Baseline to Baseline recaps: No Durant, no problem for OKC.

Leave a comment

What you missed while playing ‪Manny Pacquiao’s Punchout‬…

Thunder 89, Celtics 84: No Kevin Durant. No Jeff Green. The Thunder missed their last 15 shots from the field. And they still handed Boston its first loss of the season at home. Part of it, as it has been all season with Oklahoma City, is free throws — they got 32 and made 27 of them (Boston was 17 of 27). But a bigger part was just effort — Boston played like a team that thought they should win easily, the Thunder played hard and desperate. It wasn’t a pretty fourth quarter, but this result was deserved for both sides.

Bulls 88, Mavericks 83: Dallas did not keep Chicago off the glass in this one — the Bulls had 20 offensive rebounds, meaning they got a second chance on 44.4 percent of their missed shots. Eight of those offensive boards belonged to Taj Gibson, who had a huge night with 17 points on 7-12 shooting. Also, Caron Butler is just flat out not playing well.

Heat 95, Bobcats 87: This was one of those games where the Heat got the win but didn’t really look good doing it. Lots of isolation basketball, they shot 6-33 from beyond 16 feet (which is way too many jump shots, something they do a lot) and they played to the Bobcats style. But, the Heat were the better team on the boards, they created more turnovers then turned those into some transition points, and they got to the line enough to win against a good defense. Charlotte had a nice effort but just did not have the players.

Lakers 112, Timberwolves 95: Why is it so hard to beat the Lakers? Because they have Kobe and Gasol, sure, but then one night Matt Barnes rises up and goes 5-5 from three, 7-7 overall and puts up 24 off the bench. Now, if Kurt Rambis wanted to bench Kevin Love in this one — no points on 0-7 shooting, 7 boards — nobody would have blamed him. Ron Artest flat out dominated Love. Lakers go 3-0 on a Midwest road trip.

Sixers 90, Bucks 79: Just a horrible shooting game, but the Bucks were worse — 33.8 percent overall, 0-12 from three. You don’t beat anybody shooting like that.

Raptors 106, Rockets 96: Toronto’s bench outscored Houston’s 46-11. Throw in an 11-17 shooting night and 26 points from Andrea Bargnani and you have yourself a Raptors win.

Wizards 89, Grizzlies 86: Still no Wall but the Wizards were the more aggressive team trying to get to the basket, as a result they shot 35 free throws to the Grizzlies 18. Gilbert Arenas had 24 points, Kirk Hinrich 22. More impressively, Arenas was defending hard on OJ Mayo all night, held him to 1-11 shooting.

Hornets 108, Cavaliers 101: Workman like Hornets win, where they had an 18-2 run late in the first half that essentially iced the game. Cleveland’s starters scored 36 points, the bench 65. David West almost outscored the Cavs starters himself with 34.

Spurs 94, Jazz 82: In a bit of irony, Tim Duncan became the Spurs all time leading scorer on a free throw. Vintage Spurs down the stretch in this one, with Tony Parker getting in the lane then passing out to Richard Jefferson for a three or Tim Duncan for the midrange. The Spurs may be the hottest team going right now.

Kings 86, Nets 81: Questions that can never really be answered: Did the Kings finally play some good defense or is New Jersey just that bad on offense?

Knicks 125, Warriors 119: Really entertaining game — mostly because nobody played a lick of defense. Fast pace, so we had Raymond Felton with 35 for the Knicks, Monta Ellis with 40 for the Warriors. In a game without defense the Knicks just shot a little better (which is unexpected, but there you go).

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

Boston Miami
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Ja Morant thumb
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Ty Lawson China
Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.