Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Refs make Nuggets/Bulls ending interesting


Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wishing you were as well traveled as this dog

Heat 105, Celtics 103: This felt like a playoff game — it was chippy, emotional and the crowd was into it. Jeff Green took over for the Celtics with 43 points, giving the team the kind of boost it needed without Kevin Garnett in the lineup. But in the end, the Heat had LeBron James. We broke it all down in some detail. Plus, if you want to see LeBron’s entrant in the “Dunk of the Year” contest we got that, too.

Suns 99, Lakers 76: The Lakers looked like an old team on the second night of a back-to-back playing without their biggest star. The Suns played with some fight and this wasn’t even that close. Our man Brett Pollakoff was in the building and broke it all down.

Nuggets 119, Bulls 118 (OT): The Nuggets have won a dozen in a row, but all anybody is talking about is the controversial ending — and the referees only got it half right in my mind. Tom Thibodeau has a right to be pissed off. Sure, there were 52 minutes of other basketball where Wilson Chandler scored 35 and Nate Robinson scored 34 including a three to send it to overtime. There was a lot of other basketball where the Bulls played with basically a six-man rotation and fought hard. But you don’t want to talk about that, do you? Let’s get to the tip ins that decided the game.

Denver was down one (115-114) with 50 seconds left when Ty Lawson drives the lane and misses the layup, but Kosta Koufos is on the spot to tip it in — except replays clearly showed the ball was sitting on the rim and over the cylinder when it was tipped. I say that should have been offensive goaltending, others say if it is falling off the rim it can be tipped. Bottom line is no call, no review, play went on and the Nuggets got the points. After a Joakim Noah tip in (that was clearly legit) and a Noah block of Chandler, followed by an Andre Iguodala three you had the final score you see above, but the Bulls had one last shot.

Marco Belinelli brought it up the left wing and took a rushed jumper that was short, but Joakim Noah was flying in, tipped the ball in and the United Center went crazy. No call, but Denver did call a timeout, and during that break the officials reviewed the play and called Noah for offensive basket interference, tipping in a ball that was over the cylinder. It was the correct call, it was an illegal tip.

These were both illegal tip ins to my eye, both were over the cylinder. The question is, why was only one reviewed? The refs can’t say they didn’t review Koufos’ because there was not call, because there was no call on Noah’s either. There was just time. It will be interesting to see what the league office says about all this.

Knicks 90, Jazz 83: The Lakers losing in Phoenix didn’t affect their playoff chances at all, thanks to the Jazz continuing to be in a complete free-fall as the season enters its final month. With the Knicks missing Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, and trotting out a starting lineup featuring Kenyon Martin, Chris Copeland, and Pablo Prigioni, they were still able to win in Utah thanks to the Jazz shooting just 28.9 percent from the field over the final two periods.

Utah typically does significant damage in the paint, but scored a season-low 22 points there in this one. J.R. Smith led all scorers with a game-high 20 points, which lets you know just how much of an offensive exhibition this one was.
—Brett Pollakoff

Grizzlies 92, Timberwolves 77: It’s not very often a team improves dramatically after a big mid-season trade, but with each and every game that goes by, the Grizzlies seem to make more and more sense. Even when it’s a little something — like Tayshaun Prince bringing up the ball and being able to feed the high post easier because of his height — it feels like a revelation for an offense that was so starved for space, especially when they force-fed Rudy Gay in the past.

This was a game where the Grizzlies just sharpened the knives a little bit, essentially. As per usual, Marc Gasol did everything, including a sick no-look alley-oop pass to Tony Allen for a jam. How many 7-footers influence the game the way Gasol does on both ends? Zero. Zilch. Nada. Gasol was excellent with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks.

The Wolves were down 23 points in the third quarter, which is bad obviously, but if you’ve followed the Wolves this year, you knew it could get worse. Ricky Rubio left the game with an apparent groin injury, sapping the Wolves of any shred of visual appeal for the rest of the game. Minnesota finished the game shooting 33 percent as a team, but somehow, it felt worse.
—D.J. Foster

76ers 101, Trail Blazers 100: LaMarcus Aldridge had an All-Star night — 32 points and 14 rebounds — but he had a turnaround jumper he can knock down to win the game at the end and he missed it. That’s a tough loss for Portland but a quality win for the Sixers, who are refusing to completely roll over down the stretch. Jrue Holiday had 27 points, Thaddeus Young ptched in 19 and Spencer Hawes had 18 points and 13 rebounds. It’s still a team game folks — there were six Sixers in double figures, just two Trail Blazers (Aldridge and Damian Lillard with 27).

Mavericks 127, Hawks 113: The Hawks have their issues; that much has been documented. But the Mavericks, now that they have a healthy Dirk Nowitzki and are beginning to build some confidence behind playing with some consistent lineups, have been putting together wins and are within reach of a long-shot entry into the postseason.

Dallas scored its season high in points, and was led in scoring by Darren Collison off the bench who finished with 24 points on 10-14 shooting. The Hawks failed to defend all night long, as the Mavs finished the game shooting 57.3 percent from the field, including almost 60 percent (13-22) from three-point distance.

The Mavericks are very quietly just three games behind the Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 15 games left to play.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pacers 111, Cavaliers 90: Indiana took control of this game with an 11-0 run in the second quarter (the quarter where Gerald Green put up 13), pulled away in the second half and cruised to an easy win. Green finished with 20 points and Tyler Hansbrough added 18 points and 11 rebounds. The highlight you are going to see out of this game — and the suspension coming down — will be for Marreese Speights, who grabbed Paul George around the neck and threw him to the floor. He got a flagrant 2 and was ejected for it. As he should have been.

Nets 119, Pistons 82: Deron Williams had 14 of his 31 points in the first quarter, sparked a 10-0 Nets run and they never looked back from there. Brook Lopez had 18 points and Andray Blatche chipped in 15. The Nets looked pretty good mostly the Pistons continue to look terrible, particularly on defense.

Warriors 93, Hornets 72: After beating the Rockets in Houston the night before, there was no way the Warriors were going to kill that momentum by stubbing their toe against the Hornets. Stephen Curry scored 30 points on 10-19 shooting, but more importantly for the long-term prospects of this team is the fact that Andrew Bogut turned in a stellar defensive effort inside for the second straight night.

Golden State shot 50 percent from the field for the game, including 52.6 percent from three-point distance. That, along with holding the Hornets to just 11 fourth quarter points was more than enough to pull away for the victory.
—Brett Pollakoff

Bobcats 119, Wizards 114: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Not a lot of it to be found in this game. Charlotte was down five inside three minutes to play but went on a 12-0 run to secure the win. Gerald Henderson had 27 to lead the Bobcats, John Wall had 25 for Washington. If the Wizards want to point the finger at something, how about the 14 free throws they gave the Bobcats in the fourth and 33 for the game. Can’t do that and win against a teams that knock the freebies down.

Kelly Olynyk nutmegs Kyle O’Quinn to set up Josh Richardson dunk (video)

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In the Heat’s rout of the Knicks last night, Kelly Olynyk scored 22 points and dished a career-high 10 assists.

This was the prettiest, a pass between Kyle O'Quinn‘s legs to Josh Richardson, who dunked.

Malik Beasley stumbles, bumbles, fumbles during turnover (video)

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Malik Beasley isn’t a point guard, but he was playing the position for the Nuggets in garbage time of their win over the Bulls last night. And Torrey Craig‘s pass was low and behind Beasley, which is why Craig was assigned the turnover.

With those caveats acknowledged, Beasley’s contortions as he tries to corral the ball are something to behold.

Five NBA Draft prospects/teams to watch in the Sweet 16

Associated Press

Just like me and everyone else, your bracket is busted. That was not the only thing to go belly up in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament — so were a lot of the top-tier draft picks. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton didn’t see the second game of the weekend. Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges of Michigan State join the long list of players and teams stymied by Syracuse’s zone. Mohamed Bamba. Out. Michael Porter Jr.? Out. Trae Young? Out.

That doesn’t mean there are not guys NBA fans should be watching the round of 16 starting Thursday night. There are likely lottery picks playing, not to mention guys down the board who will be playing in the NBA next season.

Here are five things for NBA fans to watch in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

1) Battle of the zone defenses and lottery prospects: Duke vs. Syracuse. The Blue Devils are the most loaded team left in the tournament… forget that, they were the most loaded team in the tournament, period. If you’re a fan of a team in the midst of the tankapaloza going on at the bottom of the NBA standings right now, this is your game.

Duke’s big man Marvin Bagley III is likely going to be taken between No. 3-5 come June, and he is worth keeping an eye on. He’s a phenomenal athlete who can get buckets — he had 22 points in each of the first two Tournament games and shot a combined 18-of-24, he is an incredible finisher around the rim — plus is a beast on the boards (16 in the two games). Scouts and teams that liked him all season at Duke saw more of the same in the first two rounds, he helped his stock (if that’s possible)

Next to Bagley on Duke’s dominant front like is the more polished Wendell Carter Jr. (a likely top 10 pick), who had 24 points on 15 shots through two games of the tournament. This is a game where against the Syracuse zone Carter’s passing — big-to-big to Bagley, or kicked out to guys like Grayson Allen — will both matter to the team and show something to scouts. Allen is a likely late-first/early second round pick who can help his cause by showing how he can shoot over the top of that zone.

For Syracuse, Tyus Battle needs to show he can make good decisions with the ball in his hands — he’s been inconsistent with that all season. He passes the eye test as a 6’6” NBA guard, but his decision making needs to be better and Duke will test that. Battle is a late first/early second kind of guy who needs to get a team to fall in love with him.

The fact both of these teams play so much zone will turn off NBA scouts — it’s the right basketball move for both Duke and Syracuse, but it masks the defensive flaws the top prospects on both teams have. And there are defensive questions about all three of those guys.

2) It’s the NCAA Tournament, of course you should be watching Kentucky. Two things are inevitable this time of year: John Calipari will find something to complain about so he can say everyone is against him; and Kentucky will be loaded with NBA prospects.

Kentucky’s guys to watch when they take on Kansas State starts with back-of-the-lottery/mid-teens pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, their smooth point guard. He was impressive with 46 points on 15-of-25 shooting in the first two tournament games (which is good, the consistency of his jumper was a question mark for scouts), although he did not show much of a stroke from three (2-of-2). His hesitation moves and smart game look like something that will translate to the NBA.

Then there’s Kevin Knox on the wing, who also should go in the lottery. He had 25 points on 16 shots in a strong game against Davidson in the first round, and what teams like are his defense and versatility. Combo forwards are in demand in the NBA.

Also keep on eye on Hamidou Diallo, a likely second-round pick.

3) Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Villanova will get a test from West Virginia. At this point in the season, scouts/GMs have opinions largely formed about players, but they want to watch them play one more time and want to see them tested. West Virginia should do that for the two Villanova prospects

Mikal Bridges is the kind of long, athletic defender that teams are looking for, plus he can knock down threes — he is 8-of-14 from deep so far in the tournament. He dropped 23 on a good Alabama team, and he looks like the kind of switchable wing role player at the NBA level a lot of teams are searching for.

The bigger test is for likely second-round pick Jalen Brunson — the guard struggled at points vs. Collin Sexton, and now goes up against a strong defender in Jevon Carter (a possible second-round pick himself). Brunson can help his cause with a good game here.

4) Hey Nuggets/Clippers/Lakers/Pistons fans, take the time to check out Texas A&M’s Robert Williams, he might be your late lottery guy. If anyone helped their cause in the NCAA’s first two rounds, it was A&M’s Williams, who played a key role in the Aggies upset of North Carolina with his 13 boards and strong play inside. The question never has been “does he have the talent?” but rather “will he bring it every night?” Williams showed everyone against North Carolina what he looks like when he can bring it, and you could see where he would be dangerous in the NBA where more skilled players around him will open up the floor and give him more space to operate. Think a poor man’s Clint Capela. Can he show he will bring it consistently on a big stage?

5) Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith had a strong first weekend, but he will get a test from Purdue’s Vincent Edwards and Carsen Edwards. Smith has plenty of talent and it showed against Florida in the first weekend — 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and strong defense.

Smith may be in the mold of a guy where some will say “he needs another year in college to develop” but after 28 points on 21 shots through the first two rounds of the tournament, the potential second-half-of-the-first-round may well come out and get paid to develop. He will get another chance to show how much he has developed against a quality Purdue team.

Between his clutch FTs, LeBron James goes out of his way to high-five Raptors G Fred VanVleet (video)

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

High-fiving the opponent between his free throws is a wellestablished trick to break concentration.

LeBron James turned the tables in the Cavaliers’ win over the Raptors last night.

Toronto guard Fred VanVleet brushed hands with LeBron between a pair of late LeBron free throws. Unfazed, LeBron turned around and got a crisp high-five from VanVleet:

LeBron made both free throws.

No matter how much better the Raptors have been than Cleveland this season, LeBron wants the mental edge. He led the Cavs to playoff-series wins over Toronto the last two years, and this only increases perception he’s in complete control when these teams meet.