Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while dreaming of a Bill & Ted sequel

Lakers 109, Raptors 107: Ball denial. If the game is on the line, if the Lakers have one last shot to win it, play ball denial. Double team immediately and hard. Get the ball out of his hands, even if it means someone else gets a better shot. Do not – DO NOT – let Kobe Bean Bryant shoot it.

As for the other 47 minutes, 51 seconds of the game: Andrew Bynum is like a microcosm of the Lakers. When he is challenged – like facing Chris Bosh — he rises up with a great performance (both bigs had 22 points but Bynum did it with 8 of 12 shooting to Bosh’s 7 of 18, and Bosh had just one more rebound). Bosh, however, did hit the game-tying three. Toronto had its stretches as well, often fueled by them running the pick-and-roll with some style. They are sort of like Orlando in that Toronto has the depth to space the floor with good shooters, including bigs, that open things up and then they run the pick-and-roll well and they become a very difficult cover.

Magic 113, Clippers 87: The Clippers fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” — but only slightly less well-known is this: Never get into a jump shooting contest with the Orlando Magic.

The Magic took away the Clippers penetration (it helped to have Eric Gordon out, and passive Baron Davis came off the bench for LA). So the Clippers had to settle for contested jump shots. The Clippers could not stop the Magic’s penetration, which led to drive and dish for open outside jumpers for Orlando. And there you have your blowout.

Rockets 96, Wizards 88: We got to see a little hot Argentine on Argentine action — Fabricio Oberto matched up on Luis Scola. And both played some of their most inspired ball in a long time — we actually saw a post move out of Oberto. Scola, however, is far more talented and finished with a game high 23 on 8 of 16 shooting.

Pacers 107, 76ers 96: Where the hell have these Pacers been hiding? The ones that move the ball. The ones where the players cut to the basket. The ones that make smart passes. The ones that normally assist on 55 percent of their baskets but did so for 76 percent in this game. Because, seriously, these Pacers were fun to watch. And I have not written that sentence once this season.

Bobcats 83, Heat 78: Good defense from both squads, but he Bobcats really turned it up after the break and allowed just 30 second half points. Wade got is 27 points for the game, but needed 26 shots to do it. Not that anybody shot well in this one.

Jazz 132, Bulls 107: Wow the Bulls defense has gone to hell without Noah. And the Jazz are the perfect team to exploit that. And they did – 132 points in just a 95-possession game. Nights like this have you thinking the Bulls are the team that will end up on the outside in the East.

Bucks 86, Celtics 84: When the Celtics beat the Wizards at the buzzer just two nights before, Mike Miller was wiped out by a Kevin Garnett screen and his man, Ray Allen, came free for a good look at a three pointer. Net and win for the Celtics. In the same situation down two with four seconds to go Tuesday, the Celtics this time run Paul Pierce off a KG screen, but the Bucks play it better and switch it so that suddenly all seven feet of Andrew Bogut comes out on Pierce and he has to put extra arc on his shot, it misses and the Bucks win. That is how you defend late in games, people.

Trail Blazers 88, Kings 81: That is why Portland went and got Marcus Camby at the trade deadline. He can change a game on defense and that is what he did late in this one, after the Kings had battled back to tie it. Overall the Blazers held the Kings to just a 92 points per 100 possessions pace, well off their season average. It wasn’t a pretty win, but they don’t all have to be. The Kings don’t make it easy, while a lot of lottery teams are rolling over right now, the Kings will fight you. Blazers fans should just happily take the win.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.