Brooklyn Nets' Williams drives against Oklahoma City Thunder's Westbrook during their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nets, Warriors get statement wins


Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while figuring out what’s in and what’s out for 2013

Nets 110, Thunder 93: Well, P.J. Carlesimo has his signature win and for a night the Nets looked like the team from the first weeks of the season. Oh, they’re going to call Phil Jackson anyway, but it is a good win.

From the opening tip this was the Nets night — they opened the game on an 11-2 run, hit 8-of-11, then Andray Blatche ended the first quarter with this horrid one-handed 14-foot straight away shot that banked in. It was that kind of night and the Nets were up 33-19. That lead blossomed all the way up to 55-32 at one point, in part behind Joe Johnson who had 20 first half and 33 points overall.

You knew the Thunder run was coming and it did, tying the game in the fourth quarter. But Johnson had eight straight points including a jumper to break the tie. Brook Lopez was sharp with 25 points and Deron Williams added 19 to get the Nets get a big win. Kevin Durant had 27 points in a losing effort.

Warriors 115, Clippers 94: Golden State won this game with defense. Seriously. Yes, Stephen Curry had 31 points and 8 assists, while David Lee had 24 points and 13 rebounds and worked beautifully out of the high post, but it was the defensive end of the floor where the Warriors were best.

Golden State played the Clippers pick-and-roll very well and force Chris Paul into long passes, then rotated well on them. Lee did a fantastic job on the slumping Blake Griffin. The Clippers shot 36.4 percent overall and were 8-of-29 from three. Clippers not named Paul, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes combined to score just 18 points.

While the Warriors turned the ball over one in five times down the court in an up-tempo game, but the Clippers did not convert that into all the highlights and big runs you expect form Los Angeles. Again, credit Golden State.

Heat 119, Mavericks 109 (OT): There were some good signs for Dallas in this game — like the 30 points and 4-of-10 three pointers from O.J. Mayo, who looked like his old self. Or that Dirk Nowitzki played nearly 30 minutes and had 19 points.

But what was really fun about this game was the final minute of regulation. Miami was down one going for what would be their second to last shot and of course it was LeBron James driving the lane, then when the defense collapsed he kicked to Shane Battier for the corner three. Great find, great shot. Remember a few years ago when some shortsighted fans used to kill LeBron for those passes saying he was “not being the man” by making the right basketball play? Gotta love the Internet.

Then without a timeout to set up a play the Mavs (down two) end up with Darren Collison dribbling around, picking up his dribble at the elbow and getting stuck. Then Dirk Nowitzki ran over, took a handoff from him and hit a vintage one-legged fade away to tie it up.

LeBron missed a good-look pull-up 20 footer over Vince Carter and we were headed to overtime… where the Heat started 3-3 and the Mavs 0-3 and it was basically all over. But the game was a lot of fun — Miami gets a win off Lebron’s 32 points and Dallas has a game to build off.

Grizzlies 93, Celtics 83: So Avery Bradley is not the instant, just add water savior of Boston basketball. He returned, the Celtics still looked bad in a loss. To be fair Bradley defended well, they tracked it at WEEI’s Green Street — when Bradley was on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley had five points and two assists in the first half, but when someone else was on him Conley was 4-of-6 with three assists. Bradley was -11 on the night.

Kevin Garnett was not good in the first half, shooting 1-of-7 from the floor as he seemed to struggle with the long, physical defenders of the Grizzlies. Paul Pierce kept the Celtics in this game in the first half, going 4-of-4 from three. Memphis led at the half 50-41.

Boston made a run in the fourth but it wasn’t enough. The Celtics drop to 3-17 on the season.

Spurs 117, Bucks 100: Ah, yes. The Stephen Jackson bowl.

Jackson had eight points and four assists in 21 minutes off the bench against the team he played for briefly last season, but the real story was Tim Duncan and Tony Parker logging 34 and 36 minutes respectively.
Why is that? Well, with a game in New York against the Knicks on deck Thursday — one which will be San Antonio’s fourth in five nights — the temptation will be there for Popovich to rest his starters, as he did the last time he was faced with this situation in Miami against the Heat.
The fact that the game won’t be televised nationally on TNT might save the Spurs from a fine, or it might not — but either way, whatever Popovich and the organization decides will be infinitely more interesting than was this easy win over the Bucks.
—Brett Pollakoff

Bulls 96, Magic 94: Chicago won the battle of the shorthanded, playing without Joakim Noah, while Orlando missed Glen Davis for the seventh time this season.

Taj Gibson started in Noah’s place and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer finished with 31 and 10. That was enough to put away the Magic, despite Orlando’s comeback from 18 down in the third that made this a contest that wasn’t decided until the final few possessions.
—Brett Pollakoff

Rockets 104, Hornets 92: dThe Hornets did a good job in this game of controlling the tempo, not letting the Rockets just run away. Well, until the second half of the fourth quarter when a 20-6 Rockets run decided this one. Patrick Patterson keyed the run with 13 fourth quarter points on 6-of-6 shooting. James Harden had 31, Omer Asik added 21 for Houston. Eric Gordon sat out for the Hornets they continue to ease him back in. Ryan Anderson had 18 off the bench and Greivis Vasquez had 15 for New Orleans.

Jazz 106, Timberwolves 84: Utah — always more dangerous at home — started the second quarter on a 15-4 run and never looked back from there. This was the kind of win the Jazz needed (and not just because they lost seven of nine) because with Mo Williams out for six weeks they are going to need this kind of team effort with six guys in double digits. Gordon Hayward led the way with 17.

Minnesota couldn’t buy a basket — they shot 34.5 percent as a team and were 2-of-17 from three. Kevin Love was 4-of-14, Luke Ridnour was 4-of-11. With that shooting their energy faded and Utah outplayed them in pretty much every way imaginable.

Pacers 89, Wizards 81: Washington opened this game on the wrong side of an 8-0 run, and scored less than 20 points in two of the game’s four quarters. The team was competitive and closed the gap before halftime, but the Pacers led by as many as 18 in the third, and got a sensational 29 points and 14 rebounds from Paul George to close the Wizards out.

In case you were wondering how bad the Wizards are right now, their starting five combined for 33 total points, and two of them — Martell Webster and Garrett Temple — went scoreless. So, yeah. Lots more losing on the horizon in Washington.
—Brett Pollakoff

Raptors 102, Trail Blazers 79: Portland beat the Knicks in New York on Tuesday, so on the second night of a back-to-back on the road in Toronto, a let down performance was somewhat to be expected. Especially with the way the resurgent Raptors have been playing as of late.

Terrence Ross led the way for the Raptors with 26 points in 25 minutes off the bench, and DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, and Amir Johnson did the rest of the damage. If these names don’t sound familiar to you, they will soon — Toronto is 8-1 over its last nine games, with wins by a margin of 20 or more points in three of those contests.
—Brett Pollakoff

Kings 97, Cavaliers 94: Sacramento got a rare road victory, and did so with both Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton sidelined due to injury. Cleveland, meanwhile, has its own injury issues, and was without Anderson Varejao — who leads the league in rebounding — for the seventh straight game due to a knee injury.

DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson did the heavy lifting for the Kings, finishing with a combined 37 points and 23 rebounds in Varejao’s absence. Kyrie Irving was held in check, and finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and six assists.

The Cavs continue to compete at times, but are still searching for answers. Dion Waiters was replaced by C.J. Miles in the starting lineup, but they played the same amount of minutes (29), and neither was particularly efficient in scoring the basketball.
—Brett Pollakoff

Suns 95, Sixers 89: Phoenix snapped a six-game losing streak, thanks to solid all-around performances from several of the team’s most important players.

Luis Scola put up big numbers for the third consecutive game, and led the Suns with 21 points and nine assists. Marcin Gortat was big, especially in the first half, and finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds. P.J. Tucker found himself in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game for defensive purposes, but was able to finish inside when given the opportunity, and knocked down a clutch jumper late after Scola passed out of a double team in one of the game’s final key possessions.

Jrue Holiday was largely held in check, despite his triple-double line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.

The arena was more packed than it has been for a random weekday game this season, thanks to thousands of Kansas State supporters who were in town for college football’s Fiesta Bowl showing up to check out their most famous NBA alumnus, Michael Beasley.

The crowd chanted for Beasley, who received a DNP-CD in his team’s previous game, while booing Markieff Morris, who hails from in-state rival Kansas University. Beasley played less than seven minutes, but made the most of his time by putting up four shots and hauling down 4 rebounds — though he was a -11 in his time on the court, thanks to the way the Sixers manhandled the Suns second unit to start the second quarter.
—Brett Pollakoff

Report: NBA increases 2017-18 salary-cap projection to $103 million

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The NBA is reportedly closing in on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the new deal will still call for owners and players to split Basketball Related Income about 50-50.

So, July’s projection of a $102 million salary cap in 2017-18 still carries weight – except it’s been updated.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Why the change?

Perhaps, the shortfall adjustment – which increases the cap when teams don’t spend enough the previous year – is being revised in the new CBA.

More likely, the league anticipates more revenue. These projections tend to start conservative then rise as July nears.

Rip Hamilton says 2004 Pistons would beat 2016 Warriors

CLEVELAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Richard Hamilton #32 of the Detroit Pistons looks up during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 22, 2009 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Cavaliers won 99-78.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Add Rip Hamilton to team #getoffmylawn.

The long list of veteran players who somehow feel their legacy is threatened by this era’s Golden State Warriors and their freestyling system has now added one of the key players from the 2004 Pistons title team to their ranks. CBS’ NBA Crossover asked the masked man Rip Hamilton about it, and he thought the vaunted Pistons defense was well designed for dealing with the Warriors.

“It would be no comparison.” Hamilton said on CBS Sports’ NBA Crossover. “We can guard every position. Every guy from our point guard to our five, can guard any position. We were big. We were long.”

Hamilton is right that it would be an interesting defensive matchup. The book on the Warriors — especially when facing the smaller “death lineup” — is to switch everything, and those Pistons would have been well suited to that task. Of course, there are two ends of the court and the Warriors are also a good defensive team going against a Pistons team that had limited offensive options (people underestimate how great Chauncey Billups was playing during that 2004 playoff run, he was elite, but that was not a deep offensive team). The real issue would have been pace — the Warriors want to play fast, the Pistons wanted to grind it out, who won that battle would be huge?

But that last graph talking strategy doesn’t address the biggest question: Whose rules are the games played under? 2016 or 2004?

Those 2004 Pistons were the height of the grabbing/hand-checking on the perimeter era that would be an automatic foul today. (There was a lot more hand checking uncalled in the NBA last season, but not the level of grabbing and holding that was allowed in 2004 and before back into the Jordan era.)

Tayshaun Prince said it well.

“It depends on what the rules are.” Prince said. “Because back when we played, we could play hands-on, physical. As you can see from the Pacers rivalries and all of the rivalries we had back in the day, we were scoring in the high 70s, low 80s. We were physical. So now if you play this style of play, where they’re running and gunning and touch fouls and things like that, all of sudden we would start getting in foul trouble because back when we played, we were very, very aggressive on defense.”

He gets it.

The Warriors are built for this era of basketball, one where the rules encourage space so players to have freedom and can be more creative with their playmaking. The Pistons were built for the 2004 physical games of that era. (And most of you who remember that era fondly do so through rose-colored glasses, there’s a reason ratings were down for those 84-78 slugfests.) It’s possible to have great teams built differently for different eras and say that’s okay.

But it’s the nature of sports fandom to compare things that can’t actually be compared apples to apples. So have at it in the comments (and I expect one person to tell us how Jordan was better than all of them, because somehow people always feel the need to defend his legacy in these debates).

51 Questions: Does Al Horford change perception of Celtics?

al horford

We are in the final days PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past month we’ve tackled 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. Today:

Does Al Horford change the perception of the Celtics?

This summer, Al Horford shattered the myth that Boston couldn’t attract elite free agents.

It was always a perception that lived more in the heads of frustrated Celtics fans than it did NBA reality. The Larry Bird-era Celtics didn’t attract free agents because there wasn’t free agency until that dynasty was starting to slide (and free agency didn’t fully take hold for a few years after that). Then the Celtics struggled for a long stretch, and we know it’s hard to get players to go to a team that’s not winning. During the most-recent big three era, the Celtics did land name free agents — Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Terry — that helped round out a roster already loaded with stars.

The past couple of summers, Celtics fans saw the potential, but the reality was the team was not yet ready to win on the big market — even as much as players raved about Brad Stevens as coach. It took the Celtics getting to 48 wins and showing real promise to get the attention of top free agents. Last summer the Celtics finally in position, and they got their man in Horford.

Now Horford should put that perception to rest.

For one thing, he will throw open the door to more wins — just through the preseason the spacing of the Celtics’ offense looks better than last season. Watching them through these games, the early high dribble-hand-off move the Celtics often use between Horford and Isaiah Thomas to initiate the offense has defenses spread out. Follow that with good ball movement off the multiple actions from that early set and defenses scramble with help coverages. Celtics are getting open looks. The Celtics pretty-good-but-defendable-in-the-playoffs offense of last season already looks far more dangerous, plus we know Horford will help on defense, too.

Horford puts the Celtics on the brink of contention, either the second or third best team in the East (depending on what you think of Toronto). If you’re worried about perception, know that other players (and their agents) notice that. They notice the ball movement, they notice the players like the coach. Another strong season will cement Boston as a team where other stars will want to go because of that coach, because of the system, because they can win, and most importantly because they can get paid (it’s always about the money).

In that sense, Horford does change the perceptions of the Celtics. Although Stevens had already started that process, opening the door for Horford.

It remains more likely that the next star the Celtics land is via trade. They have the picks, they have the young players a team losing a star and considering a rebuild likely wants, plus they have a couple interesting veterans whose contracts only have a couple of years left — Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas. It’s the worst-kept secret in the NBA — right up there with Rudy Gay is not loving Sacramento — that Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge is working the phones for any star player who becomes available. What’s holding those deals up is not a perception of the Celtics, it’s that trading for a star is difficult. Very difficult.

Celtics fans, enjoy what should be a very special season. Boston had the point differential of a 50-win team last season, and Horford makes them better on a number of levels. This is a team poised for a strong regular season and a deep playoff run. They are still a player away from challenging the team LeBron James is on, but so is everyone else east of Oakland. That shouldn’t diminish the joy of the ride this season.

And know the perception around the league of the Celtics is very good.

Anthem singer at Heat-76ers game kneels during performance (video)


MIAMI (AP) — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

“We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We’ve had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action.”

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports – and many levels, from youth all the way to professional – have followed his lead in various ways.

“All I can say is what we’ve seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league’s board of governors meetings. “It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do.”

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence’s actions.

“At the end of the day, to each his own,” Ellington said. “If she feels like that’s the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her.”

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

“I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans,” Tysse wrote on Facebook. “I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability.”