Amir Johnson; Kevin Durant

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Heat, Thunder cruise to victory

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking about NBA doppelgangers

Nuggets 112, Lakers 105: If you like fast paced games with plenty of scoring, a game not really encumbered with defense to slow all that down, than this one was for you. The Lakers defense was slightly worse than the Nuggets and that was the difference, something we broke down with our game of the night.

Thunder 104, Raptors 92: The simple takeaway from this game — Oklahoma City is a lot better than Toronto. Shocking, I know. The Raptors hung with the Thunder for the second quarter because Alan Anderson came in off the bench and went 7-of-8 shooting for 19 points in the quarter (and 27 for the game). Combine that with Amir Johnson going 4-of-4 in the quarter and you get 32 Raptors points. Needless to say, that’s not really sustainable.

Kevin Durant scoring a lot of points? That is sustainable. He finished with 22 points on 11 shots plus double-crossed DeMar DeRozan. Russell Westbrook finished with 23, Serge Ibaka had 19. The Thunder pulled away in the third quarter with a 16-2 run and never looked back. Westbrook had 12 points in the third.

Heat 99, Wizards 71: For 40 minutes, the Wizards played the Heat close. They deserve credit for that, they showed some fight. But Washington didn’t score in the final 7:07 of the game, the Heat went on a 21-0 run and the final result looks like a blowout doesn’t really reflect how most of the game was played. Ray Allen had 13 off the bench in the fourth quarter and 20 for the game. LeBron James led the Heat 24 points and seven assists. Kevin Seraphin led the Wizards with 14 points.

Grizzlies 92, Suns 81: This game wasn’t as much about the Grizzlies as it was about the Suns, and their inability to create offense. Phoenix finished with 81 points after scoring just 80 in its previous home game, a blowout loss at the hands of the Jazz.

P.J. Tucker led the team in scoring with 17 points, and Marcin Gortat crept into double digits late in the fourth quarter to finish with 12. The rotation went 10 deep, but all eight of the remaining who played couldn’t top double digits.

Phoenix shot just 39.2 percent from the field, and couldn’t get anything going against the Memphis defense.
—Brett Pollakoff

Charlotte 108, Pistons 101 (OT): Kemba Walker is just fun. He had the bucket, a floater in the lane (below) to send the game to overtime, plus had four points in the overtime to get his Bobcats their second win this week. What 18 game losing streak? Ben Gordon reminded the Pistons that he can put up points with 18.

The first half of this game was free flowing and high scoring, with the Pistons shooting better than 70 percent. It felt like Detroit would run away and hide, they were up 15, but the Bobcats closed the half on a 16-2 run and we had a game. One that Walker would finish off.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.