Baseline to Baseline recaps: Crazy endings all across the league

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while you were getting your last Whopper Jr. — and I mean last Whopper Jr….

Nuggets 102, Pacers 101: It was the last game of a six-game road trip for the Pacers against an up-tempo Nuggets squad, and Indy was down 13 in the fourth quarter. Most teams roll over at this point, start thinking about sleeping in their own beds and a nice home-cooked meal. But credit the Pacers with showing fight — they went on to a 13-0 run and made this a game at the end.

And it was the very end that was interesting. Tied 101-101 both teams made a defensive play to keep it that way — Paul George blocked a Danilo Gallinari fade away, then at the other end Andre Iguodala stripped Paul George of the ball in an isolation set — and the result was Denver had one last chance with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. We’ve seen it before, the attempt at a from out of bounds alley-oop lob to the rim.

Except Paul George got called for a foul trying to defend Iguodala on the play. There was contact — George clearly backs into an airborne Iguodala — but that foul is never called. Never. It was this time. The Pacers and coach Frank Vogel blew a gasket, but the call stood and Iguodala got two free throws. He hit the first, intentionally missed the second and that was the ballgame. It’s a loss that is going to stick with the Pacers for a while.

Grizzlies 103, 76ers 100: Memphis is a defensive team but they didn’t look like it for 45 minutes on Monday — but they were when it mattered. With three minutes left in the game it was 100-97 Sixers and they got there behind Evan Turner, who pretty much got any open look he wanted on his way to 27 points. Thaddeus Young added 23 points for the Sixers.

But the Sixers wouldn’t score again in the final three minutes. A Zach Randolph tip in made it a one point game, then Rudy Gay grabbed the offensive rebound off Jerryd Bayless miss, slid into the lane and hit a little five footer to give Memphis the lead. Then with the Sixers looking to tie, Marc Gasol — he of the 27 points on the night — blocked a Nick Young corner three attempt to secure the win.

Bulls 93, Bobcats 85: Charlotte made Chicago put in some work here. The Bobcats were down nine at the half but fought back to tie it at 55-55 with less than four minutes to go in the third. That’s when the Bulls went on a 13-0 run that extended into the start of the fourth quarter and that was your ballgame. The Bulls got Luol Deng back, the All-Star forward returning after missing five games with a hamstring, and he had a dozen points. Deng bumped Jimmy Butler out of the starting lineup and he responded with 19 points off the bench to lead all Bulls scorers. Joakim Noah had an awesome line for the Bulls: 13 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocks.

Nets 97, Magic 77: Late in the first quarter Brooklyn started a 23-5 run that extended into the start of the second, and it took control of the game there and never looked back. They led by 26 and this was never in doubt. The Magic did get the lead down to seven at the end of the third quarter, then the Nets opened the fourth on a 9-0 run. Deron Williams had 20 points and 9 assists.

Rockets 125, Jazz 80: This is the worst home loss in Utah Jazz history. It was like the two teams were playing at different speeds, with the Rockets taking control in the second quarter with a 17-4 run — sparked by three three-pointers by Carlos Delfino — and pouring it on from there. On the night, the Rockets had 26 fast break points to the Jazz 2. James Harden had 25 to lead the Rockets, who got to rest their starters for the fourth and empty out the bench.

Warriors 114, Raptors 102: This was a fun game – up tempo, back and forth with plenty of lead changes, until the Warriors went on a 14-2 run in the fourth to take a comfortable lead. Toronto tried to claw back in late, but Klay Thompson had a steal from Jose Calderon and Harrison Barnes had a dunk that shut the door on any comeback. Warriors All-Star David Lee’s put up 21 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. The shock of the night was Aaron Gray with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Raptors, he was fantastic for a night.

This was Andrew Bogut’s first game back from off-season ankle surgery and he looked good — 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in 25 minutes. The scary part for Warriors fans is Stephen Curry rolled his surgically-repaired right ankle in the third quarter and did not return. It was called a mild sprain but we will watch to see.

Kings 96, Wizards 94: This ended up being a very entertaining game, but with everything on the line Isaiah Thomas had 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, including a floater with one second left, to give the Kings a road win. If the Wizards want to express frustration for this one, don’t blame Garrett Temple for not keeping up with Thomas on the last play, blame the 20 turnovers (which the Kings converted to 23 points). That was the ballgame. Emeka Okafor had a big night with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

Enes Kanter counters Kevin Durant on Thunder organization, ‘those cats’

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Kevin Durant – criticizing the Thunder organization in third-person tweets that seemingly were intended to come from an alternate account – wrote, “Kd can’t win a championship with those cats.”

Of course, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter piped up:

The Durant-Russell Westbrook relationship has obviously gotten the most attention. But Kanter has repeatedly painted himself as a foil to Durant, piggybacking off the Warriors star’s infamy.

I wonder whether Thunder management also views Kanter as family – or whether the team might try to dump his hefty salary and avoid the luxury tax.

Three questions the Denver Nuggets must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
40-42, missed the playoffs.

I know what you did last summer: Denver snatched up Paul Millsap on a 3-year, $90 million deal. They also re-signed Mason Plumlee to a 3-year deal worth $41 million. In June they swapped out Donovan Mitchell for Trey Lyles. Drafted Tyler Lydon, Monte Morris, and Vlatko Cancar.

THREE QUESTIONS THE NUGGETS MUST ANSWER:

1) Who is going to pass, and when, and how much? After adding Paul Millsap and re-signing Mason Plumlee, the Nuggets have a plethora of passing big men to choose from. We all know that Nikola Jokic is the future of the center position in Denver, so that gives you at least three big men to choose from in the offense. However, as we’ve seen on teams with great passing players before, it’s possible to get into the habit of over sharing the ball at the detriment of simply putting it in the hoop.

Plumlee is probably going to be in a major backup role on this team if everyone stays healthy, so that could simplify things a bit. Still, you have the potential here of things getting a little overworked when it gets into the hands of the big men, so making sure they understand when to stick to the sheet and when to play jazz will be important. We’re all excited to see Millsap and Jokic play together but it might take a few weeks against live competition to sort out the passing lanes.

2) Will there be any semblance of defense? Denver finished just 29th last season in defensive efficiency rating. Kenneth Faried is still somewhat of an issue on that end, and despite what some statistics suggest, Plumlee is not a good defender. Jokic and Millsap should help that out a little bit, but much of this team remains the same from last year.

The question will be in the continued development of the young players, particularly Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, and whatever you can squeeze out of Will Barton on the defensive end of the floor. For as “sneaky” as this team is going to be when it comes to the playoff race this season, I still believe that defense will be an issue. Think of the Portland Trail Blazers teams of the last few years and how much they have had to be a stellar offense of team if only because their defense has been abysmal. The Nuggets might slot right into that archetype this season if they aren’t careful.

3) What are they doing with Kenneth Faried? There has been a lot of chatter around the league wondering if very Faried is ever going to get traded. The question, of course, is whether he has any value with his cap hit and whether that is still a smart thing for the Nuggets to do.

Faried had a statistical down season last year, if only slightly, but in his move to a bench role he was effective as an offensive weapon. Certainly, if he remains in that role next season he will be a wrecking ball against some of the backup lineups that get trotted out in the NBA. However, he does have the third-highest salary on the team and it is a question whether he will ever fully develop into a more complete player as he heads into his seventh season.

The question of what to do with Faried isn’t just about the trade market. It’s also about, if he stays, what kind of role he has and what work he has to do on a team that needs to strengthen its defense if it wants to be in the playoff race.

PBT Podcast: Warriors, Lakers, Pacific preview with Mark Medina

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The Golden State Warriors are a juggernaut, the Mt. Everest the rest of the NBA is trying to climb this season.

Nobody is on that level yet, but the Lakers look like a team with a good foundation — and the ability to draw free agents — who could challenge the Warriors in a couple of years. That is, if Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram can live up to the hype.

Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News — a Warriors beat writer who used to cover the Lakers — joins me to discuss those two teams and their coming season, as well as the Clippers, Suns, and Kings.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Michael Beasley: “I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor”

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Michael Beasley recently signed a one-year contract with the New York Knicks for the veteran minimum. Hopefully, this is just the start of an interesting year with the Knicks. I think you know what I mean.

Speaking to reporters this week, Beasley had lots to say about his potential new role with New York, his interplay with Carmelo Anthony, and his new weight loss.

Specifically, Beasley spoke of how long he had known Anthony and how much he had mimicked his game off of the star on the left side of the floor, saying, “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that, I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

Since Kevin Durant has apparently set the offseason tone for athletes being frank with reporters, Beasley did say that he was not as great on help side defense as he could’ve been in recent years. However, he said that he wasn’t as bad as people made about to be, and it appears he is going to try to make that something to focus on this season.

Beasley has also lost about 20 pounds — it appears he has cut out sugar and red meats — but the most interesting thing he said to ESPN’s Ian Begley was about his offensive production.

Via ESPN:

“I’ve came in and out of this league. Every year my per-36 [minute average] has been top of the league. And still everybody looks at me as a bust. I just want an opportunity to play more than 15 minutes. And you know if I play more than 15 minutes I’m going to score more than 15 points. And if I can do that for 82 games, that’s an All-Star level. I don’t know. I’m just talking. I just want an opportunity to play basketball. I just want the respect I deserve. Not for what I can do in the future but what I’ve done in the past. And I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

It’s not immediately clear what kind of fair shake Beasley wants here. True, he played less than 30 games in two of his last three seasons in the NBA. However, that was preceded by six seasons of at least 47 games a year. We do know who he is at this point in time, and there is a large swath of game tape and statistics that can be analyzed to prove it.

It is also interesting that Beasley brought up his per-36 numbers. It’s true that Beasley has been an okay scorer when looking at those numbers out of context. But per-36 numbers are not a direct correlary to how effective a player is on the floor. Indeed, even when he was playing starter-level minutes, Beasley’s best numerical seasons are spread all over the place when you take a look at his per-36 production.

Meanwhile, Beasley has had only one season out of nine where he had a positive value over a replacement player. That was his sophmore season with the Miami Heat at 0.2. Five of those seasons he’s taken a larger percentage of his shots from 16 feet to just inside the 3-point line than he has from 0-3 feet. He’s a career 39% shooter on those long jumpers, and 63.5% from that close-in range.

Would it be great if Michael Beasley somehow turned into a strong driving, hard rebounding, diving and passing pick and roll man? Yes. That is exactly what this Knicks team — and any team, frankly — could use.

For now, it appears it’s more likely we end up with the Beasley who says he is a carbon copy of Carmelo — long 2s and all.