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

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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

Draymond Green: ‘I’m never going to be careful’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors drives against Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second quarter in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Draymond Green answered the first three questions he faced today – each about not being suspended for kicking Steven Adams in the groin – with: “That is a great question,” “That is a great question” and “That is a great statement.”

Then, he got a little more revealing.

Green, via Tim Kawakami of Talking Points:

I’m never going to be careful; I’m just going to be me and the game will play out the way it will play out.

Green should be more careful.

1. He’s reached the playoff limit of flagrant-foul points without being suspended. Another flagrant 1 would cost him a game and a flagrant 2 would cost him two games. Even if he didn’t intentionally kick Adams in the groin, doing the exact same thing would draw another flagrant 2. Losing Green for two games would devastate the Warriors.

2. He frequently kicks out his legs on drives. It might be more remarkable he didn’t hurt anyone before this. if you take Green at his word – and I do on this – he doesn’t want to see anyone injured. He can do his part to decrease the odds of someone getting hurt.

There’s a way for Green to play with passion/swagger/emotion/tenacity while being careful, at least careful enough to avoid being reckless. He needs to find the line.

Report: James Borrego gets second interview with Rockets, including owner Leslie Alexander

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09: Interim head coach James Borrego of the Orlando Magic looks on during a first half timeout against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on February 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Rockets were reportedly considering Mike D’Antoni or Stephen Silas (with Lionel Hollins as lead assistant) to be their head coach.

Then, they interviewed James Borrego and Adrian Griffin.

Apparently, those late interviews carried weight.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Leslie Alexander is getting involved in this process, apparently kiboshing Jeff Van Gundy. If Borrego is meeting with Alexander, that means something.

Borrego failed to impress during his interim stint with the Magic, but that might mean nothing more than that. Running a team from the start is different than taking over midseason.

The Rockets will surely ask about his experience in Orlando, and he’s getting a couple chances to explain it – and why his experience with the Spurs prepared him for this opportunity.

Warriors/Thunder Game 4 preview: Which small ball lineup wins?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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I wouldn’t say this is a must-win game for either team, but it’s standing next to must win with its arm around it. The Warriors don’t want to be down 3-1, it’s hard to picture them winning three straight in this series. The Thunder don’t want to have a 2-2 series with two games left at Oracle, where it will be difficult to win again. Here are four questions where the answer will help determine the outcome of this game, and maybe the series.

1) Which small ball lineup wins? Going into the series, I thought the Thunder would stay with bigger lineups because they didn’t want to go small and try to out Warrior the Warriors. Except that’s exactly what they did in Game 3 and they won definitively. Lineups with Kevin Durant at the four (with Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Serge Ibaka all getting time at center) where quicker, allowed for more switching, and it allowed the Thunder to get out and run more — and run it right down the throat of the Warriors small ball lineup. Golden State’s “death lineup” was -22, and Steve Kerr was right in saying that lineup (and the starters in general) tried to isolate against defensive mismatches rather than keeping the ball moving, they settled for quick shots, and the Warriors offense stagnated.

The key to the small ball lineup for the Thunder is the same that has driven the success of the Warriors’ small ball for the past two seasons — they still played great defense. The Thunder are long and athletic on the perimeter, but the combination of Durant and Adams or Ibaka still did a fantastic job of protecting the rim. Those stops turned into transition buckets the other way — Russell Westbrook and the Thunder players attacked the rim, and the Warriors played some of the worst transition defense we have seen from them. It may well come down to this again in Game 4: Which team’s small unit does a better job defensively, then can convert those stops into buckets at the other end.

2) Can Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters have another big game for Oklahoma City? The Warriors’ defensive strategy this series has been to ignore Roberson, put a rim-protecting big on him (Andrew Bogut or Draymond Green) and let them patrol the paint, daring Roberson to shoot and beat them. In Game 3, he was 3-of-5 from three, and while those came as part of the Thunder Can’t Miss run, if he is hitting and scoring it is a problem for Golden State. Dion Waiters used to be the guy to leave alone on this roster, but he has blossomed under Billy Donovan — he was 6-of-8 in the first three quarters of Game 3 and in these playoffs has played the best ball of his career. You know that Westbrook and Durant are going to score (and they scored very efficiently in Game 3), but if the Thunder are getting that kind of quality play from their role players they become almost impossible to stop.

One other thing to watch: When Stephen Curry picked up an early foul, the Warriors tried to protect him by putting him on Roberson, but that meant a big man had to guard an offensive threat that took them away from the basket. Suddenly the Thunder were in a layup line at the rim. Don’t expect that adjustment again — and if Steve Kerr is rolling out a lot of minutes for Anderson Varejao and Ian Clark again, it’s a bad sign.

3) Can Draymond Green take control in the paint? Forget the kick to Steven Adams’ groin… well, Thunder fans aren’t going to forget, they are going to boo Green mercilessly. But that’s not the point, that play and the punishment (a fine and a flagrant two but no suspension) are in the past. What matters for the Warriors is Green was awful in Game 3 — 1-of-9 shooting with four turnovers on offense, and his rotations and rim protection were a slow on defense. When you talk about what was wrong with the Warriors trainsition defense, it starts with Green — he looked stuck in mud all game. That can’t happen again if the Warriors want to win. They need All-Star, Top 10 player, world-class pest Green in Game 4. He is crucial to what they do. If he loses his poise (as he did in Game 3) or just has an off night, the Warriors are in trouble.

4) Is this the game where the Warriors figure out the Thunder?
Or, can they figure out the Thunder? Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game that they were not worried, his team had been in this position before — down 2-1 to Memphis last playoffs, and down 2-1 in the Finals to Cleveland. In each case they made an adjustment — ignoring Tony Allen against the Grizzlies, going small against the Cavaliers — and from there took over the series to sweep it out. They believe they can do it again, and it’s hard to bet against them because they have done it, they have shown versatility, and another gear not team seems to be able to match. But this series feels different — they already ignored Roberson and tried to play small and they are down 2-1. Is there a magic adjustment out there, or is it simply a matter of them executing what they like to do better against the most athletic defense they have faced in a playoff series? Just figuring out the Thunder is not that simple.

Less than a magical adjustment, the Warriors need to knock down shots. Not the rushed shots when they lost their poise during the Thunder’s second and third quarter run, but before that — the Warriors moved the ball and got good looks early, they just didn’t hit them. That can’t happen for them to win — this isn’t Portland anymore, the margin for error is too small.

Finally, and this is just obvious: Stephen Curry needs to be MVP Stephen Curry. The Thunder can throw athletic defenders at him, their bigs can challenge him a little, but the Warriors need him to be transcendent. Because Westbrook and Durant will be.

Kevin Durant: ‘They’re not going to suspend Draymond Green. He’s one of the premier players in the league’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors drives against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quater in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, insisted his decision to give Draymond Green a flagrant 2 rather than suspending him had nothing to do with Green’s star status or the Warriors’ place in league history.

But Kevin Durant doesn’t believe that.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Durant:

They’re not going to suspend Draymond Green. He’s one of the premier players in the league on arguably one of the best teams in the history of the game. They’re not going to suspend him. I didn’t even really think about it. I knew the league was going to let him play or fine him or upgrade him to a flagrant 2. We all knew that was going to happen. The league is about business.

Durant will probably get fined for this. Team employees questioning the league’s integrity is at the heart of why the NBA fines people. The league is trying to protect its image, and Durant completely blew that up.

I have no idea whether Durant is right. I can read VanDeWeghe’s mind as much as I can Green’s while he’s extending his foot toward Steven Adams‘ groin. I.e., I can’t. There’s definitely financial interest in extending the Western Conference finals (which the Thunder lead 2-1) keeping the best players on the floor and having bigger markets advance deeper into the playoffs. But there’s also financial interest in people believing the NBA is fair. It’s not always clear how the league balances those sometimes-competing forces.

Here’s what I know: This is getting fun. It was fun when Russell Westbrook was involved in the Green controversy. It’s even better with Durant looping himself in.