Baseline to Baseline recaps: Derrick Rose bests Deron Williams in the clutch

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What you missed while playing a sad, sad song for the end of Guitar Hero

Bulls 91, Jazz 86: At the end of this one Deron Williams and Derrick Rose were putting on a clinic. Two of the best pick and roll ball handlers in the league were slicing defenses with drives, dicing them up with passes to big men. It really was a thing of beauty.

But with the game on the line Rose made the key plays, including running down Williams in transition and making a steal from behind with under a minute to go. Rose was the best player on the floor and that’s why the Bulls won. That and the 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. And the three late key turnovers by the Jazz.

Paul Millsap had spent years as Carlos Boozer’s understudy, and he came out fired up for this one. He finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds. The Jazz did a good job on Boozer, holding him to 14 points on 6 of 16 shooting, and blocking five of his shots. What really hurt the Jazz (again) was depth — they got just five points off the bench all night, and four of those came from C.J. Miles early in the fourth.

But Jazz fans did get to boo Carlos Boozer, and they took full advantage of it.

Pistons 103, Cavaliers 94: There are so, so many ways to beat the Cavaliers. The Pistons went with the “our bench is so much better than yours” system and it worked — 61 bench points for Detroit. Thing is, the Pistons actually have a pretty good bench, they usually lose because of the starters.

Cleveland actually shot 51.4 percent on the night and hit 8 of 19 threes but the 17 turnovers by the Cavs and the 17 offensive rebounds for the Pistons were the difference. We are at 26 straight losses and counting.

Magic 99, Sixers 95: Philadelphia doesn’t have anyone who could stop Dwight Howard. Not a lot of teams do, but Howard made the Sixers pay a steeper price — 30 points, 17 boards. The Sixers tried fouling him — hack-a-Howard — but he hit 14-of-19 free throws. Lou Williams hit two threes in the final minute to make the Magic sweat it out.

Wizards 100, Bucks 85: The Wizards were home where they are over .500, and the Bucks offense still sucks. Washington had six players in double figures and really got solid play out of every key guy not named Rashard Lewis.

Spurs 111, Raptors 100: This game was pretty close for three quarters, then exactly what you expected to happen, happened — DeJuan Blair took over. What, you didn’t expect 16 fourth quarter points and a team-high 28 for the game out of Blair? What if we told you he was being covered by Andrea Bargnani, does it make more sense now? Aside that, basically the Spurs started to focus on defense in the fourth (the Raptors started 5 of 18 for the quarter) and that led to a 22-4 run that was the ballgame.

Nets 103, Hornets 100 (OT): Phil Jackson may try to take credit for this win — former Laker Sasha Vujacic had 25 points, while his former teammate Jordan Farmar was a game high +21 for the Nets. Chris Paul was not at his best (9 points, 11 assists and 7 turnovers) but David West had 32 points, 15 rebounds in the loss.

Pacers 104, Bobcats 103: Here’s why this win was key — if these two teams are tied at the end of the season the Pacers now have the tie-breaker (head-to-head). With the win the Pacers are the eight seed right now, one game up on the Bobcats. Roy Hibbert had 29 points (on 19 shots) because Eduardo Najera can’t guard hm. Indiana led most of the way but 13 points from Stephen Jackson in the fourth quarter led a comeback that made this one tight.

Clippers 116, Knicks 108: Tonight the part of Mr. Clutch will be played by Randy Foye. He had 17 in the fourth quarter to help the Clips hold on. Timofey Mozgov started for the Knicks, and ha 18 points (on 9 shots), six rebounds, and threw down a lot of dunks, as if to say “see me Blake Griffin, I can dunk, too.” Actually, the entire first half seemed like a dunkfest as nobody seemed to play much interior defense. Clippers also got good play out of Ryan Gomes. You read that right.

Mavericks 102, Kings 100: You are right to complain about the call Kings fans — there is no way DeMarcus Cousins (or Tyson Chandler) should have gotten technical for pushing hard to get a free throw rebound with 48 seconds left (it was Cousin’s second tech so he was gone, but the league should rescind). Those two had gone at it hard for a few plays but a ref has to understand the time in the game and let some things go. However that was not reason the Kings lost — the Mavericks executed better and got better looks in crunch time than the Kings. Jason Terry had 26 off the bench.

Warriors 116, Nuggets 114: Terrible end of game execution. Monta Ellis — who hit what turned out to be the game winning three before — tries another from the same spot as the shot clock runs out, he misses and with two timeouts Denver’s Ty Lawson gets the ball and runs up court. Carmelo Anthony trails him b a couple steps asking for the ball but is ignored. No timeout to set up a play, no Melo, the Nuggets end up going with an 18-foot, off-balance jumper by Nene. That predictably clangs off and the Warriors get the win. They executed better in crunch time.

Rui Hachimura pumped when friend Sumo wrestler Hakuho drains free throw

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Rui Hachimura, the Gonzaga star drafted ninth by the Washington Wizards, is having a blast this summer playing for his native Japan as their national team gears up for the World Cup in China starting in one week.

However, he may never have been more pumped than when his friend, legendary sumo wrestler Hakuho, came out in his robes and drained a free throw.

The Wizards have to get Hakuho to a game this season, let him take a few shots during a timeout. We all need to see this.

And Hakuho was nothing, another sumo wrestler walked out in robes and drained a straight-on three.

I need to see a sumo wrestler pickup game now more than I need anything else in my life. I want to see the battle for post position.

Hachimura has played well for Japan, he dropped 31 points on Germany in the final tuneup game for the World Cup, showing off a comfort level from the midrange that is impressive. He hit shots off the dribble and on the catch.

Hachimura and Japan are in the same group as Team USA in the World Cup, and the two teams face off Sept. 3 in Shanghai.

Should the Raptors use this retro floor next season? (PHOTO)

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Teens keep releasing retro floors for the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season. Retro jerseys accompanied a lot of these floor releases, and teams like the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Charlotte Hornets have dipped heavily into the nostalgia sphere.

This season it could be much the same for the Toronto Raptors.

In a graphic posted it to r/nba this week, a potential new floor for the Raptors showed something a bit different.

Or should we call it an old floor?

Just months after Toronto won the NBA championship, it appears that they might be looking to harken back to the team’s very first year in existence.

Via Reddit:

What do you think? Are you a fan of the old purple dinosaur look, or do you think that nostalgia has tinged of the lenses of our judgement?

Team USA plays down loss to Australia: The real thing doesn’t start until China”

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It was the first time Team USA has lost an international game since 2006 — 78 straight wins. That seemed like a big deal.

It absolutely was huge for the 52,000 in attendance in Melbourne, where Australia was the one that upset the USA. This was validation for a strong basketball country and program — remember in the 2016 Olympics they lost by just 10 to a USA team with Kevin Durant, and it took a late push from Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony to secure that win — that has never quite gotten the huge win on the international stage.

But after the loss, members of Team USA chalked it up as a learning experience. Coach Gregg Popovich said that, and the players followed suit. Quotes via Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Kemba Walker: “Teams lose. We are just going to take this loss and build from it, that’s all we can do is continue to try our best to get better. The real thing doesn’t start until China, so we’ve got one more game. We’re going to head to Sydney and focus on Canada and from that point out the real thing starts. That’s all we are worried about, just continuing to get better, continuing to learn each other.”

Donovan Mitchell: “To be honest, this game doesn’t mean anything. Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost. That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that.”

Technically, all of that is true. If the USA goes on to win gold at the World Cup, this will be but a blip on the radar.

But the loss also showed just far Team USA is away from that goal and how much work there is to do. Watch the game and what stood out — besides Patty Mills getting red hot and dropping 30, with 13 of that in the fourth quarter — was the difference in cohesion and chemistry. The core of this Australian squad has been playing together for a decade, and with Andrew Bogut as the offensive fulcrum (and Joe Ingles playing that role some) guys were cutting, moving with purpose, and seemingly always in the right place to get an open look or layup.

The Americans are trying to build chemistry on the fly and it comes and goes. Particularly on the defensive end. Team USA members lose guys on cuts, don’t help the helper consistently, and for stretches look like a team just thrown together. Especially under pressure, when the ball movement stops and there is too much one-on-one on offense.

This American squad still has the talent to overwhelm and beat most of the world. However, with some of the USA’s top talent staying home, there are a handful of teams out there — Serbia, Spain, Australia, France — with the talent to hang, and then it becomes about chemistry and execution. Team USA was beaten badly in those hard-to-quantify categories by Australia. The American’s margin for error is much smaller in this World Cup.

Maybe the loss galvanizes Team USA in a way nothing else could. Maybe. And the players are right that things don’t really matter for the USA until the games in China.

But Team USA still has a lot to prove.

James Harden working on one-legged step-back three for next season

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As if James Harden wasn’t unstoppable enough.

Harden’s step-back three has become probably the most unstoppable shot in the NBA. Now video has gone viral in NBA circles of Harden working on a one-legged, step-back three. Think Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged jumper, but from three and with a little more side-to-side to it. (You can see the video above.) Harden talked to Tim MacMahon of ESPN about it.

“I’m not sure; it’s something that I work on,” Harden said when asked if he’ll use the one-legged, step-back 3 this season. “But you know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’ — I love to see that.

“It’s me being a creator and me being an innovator and paving the way in basketball in my own way, doing it how I want to do it, and that’s what it’s all about. As a little kid playing in these parks, that’s what I imagined, that’s what I dreamed of. Now it’s coming to reality, so it’s pretty cool.”

Harden is going to score a lot of points… or, maybe the better way to say that is he’s going to score even more points if he gets to a point he unleashes that in a game.

The challenge this season for Harden will be balance — he’s got to share the court and the ball with Russell Westbrook. Both of them are at their best with the ball in their hands, creating in isolation, but they need to be more than that. While coach Mike D’Antoni can do some things to help with that balance (staggering their minutes as much as possible) for the Rockets to become the contenders they want to be Harden and Westbrook have to be more than “your turn, now it’s my turn” on offense.

But when it’s Harden’s turn, that one-legged step back will be fun to watch.