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Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Kings take Heat two overtimes

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while scrolling through the Florida Man twitter feed….

Heat 141, Kings 129 (2OT): What looked like a blowout on paper ended up being the best game of the night. The Kings may deny it was a moral victory for them, but it was. They were scrappy all night, they played with a fight you wish we had seen all season. It LeBron James taking over in the second overtime with 11 points in 3 assists to get Miami it’s 12th straight win.

I don’t know that you can say Marcus Thornton outplayed the Heat’s wing players but he had 36 points of his own, while Tyreke Evans had 26 and Isaiah Thomas added 14 — they consistently got into the paint and knocked down shots. Then there was DeMarcus Cousins, who overpowered the Heat front line at points and had 24 points.

By the way, your mind blowing LeBron stat of the night is not his line of 40 points, 16 assists and 8 rebounds. No, it’s that by shooting 14-of-23 he becomes the first player to shoot 64 percent in a calendar month (minimum of 200 shots) since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1983.

Pacers 108, Warriors 97: Hey, there was a basketball game to go with the fight. Although who wants to talk about anything but the fight? Roy Hibbert is going to miss at least a game for throwing Stephen Curry around like he is half his size… well he is, but Hibbert still can’t just throw him around like that during a shoving match.

After that incident, when the Pacers were already up 10, it was David West who took over and made sure the Pacers held on for their fifth straight double-digit win. West finished with 28, George Hill had 23 and both he and Curry — who may have been the best player on the floor and finished with 38 points — seemed to score at will on difficult shots. In the end the Pacers were simply too much.

Magic 98, Sixers 84: Philadelphia has reached a new low. But don’t take my word for it, ask Philly coach Doug Collins.

After leading 29-20 the Sixers coasted while the Magic (as they have most of the season) played hard for Jacque Vaughn. Six Orlando players were in double figures, led by Tobias Harris and Arron Afflalo with 16. Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic finished with 12 points and 19 rebounds. Meanwhile for Philly everyone was off: Jrue Holiday shot 4-for-11, Thaddeus Young was 4-of-11 also, Nick Young finished 1-for-6 and Evan Turner was 2-for-7. It wasn’t pretty. Ask Doug Collins.

Cavaliers 101, Bulls 96: In an alternate universe where Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose are healthy this game is a lot more interesting.

Chicago finally put up some points but this time their usually stout defense couldn’t stop the Cavaliers most of the game. Especially when it mattered. A Kirk Hinrich three made it a one-point game inside three minutes. But the Cavaliers answered with a couple of buckets from Dion Waiters (who finished with 25), and a bucket from Luke Walton might have been the dagger. Actually, the Dagger was with 15 seconds left when a hustling Walton stole a lazy Carlos Boozer inbound pass.

Nets 101, Hornets 97: Brooklyn thought this was a game they would be able to sit their starters the fourth quarter and relax. They took the lead with a 9-0 run early in the first quarter, had that all the way up to 22 in the second quarter and thought they had a laugher. But the Hornets got serious on defense (the Nets shot just 35.9 percent in the second half) and chipped away until this was as close as a two-point ballgame late.

Deron Williams took charge and scored the Nets last 11 points to secure the win, and he finished with 33 points and 8 assists. Brook Lopez added 20 points and Keith Bogans was key late with three from beyond the arc. Greivis Vasquez had 20 to lead the Hornets.

Bucks 95, Mavericks 90: This was a vintage Dirk Nowitzki performance — 21 points and 20 rebounds. He seemed to do everything. But with this Mavericks roster that is just not enough some nights. Monta Ellis had 11 fourth quarter points (22 for the game) and sparked Milwaukee to finish the game on a 12-2 run and get the win. J.J. Redick was second on the Bucks with 14 points. Losses like this kill any Dallas playoff dreams.

Clippers 106, Bobcats 84: You wouldn’t know it from the final score but this was a close game with the Bobcats leading much of the first half. But the Bobcats got away from the cardinal rule of beating the Clippers — take away the easy dunks in transition — late in the first half and a few Blake Griffin dunks fired up the team. A late 15-3 first half run by the Clippers was the beginning of the end. Griffin had 24 points, Chris Paul finished with 13 assists and the Clippers rolled to a win.

Suns 84, Timberwolves 83 (OT): Well, somebody had to win this game. The Suns led by as many as 18 in the first half but the Timberwolves guards sparked runs in the fourth quarter to make it close — J.J. Barea had 12 points and Ricky Rubio had 7 assists in the fourth quarter alone.

The overtime was close the entire way but a P.J. Tucker fast-break layup gave Minnesota a four-point lead. The teams traded buckets then a Derrick Williams three made it a one-point game. The Suns tried to ice it but Nikola Pekovic blocked a Wesley Johnson shot and the Timberwolves got one final shot at it. Alexey Shved drove the lane but his contested layup rolled off the rim and the Suns hung on for the win.

Report: Kings willing to trade DeMarcus Cousins because his moodiness bothers teammates

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins walks up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 104-94. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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The Kings, after years of shutting down DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors, will reportedly seriously explore the market.

What changed for Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac?

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

the sense within the organization is Divac is tempted by the prospect of pairing his center with his personally selected coach but that he has become increasingly frustrated by his center’s ongoing issues and, for the first time, is willing to test the market for the two-time All-Star.

The disconnect between Karl and Divac, and Karl and Cousins, is rivaled closely by the discord within the fragmented locker room. Apart from Rondo, Cousins has few friends among his teammates. Several players privately have complained to management about his mood swings and disrespect for those around him, including his coaches and in particular Karl.

I still doubt Sacramento trades Cousins. There’s a vast gulf between soliciting Cousins offers and actually pulling the trigger on one. He remains one of the NBA’s most valuable players – already a star, 25 and locked up for two more seasons at a reasonable $35 million combined. It’d take a haul to land him, and I doubt any team offers a package that sways Divac – though a few could have him thinking.

But Cousins’ moodiness is a problem. It gets him harmful technical fouls, takes him out of games mentally and – as we learn here – upsets his teammates.

It seems the Kings are attempting to scare him straight – reports like this leaking, including one that their next coach will have management’s backing if he wants to discipline Cousins.  They have to try something. Rajon Rondo‘s leadership, while endearing to Cousins, apparently didn’t change the center significantly enough.

I wouldn’t rule out Sacramento trading Cousins. If you put a player on the market, you might just hear an offer you like. But selling low on Cousins a – franchise-level player – would be a mistake. It’s too hard to get a player with his talent just to dump him when he’s still young.

A far better outcome would be Cousins heeding these implicit messages, maturing and cutting out the nonsense that too often overshadows his immense talent.

Tony Allen warns Mike Conley: ‘If I see you in New York or one of them places, you got a flagrant foul coming’

Memphis Grizzlies forward Tony Allen (9) and guard Mike Conley (11) react during the second half of Game 2 in a second-round NBA playoff basketball series against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Marc Gasol has a simple plan for convincing Mike Conley to re-sign with the Grizzlies: Be nice.

Tony Allen is going another way.

Peter Fleischer of Fox 13 Memphis:

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace says Conley will re-sign with Memphis. Others disagree. For his part, Conley has been vague – though he left the door open for signing with the Knicks, need a point guard and could have max cap space .

Conley will have options, and he should explore them. This will be his first free agency after the Grizzlies drafted him and signed him to a contract extension. Staying with the only NBA team he has know should be appealing – but other options could be, too.

People in Memphis clearly care about him returning.

Each in their own way.

Report: Randy Wittman favoring Nene, Ramon Sessions frustrated other Wizards

Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman, second from right, talks with his team, including forward Nene (42), from Brazil, center Marcin Gortat (4), from Poland, and guard John Wall (2) during a timeout in the second period of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Washington. The Cavaliers won 103-96 in overtime.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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How can new coach Scott Brooks get the underwhelming Wizards on track?

Looking back on Randy Wittman’s tenure could be instructive.

Wittman reportedly upset players by playing favorites, namely Nene and Ramon Sessions.

J. Michael of CSN Washington:

I’m told by multiple persons with knowledge of the situation, it was Wittman’s outright refusal to ever call out Nene that was at the heart of it.

Tensions were raised when the team would study game film and Wittman always was quick to call out the likes of Wall and Bradley Beal while Nene routinely received a free pass.

“It was all our fault. He did nothing wrong,” a player said, nodding at  Nene, in the locker room in Oakland, Calif., and this came the night before Beal’s blowup following a loss the to the Sacramento Kings when he called his teammates for not playing hard or smart.

Even when it came to Ramon Sessions, who had a strong season as Wall’s backup and in the final year of his deal, Wittman curiously refused to criticize him for soft defensive coverages on pick-and-rolls. The perception became that Sessions is such a likable and great player to coach, Wittman didn’t want to mention him by name and as with Nene he’d blame the mistake on the collective instead of that individual.

Sessions, I’m told, actually challenged Wittman to call him out if he’s suggesting that he was at fault. It wasn’t a combative posture by Sessions. He wanted the coaching.

Wittman was rarely shy about criticizing his players publicly – including John Wall (here), Bradley Beal (here) and Marcin Gortat (here). That’d be especially frustrating if Wittman were also giving other players preferential treatment behind closed doors. You could see how that would create a culture of finger pointing, which extended among players.

Thankfully for Washington, Brooks seems prepared to fix these issues. He managed Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook during their ascension with the Thunder, carefully attending to each budding star’s needs without offending the other. If Brooks can walk that tightrope, the Wizards should be a breeze.

Wittman will have to defend these charges if he wants another head-coaching job, and his side of the story might leave a different impression. But it’s more important now how the players feel than whether they rightfully feel that way. Wittman is gone. Some of the players will remain, though Nene and Sessions are free agents. Even if they didn’t ask for special treatment, Nene and Sessions leaving could alleviate the negative feelings associated with them in the locker room.

Would letting Nene and Sessions walk solve everything? It could help, but probably not. It’s on Brooks to change the dynamic, and I think he can.

Paul George says he’s willing to play all 48 minutes in Game 6 against Raptors

Indiana Pacers' Paul George (13) drives to the basket as Toronto Raptors' DeMarre Carroll (5) defends during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff basketball series, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The on/off splits for Paul George in the Pacers-Raptors series, which Toronto leads 3-2, are jarring:

  • On: +26 in 189 minutes
  • Off: -29 in 51 minutes

Indiana’s problems without George came to a head in Game 5. In the 6:55 George sat, the Pacers shot 0-for-10 and got outscored 19-1. That was more than enough for the Raptors, who won by three when Solomon Hill‘s game-tying 3-pointer left his hand a fraction of a second too late.

How do the Pacers solve this problem?

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Paul George said he is willing to play 48 minutes in Friday night’s Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors if needed.

“If that’s the direction that the game is going, I’m all for it,” George said after Thursday’s practice. “Whatever we got to do to win, I’m doing it.”‘

The only player to play a full this game was Rajon Rondo, who played 48 minutes in consecutive (!) Kings games in November. The last player to do it in a playoff game was Jimmy Butler, who played all 53 minutes of a Bulls’ overtime loss to the Wizards in 2014.

So, it can be done, and George is the type of athlete who can do it.

But can George sustain his elite production without a rest? That’s the main question, including how it’d affect him for a potential Game 7. With Indiana’s season on the line, it might be worth finding out.

There are also last drastic solutions. Frank Vogel used one lineup the entire time George sat in Game 5: Ty LawsonRodney StuckeyC.J. Miles-Solomon Hill-Ian Mahinmi.

Maybe don’t run the offense through Lawson, Stuckey and Miles at any point of a must-win game? Stagger minutes between George and Monta Ellis and maybe George Hill. Ellis is the type of player who can lead a bad team in scoring, but regularly bad would be a huge step up for the George-less Pacers. George Hill has also proven capable of handling the reins without George.

Vogel’s goal should be maximizing George’s minutes but also minimizing time Indiana spends without George, Ellis or George Hill.