increases the Mavericks’ potential cap space.

They project to fall about $24 million under the cap, counting cap holds for Williams, Chandler Parsons (who has a player option that could go either way) and Dwight Powell. In other words, Dallas could spend that $24 million then exceed the cap to re-sign Williams, Parsons and/or Powell.

Renouncing Williams ($6,454,769 cap hold), Parsons ($19,969,950 cap hold only if he opts out) and/or Powell ($1,180,431) could clear additional cap room. Parsons opting in would restrict the Mavericks’ ability to clear space .

Williams would have been a bargain if he opted in. Instead, Dallas gains flexibility.

Report: Kings willing to trade DeMarcus Cousins because his moodiness bothers teammates

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins walks up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 104-94. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
AP Photo/Darren Abate
7 Comments

The Kings, after years of shutting down DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors, will reportedly seriously explore the market.

What changed for Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac?

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

the sense within the organization is Divac is tempted by the prospect of pairing his center with his personally selected coach but that he has become increasingly frustrated by his center’s ongoing issues and, for the first time, is willing to test the market for the two-time All-Star.

The disconnect between Karl and Divac, and Karl and Cousins, is rivaled closely by the discord within the fragmented locker room. Apart from Rondo, Cousins has few friends among his teammates. Several players privately have complained to management about his mood swings and disrespect for those around him, including his coaches and in particular Karl.

I still doubt Sacramento trades Cousins. There’s a vast gulf between soliciting Cousins offers and actually pulling the trigger on one. He remains one of the NBA’s most valuable players – already a star, 25 and locked up for two more seasons at a reasonable $35 million combined. It’d take a haul to land him, and I doubt any team offers a package that sways Divac – though a few could have him thinking.

But Cousins’ moodiness is a problem. It gets him harmful technical fouls, takes him out of games mentally and – as we learn here – upsets his teammates.

It seems the Kings are attempting to scare him straight – reports like this leaking, including one that their next coach will have management’s backing if he wants to discipline Cousins.  They have to try something. Rajon Rondo‘s leadership, while endearing to Cousins, apparently didn’t change the center significantly enough.

I wouldn’t rule out Sacramento trading Cousins. If you put a player on the market, you might just hear an offer you like. But selling low on Cousins a – franchise-level player – would be a mistake. It’s too hard to get a player with his talent just to dump him when he’s still young.

A far better outcome would be Cousins heeding these implicit messages, maturing and cutting out the nonsense that too often overshadows his immense talent.

Tony Allen warns Mike Conley: ‘If I see you in New York or one of them places, you got a flagrant foul coming’

Memphis Grizzlies forward Tony Allen (9) and guard Mike Conley (11) react during the second half of Game 2 in a second-round NBA playoff basketball series against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
1 Comment

Marc Gasol has a simple plan for convincing Mike Conley to re-sign with the Grizzlies: Be nice.

Tony Allen is going another way.

Peter Fleischer of Fox 13 Memphis:

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace says Conley will re-sign with Memphis. Others disagree. For his part, Conley has been vague – though he left the door open for signing with the Knicks, need a point guard and could have max cap space .

Conley will have options, and he should explore them. This will be his first free agency after the Grizzlies drafted him and signed him to a contract extension. Staying with the only NBA team he has know should be appealing – but other options could be, too.

People in Memphis clearly care about him returning.

Each in their own way.