Baseline to Baseline, where back-to-backs do good teams wrong

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What you missed while watching the season premiere of Top Chef Masters

Nuggets 98, Thunder 94
: Carmelo Anthony is Chumbawamba — he gets knocked down, but gets up again, you’re never going to keep him down.

Thunder were up by 13, then the legs started getting heavy in the second night of a back-to-back and the Nuggets made its run, with Anthony back as part of it. You add in the swagger of Chauncey Billups — 15 in the fourth — and you get a nice comeback win for the Nuggets.

Suns 112, Spurs 101:  It is just fun to watch Steve Nash play basketball. Pure joy. Not that he earned the MVPs, not that he is a great defender, but he gets offense and how to set it up like nobody since Magic. Ask advanced scouts, and they tell you they love to watch Nash (and they see enough basketball to OD a hoop junkie). He was vintage Nash against the Spurs, he and Amare Stoudemire are a nearly unstoppable force on the pick-and-roll.

Pure joy to watch if you love basketball.

Bobcats 104, Hornets 103: Charlotte was dominating this one for a long time, but their 26-point lead disappeared. The reason – back-to-back games. Charlotte was on one and they started to fade, with 13 second half turnovers to fuel New Orleans. How flat did the Bobcats become? There are 48 seconds to go in the game and just drove by everybody and scored open layup.

D.J Augustin answered back, he came off a down screen and got a clean look three as Collison is well off him. Net. Bobcats by one.

One final chance for the Hornets and Collison is looking to pass rather than attack and score. Charlotte plays good defense and Collison finally realized he had to shoot it, and what was left was an awkward leaner in the lane. He missed. And with the win it is official, the Bobcats are going to the playoffs for the first time ever.

Heat 99, Sixers 95: Sixers made a game of it in the third with a 22-8 run, took the lead and were the active, motivated and looked like the playoff team.

Then Wade picked up his fourth foul with four minutes left in the third and Eric Spoelstra took a gamble — he left him in. Wade was 2 for10 with six points at that point. But seconds later on a fast break Wade drew the and one on Jason Kopono with a strong move, cut the Sixers lead to two. He got another one two possessions later to tie the game. Next Sixers possession Wade with the steal and breakaway dunk. Eight quick points.

Great ending. With 48 seconds left Wade does what Wade does, drives through the traffic, gets fouled, just missed the shot. As he circled out he passed Eddie Jordan and straightened his tie. Nice touch. Lou Williams had a chance to tie but Samuel Dalembert touched the ball above the cylinder for reasons known only to him and god, so the Heat win.

Rockets 113, Jazz 96: Want to know the effect of a back-to-back where the first game is a hard fought, dramatic over time game. This game was it. Rockets get 56 out of Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, plus shoots 52.6 percent from three. In part because Jazz defenders had heavy legs.

Bucks 108, Nets 89: No Bogut to defend Brook Lopez, and the Nets don’t bother to get him the ball. He had taken just two shots late in the third, and finished one of six. Nets were not exploiting the mismatches.

The Nets get some good defense, basically crowding the paint and allowing Jennings and others to shoot the jumper early on. It worked on everyone not named John Salmons. But the Nets weren’t hitting from the outside either. Eventually the Bucks started hitting and, well, there you go. Nets shot 39 percent for the game.

Warriors 116, Timberwolves 107: Congats Nellie! Only other reason to watch this one was Stephen Curry — the first rookie in NBA history with 27 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds and 7 steals in a game. (From ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz)

Mavericks 110, Grizzlies 84: Dallas simply did everything better. Everything. That’s why they were up 13 after one quarter. After that nobody was watching much. Nothing to see here, move along people.

Magic 121, Wizards 94: Orlando’s starters are far better than the Wizards, but that’s not why the Magic won this one going away. It was their bench, which shot 67.5 percent (25 of 37) including 10 of 13 of three. Mickael Pietrus, 16 on 4 of 5 of three to lead the way. When your reserves play like that, it’s a paddlin’.

Celtics 115, Raptors, 94: The Raptors play no defense, were without Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu had to leave with an injury. The Celtics had damn well better win a game like this, but the Raptors scraped for three quarters but they did not have the horses to run with Boston.

Pistons 90, Hawks 88: What happened to Atlanta? Second night of a back-to-back and they head into a game where they think they should cruise. Bad combination. Another game that was not pretty basketball, but the Hawks had their looks — 2 of 17 from three. That did them in.

Trail Blazers 93, Clippers 85: Portland looks like a playoff team — LaMarcus Aldridge a force in the low block, Brandon Roy in the high one. The rest of the team spaces the floor and cuts off them. It’s fun to watch. The Clippers look like a lottery team, not much fun to watch at all.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?

Collin Sexton expects to start for Jazz once he gets back to full speed

2022 NBA All-Star - NBA x HBCU Classic Presented by AT&T
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After the blockbuster trade that was centered around Donovan Mitchell sent Collin Sexton to Utah, the immediate expectation was that he would start for the Jazz and have the ultimate green light.

However, that wasn’t the case in their first preseason matchup with Toronto on Sunday. In 18 minutes off the bench, Sexton finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) to go along with one rebound, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers.

It came as a bit of a surprise to most viewers that Sexton didn’t get the starting nod, but he told Sarah Todd of Deseret News that he expected to come off the bench for this game. He acknowledged that it was because he hasn’t played much since his meniscus surgery, but he expects to start once he gets back to full speed.

Utah hit the reset button by dealing away four of their five starters from last season. They’ve ushered in a new era that is centered around Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and a ton of first round picks. Sexton has talked about wanting to improve on his assists numbers this season, which we should definitely see him get the opportunity to do.

The Jazz have cemented their place in the center of the Victor Wembanyama race, so they’ll have no problem letting their young guys learn through trial and error. Sexton averaged 4.4 assists per game for Cleveland just two years ago. However, he won’t be playing alongside another young guard like Darius Garland, so Sexton should have the ball in his hands more than he ever has in the NBA.

Ben Simmons looks fine in return, is ‘grateful just to be able to step on that floor’

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Ben Simmons played in an actual, live basketball game on Monday night.

It’s preseason, sure, but the Nets rolled out their likely starting five — Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, and Nic Claxton — and had Simmons initiating a lot of the offense early.

The results were not bad. Fine. Good in flashes. Simmons ran the floor well and finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He missed both free throws he took and all three of his makes were at the rim, his three missed shots were all in the paint and included an ugly skyhook-like thing and a turnaround that missed. There was clear rust.

The Nets got him a lot of touches, having him initiate the offense early. Whether that is something that carries over into the season remains to be seen, the offense moved better with the crisp passing and decisions of Kyrie Irving.

Simmons sounded comfortable after the game, quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

“That’s the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”

Simmons pushed for a trade off these 76ers a year ago, then sat out all last season due to mental health concerns. Having him back on the court for 19 minutes over a couple of shifts was enough for the Nets.

The 76ers sat Joel Embiid and James Harden for the night, but Tyrese Maxey was the best player on the floor with 20 points in 14 minutes and showing a confident 3-point stroke.

Furkan Korkmaz, another player coming off an injury, added 15 His play will add depth to the Sixers roster.

Claxton ran the floor hard and finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting (all at the rim), while Durant led the way with 13 points.

Annual GM survey predicts Bucks vs. Warriors Finals, Doncic MVP

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The NBA’s annual GM survey is more of a snapshot of the conventional wisdom around the league than a good predictive tool — last season the GMs overwhelmingly picked the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals and Kevin Durant as MVP. Didn’t exactly work out that way.

Still, it’s an interesting view into where things stand — and where it stands is a Bucks vs. Warriors NBA Finals. When asked who would win the NBA title, 43% predicted the Bucks, 25% the Warriors, 21% the Clippers and 11% the Celtics (a number that unquestionably fell since the news of Ime Udoka’s suspension came out).

Here’s how the GMs see the top six in each conference, courtesy of Jon Schuhmann and NBA.com who did the survey:

EAST
1. Bucks
2. Celtics
3. 76ers
4. Nets
5. Heat
6. Cavaliers

WEST
1. Clippers
2. Warriors
3. Suns
4. Nuggets
5. Grizzlies
6-T: Mavericks and Timberwolves

Here are some other highlights from the survey:

• Luka Doncic is the betting favorite to win MVP and the choice of the GMs, with 48% of them picking the Dallas star to win the award. Second was Giannis Antetokounmpo (34%) followed by Joel Embiid (14%).

• But ask GMs if they were starting a franchise today and could sign anyone, and they take Antetokounmpo (55%) over Doncic (45%). Those are the only two names on the list.

• Asked the player most likely to have a breakout season and the Cavaliers Evan Mobley led the way with 21% of the vote, followed by Cade Cunningham and Anthony Edwards tied for second (17%).

• The most athletic player in the league? The GMs voted for Ja Morant (38%) over Antetokounmpo (31%) and Anthony Edwards (24%).

• When asked which team had the best offseason, 41% of the GMs picked the Cavaliers, with Donovan Mitchell being named the player changing teams who would have the biggest impact this season.

• The most underrated offseason pickup: Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics, according to the GMs (28%).

• Most surprising move of the offseason for the GMs was Rudy Gobert to Cleveland (47% of the vote), but Mitchell to the Cavaliers was a close second (43%).

Paolo Banchero is the runaway pick for Rookie of the Year (79%).

• Antetokounmpo was voted the best defensive player in the NBA (45%), with Draymond Green a distant second (24%).

• Gobert, however, was the runaway winner of the best interior defender (83%).

• Best coach in the NBA? Erik Spoelstra led the way with 52% of the vote, followed by Steve Kerr at 22%. The Clippers’ Tyronne Lue, however, won the vote for best in-game adjustments by a coach.

• The Toronto Raptors were voted the team with the best home court advantage (21%), with Boston and Denver tied for second (17%).