Baseline to Baseline recaps: Back-to-backs not sitting well with Boston

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What you missed while checking out the Cheezsculpture at South By Southwest

The Heat returning the beat down favor to the Spurs was our game of the night.

Nets 88, Celtics 79: When the winning team shoots 39.7 percent, you got yourself one ugly game. The first half the Nets shot 32 percent, the Celtics had an offensive efficiency of 88.4 (points per 100 possessions) and it was just not good. But the Nets shot 57 percent in the third quarter, opened a lead and were able to hold on. Brook Lopez had 20, Kris Humphries had 16 points, 15 boards as the Nets were the dominant team inside.

Boston tends to look old on the second night of back-to-backs (and they are in a tough little stretch). Rajon Rondo struggled and when Doc Rivers was asked why he said “because he’s human.” So that rules out my assist-generating robot theory.

Thunder, 116 Wizards 89: Kendrick Perkins made his debut with the Thunder and their defense looked great, holding the Wizards to 39.4 percent shooting (0-9 from three) and 89 points in a fast paced game. If it wasn’t the Wizards, maybe Thunder fans could get excited about that. They shouldn’t about this, wait until they prove it against better teams. Kevin Durant had 32 points on 16 shots.

Nuggets 114, Hornets 103: When Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton were on the court together for the first three quarters, Denver was +21 (they were -4 in the garbage time late). That combo won the game as the Hornets could not stop them. Chris Paul was the best point guard in this game (27 points) but the Nuggets backcourt dominated this one.

Grizzlies 105, Clippers 89: Zach Randolph dominated his old team, and he dominated Blake Griffin, dropping in 30 while helping hold Griffin to 4-of-10 shooting. This one was over early.

Jazz 112, Sixers 107 (OT): Utah was up 8 with three minutes to go, then Andre Iguodala put up a fast 7 points and (with a Lou Williams jumper thrown in) the Sixers had a lead. It was nip and tuck the rest of the way, then the score tied Iggy missed a contested elbow jumper to win it at the buzzer and the game went to overtime. There Andrei Kirilenko took over with seven points and some quality defense in the paint in the extra time.

Rockets 95, Suns 93: No Steve Nash or Canning Frye, so credit the Suns for really fighting to make it close at the end. The Rockets had controlled this thing from the start and it was Josh Childress and Vince Carter who made the Suns push to make it close. Aaron Brooks clearly wanted to rub it in the face of his old team, but he struggled and finished shooting 1-of-9 and chipped in as many turnovers as assists).

Lakers 97, Magic 84: Andrew Bynum’s defense and rebounding were the key here — the Lakers didn’t shoot that well (43.8 percent overall) but they got the offensive rebound on 30 percent of their misses and Bynum had 9 offensive boards. Bynum also altered and changed a lot of shots in the paint and finished with 18 boards. Dwight Howard had 22 points and 15 boards, so it’s not like Bynum shut him down, but Howard had 9 turnovers on the season as he struggled to recognize where the double was coming from. The Magic turned the ball over on 21.2 percent of their possessions. Basically the Lakers cruised and looked like contenders.

Kings 129, Warriors 119: Lightening fast pace in this one — 105 possessions — and very little transition defense being played. That worked for Marcus Thornton, who dropped 42. The Kings took control with a 19-0 run in the first quarter and never really looked back, leading big the rest of the way. Second chance points also big for the Kings.

Chris Paul injures right hamstring, status unclear for Game 6 vs. Warriors

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Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul played the part of the hero for the home team on Thursday night as Houston beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to take a 3-2 series lead.

Now, the question is whether Paul will be able to play in Game 6 on Saturday night.

After a game in which the Rockets were not particularly offensively impressive, Paul came up with some clutch baskets despite struggling overall. Paul got the better of the Golden State defense several times from beyond the arc, including one instance in which he gave a shoulder shimmy to Stephen Curry, allowing the Warriors guard a dose of his own medicine.

But Paul appeared to injure his right hamstring on a play with 51 seconds to go in fourth quarter as he was shooting a floater in the lane. After his shot, Paul remained on the ground and down at the Houston end of the floor as possession changed sides. Paul left the game some 30 seconds later, and was unable to finish the game.

The Rockets point guard had already been battling a right foot injury and had to get lots of treatment just to be able to play in Game 5. It’s not entirely surprising that Paul injured himself on his right side. A weakened link in the kinetic chain tends to force other muscles and joints to compensate for injured areas. When overused or improperly used, the chance for a new injury in another part of the kinetic chain — say, up the leg and into the hamstring — is entirely possible.

That seems like what happened to Paul on Thursday night, but we will have to wait for official word from the team before we know whether he will be playing on Saturday. Hamstring issues can the nagging and despite lots of treatment there is also the swelling that will occur when Paul has to fly to Oakland.

As expected, Chris Paul said he will be good to go (players are the worst at providing a timeline for their injuries).

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni says that Paul will be evaluated tomorrow and will be continuing to get treatment but he is not worried about someone being able to fill Paul’s shoes. That’s certainly the right thing to say for D’Antoni but we know how Game 6 might go if CP3 is unable to play.

Chris Paul plays the hero as Warriors devolve to iso ball in Game 5 loss

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I personally thought a Western Conference Finals game couldn’t get any uglier after I watched Game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Boy, was I wrong.

Thursday night’s Game 5 matchup between the Rockets and the Warriors two teams produced three heinous quarters of NBA playoff basketball, made even more unbearable by the fact that we know how good these two teams can be when they’re really humming.

Much as it was in Game 4 it was Houston’s defense that was on display, ironically forcing the Warriors to play much in the way the Rockets do when they lose. Golden State battled the shot clock with isolation ball much of the game, with Kevin Durant getting the ball at the top of the arc as some of the league’s top players — including a two-time MVP in Stephen Curry — widened the floor in a 1-4 flat set for the 7-foot wing.

To their credit, both Curry and Durant were in good shooting form through the first half but as the periods ground on they started to slow. Draymond Green was Draymond-y, scoring 12 points while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds with four assists. Statistically, it’s hard to understand how the Warriors lost. Golden State shot better from the field, from the arc, and from the charity stripe. But their scoring was concentrated and their offense predictable at just the wrong moments.

Houston’s attack was nothing to shake a stick at, either. James Harden‘s scored just 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting, and as a unit the Rockets doled out 12 assists. Incessant switching and a tendency to hound the ball on defense allowed Houston to force a whopping 18 turnovers from Golden State. It was the most important statistic of the game for the Rockets, who scored 18 points on those turnovers despite being outpaced in 3-point shooting, points in the paint, and in fastbreak buckets.

Then, the fourth quarter happened. Everything changed, and as we are wont to do, the game felt much cleaner. Both teams had their energy up, they traded baskets, and the lead went back-and-forth.

Enter Chris Paul.

Houston’s point guard was the savior, scoring 20 points on a piddly 6-of-19 shooting performance. But Paul’s box score did not tell the tale of his impact on the game. Several times with the shot clock winding down, Paul came up with big beyond-the-arc buckets, at one point hitting one over Curry, giving him back a shoulder shimmy much the way the Warriors point guard did in Game 4.

Paul’s leadership pushed Houston forward, but his commitment during Game 5 might get overlooked after the Rockets point guard was forced to check out of the game after a play with 51 seconds remaining. On a floater in the lane, Paul appeared to hurt his right hamstring. Unable to play, Paul had to watch the final minute from the Houston bench, and his availability for Game 6 is currently up in the air.

It was ugly and it was gritty, but the Rockets beat Golden State on Thursday night, 98-94, to take Game 5 and a 3-2 series win as the Western Conference Finals heads back to Oakland.

Now, we look toward Game 6 in California on Saturday, May 26 at 6:00 PM PST.

Eric Gordon buckets, Draymond Green turnover seals game for Rockets

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For the second game in a row, the Houston Rockets were clutch in the fourth quarter and the defending champion Warriors clanked and fumbled their way to a loss.

Houston won Game 3 98-94 because down the stretch Eric Gordon made plays (and free throws) and Draymond Green fumbled away the Warriors chance.

It started with the Rockets up one with less than two minutes to go, when Eric Gordon — who led the Rockets with 24 points — drained a three that gave Houston some breathing room.

Six seconds later, Draymond Green answered with a three to keep it a one-point game.

With 10 seconds left in the game, a Trevor Ariza free throw made it a two-point game, giving the Warriors a chance to come down and tie or win. Then Green did this.

Gordon was fouled, hit two free throws, and it was ballgame.

The Rockets are now up 3-2 in the series and are one win away from the Finals.

Draymond Green thought Warriors might trade him after fight with Steve Kerr

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Draymond Green is the backbone of the Golden State Warriors, not just because he was the 2016-17 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Green sort of does it all, including passing, scoring, rebounding, and myriad other scrap work that doesn’t show up on regular box scores.

But there was some doubt in Green’s mind in 2016 that he would stay with the team. Green was involved in an argument during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and after things settled down the Warriors big man was concerned the team might trade him.

The thought of doing so is sort of ridiculous, but apparently that was something that flashed into Green’s mind given the tenseness of the situation between he and Kerr.

Via Bleacher Report:

But Green’s mood was still foul, and he left the arena that day believing his days as a Warrior were numbered. He feared the relationship had been fractured, that the Warriors would choose Kerr over him. That he’d be traded.

“One hundred percent,” Green tells B/R. “Especially with the success that he was having as a coach. Like, you just don’t get rid of that.”

The thing that makes Golden State great isn’t just the players, or the system, or Kerr. It’s the human resources management aspect of their organization that allows them to compete on the court in the way they do.

It’s not crazy to think that a player could be shipped out of town thanks to a disagreement with a coach, although the leverage players have these days likely has put a stop to that realistically happening. But that Kerr, Green, and management were able to get things back under control that season was to the benefit of everyone involved.