Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s Bizzaro World night in NBA

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What you missed while watching the Australian Open and thinking “I need to go to vacation there”….

Wizards 105, Thunder 102: Yes, you are reading that right. The worst team in the NBA (1-12 entering the game) just beat a title contender (12-2 before this started). It gets weirder — Oklahoma City shot 48.1 percent to Washington’s 38.4 percent. And the Thunder led the majority of the second half and midway through the fourth seemed in complete control as Russell Westbrook was on his way to 36 points and Kevin Durant 33.

What happened? To start with, 21 Thunder turnovers, seven by Kevin Durant. That will always get you in trouble. So will giving up the offensive rebound on 33.9 percent of your opponents missed shot (19 offensive boards) — that is a lot of extra chances for Washington to score. Finally, Washington got to the free throw line 43 times (they attacked for a night). But mostly it was Nick Young (10 fourth quarter points) and John Wall (nine in the final quarter) who just refused to let the Thunder take the game back like everyone expected.

Even Wizards fans expected their team to fold and find a way to lose. They did not. That alone is a sign of growth.

Clippers 91, Mavericks 89: The most dramatic game of the night, on a night filled with dramatic games. This was close the entire fourth quarter but felt like a game the Clippers would win, mostly thanks to Mo Williams hot hand (he finished with 26 points). Then it wasn’t. Then suddenly it was again.

First came Jason Terry’s three to put the Mavericks ahead one with 5.2 seconds left. There are two Mavs players you want to cut off on a last second shot, Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. D’Andre Jordan showed out on Terry off a pick only to slide back over to Ian Mahinmi near the arc. Boom goes the dynamite. Looks like a Mavs win by one.

But the Clippers have 4.8 seconds left, and Chauncey Billups inbounds the ball to Blake Griffin out by the arc. There is at this point one Clipper that should be feared — Billups. Mr. Big Shot. But Jason Kidd retreats toward the hoops and off Billups, who runs behind Griffin and uses him as a screen. Game. Set. Match.

Spurs 85, Magic 83 (OT): The Spurs have their first road win of the season, but only because a J.J. Redick game-winning three left his hands just a fraction of a second too late. Well, he’s not the only reason. Tim Duncan had a good game and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker carried the Spurs in the fourth quarter with 14 points — they needed it because late in games is when this team really misses Manu Ginobili’s creativeness. Also, the Spurs held the Magic to 33 percent shooting on the night — take out Dwight Howard (24 points on 9-of-15) and Orlando shot 27.8 percent. And they were 4-21 from three (19.1 percent for a team shooting 41.1 percent coming in).

Nets 107, Warriors 100: The Nets are the last NBA team to pick up a home win — celebrate New Jersey, you guys have a winner. Well, until they leave next season. The Nets took charge of this game on an 18-4 run in the fourth quarter, sparked by Deron Williams (24 points on the night) and Anthony Morrow. MarShon Brooks finished with 22 and Kris Humphries had 18 points and 15 boards. Monta Ellis had 30, but they miss Stephen Curry.

Nuggets 108, Sixers 104 (OT): The Sixers get their first home loss of the season, in large part due to a former Sixer. Andre Miller was clearly motivated and finished with 28 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Both teams went small for long stretches and this led to an up-tempo game (103 possessions). Denver’s small lineup did a good job defensively, they switched every screen, and that took away a lot of good looks the Sixers got early and helped key the Denver win.

Celtics 96, Raptors 83: This was an unconventional Celtics win. Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 2 assists. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were a combined 5-for-17 shooting. So how did Boston win this after five straight losses? They were playing the Raptors.

Timberwolves 93, Pistons 85: The Pistons seemed in control of this one in the second quarter and early part of the third, then they decided to see if they could still do that turning the ball over a lot. Turns out they couldn’t. For the Wolves, rookie Nikola Pekovic started the third quarter over Darko Milicic, and that trend may continue for a while.

Suns 91, Knicks 88: Man, the Knicks need someone like Steve Nash to organize their offense. Next season they may have him. In the mean time they have Carmelo Anthony going 5-for-22 and Amare Stoudemire going 7-for-22. The Knicks shot 37.3 percent but still were in this late after an Iman Shumpert three. The difference was the Suns point guard was in classic form — and at 37 did not look the least like he was on a back-to-back. Nash had 26 points and 11 assists. Also, he is the perfect guy to exploit all the switching the Knicks do on defense, which creates some ugly mismatches.

Hawks 92, Trail Blazers 89: Credit goes to Josh Smith for playing good defense on LaMarcus Aldridge all night. The Hawks were just the more efficient shooting team all night long, particularly in the fourth quarter when former Hawk Jamal Crawford took over shooting everything for Portland and going 4-of-10, while the Hawks spread the ball around more and got the win.

Grizzlies 93, Hornets 87: Marc Gasol had 22 points on 14 shots. When the Grizzlies work the offense inside-out, they are hard to beat. Memphis was just a little bit better at everything than the Hornets in this one.

Kings 92, Pacers 88: The Pacers were up 16 late in the third and in control of this one, then the Kings went zone and Indiana fell apart — 8 fourth quarter points on 19 percent shooting with 9 turnovers. Francisco Garcia had 10 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t so much the Kings were good as the Pacers were just terrible for 12 minutes.

Rumor: Dallas to target big men — Cousins, Jordan, Randle — in free agency

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The Dallas Mavericks have been hunting for a center ever since they thought they had DeAndre Jordan, right before the Clippers locked him in a house and forced him to change his mind (that’s not really how it went down, but it makes a better story than the truth). It’s why Dallas has been linked to Mohamed Bamba in the draft — a big, defensive-minded, rim runner who could develop into a great pick-and-roll partner with Dennis Smith Jr.

However, the Mavericks may not want to wait for Bamba — or any other young big — to develop.

Expect the Mavericks to go after one of the name big men on the market in free agency this summer, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer from the NBA Combine in Chicago.

Ever since word spread in league circles in March that Dirk Nowitzki would return to the Mavericks for his 21st season, there have also been rumblings that the Dallas front office will look to make additions this summer that can put the team back on a winning track. The Mavericks can create space to sign a max free agent, and multiple league sources expect them to pursue a trio of big men: DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins, and restricted free agent Julius Randle.

Jordan has not yet officially opted out of the $24.1 million he is owed next season by the Los Angeles Clippers (although most observers expect him to). It is possible Dallas and other teams are not going to offer that much per season for Jordan, but if he can get three years starting at closer to $20 million per that’s a lot more guaranteed money. Also, does he want out of Los Angeles now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are gone and will he take a little less per year to get to a new team?

We know Dallas likes him and Jordan has a relationship with Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle from the last go around.

How much money and how many years would Dallas be willing to risk on Cousins coming off a torn Achilles? More than the Pelicans (who don’t have the money to replace Cousins with anywhere near that level player if he bolts)?

Randle showed a lot of promise as a bully inside who can run some pick-and-roll with Smith, but do the Mavericks want to try to outbid the Lakers (which leads to the question of what other free agents Los Angeles might get and how much they are willing to pay to keep Randle)?

We know this, Mark Cuban does not sit quietly on the sidelines of free agency. Expect the Mavericks to be aggressive players this summer.

NBA playoffs mired in worst pre-Finals competitive-game drought ever

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Exciting games. Clutch plays. Close finishes.

Remember those?

The NBA playoffs have hit a lull. It has been 11 days since the last game decided by fewer than 10 points.

Longer competitive-game droughts have occurred – though not many, and never before the NBA Finals. The most common route for going so long without a competitive game is decisive victories to end the conference finals, a lengthy break before the Finals then decisive victories to start the Finals.

But we’re not to the Finals yet.

In this case, every second-round series ended in five or fewer games – culminating with the Celtics’ 114-112 win over the 76ers on May 9, the last single-digit game. Three league-wide off days followed. The Celtics routed the Cavaliers twice in Boston, and the Warriors and Rockets traded lopsided wins in Houston. Two more league-wide off days, Cleveland winning by 30 Saturday, Golden State winning by 41 last night, and we’re at 11 straight days without a competitive game.

Here are the longest-ever streaks of days between single-digit playoff games before the conference finals ended:

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Both conference finals are as close as possible, 2-1 (favoring the Warriors and Celtics). But the individual games just haven’t matched the tightness.

Why is this happening?

The peculiar overlapping three off days for each conference finals certainly factored.

Maybe the Warriors and Cavaliers – who’ve met in the last three NBA Finals – are that much better than the rest of their conferences when locked in. Maybe the Warriors and Cavaliers know that, leaving them prone to bad losses the teams know they can rally from. Maybe the Celtics are just that good at home and that bad on the road. Maybe it’s just a random occurrence.

No matter the reason, the result is certain: We’ve gone a long time without seeing a competitive game.

Hopefully, Cleveland and Boston change that tonight.

Andre Iguodala doubtful for Warriors-Rockets Game 4

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Andre Iguodala hurt his knee during the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ win over the Rockets last night. Golden State coach Steve Kerr brushed off concern about the injury and praised his starting small forward in these Western Conference finals.

“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it,” Kerr said. “His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us.”

The Warriors might have to set that tone without Iguodala in Game 4 Tuesday.

Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Replacing Iguodala in the lineup won’t be easy. He boosts the Warriors offensively and defensively, and they’re short on wings.

Will Golden State just spread Iguodala’s minutes between Nick Young, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson? Durant and Thompson already play so much. Young is a defensive liability.

Will the Warriors go big more often with Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and/or David West – shifting Draymond Green from center to power forward and Durant from power forward to small forward? Looney already has a relatively large role in this series, and it’s imperative he plays with full effort whenever on the court. More minutes could harm him. Kerr doesn’t appear to trust Bell, and West might be too slow to keep up with the Rockets.

There’s no good answer here, just different cracks Houston can exploit if Iguodala is out or even just slowed tomorrow.

New Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer: ‘I think I’m in the best place in the league’

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Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will almost certainly finish fourth in Most Valuable Player voting this year, his age-23 season.

The last coach to take over a team with a player who already accomplished so much at such a young age – Del Harris (a familiar name in Milwaukee), who inherited reigning MVP Moses Malone with the Rockets in 1979. It’s just so rare for jobs coaching such a promising player top come open.

“I think I’m in the best place in the league,” new Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said at his introductory press conference today.

Budenholzer had his pick of Milwaukee and Toronto, another highly successful team, especially for one seeking a new coach. But the Bucks offer Antetokounmpo and more modest expectations.

Milwaukee hasn’t won a playoff series in 17 years. Budenholzer was asked today as much about delivering a division title as an NBA title.

Topping the Cavaliers, Pacers, Pistons and Bulls sounds much easier than surpassing the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics and 76ers in coming years.

Not that Budenholzer, who reached the conference finals with the Hawks, is completely ducking big talk.

“We’re lucky to have a Giannis, who will do anything to win, and a Khris Middleton that will do anything to win,” Budenholzer said. “When you have your best players that are true competitors and that are truly unselfish and care more about the team than they do themselves, those are a couple of big, foundational blocks to winning championships and doing things that are special.”

The Bucks held the press conference at their still-under-construction new arena, the media wearing hard hats and orange vests:

But this isn’t a complete rebuild for Budenholzer.

Milwaukee has made the playoffs the last two seasons, including winning 44 games this year. Antetokounmpo is a superstar. Middleton is a borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe is a solid starter. Restricted free agent-to-be Jabari Parker is talented. The rotation is somewhat deep.

The Bucks just underachieved under former coach Jason Kidd (and never capitalized before him for more than a decade for other reasons).

Citing the potential of current players, Budenholzer said Milwaukee could become “elite” defensively. The Bucks are full of long and athletic players, and Budenholzer coached sound defenses in Atlanta. There’s only one reason to doubt him: Milwaukee finished just 17th in points allowed per possession this season.

But that’s a feature of this job, not a bug. The Bucks aren’t stuck with an inevitably bad defenders. They just underperformed. Budenholzer can nudge them ahead – and is positioned to receive outsized credit if he does.

“Working with the entire with the entire roster, with the front office, with ownership,” Budenholzer said, “I can’t wait to take us to the next level in Milwaukee.”

That next level isn’t that high, which is why Budenholzer is right.

Milwaukee is a great place for a coach to be.