Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Celtics 11-0 run closes out Pacers

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wondering what live is like for a poor sultan….

Lakers 108, Hornets 102: The Lakers were down 25 in the third quarter, 18 entering the fourth. But then Kobe Bryant took over the offense and Dwight Howard the defense, the Hornets fell apart and a comeback that could be a defining moment in the Lakers season was on. Our own Darius Soriano broke it all down.

Celtics 83, Pacers 81: Boston is supposed to be old. They were on the second night of a back-to-back playing on the road. Yet they were the team that put together an 11-0 run to end the game, capped off by a Jeff Green layup when the Pacers defense broke down that gave the Celtics the win.

Of course, this was more than just one shot. The Celtics got 18 from Kevin Garnett, but mostly the Celtics are a team poised to take advantage of a Pacers defense designed to make you take midrange jumpers. The Celtics can kill you that way, they are the best midrange shooting team in the NBA. And finally, the Pacers offense can just go away. It did at the start of the fourth quarter when they gave up a 10-point lead. Then again at the end of the game, in the final 4:30, the Pacers were 0-7 with two turnovers. Those dry stretches kill the.

This game is a great example of how people view these teams heading into the playoffs. Boston doesn’t have the most talent but the guys they have make plays under pressure and execute with the game on the line, which makes them dangerous. The Pacers still played great defense for the game (they only gave up 83) but their offense can take a siesta and when that happens against good teams they lose.

Heat 97, Magic 96: Miami led this game by 20 points early in the third quarter then returned to a bad habit we haven’t seen a lot of during their streak — they coasted. Took their foot off the gas. And while the Magic are not a good team they play hard for Jacque Vaughn and they came back. Nikola Vucevic was key to this and he finished the game with 25 points and 21 boards. But he also fouled out and so there was no good rim protector on the court for the final play, a LeBron James drive to win it. LeBron finished with 26 points, Dwyane Wade 24.

Mavericks 112, Rockets 108: On Sunday, the Rockets embarrassed the Mavericks by 33 points. The box score from that game was taped to the white board in the Dallas locker room with “not tonight” written across it in red ink.

This game was close and down the stretch Dallas closed on a 10-4 run to get the win. Dallas got good play from its veterans, with Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each pouring in 23. Marion was also the guy guarding James Harden much of the night and Harden went 5-of-17 from the field and airballed a late three. It just wasn’t going to be his night.

Cavaliers 104, Jazz 101: Those footsteps you hear Jazz fans are the Lakers 1.5 games back of you now. If you’re going to win this race with them down the stretch, this is the kind of game you need to win.

Utah led by 6 with 1:41 to go but Cleveland closed the game out on a 9-0 run. They did it behind Kyrie Irving, who had 11 of his 20 points on the night in the final five minutes of the game. He took over and the Jazz both don’t have a guard who can do that nor a perimeter defender who can slow a guy who starts to do that. Gordon Hayward had 25 for the Jazz as he continues to come into his own on the offensive end.

Spurs 101, Bulls 83: No Tony Parker no problem. Playing without their all-star point guard, the Spurs still found a way to hold off the Bulls after a fairly even 1st half by pulling away in the final 24 minutes.

Without Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili led the way for San Antonio. Duncan had another throwback game, doing most of his damage inside, scoring 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots. Ginobili, operating with the ball in his hands a lot more, racked up 9 assists to go with 18 points of his own by hitting 3 of his 5 three point attempts and getting to rim well to score inside. Kawhi Leonard also took up a greater load on offense by scoring well as both a shot creator and in doing his normal work as an off-ball threat. Leonard’s 14 points came on an efficient 6-11 shooting and his work was a nice compliment to the heavy lifting of Duncan’s inside game and Ginobili’s creativity as primary ball handler.

The Bulls, meanwhile, were carried by Luol Deng (19 points, 7 rebounds) and some hot shooting from Marco Belinelli, who scored a game high 21 points on 8-16 shooting (including 3-6 from behind the arc). But, as has been the case all to often this season with Derrick Rose on the shelf, the Bulls simply couldn’t find enough ways to score points as the Spurs clamped down in the 2nd half by taking away their preferred actions and doing a better job of contesting shots.
—Darius Soriano

Clippers 117, Bucks 101: Jamal Crawford’s between-the-legs alley oop to Blake Griffin for the windmill dunk will steal the highlights, but Lob City can’t exist without the foundation that is Griffin’s work on the block. Against the best shotblocking team in the league, Griffin was smooth, under control, and threw together strings of moves that sent Milwaukee’s bigs flying out of the way. Griffin’s calm, collected effort led to his first triple-double since his rookie season, and he nearly had it in the third quarter. Griffin’s 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists carried the Clippers, but Matt Barnes also caught fire from deep (six 3-pointers) and Jamal Crawford (11-for-15) couldn’t miss. Milwaukee did their part to hang in for most of the game offensively, but the quality and quantity of open looks eventually tipped the scales heavily in the favor of the Clippers.
—D.J. Foster

Knicks 87, Pistons 77: The Knicks were sloppy early on in this one, with seven turnovers in the games first seven minutes. Their offense couldn’t find a flow with Carmelo Anthony out resting his sore knee. But once Mike Woodson decided to put Amare Stoudemire in and the game things got better for New York — Stoudemire had 22 points, Raymond Felton found his groove on the pick-and-roll when the Pistons started to play off him, and finished with 26. The Knicks went on a 16-0 run after the Pistons made a second-half push to take the lead, and that was it for Detroit. Brandon Knight had 17 to lead Detroit.

Hawks 107, Sixers 96: We have a “good” Jeff Teague sighting — he was aggressive all night and scored 27 points and added 11 assists in the Hawks win. Atlanta took control of this game midway through the first quarter and led the rest of the way. When the Sixers made a push in the third quarter the Hawks responded with a 15-1 run to remind everyone how this game would end. Al Horford and Anthony Tolliver each had 21 for the Hawks.

Grizzlies 91, Trail Blazers 85: This was the classic tale of two halves game.

In the first half, the Trailblazers jumped out an early lead through hot shooting from their perimeter players. Damian Lillard scored 14 of his 20 points in those first two quarters while Nicolas Batum was able to hit 4 of his 5 shots to score all 10 of his points over that stretch. With J.J. Hickson (12 points, 13 rebounds for the game) pitching in 8 points and 7 rebounds in the first half, the Blazers were well on their way to taking down the red hot Grizzlies, boasting a 12 point lead heading into the 2nd half.

But, after halftime, the Grizzlies showed why they’re on such a hot streak. In the final two periods, the Grizzlies outscored the Blazers by 18 points through ratcheted up defensive pressure and offensive balance. Portland only shot 28.2% from the field in the 2nd half as the Grizzlies swarmed shooters and made a consistent effort to protect the rim. LaMarcus Aldridge had a particularly rough night for the Blazers, connecting on only 2 of his 13 shots (though he did add 10 rebounds and 6 assists).

Offensively, the Grizzlies began to attack more through Mike Conley and Marc Gasol who both scored 13 of their 20 and 23 points respectively after halftime. Add in a good scoring punch from Jerryd Bayless off the bench (13 points) and the Grizzlies’ superior talent and depth were able to take control as the game went on.
—Darius Soriano

Warriors 87, Kings 83: The Warriors needed a win — they were falling in the standings and entering the “can the Lakers catch them?” conversation. But Sacramento always plays the Warriors tough and while this game wasn’t the high-scoring, overtime-filled matchup of games past it was close. It took David Lee (17 points, 10 rebounds) finding Klay Thompson alone in the corner for a three to seal the Warriors win. Thompson finished with a game-high 20. The Kings had a shot to tie it but Tyreke Evans couldn’t get a little runner to go over the long arms of Thompson and the Warriors are safe for a day.

Nets 99, Bobcats 78: The Nets owned the third quarter, outscoring the Bobcats 26-7 at one point in there, and pulled away for an easy win. The run was led by Joe Johnson, who had 10 in the quarter and 22 for the game. Charlotte’s offense never came out of the locker room for the second half as they shot 25 percent in the final two quarters. The Nets shot 56 percent in the second half and part of that was Deron Williams, who finished the game with 26. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 17 led Charlotte.

Timberwolves 87, Wizard 82: When Ricky Rubio is feeling it there may not be a more fun player in the league to watch. Rubio had 15 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds leading a small lineup from the Timberwolves (Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea together) to the win. This was close most of the way with neither team ever getting a double-digit lead, but it was a 13-5 push that gave Minnesota the lead it needed in the fourth. Washington had its chance, down one with 31 seconds to go and the ball in John Wall’s hands (he had 17). But Rubio got the steal off wall, pushed the ball ahead to Barea who hit the layup that ended up being the dagger.

Raptors 91, Suns: 71: This was a blowout from the middle of the second quarter on and it was sparked in part by the Raptors bench. Six Toronto players scored in double digits. As for the Suns night, they had 29 turnovers. That led to 39 Raptors points. That pretty much sums it all up.

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.

Report: Suns talk to Jason Kidd, Vinny Del Negro about coaching job

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Mike Budenholzer is out (and may be thinking New York). Suns’ interim coach Jay Triano and former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale are still in the mix.

The Suns also have reached out to Jason Kidd — who was let go by the Bucks mid-season — and former Bulls and Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

This is still early in a lengthy search process, there is a long way to go before anyone gets offered this job.

Kidd now lives in Phoenix. He’s considered a smart coach but one who falls in and out of love with players fast, pushes hard for the players he wants (and against those he doesn’t), and didn’t utilize the talent on the Bucks to its best advantage. The Suns have to ask if he is the right guy for a rebuild. He can coach, he’s going to get another chance, but do the Suns want to give it to him?

Mentioning Del Negro will lead to howls from the Suns’ fanbase, but to be fair he gets a bit of a bad rap as a coach. Del Negro won 53.3 percent of his games as a coach, and no team he coached ever finished below .500. He’s had some success developing players, starting with Derrick Rose. All that said, there are reasons Suns’ fans are right to howl: simplistic offenses, a heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and remember he broke the confidence of DeAndre Jordan (Doc Rivers had to build it back up).

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season and are looking to replace him. The new coach will have a very good young scorer in Devin Booker on the roster and after that a lot of young question marks. This is a development job where the Suns need to hire a guy who can put in a system, then bring in more talent and stay out of the new coach’s way. We’ll see if the Suns can do that.

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.