New York Knicks forward Anthony reacts to hitting a three-point shot against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: ‘Melo sparks Knicks win

1 Comment

Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while doing the Bernie lean

Lakers 105, Thunder 96: For two consecutive games the Lakers have basically moved Kobe Bryant to the point and put Steve Nash off the ball, and their offense has looked better. We have a lot more detail on this game, our man Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Celtics 100, Heat 98 (2OT): It was a dark day for the Celtics, which is too bad because this is the kind of game they could have built on. We broke down the game then we broke down what the Celtics need to do next.

Knicks 106, Hawks 104: Defense? Who wants to see defense? Both teams had offensive ratings of 121 (points per 100 possessions) and the Hawks shot 60 percent for the game. But if you’re going to play a game with just scoring and no defense, you are playing into Carmelo Anthony’s hands — he had 42 points including nine three pointers. Plus, with the game tied late he isolated on Josh Smith, drove around him and got the and-1 layup that won the game for the Knicks.

Josh Smith had his chances to be the hero for Atlanta, but in the games final plays he committed an offensive foul that gave the Knicks the ball back setting up Carmelo’s game winner. Then with time running out he got a good look at a three for the win but missed.

J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire each added18 points off the bench for New York. Raymond Felton had 12 points and 10 assists. Jeff Teague had 27 points for Atlanta and was aggressive.

Hornets 91, Grizzlies 83: Memphis scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter and that did them in — Memphis is a great defensive team but sometimes that can’t cover for their bad offense. Rudy Gay was 0-of-4 in the fourth (3-of-17 all night), and both Tony Wroten and Jerryd Bayless were 1-of-5 in the final frame. The Hornets got their points from their bench — Ryan Anderson had 22 and Jason Smith 16 leading a bench that scored 55 on the night. Zach Randolph had 20 points and 13 boards for Memphis.

Clippers, 96 Trail Blazers 83: This looked nothing like Saturday’s close Blazers win in the first of this home-and-home, save for the names across the teams’ chests. The Clippers owned the paint in this one, scoring 56 points there and they were led by Blake Griffin, who had 23 points and 9 assists (and didn’t set foot on the court in the fourth quarter). The Clippers pulled away in the third and unlike Saturday (when Los Angeles blew a 9 point lead in the final two minutes) they didn’t let up.

What went wrong for the Blazers? Let us count the ways. Portland scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter. Portland also committed the cardinal sin against the Clippers, turning the ball over 19 times (that fuels L.A.’s fast break). The other big difference from Saturday? Portland couldn’t hit a three to save its life (3-for-15).

Pistons 104, Magic 102: Orlando is now 3-15 with games decided 6 points or less. Some of that is just bad luck, but another reason is what we saw at the end of this game — they don’t have anyone who could create a good shot for himself in crunch time. Detroit did — Will Bynum was slicing into the lane and kicking out to shooters and that was the difference (he had 12 assists on the night.

It was tied 95-95 with three minutes when Bynum drove the lane, kicked out to a wide-open Tayshaun Prince for a three, and he missed it. Jameer Nelson got the rebound and threw a home-run ball lass to E’Twaun Moore for a layup and-1. Next trip down the Pistons missed two more threes but Greg Monroe was grabbing offensive rebounds and eventually found Brandon Knight who knocked down a three, part of his career high 31 points on the night. Next trip down was another three for Knight, this one open from the corner. Moore was getting buckets for the Magic on his way to a career high 18, but the Pistons kept getting better looks late. J.J. Redick, who had 31 on the night, had a shot at a game winner but couldn’t create space for himself and it was contested and never really had a chance.

Mavericks 110, Suns 95: Fourth game in five nights for the Suns and it showed, they looked tired. Credit the Mavs for taking advantage of that — Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each had 18 points. The Suns made a run and cut the lead to five in the fourth quarter, but that was all the energy they had. Dallas went on a 10-0 run and that was it.

LeBron James leads Cavaliers back to Finals doing it his way

Leave a comment

LeBron James is the first NBA star of the social media age, and with that has come a volume of criticism that the greats before him — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan — never had to deal with.

Even these playoffs, there have been chattering voices knocking LeBron for how he worked more to set up teammates — particularly Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — more than seeking out his own shot. Some people have always wanted him to be more Jordan, when he was always more Magic. Or Oscar Robertson.

And this playoff he knew that he could carry his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals through a diluted East, but if he wanted a ring he was going to need those other players to be confident, ready, and believing in the team.

You could see that all come together for LeBron James in Game 6. He attacked early and set a tone, then got everyone involved on his way to 33 points and 11 assists in what became a 113-87 win sending Cleveland back to the NBA Finals.

“I just had to bring my game,” James said in his on-court postgame interview on ESPN. “I had to bring my game, I had to be in attack mode from the beginning, trust my shot, and once my shot start going I can get my teammates involved and they was able to carry me down the stretch.”

LeBron James was getting to the rim with those attacks, check out his shot chart:

LeBron shot chart

LeBron also keyed the fourth-quarter 22-7 run that put away the game.

“There is only one LeBron James, and he makes a difference on any team he plays on, and he’s proven that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “It’s six Finals (in a row for LeBron), to compare him to our team — and I love our players, I wouldn’t trade any of our players — but you put him on any team and he’s a difference maker.”

LeBron’s critics will not be silenced. The man has made six straight finals, a feat not accomplished by anyone since a few legendary Celtics of the 1950s-60s (Bill Russell’s teams). It speaks to LeBron’s focus, skill, durability, and ability to lead teams.

Critics will point to LeBron being 2-4 in the Finals. That misses the point — making it to six straight is an amazing accomplishment, and LeBron did it his way. Not trying to be MJ or Magic or Oscar, just being LeBron James.

We should savor watching this guy play while we still can.

James scores 33, Cavaliers reach second straight NBA Finals

lebron
Getty Images
9 Comments

TORONTO — LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It’s the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it’s his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

“I had to bring my game,” he said. “I had to be in attack mode from the beginning.”

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith had 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday’s Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered “Let’s go, Raptors! Let’s go, Raptors!” throughout most of the final three minutes.

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland’s nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

TIP INS

Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. … Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

Reports: P.J. Carlesimo to join Sixers staff as Brett Brown’s lead assistant

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 02:  Head coach P.J. Carlesimo of the Brooklyn Nets watches as his team take on the Chicago Bulls in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Nets defeated the Bulls 95-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2 Comments

Last season, when new president Jerry Colangelo started shaking things up in Philadelphia, he brought in Mike D’Antoni to be a lead assistant next to Brett Brown. This led to all kinds of speculation around the league that the Colangelos were trying to bring back the old Suns brain trust (especially when Jerry hired his son Bryan to be GM).

However, D’Antoni jumped ship to be the head coach of the Houston Rockets.

Enter, P.J. Carlesimo.

Carlesimo is a good fit, but that’s not going to quell the rumors that the Colangelos are not comfortable with Brown (despite giving him a contract extension). The Sixers need to give Brown a legitimate shot — he’s been like a contestant on Chopped the past few seasons, given a ridiculous basket of ingredients and told to turn Mango, octopus and graham crackers into a four-star meal. He’s gotten them to play defense (at times) and started to build a culture. He has earned the chance to show what he can do with a better lineup.

Which is what the Sixers will have next season.

Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic likes idea of two-bigs lineup with Nikola Jokic

DENVER, CO - APRIL 5:  Jusuf Nurkic #23 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on April 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 124-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Late last season, Nuggets coach Mike Malone tried something out of the box the way the NBA is trending — playing two young bigs together. Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, the latter of whom finished in third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Small ball may be in vogue, but going big has worked pretty well these playoffs for Oklahoma City with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (and Serge Ibaka).

It didn’t work all that well for Denver — in just 92 minutes together the Nuggets were outscored by 7.1 points per 100 possessions, mostly because the offense was terrible.

But Nurkic wants to try it again next season, he told the Nuggets’ official Web site.

“I’m happy about the big lineup [with Nikola]. “Basketball has kind of changed. The NBA has gone smaller because of [the] Golden State [Warriors]. In the [Western Conference] semi-finals, look at [Oklahoma City’s Steven] Adams, [Enes] Kanter, and [Serge] Ibaka. They played all those guys and they see the difference. Me and Nikola have great communication because we played in the same league, we played against each other.”

He’s referring to their time in the Serbian league where the two played before going to the NBA.

While it could only be used situationally, expect Malone to experiment with this lineup more. There are some serious defensive questions (neither is exactly fleet of foot), and there could be spacing issues. But if the league moves one way, the smart teams and coaches think about counters.