Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Wednesday night, while you were saving up for your jetpack

Bobcats102 Sixers 87: Some defenses execute well at a systemic level. Others, at an individual level. But the best defenses operate at both. And that takes talent and effort in symphony. The Bobcats have got the horns and woodwinds in perfect harmony, so to speak.

With the Bobcats up 17, with less than two minutes to go in the game, Gerald Wallace was still sprinting sideline to sideline to recover defensively. This against one of the worst teams in the league. You have to be a great offensive team to create opportunities against the Bobcats, and the Sixers are not. Their leading scorer? Rodney Carney with 14 points.

Gerald Wallace is a robot ninja.

Memphis 111 Celtics 91:
The scoreboard doesn’t even begin to describe how lopsided this was. The Celtics scored 12 points in the 1st quarter. A dozen. This against one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Ye Gods.

The Grizzlies created high percentage open transition buckets, almost without dribbling. They just sped the ball with quick, precise passes. When that wasn’t happening, they were launching unguarded threes from the perimeter and raining.

There was no effort from the C’s, no ability from the C’s, no legs, no spirit, no soul. They might as well have been ghosts. The Celtics were the past, fading into sepia, and the Grizzlies were youth, looking like Pleasantville.

Thunder 98 Hornets 83: This was a tense, up and down, competitive romp for about 12 minutes. Then the Thunder did their thing.

One of the staples of a young team is an indecisiveness. You learn to know what you’re doing through repetition, rote and unfettered, and that takes time. But Russell Westbrook? He just gets it. He pushes the ball into the halfcourt, makes the decision, and then executes.Nine assists for the Thunder maestro tonight, and with Darren Collison having an off night, that was pretty much the shebang.

David West’s mid-range game is devastating, but in all honesty, the rest of this team is revealing itself as the season goes on, and that reveal is to something not good.

Nuggets 110, Wolves 102:
Am I the only one that laughs a little bit when David Kahn’s team gets thoroughly kept at arm’s length primarily by point guard play? Chauncey Billups had 25 points and needed just three assists.

Corey Brewer will not win most improved, but he needs to get a second look by the voters. That Florida crew, man. What talent in that class.

Ricky Rubio did not play.

Mavs 96 Nets 92: Caron Butler was the difference. No joke. He, specifically, was the difference between the end of the Mavs streak and the Nets’ bajillionth loss this year. Butler got a huge putback down the stretch, then nailed a step-back jumper from the wing after creating space with a veteran shoulder shrug. The Nets competed, as they still do, and that needs to be pointed out.

Paid professionals or not, the Nets have every reason to bail on the season, not try, not work, and slough through it. But they’re working. They don’t know how to execute. It’s not that they can’t, they just haven’t learned how yet. Terrence Williams showed flashes (18 points, 13 rebounds), including a nifty behind-the-back dribble and finish late.

Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood.  Man. Even with this team’s not good, it’s still pretty good. They’re the pizza of the NBA.

Spurs 97 Knicks 87: Greg Popovich could beat Mike D’Antoni (who is a great coach) with a can of sardines and a box of twinkies. The Knicks gave up looks downlow.

The Spurs obliged them. And the Spurs’ defense was there tonight. You know, the one that’s been missing so much. Running off threes, pre-empting posts. Dogging, dogging, dogging. Double, rotate, rotate.

Manu Ginobili is doin’ work right now.

Kings 113 Raps 90: Tyreke Evans is 20 years old.

Tyreke Evans had 19 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds.

Tyreke Evans is incredible.

The Raptors don’t play defense.

That’s my story.

Heat 107, Clippers 98: Fact of NBA life #27: The aggressor gets the calls. People complain that the refs give superstars like Dwyane Wade the calls, but they attack (and, frankly, get fouled a lot).

Miami as a team — with Wade leading the way — attacked the rim hard in this one, particularly off the high pick-and-roll They were rewarded for that by the refs with 35 free throws (making 29). The Clippers, on the second night of a back-to-back, settled for jumpers. The result was just 13 free throw attempts. Wade had 17 by himself. And while the Clippers had a pretty good offensive night, the aggressors had the better one and get the win.

Jazz 115, Pistons 104: The Jazz are capable of stretches of beautiful basketball, with crisp player movement and making the extra pass leading to layups and open looks. The game as god and Naismith intended. Utah had one of those during the second quarter Wednesday. Detroit is neither capable of stopping it nor hanging close to that. They didn’t, it was a 35-14 second quarter for the Jazz. And that was your ballgame. But you knew it was coming — that’s 10 in a row for the Jazz over the Pistons.

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

Gordon Hayward return
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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.