Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Bobcats and Knicks have the same record

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What you missed while watching West Virginia score more first half points than 15 the NBA teams playing last night (seriously)….

Bobcats 118, Knicks 110: Boris Diaw outplayed Amare Stoudemire. Gerald Henderson took it to Landry Fields at every turn. The Charlotte Bobcats outworked a Knicks team that has a lot of talent but looks rudderless on offense and still doesn’t play much defense (Charlotte shot 55 percent as a team and basically did whatever it wanted on offense).

Frankly I mocked the Baron Davis signing — and I’m still not president of his fan club  — but the Knicks need him. New York needs a point guard in the worst way. Iman Shumpert returned from injury with 18 points, but he is not the answer right now. Despite the chants of MSG faithful.

Diaw had 27 points on 15 shots and Henderson had 24 on 13 shots. When the Knicks tried to make a charge in the fourth — behind Carmelo Anthony’s 20 fourth-quarter points — it was Henderson who knocked down the key threes to keep the game out of reach for NYC. The Knicks closeouts on jump shooters are lazy and it killed them in this game. Their lack of defense in general killed them.

Just for the record, both Charlotte and New York are now 2-4.

Nuggets 110, Kings 83: No Nene and it didn’t matter for Denver as they hit 60.5 percent of their shots and had a balanced attack (Al Harrington’s 15 points led the Nuggets). Looking for a bright spot, Kings fans? That would be DeMarcus Cousins with a game-high 26 for Sacramento.

This game gave us the play of the night.

Bulls 99, Pistons, 83: Richard Hamilton was back in the lineup, back in Detroit, and he ended up being key to this game. Not really the 14 points he had (which were nice) but how he set up the offense early. The Pistons know Rip and they were not going to let him catch-and-shoot coming off picks, they overplayed him. So he had four early assists hitting the open man inside. From there, the Bulls offense flowed. Carlos Boozer led the way with 19.

Raptors 92, Cavaliers 77: Andrea Bargnani had one of those mirage games where he looks like the kind of guy you could build a franchise around, as he knocked down everything on his way to 31 points. It won’t last, we all know it, but on these nights he looks special. Also out of the ordinary, DeMar DeRozan with five threes. Cleveland was on the second game of a back-to-back and they just looked tired, shooting 29.6 percent for the game. Kyrie Irving got smacked around by the reality of the NBA — it’s hard to do this every night.

Magic 103, Wizards 85: Orlando raced out to a 12-0 lead in this one and, well, what else do you really need to know? Dwight Howard had 28 points, 20 rebounds, Ryan Anderson had 23 points and 15 rebounds. The Wizards are bad.

Celtics 89, Nets 70: Boston has an amazing ability to play down to the level of its opponents. New Jersey led at the half 35-34 in a game they were playing without Deron Williams, Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez. Paul Pierce had 11 points in the third quarter (24 for the game) and the Celtics pulled away in the final 24. Brandon Bass had 15 points, 13 rebounds.

Heat 118, Pacers 83: The 4-1 Pacers get their first test against an elite team and… ugh. Miami was up 62-39 at the half, and LeBron James already had 14 of the 33 he would get before he rolled his ankle. This was the Cleveland-era LeBron that did it all and carried his team. Chris Bosh finished the game with 22. Indiana shot just 34.8 percent for the night, and we’ll find in the coming days if that is the pattern against the elite teams or if this was just an off night.

76ers 101, Hornets 93: This game was close through three quarters, then it became the Jrue Holiday show. He had 14 in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers finish the five-game road trip they had to open the season at 3-2. Not bad, not bad at all. Evan Turner had 21 and may be finding his groove. New Orleans has got to find a way to close out games, they just seem to fold late.

Grizzlies 90, Timberwolves 86: Memphis is now 2-0 without Zach Randolph, and that is huge for a team trying to trying to stay in position to make the playoffs. They can thank Tony Allen, who had 20 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting (including four threes) to spark the offense. Kevin Love had 27 and 14, because that is what he does. Ricky Rubio also did his thing.

Spurs 101, Warriors 95: This is the kind of game the Spurs need to win with Manu Ginobili out if they intend to make the playoffs. Golden State had the lead in the fourth until a 15-2 run sparked by Tim Duncan and the bench play of T.J. Ford and Danny Green. Oh, and Monta Ellis who had 38. The Warriors had their chances, but Kwame Brown missed four late free throws.

Mavericks 98, Suns 89: Phoenix focused their defense to take the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki’s hands — he had 20 points anyway — but it was his early passing to set up teammates when the double came that was key. The Mavericks ball movement was fantastic. So was their rebounding — 18 offensive rebound was key here. Lamar Odom had his first good game as a Maverick with 15 points. Marcin Gortat had 22 for the Suns.

Clippers 117, Rockets 89: The Clippers caught the Rockets on the second game of a back-to-back, got Chauncey Billups back and all of it together was too much for Houston. The Clippers pulled away early and never looked back. Blake Griffin had 22, Chris Paul 20 and most of the fourth quarter was garbage time.

Report: Jimmy Butler ‘isn’t dead set’ on demanding trade from Timberwolves

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Jimmy Butler says he’ll meet with the Timberwolves today – not yesterday, as initially reported.

The far bigger issue: What will happen in the meeting?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I’m told, though, that while Butler has serious questions about the direction of the franchise, he’s still willing to hear Minnesota out, and isn’t dead set on demanding a trade elsewhere.

Butler probably wouldn’t demand a trade. That gets players fined. Paul George laid out a far more likely roadmap last offseason: Butler could inform Minnesota he won’t re-sign next offseason. Left to their own devices, the Timberwolves would probably trade him.

But would it get to even that point? That’s the big question looming over the day. If Butler hasn’t yet made up his mind, that would give Tom Thibodeau a chance to convey a plan.

Of course, this isn’t entirely up to Butler, either. If Minnesota must choose between Butler and Karl-Anthony Townswho reportedly won’t sign his rookie-scale extension until the Butler situation is handled – Butler could get dealt regardless of what he wants.

So much could come to a head today, but apparently there isn’t an inevitable outcome. Is Butler leaning a certain way, though? “Isn’t dead set” on demanding a trade isn’t exactly a huge vote of confidence.

Marcus Smart posts heartfelt tribute to mother, who died Sunday

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Marcus Smart delivered one of my favorite quotes after the Celtics beat the Rockets last season:

Smart — when asked if he prides himself in being “a pain in the ass” — chuckled.

“I guess you could say that,” Smart said. “My mom might say that. But nah, I play defense with passion, and defense wins games, and that was proven tonight.”

A deep love is the subtext behind that quip. Smart put it on display again – unfortunately after the death of Camellia Smart, who had been battling cancer.

Smart:

Smart plays with such heart, passion and toughness. If his mother were his role model, he honors her every time he takes the court.

Jimmy Butler says his meeting with Thibodeau, Timberwolves is Tuesday (today)

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There are a lot of questions surrounding Jimmy Butler‘s meeting with Tom Thibodeau and the Minnesota Timberwolves brass: Can the Butler/Karl-Anthony Towns relationship be repaired? Is Thibodeau the guy who could repair it, or is he entrenched on one side of that battle? Will the situation be resolved enough for Towns to sign the max extension to his rookie contract that has been sitting on the table since July? Will Butler asked to be moved?

That meeting had been reported to be Monday, but Butler said on Twitter it’s Tuesday, and did so in a snide way.

Who cares if the reporting (by Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Vertical) on the day was one off if the substance of the meeting is the same? It’s not some massive error that throws the entire reporting into question. This feels like a high school history teacher testing about the date for the battle of Gettysburg and not why it was a turning point in the Civil War — the substance is what matters more.

Butler doesn’t deny or get into the substance of the meeting, which is what matters.

What comes out of that meeting will have a significant impact on the Timberwolves one way or another this season. Minnesota won 47 games last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but it’s hard to see how they take a step forward if the locker room remains this fractured (and in a very deep West they need to take a step forward to make the playoffs again this season).

USA rolls past Panama in World Cup qualifying, 78-48

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PANAMA CITY (AP) — U.S. coach Jeff Van Gundy came into the start of this second round of qualifying for the FIBA Basketball World Cup cautioning his players that they would face enormous challenges.

They clearly heeded his words, and the Americans are now closing in on a trip to China next year.

Reggie Hearn scored 12 points, Dwayne Bacon added 10 and the U.S. easily got past Panama 78-48 in a qualifying game Monday night. The Americans have won both of their second-round qualifying games so far, winning them by a combined 87 points.

“It’s just an honor to be able to go to another country and wear this jersey,” said U.S. forward Henry Ellenson of the Detroit Pistons. “It’s just something really special and I love doing it. I was so excited to get the invite. This was a blast and a hell of an experience.”

The U.S. outrebounded Panama 50-34, held the hosts to 31 percent shooting and trailed for only 67 seconds in the early moments. Van Gundy went to his bench early and often, rotating players throughout in part because of a steamy feel inside the arena named for Panama’s boxing legend Roberto Duran.

“I think our greatest strength is our depth,” Van Gundy said. “Again, we’ve pretty much done this throughout. We play 10 or 11 guys, anywhere from 10 or 11 minutes up to the low 20s. We try to take advantage of our depth. Tonight, the crowd was good, but it was warm in there.”

And now, Nov. 29 – the next day of qualifying games in the Americas Region – sets up as enormous.

The U.S. and Argentina are tied atop Group E with 7-1 records and will play that day with outright control of first place in the group standings up for grabs. Uruguay and Puerto Rico will meet that same day, each entering with 5-3 records, meaning the loser there will be three games behind the U.S.-Argentina winner with three games left in qualifying.

The top three teams in Group E are guaranteed spots at the World Cup, which starts in China on Aug. 31.

After the way they played Monday, it seems like only a staggering collapse would keep the Americans from qualifying.

The U.S. used a 16-0 run – needing only about two minutes – in the fourth quarter to turn what was a relatively one-sided game into an even bigger rout. Chasson Randle, Hearn and Travis Trice all made 3-pointers to get that spurt going, and Ben Moore‘s layup with 6:30 left gave the Americans a 73-40 lead.

“It feels great. It moves us that much closer to qualifying,” Hearn said. “It moves us that much closer to the U.S. getting to the World Cup and getting the whole thing.”

The U.S. got an ideal start in a hostile arena, running out to a 16-3 lead as Panama opened 1 for 11 from the field.

The Americans were in control throughout, though there was a brief stretch late in the first half where the U.S. grip on things seemed to slip ever so slightly. Panama got within 31-23 with 2:04 left in the half on a jumper by Tony Bishop Jr. before Hearn and White combined to score the final five points before the break and send the Americans into intermission with a 13-point lead.

When the second half started, the U.S. resumed pulling away. Frank Mason, Dakari Johnson and Bacon scored the first six points of the third quarter, and the Americans’ lead was quickly pushed out to 42-23.