Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Where it was like Miami’s dream come true

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What you missed while trying to find the most inappropriate Halloween costume ever for your child….

Heat 96, Magic 70: Before the season Doc Rivers said how good Miami ended up being would depend on how well they defend. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they would score, but could they defend as a team?

They’re starting to figure it out. With each game their defense has been better and better until they just shut down Orlando, particularly in the second half, and cruised to the win.

There were two sides to Miami making this a blowout. Part of it was their defense — they were very active and aggressive contesting jumpers, and they were physical with the Magic inside. The pressure led the Magic to shoot a lot of contested two-pointers, the least efficient shot in basketball.

But Orlando deserves some blame here too. They were just bad at getting the shots they wanted, and even when they did they missed them. This is a team that lives and dies by the three, tonight they died. They were 4 of 24 from deep for the game. That could have something to do with tired legs on a back-to-back.

What did work was getting Dwight Howard the ball with his back to the basket and letting him work on the overmatched Heat centers. He had 19 first half points that way. He finished with 19. The Heat adjusted and dared someone else to beat them.

Magic players not named Howard shot 27 percent for the game. Magic starters outside Howard were 4-for-30. Orlando was 7-for-36 in the second half. I could go on, but why?

Vince Carter is supposed to be the guy who creates shots besides Howard, but he went down grabbing his tailbone after a collision and fall in the second quarter, and he did not return.

The man is as fragile and hurts more than the heart of a teenage girl.

Miami came out focused, went on a 14-0 run to start the second half and that was basically all she wrote. They got some turnovers in that stretch and if you do that to the Heat you will pay — there is no more fearsome team in transition than the Heat.

It was a game that — despite being decided and fairly dull the last 18 minutes — had a playoff feel to it. Credit the normally laid-back Heat crowd, they were into it. We’ll see if the Heat can keep up this kind of defense and the fans that kind of intensity through a long season.

Celtics 105, Knicks 101: The book on Rajon Rondo is to make him a shooter. The Knicks let him drop 24 dimes. Those are Bob Cousey numbers. It was really vintage Rondo, one of his prettiest games, and he finished with a triple double (10 points and 10 rebounds, too).

Credit the Knicks for hustle and hanging around, but this is a tough matchup for them because of Boston’s length. The Celtics dominated in the paint — they took 41 shots at the rim compared to 20 for the Knicks — and controlled the boards, and that ended up being the difference. If Knicks fans want, they can chalk this up as a moral victory. They played well.

Nets 106, Kings 100: This is one of the things you fear with the new technical foul enforcement — the second quarter of this game ground to a standstill with foul calls and techs. It was a parade of free throws. Fun times.

Kings were up 8 with three minutes left when Nets went on 13-0 run, with Jordan Farmar and Devin Harris hitting key threes. The key to the run was the Nets stopped turning the ball over — they shot the ball better and got to the line more all night long, but the 26 turnovers cut them off at the knees. Until it mattered.

The Kings got Samuel Dalembert back but he looked like a guy in his first game back from injury (he didn’t score and looked a step slow).

Hawks 104, 76ers 101: Not a lot of defense played in this one, but the Sixers seemed more willing to settle for long two pointers and that helped the Hawks. The bad news for the Hawks: Mike Bibby 33 minutes, Jeff Teague 11. But Atlanta is 2-0, so no complaining tonight.

Raptors 101, Cavaliers 81: Toronto just came out more aggressive in this one, really taking the ball into the lane. Jarret Jack was aggressive but Bargnani and Kleiza were the beneficiaries, they shot 6-of-12 combined in the first half. Kleiza finished with 19. Meanwhile the Cavs shot 4-of-17 in the second quarter, and that pretty much summed it up.

Pacers 104, Bobcats 101: Charlotte got two good looks at tying this in the final 10 seconds. DJ Augustin got a clean look but his feet were planted oddly so it was kind of a twisting shot that missed. But an offensive rebound gave them one last chance with 3.5 seconds left.

And the Bobcats got the look they wanted thanks to terrible Pacer defense. Stephen Jackson came free off a Boris Diaw moving screen that James Posey fought over the top of. Jack got an inbound pass nearly straight away at the three, gave an up fake and Posey went flying by so Jack got to set his feet. Nobody else ran out, the Bobcats had spread their four along the baseline and everyone stayed with their man and collapsed to get the rebound, even though Charlotte needed a three. But Jackson missed. May not have been justice, but that’s how it went down.

Hornets 101, Nuggets 95: In the second quarter the Nuggets offense stagnated, that led to a few turnovers and the Hornets got some transition baskets, and they were up 9 at the break. Denver battled back to have a fourth quarter lead behind Carmelo Anthony’s 24 on 10-of-17 shooting. But it was Denver that collapsed, and a 13-2 run won it for the Hornets.

Thunder 105, Pistons 104: Jeff Green — he of the no contract extension — is the hero in this one with a game-winner with 2.5 seconds left. The Thunder lived at the line in this one — 44 free throw attempts. They got that because they attacked the rim. No moral victories but the Pistons played well.

Timberwolves 96, Bucks 85: Kevin Love got to play the key moments of the game, he posted a double-double and he Wolves won. That could be coincidence, but Kurt Rambis should play him more to find out.

Grizzlies 91, Mavericks 90: How to lose a game in the fourth quarter — turn the ball over nine times. That’s what Dallas did, nine turnovers in the final 12 minutes. Not a terribly aesthetically pleasing game as both teams settled for a lot of jump shots.

Lakers 114, Suns 106: Phoenix went with what worked last time these two met — the Suns were in their 2-3 zone from the start. At first the Lakers did what they did in the Western Conference Finals — worked the ball around the perimeter then settled for a jumper. Gasol who? Attack the zone inside out what?

Eventually the Lakers remembered what they had done to the Suns in that series, got the ball inside first, shot a little better, got a few more rebounds and just adjusted their game to the team before them. Same result as last playoffs.

Warriors 109, Clippers 91: The Clippers defense, or lack of it, tells the story — Golden State shot 53.1 percent on the night and 58 percent from three, the Clippers shot 38.6 percent overall and 27.8 percent from three. And all those Clipper misses were not really about the Warriors defense, either.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.