Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the offensive outbursts

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while thinking about what a jump to hyperspace in the Millennium Falcon would really be like

Lakers 104, Bucks 88: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard each had 31 points, but the real key for Los Angles was their defense — Kobe was on Brandon Jennings, Earl Clark on Monta Ellis most of the way, and the Bucks backcourt shot 10-of-30 on the night. We broke it all down just for you.

Nuggets 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT): This was hands down the most fun game of the night. Ty Lawson had 24 points and 12 assists for Denver, LaMarcus Aldridge looked like an All-Star again with 25.

Denver led 97-90 with 2:30 left in the game but six of it back quickly and we had a 1-point game with a minute to go. Lawson drove then hit a quick pull up elbow jumper to make it 99-96. The Blazers got to Aldridge at the elbow extended, he drove into paint 12 feet from the rim and drew three defenders, one of whom was Andre Miller helping off Wes Mathews — kick out pass and a clean-look three for Mathews and it was tied. After that Iguuodala tried pretty much the same elbow pull up that Lawson hit and missed it. Portland had the last shot and it was a Lillard difficult 12-foot, fade-away, fading left contested shot that missed. And we had OT.

Which had its own drama and was back and forth at the end. A Danilo Gallinari three up against the shot clock had Denver up two with 1:08 left. A sweet back-down then fade-away by Aldridge tied it. A ridiculous JaVale McGee catch then reverse dunk alley-oop (it’s hard to describe) put Denver up two. Aldridge drove the lane, drew the foul and hits two free throws to tie it 111-111 with 32 seconds left. Then drive-and-kick by Iguodala gave Wilson Chandler a decent look at a corner three. He drained it. Portland tried to get three but Nuggets did a good job defending, took away the easy looks, and it was a miss. Lawson fouled and with free throws that was the ball game.

Clippers 117, Rockets 109: Houston puts a lot teams in a precarious position by playing at the league’s fastest pace, but the chameleon Clippers showed once again that they can adapt to any style. Although the Rockets were passable offensively, their perimeter defense left an awful lot to be desired. With Jeremy Lin unable to stay in front of anyone and James Harden doing an awful lot of standing around, both Willie Green (15 points) and Jamal Crawford (30 points) recorded season-highs in points.

Getting out and running is great, but it’s a whole lot harder to do when you’re constantly taking the ball out of your own net.
—D.J. Foster

Nets 113, Raptors 106: This makes seven wins in a row for Brooklyn, or what we like to call the “P.J. Carlesimo wants to keep this job” run. Toronto has been playing well of late also and this one was relatively close for two-and-a-half quarters before an 11-3 Brooklyn run gave them control of the game they would not let go of. The Nets got a balanced attack with Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combining for 64 points. Plus they got a nice boost from Mirza Teletovic off the bench.

Kyle Lowry, who left the game in the second quarter after spraining an ankle, came back in the fourth with a vengeance scoring 19, but it wasn’t enough.

Pacers 103, Bobcats 76: This was another vintage Pacers win — their suffocating defense locked the other team down while they scored enough points to win. The Bobcats shot 37.4 percent for the game against Indy. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert woke up to the tune of 18 points as the Pacers one getting the ball inside to the tone of 52 points in the paint. Paul George hit two key threes when the Pacers started to pull away at the end of the first.

Hornets 111, 76ers 99: The Sixers have lost eight of 10 now. What’s the problem? Well, a few things, but it starts with they don’t have a lot of talent of the roster. Philly got 29 points from Jrue Holiday and after that the drop off is pretty steep.

Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 23 points and nine assists, meanwhile Eric Gordon dropped 19. One fun stretch was when the Sixers Nick Young scored all of his 14 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Not that it mattered, the Hornets remained in control.

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

Rob Carr/Getty Images
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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.