Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

Leave a comment

Our game recaps from Friday, or The Night of the Living Overtime…

Mavericks 111, Hawks 103 (OT): We’ve already talked about The Play.

Personally, I give this win to Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. For the fourth quarter, down 15 with 8 minutes to go, he broke out the zone defense, and the Hawks turned into the UCLA Bruins. This year’s UCLA Bruins. They seemed confused and couldn’t hit the outside shot. It got the Mavericks into overtime on the road, where they picked up the win. Brenden Haywood continues to just do the things Eric Dampier never could, and was a team best +14 on the night. Triple double from Kidd — 19 points, 16 rebounds, 17 assists.

Cavaliers 126, Raptors 118 (OT): You want to know why Chris Bosh might leave Toronto? LeBron James is in town, your team has taken the best team in the NBA this season to overtime, and people in the crowd start leaving before the extra period starts. Why? The hockey game is starting. Toronto has some great fans, but the Raptors and basketball will always be second best in that town.

As for the game, you don’t really expect defense from the Raptors, and tonight the Cavs decided to play along. That made it fun to watch, if you’re not a purist. With the game on the line, LeBron just drove to the rim for layups right through what the Raptors call “defense.” But in overtime the Cavs got their focus back, held Toronto to 1 of 8 and get the win. Good fight from Toronto, playing without Bosh. Cleveland gets the win on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. You never question those.

Knicks 118, Wizards 116 (OT): Andray Blatche is the mad baller since the trade — 26 points and 18 boards tonight (ignore those 8 turnovers). Wasn’t enough this time because it was the Al Harrington show — 37 points including draining 5 of 8 three pointers. David Lee with the game winner in OT.

Bulls 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT): The Blazers plan was not to let Derrick Rose beat them, early on their defensive strategy seemed to be collapse five guys on Rose and leave everybody else open. Everyone else nailed shots from the midrange and the Bulls put up 31 in the first. So Portland got more active in creating turnovers, jumping passing lanes. and that worked. The Bulls started coughing it up and the Blazers have the athletes to turn that into easy baskets. So the hot shooting vs. turnovers continued all game until overtime, when the Bulls stopped turning the ball over and won. And by the way, despite the best laid plans of the Blazers, Rose scored 33 on 15 of 25 from the floor. He is back.

Bobcats 93, Grizzlies 89: The Bobcats are 1-0 in the Michael Jordan era.

We had a Stephen Jackson sighting — 32 points and 11 boards. He was the best player on the floor. The other thing of note is that Tyrus Thomas had 13 points off the bench on 6 of 7, and he posterized Zach Randolph. He’s played pretty well the last few games.

Hornets 100, Magic 93: Not wanting to be outdone by the Hawks giving away a 14 point lead and losing, the Magic blew and 18 point cushion. Take that, Atlanta! David West found the David West from three years ago and dropped 40, while Orlando just went ice cold down the stretch.

Thunder 109, Timberwolves 92: Kevin Durant is back to scoring 25 points a game, and Oklahoma City is back to blowing out lesser teams. The Thunder get inside all night, scoring 60 in the paint. A blowout, so we didn’t dwell on this one.

Rockets 109, Spurs 104: Kevin Martin has found a home. He had 33 on 24 shots – and he was rusty. He got to the line 14 times, hit all 14, a good sign. But he and Aaron Brooks might have something. You add Yao Ming to that next year and Houston is suddenly very, very good. Brooks had 31, Luis Scola had 33. Want to know about the Spurs? When was the last time they let three guys go off for 30+ points and beat them? Or had three starters go scoreless? On the same night? The decline is happening before our eyes.

Lakers 99, 76ers 90: How can a game that had that many ally-oops and dunks be that boring? It was a workmanlike, middle-of-a-long-season win for the Lakers, on a night when all anybody wanted to talk about was the big game with Denver on Sunday.

Nuggets 107, Pistons 102: Read the entry above and insert the word “Nuggets” for “Lakers.”

Kings 103, Jazz 99: Tyreke Evans is more of a man than you. More of a man than me. More of a man than that annoying guy in the Old Spice commercials. He was man enough to take over the end of this game and get the Kings an win over a hot Jazz team. He is your rookie of the year, bow down and worship at his feet.

Suns 125, Clippers 112: Chris Kaman went off… on the ref. He got slapped in the face early in the third quarter, no call, and complained to the ref, got T’d up, then kept going. And going. And that will get you a second technical every time. Coach Kim Hughes said he told Kaman he let the team down after the game. Actually it was the Clippers defense that let them down — Suns shot 57% on the night, 47% from three. Sure, the Suns offense is very good, but if you let Robin Lopez score 30, you’re not trying all that hard on defense.

Suns remain hot — 6-1 this month — but nobody is talking about them as a team to fear in the first round of the playoffs.

Backed into must-win Game 4, here are three things Rockets must do to even series

Getty Im ages
Leave a comment

Three years ago, the Houston Rockets came back from 3-1 down in a playoff series to defeat a Los Angeles Clippers (and give that franchise a punch to the gut from which it has not recovered). It was one of the great Rockets’ moments of the last decade.

Houston is not going to be able to do that against these Golden State Warriors. Go down 3-1 after Game 4 Tuesday at Oracle and the series is all but over.

Which means after the Rockets’ blowout loss in Game 3 Sunday night, Houston finds itself in the same must-win spot it did after Game 1. And unlike Game 2, the Rockets will not get helped out by an arrogant Warriors team not playing at its peak — the Rockets are going to need a near perfect game to beat a full-force Warriors team on Tuesday.

Here are the three key areas the Rockets must improve to win Game 4:

1) Just shoot better — finish shots at the rim and hit some threes. It’s rather obvious and simplistic, but it’s the reality: Houston just has to shoot better in Game 4.

The Rockets took a full one-third of their shots at the rim in the restricted area in Game 3, but they struggled with those making just 13-of-27 (48.1 percent). The Rockets took 42 percent of their shot attempts from three but hit just 11-of-34, and they were 7-of-25 on above the break threes. That’s not good enough, the Rockets are going to need at least 15 made threes in a game to win.

“Those are double whammies,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said of the missed shots at the rim. “It’s like we missed layups first half especially and they go down and score. So in transition, you’ve got to keep them out of transition, you’ve got to make layups. We didn’t do that. When they did miss, we didn’t box out all the time, and then we turned it over 20 times. It’s a formula for losing, and for us to correct that, we can’t turn it over. Got to make layups for shots, and get back.”

To be fair, the Warriors contested shooters well all game, especially guys driving the basket, but still, the Rockets need to knock down more of their shots contested or not. It’s the most basic premise of basketball.

2) Houston has to play faster. D’Antoni said it above, the Rockets and their missed shots let the Warriors get out in transition and control the pace. It’s also a simple fact that the team that controls the pace — the team that gets transition opportunities and gets into its offense earlier in the shot clock — will win the games.

Golden State had 26 transition opportunities to 12 for the Rockets, according to the Synergy Sports stats breakdown.

Or, look at it this way (via Cleaning the Glass), in Game 3, Houston started just10.4 percent of their possessions in transition (and scored a dreadful 0.89 points per possession on those plays). For comparison, in their Game 2 win, the Rockets started 18.7 percent of their possessions in transition. On Sunday night in Game 3 Warriors started 19.8 percent of their plays in transition, nearly one in five trips down the court, and they scored 1.44 points per possession on those plays.

The Rockets need to make more shots and then, even when they miss, get back in transition and not let the Warriors get rolling early in the clock. Houston also needs to defend better and force more Warriors misses, which will allow them to run. It’s all tied together, the Warriors were making shots so the Rockets were taking the ball out of the basket and coming up against set defenses; the Rockets were missing shots that let the Warriors come up fast and forcing the Rockets to scramble on defense (Golden State tears apart teams in those situations). It’s a holistic thing, but the evidence it’s working is which team controls the pace, and the Rockets need to do that in Game 4.

3) Houston needs more out of Chris Paul. It’s easy to point to the Stephen Curry eruption in the third quarter as the time the Warriors ended the game, and there is truth to that. Golden State started the third on a 10-0 run (where Curry had five of those points) and the fire was lit, then Curry started hitting 30-foot threes and quickly the game was out of reach. Those Warriors runs are crushers.

However, to me the turning point in the game was when James Harden went to the bench for his usual rest with 2:46 left in the first quarter — the Warriors outscored the Rockets by nine before the quarter was up (part of an 11-0 run to end the quarter). By the time Harden returned with 9:16 left in the second quarter, the Rockets were down 10, a hole they never could get out of (they were down 11 at the half).

CP3 has to be better in that stretch. The Warriors threw bigger, switchable guards at him on defense — Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, and then Andre Iguodala — and Paul couldn’t get separation and make plays against them. Without Harden, the Rockets offense stalled out, and doing that led to the Warriors getting to push the pace and get their transition buckets. Paul looked slowed at points, reaching on defense and not as explosive as we’ve seen.

This isn’t the Utah Jazz. Harden was off in Game 5 against Utah, but Paul picked up the slack (his 41-point, 10 assist game) and Houston got the win. Against Golden State, both Paul and Harden must have good games for Houston to have a chance. The Warriors are too good, too deep, there is no margin for error anymore.

The Rockets have an elite game in them — we saw the blueprint of what they have to do in Game 2. Houston can do that again. The only question is can they do it in the face of Golden State’s pressure, because the sharks on the Warriors smell blood in the water and will be coming hard in Game 4.

Shaun Livingston crossed James Harden so hard it made Greg Anthony mispronounce “meme” (VIDEO)

shaun livingson
Getty
1 Comment

The Golden State Warriors embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. Stephen Curry scored 35 points, didn’t miss a shot in the third quarter, and helped the Warriors win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead by a margin of 41 points.

Not too shabby.

But it wasn’t just Curry who turned the Rockets into shrinking violets. Shaun Livingston, who added 11 points off the bench while shooting 4-of-4, took his turn putting Houston to task.

During one play, Livingston crossed up James Harden on his way to a wide-open dunk. Livingston’s crafty dribble moves also shook commentator Greg Anthony’s brain up a little bit, so much so that Anthony forgot how to say the word “meme”.

Via Twitter:

Even during a 41-point decimation the NBA is still the funniest league on the planet.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

AP
5 Comments

Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

Getty
2 Comments

Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.