Denver Nuggets v Boston Celtics

Baseline to Baseline recaps: It took three overtimes for Celtics to stop Nuggets streak

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed wondering again why you watch the Grammy’s every year…

Heat 107, Lakers 97: The Lakers are playing better, they are starting to figure things out. But that’s still a process. And when the Heat cranked it up in the fourth quarter they pulled away for the win. Brett Pollakoff broke it all down for us.

Clippers 102, Knicks 88: How much that crazy deep Clippers bench helps them in the playoffs, when rotations shorten, remains to be seen. But in the regular season it is an insane weapon — the Clips won the bench battle 48-15 and that was the key in this game. Even Carmelo Anthony’s 42 could not change that. We broke this game down in more detail.

Celtics 118, Nuggets 114 (3OT): For three quarters you thought the Celtics were going to have a pretty easy time ending the Nuggets nine-game winning streak — the Celtics opened the game on a 12-0 run. For much of the night Boston was out hustling a team whose game is based around energy.

But Denver does not go quietly and they pushed back with a late 7-0 run that forced overtime and the game went on to be a three overtime thriller. Paul Pierce had a monster line of 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists — plus the key three at the end of the second overtime to force a third. A shot he had to hit because Ty Lawson a clutch jumper moments before (he had 29 on the night).

In the third it was Kevin Garnett’s six points with Jason Terry’s five plus key defensive play that got the Celtics the kind of win that has to give them even more confidence. Rondo or not they will be a tough out in the playoffs. For the Nuggets, no shame in this loss.

Spurs 111, Nets 86: No Tim Duncan, no Manu Ginobili, but there was still Tony Parker and that is enough. He is having his best season in the NBA.

The Nets were actually in the lead most of the first half, by 10 at the end of the first quarter and six at the half. But Parker had 10 points in the third and sparked a 12-0 run where the Spurs took the lead early in the third quarter and never looked back. Parker had 29 points and 11 assists on the night.

Thunder 97, Suns 69: This was a thumping that really took shape midway through the second quarter when Oklahoma City went on a 16-2 run. From there is felt like Pickett’s charge. The Thunder were putting up points — Russell Westbrook had 24 points, Thabo Sefolosha 20, Kevin Durant 18 — meanwhile the Suns didn’t even cross the 50 point mark in their home court until midway through the fourth quarter. Phoenix had one player in double figures, Markieff Morris with 12 points.

Raptors 102, Hornets 89: Aside for a stretch at the start of the second quarter Toronto led most of the way in this game, but it took Rudy Gay scoring 8 of his 20 in the fourth quarter and John Lucas III adding 10 of his 19 in the final frame for the Raptors to pull away. The big news for Toronto was Jonas Valanciunas moving back into the starting lineup and providing 11 points, 10 rebounds. The Hornets got 19 points from Robin Lopez while Greivis Vasquez had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. What the Hornets did not get was good games from their young starts — Eric Gordon shot 2-of-7 and Anthony Davis had just 2 points.

Magic 110, Trail Blazers 104: The Magic snapped their 12-game losing streak and you can credit their offense or blame the Blazers defense for that (it’s a little of both). The Magic attacked off the dribble and got the ball inside and Portland’s defensive rotations were nonexistent it seemed. The result was 60 points in the paint for Portland plus they had 17 offensive rebounds — 34 percent of the time the Magic missed a shot they got a second chance. Orlando went on a 9-0 run right before the half to take control of the game and they never looked back. J.J. Redick had 22 points to lead Orlando, plus Nikola Vucevic added 17 points and 19 rebounds.

If Portland has dreams of catching Houston or Utah for that final playoff spot in the West, they can’t have games like this.

Grizzlies 105, Timberwolves 88: Memphis went on a 15-3 run to take control of the game late in the second quarter then went on to outscore Minnesota 58-41 in the second half to win going away. Memphis shot 64.7 percent in the third and by the time the quarter was over so was the game. The good news for Memphis is that Tayshaun Prince shot 8-for-8 from the floor and had 18 points to lead the team, while Austin Daye chipped in 16 — the two new Grizzlies may be finding their groove with this team. Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour each had 17 for Minnesota.

Kings 117, Rockets 111: Houston had a 10 point lead early in the fourth quarter but gave it all back and were undone by Sacramento’s three point shooting late as the Kings won for the home fans on “Here We Buy Night,” a fan effort to show how much support there is in the community for the team (there’s just not a lot of support for the current owners, the Maloof family). The key guy in the Sacramento comeback was Isaiah Thomas, who had 17 of his 23 in the quarter. John Salmons added 10 of his 23 in the fourth and hit a number of key free throws down the stretch. But the real key was Sacramento shooting 5-of-8 from three in the fourth quarter — if you hit threes and free throws late you will win a lot of games. James Harden had 30 for the Rockets.

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  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: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.