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

4 Comments

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: Rockets hiring Mike D’Antoni

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29:  Head Coach Mike D'Antoni of the Phoenix Suns reacts to a score against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the AT&T Center on April 29, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas. The spurs would win the game 92-87 and the series 4-1.   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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images
2 Comments

James Harden reportedly had a role in picking the Rockets’ head coach.

So, of course they hired someone who’s not particularly interested in defense.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

D’Antoni can be an excellent coach if he has a roster that fits his up-tempo spread style, and a defensive coordinator would also help (Sorry, James). If Houston is committed to surrounding D’Antoni with the requisite resources, this could be a strong hire. On the bright side, this roster is ripe for turnover – notably Dwight Howard, who clashed with D’Antoni on the Lakers.

Most of all, the Rockets just needed a fresh start after last season’s stinker. They were bound to get that no matter whom they hired.

It’ll be on D’Antoni to prove he can provide more of a bump than any viable coach would’ve.

At minimum, though, Houston should be more exciting.

All-NBA teams announced, and Anthony Davis loses $24 million

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 14:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans dunks the ball over Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 14, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
4 Comments

The NBA has released the list of players selected to the three All-NBA teams, and most of them are the people you’d expect to make it. But two players are affected by the voting in very different ways: Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard.

Here are the selections:

FIRST TEAM ALL-NBA

SECOND TEAM ALL-NBA

THIRD TEAM ALL-NBA

These selections are fine. There are areas where it’s possible to quibble (is DeMarcus Cousins worthy despite not being on a playoff team? Should Kyle Lowry and Damian Lillard switch spots?) But the voters largely got it right and honored the right group of players.

The much more interesting dynamic is how the voting affects the contracts of Lillard and Davis, who were both Rose rule candidates. The so-called “Derrick Rose” rule, put in place in the 2011 CBA, allows players signed to a five-year “designated player” extension to earn a larger percentage of the cap and higher annual raises if they either a) win MVP, b) get voted as a starter to two All-Star teams, or c) make two All-NBA teams during their rookie contract.

Davis and Lillard both signed five-year max extensions last summer. Davis made first team All-NBA last season, so he would have been eligible for the Rose rule if he had made a team this year. But he fell short in an injury-plagued season in which the Pelicans missed the playoffs. His extension will now be worth around $120 million over the five years, instead of $145 million.

Lillard, meanwhile, made third team All-NBA last season, so his second-team selection this year secures an extra $24 million over the course of his extension. This won’t matter much for the Blazers, who are so far under the salary cap that they can sign pretty much anybody they want, but Lillard has to be happy with the recognition after he was infamously left off the Western Conference All-Star team this season.

Magic will look to make a splash in free agency this summer

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 31: Elfrid Payton #4 of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

This is going to be a big summer for the Orlando Magic. They’ve been rebuilding for the past four years, since the Dwight Howard trade in 2012, and have amassed a promising collection of young talent including Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja and Aaron Gordon. They just hired a coach, Frank Vogel, with a proven track record of success in the playoffs. Now, they want to take the next step in the rebuilding process and get back into the playoffs. With as much as $46 million in cap room, CEO Alex Martins told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to make a splash in free agency and add some veterans to surround their prospects.

Why the sudden openness for the notoriously tight-lipped Magic?

“Because that’s what we need at this point in time to take the next step,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “Secondly, this has been a plan, this has been a process. The first part of the plan and the process is to develop your own [players] and grow your own [players]. And when you inject veterans at the wrong period of time, it has an impact in the way that you’re trying to develop your corps of young players. It can’t just happen immediately. It’s got to happen at a certain point in time — after your players have matured and developed.

“And we always believed that this summer and next summer were going to be the two summers of free agency for us that we needed to focus on after developing our young guys.”

The Magic aren’t traditionally a destination franchise for big-name free agents, the exception being the summer of 2000 when they landed Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. But they made a big offer last summer to Paul Millsap (who decided to stay in Atlanta), and are expected to make a run this summer at Millsap’s teammate, Al Horford. Horford played college basketball at the University of Florida, so he has ties to the area, as does Chandler Parsons. Whether or not they land any of these names, their combination of location (Florida has no state income tax), young talent and a well-respected coach should get them into the conversation this summer.

Five Things Warriors must do to win Game 5, take first step toward comeback

6 Comments

What is stunning is not that the Warriors lost two games in a row, it’s how they lost them — the length and athleticism of the Oklahoma City Thunder have completely overwhelmed the Warriors. The 73-win defending champions have been completely outclassed and have lost their poise. How do they get that swagger back? Here are the five things they need to do to win Game 5, the first step on the road to their long-shot comeback.

1) Stephen Curry and Draymond Green need to play much better.
We start with the obvious — Golden State’s best players simply have to play better. For Curry, the combination of the length and athleticism of the Thunder defenders, plus the fact he just doesn’t look 100 percent, have led to some ugly shooting numbers (6-of-20 shooting last game, he’s 5-of-21 from three the last two games) plus a lot of ugly turnovers. The Warriors are doing a seamless job with their switching of picks on- and off-the-ball, cutting off a lot of the gaps and driving lanes Curry likes to take advantage of. The Thunder are making things hard for him and being physical with him. But now even when Curry has gotten space to shoot a three — and he has gotten enough space at times — or when he has blown past his defender and gotten to the rim, he’s missed. Plus, the length of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka have blown up the Curry/Green pick-and-roll that is at the heart of Golden State’s “death lineup.”

Likely because of lingering knee issues, Curry lacks the same explosiveness, he’s off just a little, and that with the length of Thunder defenders that takes away his margin for error. Simply put, Curry has to turn it around. We’ve seen flashes of elite Curry these playoffs — fourth quarter and OT of Game 4 vs. Portland, the third quarter of Game 2 vs. OKC — but the MVP Curry of the regular season sustained those kinds of runs, he was far more consistent. The Warriors need that Curry back.

And as bad as Curry has been, Green has been worse — Green is -73 in the last two games.  He is 2-of-13 shooting with nine turnovers in the last six quarters of basketball this series. He has been slow footed on defense. Again the length and athleticism of the Thunder are giving him problems inside, ones he hasn’t just been able to overcome with intensity and effort (because the Thunder have matched it). Green also has to get back to his All-Star form, his All-Defensive team form, or the Warriors are not the same.

2) Play better transition defense. That Thunder defense is forcing turnovers and missed shots, which in turn is leading to transition chances for the Thunder — and Russell Westbrook is not being stopped in transition. The Thunder are +17 this series in fast break points against the team nobody wanted to run with. The Warriors have to limit turnovers, start knocking down some shots, but also defend better when they get back in transition (they got back a little better last game, but they looked more like traffic cones for the Thunder players to dribble around then active defenders).

3) Andrew Bogut has to stay on the court, other Warrior bigs need to step up. Steve Kerr talked about this — the Warriors are +12 points per 100 possessions this series when Bogut is on the court, their defense improves 15.9 points per 100 possessions. The Warriors need more Bogut, the problem is he’s garnered 13 fouls in just 56 minutes of action. He’s almost always in foul trouble, in part because the Thunder are attacking (and the aggressors get the calls in the NBA). But Bogut — and Festus Ezeli, ideally less Anderson Varejao (if any) — have to do a much better job both protecting the rim and grabbing rebounds. The Warriors are getting destroyed on the glass (OKC is one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA).

“We’re forcing stops, we’re getting stops, but we’re not going and getting the ball,” Kerr said. “We have to be able to chase down loose balls and long rebounds. Otherwise, they’re getting just way too many possessions compared to us.”

4) Time to guard Andre Roberson a a little, maybe with Curry so he’s not getting torched by Westbrook. The Warriors tried to give Roberson the Tony Allen treatment — “cover” him with a big who stays near the basket to protect the rim, daring Roberson to shoot from the outside. Well, in Game 3 Roberson was 3-of-5 from three. In Game 4, Billy Donovan brilliantly started using Roberson like a center on offense — setting picks and rolling to the rim, or making cuts to the basket — which led to 17 points. The Warriors have to start covering him. Might I suggest putting Curry on him? Because for large swaths of the last couple games Curry has been on Westbrook and that has been a disaster for Golden State — Curry simply is not going to be able to stay in front of Westbrook. Not that anyone can, but the Warriors have better options.

5) Stop turning the ball over. We started with an obvious one, we’ll end with an obvious one — the length and active hands of the Thunder on defense has forced a lot of Golden State turnovers. But the Warriors have helped out, Curry in particular in Game 4 made some ill-advised passes — this is not the Portland defense anymore. The Warriors like to have a lot of flair, some playground in their game, but they need to be careful with that this series. Those turnovers have led to transition buckets for the Thunder, fueling the runs that put the Warriors in holes they have not been able to climb out of. The Warriors need to take care of the ball.

The Warriors may well be able to do all five of these things well enough to win at home Thursday, but could they do it on the road in a Game 6 is another question. The Warriors aren’t worrying about that yet; they need to get things right in Game 5 or their playoff run ends tonight.