Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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spurs_pacers.jpgOur game recaps from Wednesday, or what you missed during the Shaun Whiteout.

Spurs 90 Pacers 87: If you’d have told me Tim Duncan had 26 rebounds and Tony Parker had 28 points beforehand, I would have told you the Spurs won this game by 20. But the Pacers kept their feet moving, created some turnovers, and hung in there. With A.J. Price, though, the Pacers had no options at point, and Parker took advantage. DeJuan Blair looked human.

Grizzlies 109 Raptors 102: Even up by eight in the third, you could just tell the Grizzlies were going to blow the lead. And they did, as Chris Bosh took over down the stretch, and Bargnani was knocking down threes and putback hooks, Calderon was dishing, and the Raptors were running and…. wait, the Grizzlies won? Short answer: Down five with less than a minute, O.J. Mayo (OJAM) took over, knocking down a three, playing some defense leading to a teal for the Zach Randolph tying bucket. When the offense sputtered tonight, Mayo kicked it into gear. The Raptors looked like a legit Eastern Contender for stretches, but for all the talk of their second unit, it’s primarily made up of non-scorers, and it hurts them down the stretch like it did tonight.

Bulls 115 Knicks 109: Danil Gallinari will knock down five threes in a row, then airball the next. It’s uncanny. His airballs just seem to ride in on a gust of wind every now and then. Meanwhile, Taj Gibson may not be a very good rebounder, but if you let him rebound, you’re buried. You can’t let a guy who’s not good at something important do something important well. The Knicks did, and it was part of why they lost to the Bulls with Noah on the sideline and Salmons in a hotel room.

Rockets 127 Bucks 99:  If Trevor Ariza decides to go out and score efficiently, you’re dead before the ship even sinks. Ariza was 8-11 including 6-7 from the floor, and that’ll do it. The margin was mostly that the Rockets had seven guys in double figures and the Bucks had almost no ball movement. Just nothing. The Bucks struggled, they tried, but nothing was doing. Bogut had real trouble getting shots up in traffic. He’s got great versatility, but inside, there’s not one move he does better than anyone, yet.

Jazz 98 Hornets 90: The Jazz are playing so well right now that they can get away with a little mediocrity mixed in. The Hornets are not. The Jazz had a few stretches where they looked lost on defense, but towards the end, Kirilenko just wouldn’t let them lose, and the Hornets don’t have a playmaker with confidence in that situation with Paul out. One of those.

Mavs 107 Suns 97: Now this is what we thought we were getting. Caron Butler’s shooting percentage is not great. But he was hyper aggressive, snagged a few huge boards, and as opposed to last night, you could see him figuring out how to work with Nowitzki. It was terrible. Meanwhile, Brendan Haywood is tapping out shots to the perimeter for offensive glass. This team is going to be really scary in the playoffs. Amar’e was dominant for most of the game for a team that doesn’t want him, but then, he was probably showcasing as much as anything.

Miami 87, New Jersey 84: Dwyane Wade left in the first quarter with a strained calf and never returned, and without him the Heat had trouble creating consistent offense (just 36 second half points). That would have done them in against anyone but the Nets, who went 0-11 from the floor down the stretch (including Devin Harris missing some wide-open looks, that man is just not right). Courtney Lee pitched in with an 0-9 shooting night. Slow paced game, bad shooting, no D-Wade, if you missed this one you didn’t miss much.

Washington 108 Minnesota 99: Right before the game, a bunch of Wizards players were told they were traded, and that will screw up a locker room. Then the Timberwolves came out on an 8-0 run to start the game, and everyone was thinking the same thing, “This is going to get ugly.”  But like the little team that could, the Wizards started really playing some ball. Andray Blatche made this one of the five games a year where he decided to focus and dropped 33 and 13. The Wizards almost gave it back early in the fourth because, well they are the Wizards.  But behind Mike Miller’s shooting (5 of 5 from three) they got hot and they went on a 15-2 run late to get the win.

Credit here to the fans in the District, who were as loud and into the game as they have been all season, getting behind their upstart team.

Orlando 116, Detroit 91: It’s good to have Dwight Howard on your team. Ben Wallace is not quick enough to stop him, Jason Maxiell is just overmatched, and Howard could do what he wanted — 33 points on just 16 shots. Vince Carter continues his little hot streak, although he needs to do it for a lot longer before we buy in fully. Richard Hamilton was the only one on Detroit who showed any life on offense, he had 36, but then he doesn’t need to attack inside — where Howard dominated — and lived in the midrange.

Golden State 130, Sacramento 98: If CJ Watson drops 40 on you, you don’t deserve to win. Sacramento, I’m looking right at you. This was a blowout from the beginning, and the only thing of interest was Kevin Martin not playing in the second half because of a trade.

Atlanta 110, Los Angeles Clippers 92: No Baron Davis for the Clippers tonight, so newcomer Steve Blake and sophomore Eric Gordon have the ball handling duties. The result is 22 turnovers. Do that to the Hawks — let them get out running and get some easy baskets — and it is all over. This one was all over early, the Hawks got the taste of blood early and played good defense. Al Horford did whatever he wanted on offense, and the Hawks had 70 points in the paint. You think that happens if Marcus Camby is patrolling the paint? But the Clippers have cleared cap space heading into this summer, so they have that going for them. Which is nice.

Take 2: Collin Sexton to wear Kyrie Irving’s jersey number with Cavaliers

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Collin Sexton endeared himself to the Cavaliers with his competitive streak, speed and attitude long before they picked him in the NBA draft.

His jersey number showed them something else: He’s fearless.

Sexton made quite a first impression by deciding to take No. 2, his college number but also the one previously worn in Cleveland by All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. After showing off his jersey at a news conference Friday, Sexton said he doesn’t feel pressure to live up to Irving’s high standards.

“Not at all,” he said. “Coming in, I’m going to set goals for myself and then as well there’s going to be team goals set. But I feel like I’m not going to have to live up to anybody’s shoes, but I’m going to come in and learn and be the best player I can be on the court as well as off the court.”

Some Cleveland fans feel No. 2 should be retired. After all, Irving made the biggest shot in franchise history in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals before asking to be traded last summer to escape the daunting shadow cast by LeBron James.

Maybe one day No. 2 will hang in the rafters. For now, it belongs to Sexton.

With an eye toward rebuilding – and maybe persuading James to re-sign this summer – the Cavs selected Sexton, the lightning-quick Alabama point guard, on Thursday night with the No. 8 overall pick. As a freshman, the 19-year-old Sexton carried the Crimson Tide to the NCAA Tournament, for a brief time giving the school’s rabid football fans a late-winter diversion before coach Nick Saban blew his whistle in spring practice.

The Cavs believe Sexton, who earned his “Young Bull” nickname in high school for his charge-ahead playing style, can help them finally offset the loss of Irving. Without him, Cleveland lacked a dependable second-scoring option for James; the club spent the entire season with a virtual revolving door at the position as coach Tyronn Lue started eight point guards.

Irving’s absence was never felt more than in the Finals as the Golden State Warriors only had to concentrate on James. The Cavs didn’t have another player capable of breaking down their defense.

Sexton gives Cleveland a new weapon.

He’s in good hands. At Alabama, Sexton played for former NBA guard Avery Johnson, and he’s being passed to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, a 14-year pro looking forward to developing the youngster.

“I’ve watched him play,” Lue said. “I understand who he is as a player and as a person, talked to his parents a lot throughout the course of his college selection, so I know them very well. I’m just excited, man. To be able to have a young talent that I can help mold and build and make better and teach him what suit to wear, what shoes to wear with a suit, how to tie a tie, when you go to dinner, things like that that Bryan Shaw and Robert Horry and Ron Harper and those guys taught me, so I’m very excited about that.”

Sexton wowed the Cavs during his personal workout, which came one day after Cleveland was swept by the Warriors. He attended Game 4, and as he witnessed James, Kevin Durant and others competing at the highest level the game offers, Sexton could imagine one day being part of the action.

“Like the seats were shaking,” he said. “Fans were screaming. Just I feel like I’ll be ready to play in something like that when it’s my time.”

Sexton smiled throughout his introductory news conference, which came following a nearly sleepless night in New York. And while he came across as easygoing and affable, there’s a darker side to Sexton.

On the floor, he’s ferocious.

“When you get between those lines, there’s no friends,” he said. “When you get between those lines it’s us against them, and we’re trying to win. It’s like a switch that cuts on. It’s go time when you get on the court.”

Celtics’ draftee Robert Williams overslept introductory conference call

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For a guy who slid way down the draft board due to serious concerns about his motor and work ethic, this is not the start Robert Williams wanted with the Celtics.

The Texas A&M center was selected 27th by Boston, but he chose not to go to New York for the draft itself and stayed home in Louisiana to watch it with family. They apparently had a good time, because his introductory conference call with the media started an hour late on Friday, and Williams admitted he overslept.

From Chris Forsberg at ESPN:

“Right after the draft, I actually ran to my aunt’s house and went to sleep because I was so tired from everything,” Williams said Friday afternoon in a call that took place an hour later than originally scheduled. “When I woke up, my sister woke me up, she said, ‘You have a conference call.'”

Williams later noted that it was, “a good night’s sleep after a busy two days.”

The Celtics blamed this on a miscommunication and the one-hour time difference between Boston and Louisiana. They let it slide.

Williams could be the steal of the draft. Could be — if those he can prove all those concerns about his motor and effort level to be false.

Williams has the skills to be an elite NBA defender, and despite his up-and-down efforts in college he was a defensive and rebounding force. His NBA game is going to be as a rim and paint protector on one end and a rim runner finishing alley-oops on the other. Think DeAndre Jordan style of big. The difference: thanks to a lot of work by Jordan (and some smart coaching by Doc Rivers to restore his confidence) Jordan fulfilled his potential. Can Boston get that out of Williams? Will Williams himself to work?

If they do, this is a steal for the Celtics.

If not, well, missing on the No. 27 pick in the draft is not going to set back their contender arc.

Cavaliers GM on LeBron James: ‘We want to respect his space’ during contract decision

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — With one deadline looming on his future in Cleveland, LeBron James has been in contact with the Cavaliers through his representatives.

Following the NBA draft on Thursday night, Cavs general manager Koby Altman said he has had positive discussions with the three-time champion’s group. James has until June 29 to tell the team if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or become a free agent.

“We continue to have good dialogue with his management team,” Altman said. “I think LeBron has more than earned the right to approach his contracts the way he does. He’s done that before, so this is nothing new for us. We want to respect his space during this process and I continue to have really good dialogue with his management team as he goes through that process.

“That’s probably all I can say at this point regarding him, but we don’t take him for granted. We love him, this city loves him. He means the world to us and this franchise.”

James led the Cavs to their fourth straight NBA Finals this season, carrying a team that endured injuries and a roster overhaul at the trading deadline. Cleveland was swept by the Golden State Warriors, and following Game 4 the 33-year-old said he would weight family concerns and his desire to win more titles into his decision.

James has signed several short-term contracts since returning to the Cavs in 2014 after spending four seasons with Miami. After the Cavs won the championship in 2016, James signed a two-year contract with an option for this season.

The Cavs can offer him a five-year, $209 million deal this time. It’s possible James could choose to sign a one-year deal again with a player option and go through the free-agency dance again next summer.

To look more appealing to James, the Cavs need to upgrade their roster and they took a significant step by selecting Alabama point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick. Sexton averaged 19.2 points as a freshman and he addresses the club’s biggest need – a playmaker to fill the void left when the Cavs traded All-Star Kyrie Irving last summer.

Altman hopes Sexton’s arrival will make the Cavs more attractive to James.

The 19-year-old lacks professional experience, but Altman pointed out that James dealt with that issue this season.

“He went through it this year a little bit with some of our young guys, especially in the playoffs,” Altman said. “What’s amazing, he talks about this all the time – the best teacher is experience. And our young guys got some really good experience this year. And while it wasn’t consistent throughout the playoffs, each guy had their moments. And we went through two Game 7s and got to a Finals, and that experience is a huge teacher for those guys.

“So that experience is amazing for them and their confidence level as they approach next year. And then Collin, we got to get there with experience as well. But like he (James) says, experience is the best teacher, and we gave those guys a great experience over 30 games and into the playoffs and into the Finals, and what does that mean for us moving forward, I think it’s all really positive.”

Report: Lakers tell LiAngelo Ball he will not be invited to Summer League team

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LiAngelo Ball was never going to get drafted Thursday night. He simply is not that good (something I heard from every scout I talked to that saw him play).

He did get invited to work out for some teams before the draft (including the Warriors and Lakers). Impress there and the next step is an invite to play on a Summer League team. I don’t know if the middle Ball son impressed enough in workouts to earn an invite, but I do know he had an extra hurdle to climb — and a big one to most teams — because organizations do not want to deal with LaVar Ball and that circus.

That includes the Lakers, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

It will be interesting to see if another team is willing to give LiAngelo Ball a roster spot in Las Vegas. I would be shocked if a G-League team or two does not make him an offer for next season — for them, the marketing and publicity would be worth the hassle. How well he plays is secondary.

If a player is as talented and has the potential of Lonzo Ball, teams will put up with a lot. The Lakers organization has its frustrations with LaVar (to put it kindly), but they like Lonzo and what he could become (the team just played better with him on the court last season). Yes, Lonzo has trade value, too, but they’re not opposed to keeping him, depending upon how this summer shakes out. They can ignore the dad for him.

LiAngelo simply isn’t the level of talent where teams will tolerate the circus around him.

The big question for me is LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers, who was considered a top prospect for colleges a couple of years ago (and had committed to UCLA). How has being pulled out of his high school and playing low-level European competition in exhibitions in Lithuania impacted his standing? Something to watch over the next few years.

Just know LaVar Ball is never giving up the dream.