Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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ginobili_game.jpgOur game recaps from Monday, or what you missed while taking the day off to visit Dunder Mifflin

Cavaliers 97, Spurs 95: Got to start with this — Manu Ginobili is a beast right now. Beast. Best player suited up for this one. Scored 38 points and was killing it from the outside — 7 of 11 from downtown. Attacked and got to the line seven times (hitting every one). This is the player opposing coaches feared in 2007 but had been slowed by injury. He is back.  But it still wasn’t enough as the Cavaliers gutted one out while LeBron was in street clothes, Shaq was still out, and Jamison had to leave early because of his knee.

First Cleveland with without LeBron in three years. In honor of that three other guys of note: Delonte West just makes smart plays for the Cavaliers — he had his hand in the final five Cavaliers baskets. Tim Duncan was up against a small lineup and only had 13. The Spurs should get more out of him in this one. Finally was Roger Mason — he was 0-8 on a Spurs bench that shot 27% on the evening. That is what lost the game more than anything, Cleveland’s backups stepped up and San Antonio’s did not.

Knicks 99, Hawks 98: I really have no idea how Atlanta ha lost three times this season to the Knicks. I think you’d have a better chance of explaining how a particle accelerator works to me than this.

This one got exciting because the predictable Knicks late game collapse made it so. With five minutes left and the Knicks up 10, it was just a matter of time — the bad shot choices, missed open looks and turnovers were coming. And they did. And he Hawks took advantage. But this time the Knicks survived a horrific late-game turnover by Toney Douglas (who played very well otherwise) thanks to a dramatic game-saving block by Wilson Chandler on Josh Smith. Came from the weakside and just shut down one of the best finishers in the game. Al Harrington’s only contribution — other than taking away shots from the hot hand of Danilo Gallinari (8 of 12 from the outside) — was a clutch late jumper. David Lee also had a nice dunk late.

The Hawks struggled against the Knicks zone defense. They got sucked into settling for jumpers rather than attacking the soft middle of a zone. The Hawks had the advantage along the front line and didn’t exploit it.

Grizzlies 107, Nets 101: You cannot waste the rare good shooting night by Mike Conley, who just dominated the first half like he was still feeding the ball to Greg Oden at Ohio State (Conley finished with 21). Memphis took the second half off so this one got close, but it was never really in doubt.

Mavericks 125, Timberwolves 112: This game was played at a blistering, Golden State in the late 1980s pace, 108 possessions. (That’s eight possessions more than the Warriors average this year, and they are the fastest-playing team in the Association.) The Mavericks are built to handle that kind of pace much better than the Timberwolves, and it showed. Minnesota turned the ball over on 24 percent of their possessions, which fueled Dallas. Shawn Marion felt at home and dropped 29, Kidd had 10 dimes. Great night for Al Jefferson though, attacking that soft inside of the Mavericks, scoring 36 on 15 of 21. Wasn’t nearly enough at that pace, though.

Hornets 135, Warriors 131: Another fast paced game (101 possessions) but as always, it was about the Warriors getting dominated inside — New Orleans grabbed the offensive rebound on 44 percent of their missed shots. David West had more offensive rebounds (six) than the entire Warriors team (4), and West finished with 28. Another big night for Darren Collison — 20 assists and 16 points. 

LeBron James: Neighbor’s walls, not Breonna Taylor, got justice

Lakers star LeBron James
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Louisville police officers were not charged with killing Breonna Taylor. However, former officer Brett Hankison was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment for allegedly firing firing recklessly into nearby apartments during the incident.

That outcome left NBA players unsatisfied.

LeBron James:

The emotions LeBron – and many others – are feeling are completely understandable. This was a tragedy. Faced with an obvious injustice, it’s easy to demand the harshest-imaginable punishment. That didn’t come.

But it is not too late to address the injustices – which were always far larger than the officers at the scene returning fire – at play in Taylor’s death.

Tyler Herro carries Heat over Celtics in Game 4, within one game of NBA Finals

Tyler Herro after Heat-Celtics Game 4
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If the Celtics targeted Tyler Herro in the 2019 NBA Draft, they have more reason than ever to lament their near miss.

Herro scored 37 points to lead the Heat to a 112-109 win over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. The 21-year-old rookie put Miami up 3-1 and himself in the record book.

The only other player so young to score so much in a playoff game? Magic Johnson, who had 42 points in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals at age 20.

The Heat will look to reach the NBA Finals in Game 5 Friday. Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-1 have won 95% of the time.

Miami’s big concern: Bam Adebayo, who hurt his wrist late in the game. Adebayo (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) played through the injury but appeared to be feeling it.

He and the Heat just kept grinding through everything, though.

Miami won despite shooting only 10-for-37 on 3-pointers (27%). Forget about make-or-miss league. The Heat willed themselves to victory with aggravating defense, hustle, rebounding… and, yes, big-time shot-making by Herro, who made 9-of-11 2-pointers and 5-of-10 3-pointers

The Celtics committed 19 turnovers – some forced by Miami, some self-inflicted. The Heat’s zone defense continues to make Boston uncomfortable, though Marcus Smart (10 points and 11 assists) found some success penetrating and kicking against it. Jaylen Brown (21 points and nine rebounds) knocked down some of those created looks.

After a scoreless first half, Jayson Tatum scored 28 points in the second half. Stephen Curry scored 33 second-half points after a scoreless first half in Game 6 against the Rockets last year. That’s the only time someone followed a scoreless first half with so many second-half points in the Basketball-Reference postseason database, which dates back to 1997.

But those successes weren’t sustained. Tatum (six), Smart (four) and Brown (four) all had too many turnovers.

This series is even by points scored. But Boston has been just a little too erratic, which is why Miami has the key 3-1 lead.

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
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The 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.

For NBA players, Breonna Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver wears Breonna Taylor shirt
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James sent the word to the Los Angeles Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.

A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.

“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”

Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams came to Walt Disney World to finish the season and crown a champion, and hoping that the platform of the NBA’s restart bubble could help amplify calls for change. Players and coaches have used the NBA spotlight to make statements at a time when the demand for racial equality and an end to police brutality is resonating as loudly as it has in generations.

And Taylor’s story – the tale of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed March 13 by police in Louisville when they burst into her apartment on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation centered around a suspect who did not live there – has captivated NBA players. Many have met, virtually, with members of her family to offer support. They say her name in news conferences, wear it on shirts, scrawl it onto their sneakers.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

Even for teams not in the bubble, it mattered. Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce leads a committee of NBA coaches tasked with finding new ways to use their own platform to create change, and he’s encouraged his own players – Black and white alike – to speak out and take action, whether in Atlanta or their own community.

Pierce took Wednesday’s news hard.

“Yeah, there was a grand jury and yeah, they went through the information and yeah, they have facts to support whatever the claims may be,” Pierce said. “But that doesn’t provide any justice for those that are on the outside, those that feel like the police and law enforcement are there to protect them. … What currently is happening isn’t good enough.”

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell:

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts went a step further. “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

The league shut down for three days last month when a boycott that was started by the Milwaukee Bucks – in response to the shooting by police of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin – nearly caused players to end the season because they felt their pleas for change were not being taken seriously enough.

And Wednesday’s news was another disappointment for them.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” Green said. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”