New York Knicks' Anthony reacts after scoring against Miami Heat during their NBA basketball game in Miami

Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Carmelo’s 40 points lead Knicks to 10th straight victory

6 Comments

Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while choosing sides in the battle between Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi …

Knicks 95, Hawks 82: The Knicks extended their league-best winning streak to 10 games on Wednesday, thanks to a dominant offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game.

Anthony finished with 40 points after dropping 50 on Miami just the night before, making him the first Knicks player since Patrick Ewing in the 1989-90 season to score at least 40 points in consecutive games.

This game was actually tied with under 10 minutes to play, and Anthony largely did his damage in the first three periods. New York got 10 points each from J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton in the final period, and the Knicks finished the game on a 23-10 run to seal it.

Raptors 88, Wizards 78: John Wall was just OK in this one, and didn’t get much help on a night the Wizards managed to shoot just over 32 percent from the field for the game. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but after Washington led by 11 at the half, the Raptors locked down in the final two periods to hold the Wizards to just 28 points the rest of the way.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 25 points, and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and did it on just seven shots thanks to a 16-18 effort from the free throw line.

Bobcats 88, Sixers 83: A dismal 2-24 night shooting from Jrue Holiday doomed the Sixers in this one, but because they were playing the league-worst Bobcats, they still had a chance. Gerald Henderson put an end to all that, however, with a key steal and a breakaway dunk that extended his tam’s lead to three with under 30 seconds remaining.

Nets 113, Cavaliers 95: Games like this are why Byron Scott is on the hot seat in Cleveland, despite the injuries this season and the youth present on the Cavaliers roster. The Nets led by as many as 34 points, and Cleveland allowed both Jerry Stackhouse and Deron Williams to get loose for dunks in the same game.

Celtics 98, Pistons 93: Boston needed some big baskets down the stretch to hold off a late Pistons rally, who came back to within three after trailing earlier in the game by as many as 18 points. Jeff Green continued his strong play with 34 points and four blocked shots, and hit the key three-pointer with under a minute to play that helped seal the victory by extending his team’s lead to five.

Charlie Villanueva managed to get 17 shots up in under 24 minutes for the Pistons, and made just two.

Timberwolves 107, Bucks 98: Minnesota isn’t playing for anything but pride at this stage of the season, after injuries robbed the team of its playoff chances some time ago. But after beating the Bucks, the Timberwolves have won three of four, all against  playoff teams.

It was a 13-34 night of shooting combined from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, while Ricky Rubio finished with 19 points, 12 assists and eight steals, which helped to cancel out his eight turnovers. The Bucks are essentially locked into the eighth seed in the playoffs, but with eight games left in the regular season, they may want to focus a little bit considering that first round matchup with the Heat which looms in the distance.

Nuggets 113, Jazz 96: Utah had been playing better lately, but thy’re still a fringe team fighting to sneak into the playoffs. Denver, meanwhile, is on the fringe of the West’s elite tier, so the result of this one wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Denver shot better than 56 percent on Utah’s home floor, and saw seven of its players finish in double figures, led by 21 points on 10 shots from Danilo Gallinari.

The loss dropped the Jazz to ninth in the Western Conference standings, a half-game back of the Lakers.

Spurs 98, Magic 84: In a game without Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobili, and one where Tim Duncan played less than 14 minutes, the Spurs got a win on the strength of their team defense. San Antonio held  Orlando to under 39 percent shooting for the game, and got a team-high 20 points from Danny Green offensively on the way to the victory.

Rockets 112, Kings 102: Houston got a huge game from Chandler Parsons, who finished with 29 points on 12-18 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. The Kings shot just 39.1 percent for the game, “led” by a 3-16 effort from starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Grizzlies 94, Blazers 76: The Grizz are tough to beat if you can’t find a way to score, considering their defense ranks right near the top of the league in points per 100 possessions. Portland attempted to beat it by launching 29 three-point attempts, but they were able to make just four.

Mike Conley continued his strong play for Memphis, and out-dueled likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard by finishing with 20 points and five assists on 7-11 shooting.

Clippers 126, Suns 101: The Clippers needed to get right after losing three straight, all to playoff teams, and the Suns were more than happy to oblige. This one was over early, as L.A. jumped out to a 10-point lead by the time the first quarter was through.

Ryan Hollins provided some late-game fireworks for the fans who were still in the building, thanks to this idiotic play that saw him get ejected after appearing for all of nine minutes in garbage time.

Warriors 98, Hornets 88: New Orleans actually led this one by 11 early in the second quarter, before the Warriors woke up and finished the half on a 32-12 run to put this one in the win column. David Lee led the effort for Golden State with 23 points and 16 rebounds.

Draymond Green: ‘I’m never going to be careful’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors drives against Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second quarter in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
4 Comments

Draymond Green answered the first three questions he faced today – each about not being suspended for kicking Steven Adams in the groin – with: “That is a great question,” “That is a great question” and “That is a great statement.”

Then, he got a little more revealing.

Green, via Tim Kawakami of Talking Points:

I’m never going to be careful; I’m just going to be me and the game will play out the way it will play out.

Green should be more careful.

1. He’s reached the playoff limit of flagrant-foul points without being suspended. Another flagrant 1 would cost him a game and a flagrant 2 would cost him two games. Even if he didn’t intentionally kick Adams in the groin, doing the exact same thing would draw another flagrant 2. Losing Green for two games would devastate the Warriors.

2. He frequently kicks out his legs on drives. It might be more remarkable he didn’t hurt anyone before this. if you take Green at his word – and I do on this – he doesn’t want to see anyone injured. He can do his part to decrease the odds of someone getting hurt.

There’s a way for Green to play with passion/swagger/emotion/tenacity while being careful, at least careful enough to avoid being reckless. He needs to find the line.

Report: James Borrego gets second interview with Rockets, including owner Leslie Alexander

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09: Interim head coach James Borrego of the Orlando Magic looks on during a first half timeout against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on February 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Rockets were reportedly considering Mike D’Antoni or Stephen Silas (with Lionel Hollins as lead assistant) to be their head coach.

Then, they interviewed James Borrego and Adrian Griffin.

Apparently, those late interviews carried weight.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Leslie Alexander is getting involved in this process, apparently kiboshing Jeff Van Gundy. If Borrego is meeting with Alexander, that means something.

Borrego failed to impress during his interim stint with the Magic, but that might mean nothing more than that. Running a team from the start is different than taking over midseason.

The Rockets will surely ask about his experience in Orlando, and he’s getting a couple chances to explain it – and why his experience with the Spurs prepared him for this opportunity.

Warriors/Thunder Game 4 preview: Which small ball lineup wins?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
2 Comments

I wouldn’t say this is a must-win game for either team, but it’s standing next to must win with its arm around it. The Warriors don’t want to be down 3-1, it’s hard to picture them winning three straight in this series. The Thunder don’t want to have a 2-2 series with two games left at Oracle, where it will be difficult to win again. Here are four questions where the answer will help determine the outcome of this game, and maybe the series.

1) Which small ball lineup wins? Going into the series, I thought the Thunder would stay with bigger lineups because they didn’t want to go small and try to out Warrior the Warriors. Except that’s exactly what they did in Game 3 and they won definitively. Lineups with Kevin Durant at the four (with Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Serge Ibaka all getting time at center) where quicker, allowed for more switching, and it allowed the Thunder to get out and run more — and run it right down the throat of the Warriors small ball lineup. Golden State’s “death lineup” was -22, and Steve Kerr was right in saying that lineup (and the starters in general) tried to isolate against defensive mismatches rather than keeping the ball moving, they settled for quick shots, and the Warriors offense stagnated.

The key to the small ball lineup for the Thunder is the same that has driven the success of the Warriors’ small ball for the past two seasons — they still played great defense. The Thunder are long and athletic on the perimeter, but the combination of Durant and Adams or Ibaka still did a fantastic job of protecting the rim. Those stops turned into transition buckets the other way — Russell Westbrook and the Thunder players attacked the rim, and the Warriors played some of the worst transition defense we have seen from them. It may well come down to this again in Game 4: Which team’s small unit does a better job defensively, then can convert those stops into buckets at the other end.

2) Can Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters have another big game for Oklahoma City? The Warriors’ defensive strategy this series has been to ignore Roberson, put a rim-protecting big on him (Andrew Bogut or Draymond Green) and let them patrol the paint, daring Roberson to shoot and beat them. In Game 3, he was 3-of-5 from three, and while those came as part of the Thunder Can’t Miss run, if he is hitting and scoring it is a problem for Golden State. Dion Waiters used to be the guy to leave alone on this roster, but he has blossomed under Billy Donovan — he was 6-of-8 in the first three quarters of Game 3 and in these playoffs has played the best ball of his career. You know that Westbrook and Durant are going to score (and they scored very efficiently in Game 3), but if the Thunder are getting that kind of quality play from their role players they become almost impossible to stop.

One other thing to watch: When Stephen Curry picked up an early foul, the Warriors tried to protect him by putting him on Roberson, but that meant a big man had to guard an offensive threat that took them away from the basket. Suddenly the Thunder were in a layup line at the rim. Don’t expect that adjustment again — and if Steve Kerr is rolling out a lot of minutes for Anderson Varejao and Ian Clark again, it’s a bad sign.

3) Can Draymond Green take control in the paint? Forget the kick to Steven Adams’ groin… well, Thunder fans aren’t going to forget, they are going to boo Green mercilessly. But that’s not the point, that play and the punishment (a fine and a flagrant two but no suspension) are in the past. What matters for the Warriors is Green was awful in Game 3 — 1-of-9 shooting with four turnovers on offense, and his rotations and rim protection were a slow on defense. When you talk about what was wrong with the Warriors trainsition defense, it starts with Green — he looked stuck in mud all game. That can’t happen again if the Warriors want to win. They need All-Star, Top 10 player, world-class pest Green in Game 4. He is crucial to what they do. If he loses his poise (as he did in Game 3) or just has an off night, the Warriors are in trouble.

4) Is this the game where the Warriors figure out the Thunder?
Or, can they figure out the Thunder? Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game that they were not worried, his team had been in this position before — down 2-1 to Memphis last playoffs, and down 2-1 in the Finals to Cleveland. In each case they made an adjustment — ignoring Tony Allen against the Grizzlies, going small against the Cavaliers — and from there took over the series to sweep it out. They believe they can do it again, and it’s hard to bet against them because they have done it, they have shown versatility, and another gear not team seems to be able to match. But this series feels different — they already ignored Roberson and tried to play small and they are down 2-1. Is there a magic adjustment out there, or is it simply a matter of them executing what they like to do better against the most athletic defense they have faced in a playoff series? Just figuring out the Thunder is not that simple.

Less than a magical adjustment, the Warriors need to knock down shots. Not the rushed shots when they lost their poise during the Thunder’s second and third quarter run, but before that — the Warriors moved the ball and got good looks early, they just didn’t hit them. That can’t happen for them to win — this isn’t Portland anymore, the margin for error is too small.

Finally, and this is just obvious: Stephen Curry needs to be MVP Stephen Curry. The Thunder can throw athletic defenders at him, their bigs can challenge him a little, but the Warriors need him to be transcendent. Because Westbrook and Durant will be.

Kevin Durant: ‘They’re not going to suspend Draymond Green. He’s one of the premier players in the league’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 22:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors drives against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quater in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 22, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
J Pat Carter/Getty Images
8 Comments

Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, insisted his decision to give Draymond Green a flagrant 2 rather than suspending him had nothing to do with Green’s star status or the Warriors’ place in league history.

But Kevin Durant doesn’t believe that.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Durant:

They’re not going to suspend Draymond Green. He’s one of the premier players in the league on arguably one of the best teams in the history of the game. They’re not going to suspend him. I didn’t even really think about it. I knew the league was going to let him play or fine him or upgrade him to a flagrant 2. We all knew that was going to happen. The league is about business.

Durant will probably get fined for this. Team employees questioning the league’s integrity is at the heart of why the NBA fines people. The league is trying to protect its image, and Durant completely blew that up.

I have no idea whether Durant is right. I can read VanDeWeghe’s mind as much as I can Green’s while he’s extending his foot toward Steven Adams‘ groin. I.e., I can’t. There’s definitely financial interest in extending the Western Conference finals (which the Thunder lead 2-1) keeping the best players on the floor and having bigger markets advance deeper into the playoffs. But there’s also financial interest in people believing the NBA is fair. It’s not always clear how the league balances those sometimes-competing forces.

Here’s what I know: This is getting fun. It was fun when Russell Westbrook was involved in the Green controversy. It’s even better with Durant looping himself in.