PRO BASKETBALL TALKPBT Select Team

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nuggets knock of Thunder in OT

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while taking out your frustrations in the “rage room”

Nuggets 121, Thunder 118 (OT): This was the kind of game that fans find entertaining and makes a coach cringe. Entertaining because it was close most of the way, was played at a fast pace with a lot of scoring, and saw a dramatic late run by the Thunder that helped send the game to overtime. But these two teams combined for 48 turnovers and 61 personal fouls. The game was played fast but sloppy.

Thunder fans looking to why their team lost were blaming the referees. With 10 seconds left in overtime and down one, Denver’s Kenneth Faried — who played a great game and frustrated the Thunder bigs all night — missed two free throws. The Thunder called timeout and set up a play, but on it Nick Collison got called for a moving screen (the third moving screen call on the Thunder of the overtime). Thing is, you can’t blame the refs when you had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get to the line 38 times by themselves in the game. The Thunder stars were aggressive and the whistles were tight, but that eventually goes both ways.

If Thunder fans want to blame something, it’s that Denver got the offensive rebound on 41.7 percent of their missed shots (20 offensive rebounds). Denver is not a team of great shooters (although Corey Brewer was for a night on his way to 26 points) but they will make you pay of you keep giving them chances. OKC did and Denver gets a big win.

Raptors 108, Lakers 103: Lakers fans, tell me if you’ve seen this movie before: The team plays disinterested and dispassionate basketball for 40 minutes, taking their opponent (who is better than they think) for granted, then down in a deep hole they make a late run, get close but fall ultimately short.

Sums up the Lakers loss to Raptors Sunday. Sums up the Lakers season.

What was different in this case was Dwight Howard getting ejected in the second quarter, something Brett Prollakoff wrote about that earlier at PBT. With just five points and two rebounds. Pau Gasol looked much the better big with 25 points on 15 shots.

But the rest of the story was familiar — the Lakers defense was bad and the Raptors offense was balanced and smart in shot selection — they shot 54.8 percent. Jose Calderon had 22 points, both Ed Davis (who has played well since Andrea Bargnani left) and Landry Fields had 18. The Raptors got 55 of their points in the paint.

Pistons 103, Celtics 88: Nobody in Boston was paying attention — the game was on opposite the Patriots in the AFC championship game — which was probably best. Boston opened 1-of-8 shooting and fell behind 13-2 to open the game. They battled back with runs of their own to tie it and Detroit led by four at halftime. But the second half brought more of the same as the first quarter and this time Boston couldn’t make it up (thanks to Will Bynum, who had 9 of his 15 in the fourth).

Doc Rivers was talking trades after the game he was so frustrated. Who with? Rajon Rondo was 4-of-16 shooting and had 15 assists but 9 turnovers in an erratic game. Brandon Bass was nonexistent no points and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes. Jason Terry wasn’t a spark plug off the bench with four points (Courtney Lee with 16 and Jeff Green with 14 were).

Don’t sell Detroit short here, their front line was fantastic. Greg Monroe had 15 points and 11 rebounds, rookie Andre Drummond dame in off the bench with 16 points on just six shots. But yes, keep starting Jason Maxiell over Drummond.

Mavericks 111, Magic 105: The first quarter of this game was wild. Orlando opened the game hitting everything and raced out to an 18-4 lead half way through the first. Then Dallas responded with a 19-2 run of its own to take the lead. Orlando hung around in this one because Glen Davis got 24 points in the paint and Dallas did a poor job defending J.J. Redick half the night and he can shoot (he finished with 18). Seriously, with the game tight late how does Redick get left WIDE open for a three. Dallas got great stuff from the old guard of Shawn Marion (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Vince Carter (15 points, six assists).

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

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