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.

Serge Ibaka, Giannis Antetokounmpo trade massive blocks during Raptors-Bucks (VIDEO)

AP
Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a long dude. So is Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. The two faced off in Game 6 at the Bradley Center on Thursday night, so it makes sense the two wound up using one of their most impressive physical assets against each other.

Let the battle of length begin!

Via Twitter:

That’s Ibaka blocking the Milwaukee Bucks star on an attempt at the rim, on a dunk no less. That was impressive, no doubt, but just a minute later, it was Antetokounpmo coming through with a big time block on DeMar DeRozan:

But DeRozan got his revenge later in the fourth quarter, throwing down a dunk over the Bucks defense that was perhaps the finger in the wall needed to stop the leak that was Toronto’s disastrous final period.

DeRozan and the Raptors got the last laugh, winning the closeout game on the road, 92-89. Toronto will go on to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi finals.

Should the Trail Blazers go after Pacers star Paul George? CJ McCollum says yes

AP
1 Comment

The Portland Trail Blazers need to do something drastic this offseason. Fans in Oregon should be expecting something big with a roster of players prime for the trade market and three first round picks in GM Neil Olshey’s pocket for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Who should Portland go after? That is a tough question to answer.

The Blazers are not exactly a huge free agent destination, although the city is changing its reputation toward NBA players in recent years with the help of star players Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who have fully embraced Oregon’s largest city.

McCollum, in fact, has his own opinion on who the Blazers should go after this summer: Indiana Pacers star Paul George.

Via Twitter:

George, who is under contract for 2017-18 but has a player option for 2018-19, has been rumored to desire playing in Los Angeles. In any case, fans around the league are looking at George as a potential trade candidate.

He would certainly do well on the Blazers, who had a disappointing 41-41 season in 2016-17. After a surprising effort last year, the Trail Blazers were slotted to expand upon their finish in 2016. But a sluggish start from Damian Lillard mixed with one of the worst defensive rosters in the NBA found them battling for the No. 8 seed come the end of the season. Even still, a miraculous stretch of good play after the All-Star Game was what it took for the Blazers to beat out the likes of Denver, Dallas, and Sacramento for the final playoff spot.

We know now that the Blazers were swept by the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, and up here in the Northwest it only solidified the fact Portland needs to get better on the wing.

Last season, Al-Farouq Aminu showed he could shoot a league average percentage from 3-point range, which helped relieve some pressure off Lillard and CJ McCollum. But Aminu regressed to shooting 33 percent from deep in 2017, and although Maurice Harkless did an excellent job as a young starter he’s not yet the kind of dynamic offensive player the Blazers need to be a Top 4 team in the West.

Aminu projects for Portland better as a 4, and with Jusuf Nurkic now anchoring the center position, the goal for Portland will be to strengthen the wing and flesh out the bench.

George would be an excellent get, but the Blazers would need to have the salaries match in any trade with Indiana. Allen Crabbe seems the most likely option, given his RFA match for Portland was a clear move to retain an asset. Evan Turner occupied a lot of guard minutes for Portland, and it seems the Blazers aim to keep him.

Meanwhile, you have other players like Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis who still have some value and could help Portland’s cap situation or work as part of a trade with Indiana.

Having watched Portland closely the past six seasons or so, and seeing how parts of this roster has developed, it would make the most sense to add a third star to this team. Turner hamstrings the bench unit with his gargantuan $17 million salary next season, so building out the bench unit under him still won’t put the Blazers in a position to compete with the top teams in the West without another star.

I think the clearest way to capitalize on the prime part of the careers for Lillard and McCollum is to grab another star right now. George might be out of reach — and he reportedly wants to play in LA anyway — but I think the Blazers should think big this offseason. Whether that means trading for George or doing something else bold remains to be seen.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

Getty Images
1 Comment

Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

Getty Images
1 Comment

At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.