Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the living game-winning shot

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What you missed while realizing you figured out who is going to win the Darwin Award this year….

Sixers 103, Celtics 71: This battle for the top spot in the Atlantic division — and the four seed at least in the playoffs, allowing a team to avoid Miami and Chicago in the first round — was our game of the night. Although it wasn’t much of a game.

Wizards 106, Lakers 101: Lakers fans aren’t just reaching for the panic button, they are pounding it.

Los Angeles was in control of this one, coming out with renewed energy after an ugly loss in Detroit Tuesday. They pulled away in the second quarter with everyone contributing — Steve Blake the shooter came in and got 6 assists and no turnovers. Oh, that Kobe Bryant guy was pretty good, too, he had 14 in the first quarter and 20 for the half. Early in third the Lakers were up 21 and cruising.

But a 22-4 third quarter run changed everything. It was one sparked not by the Wizards stars (John Wall was awful, as Mike Prada at SBN noted, length bothers him and the Lakers are nothing if not long). No it was Nick Young and guys like Shelvin Mack, Trevor Booker and even Kevin Seraphin who dominated the Lakers bench. Mike Brown tried to ride Kobe Bryant but was 1-for-10 in the fourth quarter. Kobe had 30 points for the game but was 9-of-31 shooting to get there. In an age-old story Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 38 points on 12-of-18 shooting but the Lakers didn’t feed them enough, especially when things got tight.

From this, we bring you the funniest play of the night:

Bulls 106, Bucks 104: This game was pretty close the entire way, with Ersan Ilyasova keeping the Bucks within arms reach thanks to his 32, plus Drew Gooden had 16 in the first quarter and finished with 27. But really, all we need to do is show you the last two of Derrick Rose’s 30.

Nets 101, Clippers 100: Yes, the Nets won this on Jordan Farmar’s three in the final seconds, but they deserved this win — New Jersey led most of the way. If the Clippers won this they would have stolen it behind a great hustling effort from Blake Griffin (28 points, 17 rebounds, the Nets had nobody who could contain him). The Clippers defensive rotations were poor all night long so it’s fitting nobody rotated out on Farmar for the game winner. The Clippers are still learning how to be an elite team, about bringing effort every night on the road. Deron Williams had 21, MarShon Brooks 19.

Heat 89, Hawks 86: With the game on the line in a close, playoff-style game Wednesday night Dwyane Wade passed — twice to Udonis Haslem and once to Chris Bosh, all in the final 1:10. They each hit their shots and the Heat got the win. All of which is to say that the Heat are what they are — not a team of guys playing hero ball, rather a team of guys trying to make smart basketball plays. It gets them a lot of wins. Joe Johnson was out for the Hawks with his knee still bothering him.

Timberwolves 106, Trail Blazers 94: Minnesota’s win combined with a Houston loss moves Minny into the eighth playoff spot in the West. Making the postseason would be a huge accomplishment. Portland lived by Raymond Felton and the jumper in the first half and died by it when they shot 35 percent in the third quarter. Kevin Love had 29, Luke Ridnour took advantage of unimpressive Blazers perimeter defense for 22.

Raptors 116, Rockets 98: Houston falls out of the eighth spot in the West with the loss. This was a schedule makers loss — the Rockets just faded in the fourth quarter on the second night of a road back-to-back. Toronto went on a 25-5 run in the fourth to seal the win.

Jazz 99, Bobcats 93: You didn’t really expect a winning streak for Charlotte, did you? Utah took control of this game in the third and only a too-late 8-0 run by Charlotte made it look close. Al Jefferson had 31 for Utah; Corey Maggette had 25 for Charlotte.

Thunder 115, Suns 104: Another day, another come-from-behind win for Oklahoma City. Thanks to a dozen first quarter points from Marcin Gorat the Suns took control early and led by as many as 16 in the third. But midway through that quarter the Thunder went on a 16-4 run, and we had a ballgame. In the fourth it was what you expect from the Thunder — Kevin Durant with 12, Russell Westbrook with 9 and James Harden finished with 8.

Spurs 118, Knicks 115: The Spurs are Tony Parker’s team right now, he had 32 points and is playing the best of the San Antonio big three — the Spurs are following his lead. He is playing with incredible confidence. On the flip side, the Knicks are no longer Jeremy Lin’s team — they are Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire’s — and it shows in his game (Lin had 20 points, but 8 came in garbage time at the end). No Tyson Chandler so the Spurs owned the paint all night, Tim Duncan had 17. Anthony had 27 for the Knicks but was his black hole self, stopping the ball on offense all night long.

Cavaliers 100, Nuggets 98: Kyrie Irving, ladies and gentlemen. He had 10 of the Cavaliers final 12 points and seemed to get into the lane with ease all night long. It was not exactly Denver’s finest defensive performance of the year. Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo could not stay in front of him all night long. Antawn Jamison dropped 33 on Denver also. I’m guessing George Karl swore a lot after this one.

Grizzlies 110, Warriors 92: Good play inside beats good play outside. Not that Memphis doesn’t have some perimeter players — Rudy Gay had 10 in the fourth quarter and 26 overall to lead the Griz — but Marc Gasol is the kind of big man Golden State needs. Memphis took control of this game with an 11-0 run in the third and never looked back.

Kings 99, Hornets 98: Kings fans had been celebrating the new arena deal, not much on the court of late, they needed a win to pump up the crowd. They got one thanks to Isaiah Thomas’ defense.

Rumor: Kawhi Leonard directly told Gregg Popovich he wanted to leave Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met in San Diego yesterday.

How did the discussion go? Reports have been mixed about even the nature of the meeting, let alone a resolution from either side.

But here’s an update with a reportedly direct conclusion.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

From what my sources told me, Kawhi Leonard met with Gregg Popovich face-to-face, looked him dead in his face and told him “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be in San Antonio any longer.”

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers, last week. There was some hope Popovich could mend the relationship, but that seems to running thin. There is so much bitterness between both sides.

The next question: What do the Spurs do about it?

Do they keep trying to ease tension with the 26-year-old superstar? Do they trade him? If so, when? Before or during the draft?

No matter what Leonard told Popovich yesterday, San Antonio has big decisions to make and soon. Leonard firmly stating a desire to leave would be clarifying, but it’d hardly make this situation easy to handle.

Brendan Haywood: Former Hornets teammates ‘sick and tired’ of Dwight Howard’s act

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It has become an annual tradition – Dwight Howard getting traded then his former teammates celebrating his exit.

It happened with the Hawks last year. Now, it’s happening with the Hornets, who sent Howard to the Nets.

Brendan Haywood, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Now retired, Haywood played with current Hornets Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist his final season. He also knows many other players throughout the league.

Howard went to Charlotte and declared himself team leader – despite the presence of Walker, the franchise player. Howard’s immaturity and ego have rubbed teammates and coaches the wrong way for years.

But at least this is progress. Howard’s time with the Magic, Lakers and Rockets devolved into interpersonal strife well before he left those teams.

Rumor: Knicks will take Villanova’s Mikal Bridges at No. 9

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Most mock drafts have the Philadelphia 76ers taking Mikal Bridges at No. 10, keeping the Villanova star in Philly.

But what if he’s not on the board?

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports the Knicks are going to take Bridges at No. 9.

Sources have indicated Bridges still is the favorite to be the Knicks’ selection at nine Thursday — even if Michael Porter Jr. falls. The Knicks are starting to get cold feet on the uber-talented Porter after his latest mishap last week, when he incurred hip spasms before his on-again, off-again, on-again public workout in Chicago….

In the big picture, president Steve Mills and (new GM Scott) Perry need to land a central building block that will contribute next season to show Kristaps Porzingis, a restricted free agent in 2019, there’s a future, and also to entice a 2019 free agent. Point guard Kyrie Irving is squarely on the Knicks’ radar.

While Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox opened the Knicks’ eyes with a surprising workout and has gotten consideration late in the process, Bridges is the best bet. Perry said recently adding “a solid rotational player” at nine is as important as shooting for an All-Star.

It’s unlikely Porter is on the board at No. 9. The Cavaliers like him a lot and will take him if he falls to No. 8, the Bulls could grab his one spot earlier, and there are teams farther down the draft board looking to trade up and snag Porter.

Bridges projects to be just what Mills may want — a solid rotational player, and one who can step in soon and contribute.

But the Knicks need talent, and Knox out of Kentucky has the higher ceiling thanks to elite athleticism (he has climbed a lot of teams’ draft boards during workouts). He can play some three or be a small ball four, and if he shows consistency with his jumper, he has the athleticism to be part of a team’s core.

 

Knox may have the higher ceiling, but the Knicks need not to miss, and Bridges is that.

Ayton, Young, Porter and more: PBT’s in-depth draft prospect breakdowns

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In the days before the draft, there’s more smoke clouding the picture around the NBA draft than there is at a Snoop Dogg concert.

What you need to cut through all that is someone who knows these players, has seen them multiple times over the years, spoken to them, knows their game.

That’s where Rob Dauster comes in. The lead writer at NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk, he has seen these players while they were in high school, spoken to them, followed their college careers — and he broke down their games for us at NBC. It’s what you need to know about the top guys in the draft.

Check these stories out:

DEANDRE AYTON

He has the size. He has the length. He has the athleticism, explosiveness, fluidity, and mobility. He can space the floor and, in theory, both protect the rim and handle his own if forced to guard on the perimeter. In theory, Ayton is the total package and an ideal five for the modern NBA.

Whether or not he will live up to his considerable potential is a different story.

MARVIN BAGLEY III

Offensively, he’s everything that you want from a small-ball five. He can dominate in the paint, he can space the floor and he is aggressive and productive on the glass. He was a walking double-double in college and it’s not hard to project him being the same in the NBA.

The problem is that he is not a five on the defensive end of the floor.

JAREN JACKSON JR.

He will fit seamlessly into the modern NBA given the combination of skills that he has while the other four players projected to go in the top five this year have more question marks….

He’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He shot 39.6 percent from three after shooting 43.8 percent from three on the EYBL circuit in 2016. He averaged 3.0 blocks despite playing just under 22 minutes a night as a freshman. He is as switchable as any big man in this class defensively because of his ability to move his feet. 

MO BAMBA

A 7-foot-0.5 center with a 7-foot-10 wingspan — which will be the longest in the NBA as soon as he steps onto an NBA court — Bamba’s ability as a game-changing defensive presence is at the core of what makes him such an appealing prospect. He finished with freshman season with a block rate of 13.2, averaging 4.9 blocks per 40 minutes and anchoring a Texas defense that finished the year ranked 12th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric…

There are questions about his strength and his toughness and his love for the game. Does he play because he’s addicted to the game, or is it simply because he was blessed with the physical gifts that will makes NBA teams salivate and invest millions and millions of dollars into him in the hopes that he pays dividends as the NBA’s preeminent defensive anchor?

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

He is a tantalizing talent that can do things athletically and as a shooter that 6-foot-11 people are not supposed to be able to do… He was good enough at Hoop Summit and on the all-star circuit that there were people that were projecting him as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as recently as November.

But all of that changed in the course of the last seven months. It starts with the back injury… And that’s before you get into the questions about his position and his makeup.

Porter has a ceiling as high as anyone in this draft, but when the floor is as low as his is, it makes him a scary — and risky — player to take.

TRAE YOUNG

He became the first player in Division I history to lead the nation in scoring and assists, but he did it as a player that doesn’t like to play defense on a team that couldn’t figure out how to win late in the year.

Is he the second-coming of Steph Curry?

Or is he Jimmer Fredette?