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.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.

Did Russell Westbrook really block a teammates shot to get ball back during Game 5?

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Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.

The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.

Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.

It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).

I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.

Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.

Much like the video above.

Former Pacers’ star Danny Granger on Paul George: “you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana”

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There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.

Granger knows what it’s like to be the star player of the Pacers, and he knows George, so on Bill Reiter asked Granger his thoughts during an episode of CBS’ “Reiter Than You” and Granger’s answer was not what Pacers fans wanted to hear.

“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”

Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.

Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.

However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)

Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.

Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.

Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley keep trading insults in postgame press conferences

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Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley were having their war of words during Tuesday night’s close-out game that ended the Thunder season, and they both picked up technical fouls for it.

The two continued that postgame speaking to the media.

Westbrook was up first, and he was asked what happened between him and Beverley (see the video above).

“He was talking about he was first team all-defense, but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about because I had 42 at the time, I don’t know, maybe he was dreaming or some s—.”

You know the media was going to ask Beverley about that.

“He said no can guard me I’ve got 40 points, I’m like, that’s nice but you took 34 shots to get it.”

So, no Christmas card exchange for those two.

For the record, Westbrook finished the game with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but he was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter as he started to wear down. The Thunder were +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but were -18 in the 6:07 he sat to get rest. The game was almost a Rorschach test for what you think of Westbrook on the season — he wasn’t terribly efficient, but he carried OKC as far as he could, that just wasn’t as far as James Harden could take a superior Rockets’ team. If you were in the Harden (or Kawhi Leonard) for MVP camp, you can point to the inefficiency and the end result. If you’re team Westbrook you can point to the raw numbers and what happened in the limited time he sat.

Also, Beverley is going to make an NBA All-Defensive team. If he doesn’t make the first team, that’s more about the time he missed due to injury (and a good field of guards who can defend) than his play.

Beverley has the advantage now of being able to turn his attention to how to defend Tony Parker (or maybe Mike Conley), as the Rockets are advancing to the next round.