Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Boston gets best win of the year

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while talking about Anne Hathaway’s nipples….

Nuggets 119, Lakers 108: On the second night of a back-to-back the Lakers looked old and slow next to a Nuggets team that ran right past them, exploited the Lakers transition defense and scored a ridiculous 78 points in the paint. We broke it all down in more detail, but Lakers fans may not want to read it.

Celtics 110, Jazz 107 (OT): Boston was playing its fifth game in seven nights all on the road, the second night of a back-to-back up in the altitude in Utah — this is a schedule makers loss. Except someone forgot to tell the Celtics. Doc Rivers called this Boston’s best win of the year.

In the first half on Boston played like a tired team — they missed a lot of good looks, they weren’t rotating out to Jazz three point shooters and they just didn’t look like themselves. Yet they were in it, this was just a five-point game at the half. Then in the third quarter Boston stepped up their defensive pressure and took the lead getting easy buckets in transition off turnovers. And we had a ballgame.

Paul Pierce stepped up in the second half (he finished with 26). He made a last minute, 17-foot up-and-under jumper that had Boston up two late. Utah tied it when Gordon Hayward (who had a great game and 26 points) created off a broken play and found a cutting Alec Burks who hit a layup to tie it. Pierce missed a contested 20 footer and we were headed to overtime. Which Pierce owned. Boston went on a 7-0 run at one point and that was that.

Utah has a tough schedule the rest of the way and the Lakers are getting hot. These are the kind of games they need to win if they are going to stay in the playoffs.

Wizards 90, Raptors 84: A fun contest between two teams playing much better ball lately. Not well played — both teams shot below 36 percent in the first half — but it was close and hard-fought. Washington led the rest of the way after a 19-6 second quarter run but they could never really pull away from a gritty Raptors team, in fact an 11-2 third quarter run had the game tied 49-49 with 4:16 left in the third. Then Bradley Beal (20 points on the night) knocked down a three, Washington went on a 15-5 run and they never looked back. John Wall had 10 points including the dagger layup late.

DeMar DeRozan had 25 for Toronto. Rudy Gay had a rough 1-of-11 shooting night.

Hawks 114, Pistons 103: The Hawks started to pull away in the second quarter behind a big game from Al Horford — 23 points and 22 rebounds — as the Hawks cruised to a win in Detroit. It was a team effort with Atlanta pushing the pace when they could and moving the ball beautifully most of the night. Josh Smith chipped in 23 points and Jeff Teague added 20 points and 12 assists for the Hawks. Jonas Jerebko had 21 points to lead the Pistons. Atlanta has won five of six.

76ers second-rounder Jonah Bolden signs in Israel

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Jonah Bolden – No. 16 on my draft board – slipped all the way to the 76ers at No. 36 in the NBA draft. An impressive summer league has raised his stock significantly.

But Philadelphia won’t reap the rewards this season.

Bolden signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced. The club also said the deal contained NBA outs and the 76ers helped facilitate his move from his previous team, Red Star in Serbia.

This is a helpful arrangement for Philadelphia, which is running out of roster spots. Bolden will develop elsewhere while allowing the 76ers’ to maintain his exclusive negotiating rights.

Bolden must get stronger and more adept at handling physicality. The athletic stretch four can also continue developing his burgeoning perimeter skills.

Then, next year, maybe the 76ers will have room to sign him themselves.

Anthony Davis does #DriveByDunkChallenge (video)

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If you’re not up with what the kids are doing, the cool thing this summer is the #DriveByDunkChallenge – driving to random houses, running out of a still-running car, dunking on their basketball hoop, running back into the car then driving off.

It sounds like a lot of fun for those who can dunk (and don’t get accosted by startled homeowners). An example:

Pelicans star Anthony Davis took his turn:

Report: Thunder signing Dakari Johnson two years after drafting him

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Two seasons ago, Dakari Johnson was the youngest player by more than two years on the D-League’s All-Rookie team. Last season, Johnson was the youngest player by more than a year on an All-D-League team – and he made the first of three teams.

Now, Johnson – who the Thunder drafted No. 48 in 2015 and whose rights they continued to hold – is finally moving up to the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Thunder have already used the full taxpayer mid-level exception, so presumably Johnson will get the minimum – $2,128,226 over two years. That, plus two years of meager D-League salary, will be Johnson’s return for granting Oklahoma City four years of his services.

He could have forced the Thunder’s hand either of the previous two years by signing the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – a team must extend to retain a draft pick’s rights. Accepting the tender would have meant Johnson earning an NBA salary (and gaining a year of service) if Oklahoma City kept him past the preseason. Or, if they waived him, he would’ve been an unrestricted NBA free agent. He still could have developed with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate while available to any NBA team.

Instead, Johnson repeatedly rejected the tender, allowing Oklahoma City to maintain exclusive negotiating rights.

At least the Thunder helped develop him. A strong 7-footer, Johnson has improved his mobility and skill level. He’s still an old-school center in a league moving away from that style, but he’s now more equipped to keep up.

Whether he’s ready enough is another question. Johnson will fall behind Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the depth chart. At just 21, Johnson is still a decent developmental prospect.

Johnson gives the Thunder 16 players on standard contracts, one more than the regular-season maximum. They could waive Semaj Christon, whose salary is unguaranteed, but I’d be leery of having only Raymond Felton behind Russell Westbrook at point guard. Nick Collison at least provides insurance at center.

So, there’s no guarantee Johnson sticks into the regular season. One thing working in his favor: His salary will be luxury-taxed at the rookie minimum, because the Thunder drafted him. Christon or any other player acquired through free agency would be taxed at the second-year minimum.

No matter how it shakes out, Johnson is at least finally getting significant money in his pocket.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey: DeMar DeRozan to play some point guard

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The Raptors gave away backup point guard Cory Joseph to save money. So, who will play behind Kyle Lowry?

Presumably, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will each slide up a spot on the depth chart. The third-year Wright looks ready to join the rotation, and he deserves at least the opportunity.

But Toronto also has another – unexpected – option at point guard: DeMar DeRozan.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Bryan Meler of Sportsnet:

“DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”

“Everyone and their brother knows we want better ball movement,” said Casey.

DeRozan didn’t play point guard at all last season.* So, this is a pretty big shift.

*Defined as playing without Lowry, Joseph, Wright or VanVleet.

Known as an isolation player, DeRozan has quietly improved as a distributor. I don’t think his ability to run an offense is at a point-guard level, but I’m also not sure that’s the point.

The Raptors are trying to change their style and promote more ball movement. This could help in the long run.

I supported the Timberwolves playing Zach LaVine at point guard as a rookie even though it was clear he should be a shooting guard. Playing point guard was a crash course that helped him develop skills useful at shooting guard, skills he couldn’t have as easily developed while playing off the ball.

The same could be true with DeRozan. Some rocky minutes at point guard could better equip him to play with Lowry in better-passing units come playoff time.

It was more conventional to play a 19-year-old on a bad team out of position to focus on skill development than it is for a 28-year-old on a good team. But he we are.

The Raptors have achieved enough success in the regular season and not enough in the playoffs. Experimenting during the long regular season is a good plan.