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.

Stan Van Gundy on slumping Pistons: “We’re just bad all the way around”

Associated Press
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If the playoffs started today, the Detroit Pistons would be out golfing. Or fishing. Or partying in Cabo. The point is, they would not be playing.

Which is stunning — this was a 44-win team a year ago that seemed on the rise and is anchored by Andre Drummond in the paint. This year they’re four games below .500 and lost five of their last six, including back-to-back losses to the Nets and Bulls the last two days. In the month of March, the Pistons have been outscored by  4.4 points per 100 possessions. They are now tied with the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Heat for the last playoff slot in the East.

Stan Van Gundy, you’re coach and GM in Detroit, what do you think of all this? (Via ESPN’s Nick Friedell)

“The message I gave them is, ‘Look, we got 10 games left,” he said. “And if we don’t change the way we’re playing, this is going to get really, really ugly.

“We didn’t defend at any point in the second half. We didn’t defend much in the first half, either. Just really disappointing. We were 33-33, got tied, back to .500 after that New York game [on March 11], ran into a buzz saw in Cleveland [three nights later], and that’s it. We haven’t bounced back. It’s like we took that one hit and have not recovered at all. Have not played a decent game since then. This is six bad games in a row.”

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of life in us, and we got to find some by Friday,” Van Gundy added. “It’s just not one position, either. We’re just not playing. We’re not. We’re just bad all the way around.”

The Pistons have what should be winnable games against Orlando and New York coming up on the road, followed by an important matchup next Tuesday against Miami. Detroit needs wins now, because their schedule the rest of the way is about as tough as Miami’s, but Chicago has a soft finish to the season that could see them string together wins (maybe, Chicago has its own issues).

Whatever happens the final 10 games, Van Gundy and his team have some serious assessing to do this summer, some trades to make, they need to figure out what works and go with it. Because this season did not work.

Timberwolves to unveil new logo at final home game

AP Photo/Jim Mone
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The Timberwolves’ were the trendy pick for a breakout team this season with Tom Thibodeau coaching Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Instead, Minnesota fell flat. At, 28-42 the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight year – the NBA’s longest active postseason drought.

But they’ve shown progress lately and could carry that momentum into next season.

It’ll be a fresh start in at least one way.

Timberwolves release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves begin a new chapter in their franchise history by unveiling a new team logo as part of Fan Appreciation Night at Target Center on Tuesday, April 11. The Wolves will conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule that evening by hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m.

The logo will be unveiled during a special halftime show and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative t-shirt with the new identity featured.

While the new identity won’t fully take effect until the 2017-18 season, the unveiling marks only the fourth identity in the franchise’s 28-year history.  The announcement is also the beginning of an eventful summer as the Wolves brand continues to evolve. There will be several future announcements regarding the unveiling of the new team uniforms, new court designs and additional events throughout the coming months.

I’m glad these uniforms are coming out next year. I always enjoy when a style change coincides with a team changing on the court, and it seems the Timberwolves could truly do that.

Shaq on flat-earth claim: ‘I’m joking, you idiots’

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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After Kyrie Irving claimed the Earth is flat, he doubled down and insisted he truly believed that.

After Shaquille O’Neal claimed the Earth is flat

Shaq on Art of Charm (hat tip: Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports):

The Earth is flat. Would you like to hear my theory?

The first part of the theory is, I’m joking, you idiots. That’s the first part of the theory.

This world we live in, people take things too seriously. But I’m going to give the people answers to my test. Knowing that I’m a funny guy, if something seems controversial or boom, boom, boom, you’ve got to have my funny points on, right? So now, once you have my funny points on, that should eradicate and get rid of all your negative thoughts, right? That’s what you should do when you hear Shaquille O’Neal’s statement, OK? You should know that he has funny points right over here, and what did he say? The guy had, boom, boom, boom. Add the funny points. You either laugh, or you don’t laugh. But don’t take me seriously. When I want you to take me seriously, you will know by the tone of my voice that I’m being serious.

Shaq is excellent at drawing attention to himself. The only surprise is that he didn’t keep this ruse up longer.

If Irving is pulling our collective legs to put the focus on him, at least credit the Cavaliers guard for maintaining the story longer. That Shaq lasted only a few days is revelatory.

Earl Watson, amid UCLA rumors, says ‘main focus’ is with Suns

David Taylor /Allsport
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At least the college-coaching rumors surrounding the Celtics’ Brad Stevens and Thunder’s Billy Donovan are about an actual vacancy: Indiana.

With Suns coach Earl Watson, it’s a step removed.

But here’s the gambit: UCLA coach Steve Alford is an Indiana alum, and many believe he’ll fill the Hoosiers’ opening. That’d leave UCLA in the market for a new coach – maybe Watson, an alum.

Watson, via Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic:

“There’s no doubt that I love my school,” Watson said. “It took me out of a poverty situation and gave me hope. The school is an amazing place. I feel like it saved me. But I also feel like (former Memphis coach) Hubie Brown saved me in another way. Playing for the Utah Jazz, they were there during a difficult part of my personal life and they helped me a ton. And then, of course, the San Antonio Spurs, after the death of my brother, the love they gave me is what I needed most, and that love is genuine. So you have different points in your life where people and groups come into your life and none of them are family and they impact you for the positive.”

At the same time:

“I’m more focused on creating value for our (organization), to give management and ownership many options to build a championship contender here,” Watson said. “What I mean by that is, building the value of the young players so that their value and their game and their confidence give them the option to be financially secure in this league when they become free agents; giving our ownership the option to build around them or give ownership and management the option to make moves because their value is so high to put us in contention quicker. That’s all I can do is build value. The winning will happen. There’s a lot of questions with our program, but one thing I do realize is these players are playing amazing for their age. I love them, they’re like my little brothers. My main focus is here.”

There’s little evidence Watson is a good NBA coach. He’s 31-73 in a season and a half in Phoenix, and his players have looked especially undisciplined.

That said, the Suns are very young. Maybe they’d look even more undisciplined under another coach.

Watson’s player-development experience could suit him well for college. As little as he’s done to prove he’s a good NBA coach, he hasn’t done much to prove he’s a bad NBA coach, either.

If Alford bolts, Watson’s history with UCLA probably warrants an interview if he wants it. But if I were the Bruins, I’d also consider other candidates.