Games of the night: The Spurs and Celtics keep right on winning

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Spurs 113, Nuggets 112. Manu. Flipin. Ginobili.

First Manu hits an acrobatic four-footer — twisting, splitting the double team and kiss it off the glass with English — to give the Spurs a one-point lead with 4.2 seconds left. Then on the other end he makes a perfectly-timed double team — not moving until Carmelo Anthony put his head down then beating him to the spot — to draw the charge on what would have been the Nuggets game winner.

Denver fans, don’t blame the refs for this one, you were fortunate to have the lead at all — remember it was a too-hot in-bound pass from Antonio McDyess to Ginobili which bounced straight to Anthony that gave you the lead in the first place. Then there was the three missed free throws down the stretch, Nene missed a few chippies before fouling out, Arron Afflalo had been hot all night but missed a wide-open look near the end, there was the missed opportunity to foul Tim Duncan. You had your chances before the final call — and that call was the right one anyway.

Tim Duncan had 28 points and 16 boards. Credit the Spurs — the road back-to-back with Denver on the second night (where you are playing at altitude) is one of the toughest in the NBA and they won anyway. This team is legit.

Celtics 102, Hawks 90: This was close for a half in what was a battle of depth — the Hawks were without Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, the Celtics were without Rajon Rondo and Shaquille O’Neal.

In the end, the discipline of the Celtics to stay with the plan was much better than that of the Hawks. The Celtics had balance. Six Celtics scored in double figures — none with more than 18 — and they shot 53 percent as a team. That is depth. More depth than the Hawks have.

Great game from Jeff Teague off the bench for Atlanta, scoring 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting. How come he doesn’t play like that every night?

Nets 97, Wizards 89: Would the real Washington Wizards please stand up. Please stand up. Was it the disaster of a team from the first half? Or maybe the team that made a game of it until a late 7-0 Nets run sealed it?

Washington’s interior defense remains Nerf soft, but they expanded their flaws to so many new areas in the first half. For example, the Nets are dead last in the league at forcing turnovers — only 13.2 percent of opponent possessions end in a turnover. In the first half the Wizards better than doubled that to 26.5 (13 total turnovers). The Wizards shot 30 percent for the first half and missed all their threes, then they shot 48 percent for the second half and made a real game of it. The defense got better (not good, just less bad). Wasn’t enough.

Good on the Nets for taking advantage of how bad the Wizards are. I guess. It’s a win, so Avery Johnson will take it.

Donovan Mitchell homers in first at bat in James Harden’s charity softball game

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This is probably not going to show up in “And That Happened” but it was pretty impressive nonetheless.

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell was among the many NBA players and celebrities at the James Harden Celebrity Softball game (part of his J-Town weekend of events). Mitchell came up with one on and… yard.

Is there anything Mitchell can’t do?

He wasn’t the only celebrity to knock it out of the park, Travis Scott sent one to Astroworld. Harden was impressed.

Harden himself had a home run — but of the inside-the-park variety.

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum says Kobe Bryant helped him with his post game, mental toughness

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Jayson Tatum had an impressive rookie season: 13.9 points and five rebounds a game, 43.4 percent shooting from three, a 15.3 PER, and a strong playoff run that helped the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

Where did he turn to get better this summer? Kobe Bryant.

While a Celtic reaching out to a Laker legend for advice may throw an old-timer off, there are few better students of the game than Kobe, let alone ones as well respected by a generation, a guy who can get through to them. Tatum worked out with Kobe and was clearly excited about it speaking to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

A stronger Tatum who can punish mismatches in the post is a scary thing.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown led a real push for the Celtics in the postseason, it will be a bit of an adjustment with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back because the young stars may not get the same number of touches and opportunities. The pie is going to be divided up more ways. With Brad Stevens at the helm we all expect the transition to go smoothly, and for the Celtics to contend for a title, but it is something to watch early in the season.

Bob Bass, former GM in San Antonio and Charlotte, dead at 89

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Bob Bass, the former San Antonio and Charlotte general manager who was an integral part of the front office for most of the Spurs’ first 20 years in South Texas, has died. He was 89.

Bass’ death was confirmed by the club Saturday in a statement from coach Gregg Popovich. The San Antonio Express-News reported that Bass died Friday at home in San Antonio after a series of strokes.

“Over the course of four decades, Bob Bass had a huge impact in both the ABA and NBA,” Popovich said in a statement released by the team. “BB was a true pioneer in the world of professional basketball. His knowledge, passion and dedication to the game were inspiring. We send our condolences to the entire Bass family.”

After getting hired as coach during the Spurs’ second season in San Antonio in 1974-75, Bass joined the front office as general manager when the club moved from the ABA to the NBA in 1976.

The two-time NBA Executive of the Year spent 20 seasons with the Spurs in various roles – returning three times as coach – before going to Charlotte as the GM in 1994. He spent nine seasons with the Hornets. Bass coached his alma mater of Oklahoma Baptist from 1952-1967, first joined the ABA as coach of the Denver Rockets in 1967-1968. He went back to college at Texas Tech from 1969-1971, then back to the ABA with the Floridians in 1971-1972 and the Memphis Tams in 1973-1974 before landing with the Spurs.

Bass had a 311-300 career regular-season coaching record in the ABA and NBA.

 

What is Jamal Crawford looking for in a new home? “Fit”

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It’s a little surprising Jamal Crawford is still available as a free agent. Yes, he is 38, and his skills and his efficiency have slipped in recent years, but the man can still get buckets off the bench and averaged 10.3 points per game last season in Minnesota.

He turned down an $4.5 million player option and is still waiting for a contract. What is he looking for? He talked about it with Percy Allen of the Seattle Times, in a story about the amazing pro-am Crawford runs in Seattle every summer.

The three-time Sixth Man of the Year is an unrestricted free agent, which he said is equally worrisome and exciting…

“Fit is first and foremost when I’m thinking about where I’ll play next,” said Crawford, who wants to play another 2-3 years. “Last year, I may have made the mistake of not thinking fit all the way through.

“You look at my career, when the fit was right, I contributed on the court. … I know people that care for me want me to win (an NBA title), but I don’t know if my career will be defined by that.”

Crawford’s name was rumored with contenders such as Golden State and Houston, but nothing came of any of it. At this point Crawford is not going to be able to be as picky about fit, he may have to look at any offers that come in.

Most teams’ rosters are set, and at this point in the summer most teams are happy with their rosters, or at least have talked themselves into being happy with it. Crawford may be a guy who gets a call a couple weeks into training camp, or a week or two into the season, when a team realizes its bench was not as impressive as it thought. There are teams he could still help, even if those teams don’t realize it yet.