Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nets beat Celtics with TKO

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching a guy do a backflip on a surfboard….

Thunder 120, Rockets 98: Welcome back to Oklahoma City James Harden. After a warm reception from the crowd Harden was 3-of-16 shooting and struggled to defend Kevin Durant (who doesn’t?). And despite that the Rockets biggest problem was team defense. Brett breaks the game down for you here.

Wizards 84, Trail Blazers 82: The Wizards win! The Wizards win! Theeeeee Wizards win! But man it was ugly. This was our other game of the night and we broke it down as well.

Nets 95, Celtics 83: The Nets with this one on a technical knock out.

Boston lost this game before the fight that sent Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace to the showers just before halftime.

Boston lost this early. Kevin Garnett played the first 5:19 of the game and it was 14-9 Boston when KG went out Doc Rivers subbed him out with Chris Wilcox. The Nets immediately went on a 19-6 run and even when Garnett returned he couldn’t stop it and it grew into a 38-12 run. This game was over before Rondo stepped in to protect KG.

What should worry Celtics fans right now is the 22nd ranked defense in the league. Well, that and the healthy suspension about to come down on Rondo for instigating that fight.

Pistons 117, Suns 77: How can a team lose by 40 to the Pistons? Good question. Brett Pollakoff tried his best to answer it for us.

Knicks 102, Bucks 88: My favorite fans of the night were in Milwaukee, where they chanted “Brooklyn’s better” when Carmelo Anthony was shooting free throws.

Unfortunately the Bucks were not playing anywhere near the Nets level. They had no good answer for stopping Carmelo Anthony, who had 29 points on just 18 shots. And it was a night of key Knicks being efficient shooters with Tyson Chandler getting 17 points on 4-of-4 shooting, and Steve Novak dropped 19 points on 10 shots. The Knicks took control with a 9-0 run right before the half then a 10-0 run early in the third quarter. And Wednesday the Bucks had no amazing comebacks in them.

Bulls 101, Mavericks 78: Tom Thibodeau finally trusted his bench and they rewarded him with 50 points and an easy win over Dallas. Nate Robinson led the way for the bench, getting 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Bulls also continued to play good defense, holding the Mavs to 34.6 percent shooting. Dallas really could use that Nowitzki guy back on offense.

Clippers 101, Timberwolves 95: Chauncey Billups was back and played nearly 20 minutes, and that was good to see. But the Clippers won this because they played good defense again in the second half — Minnesota shot just 25.6 percent as a team in the final 24. Kevin Love was off all night against the Clippers 3-of-12 shooting. DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and played well.

Jazz 96, Hornets 84: The Jazz pulled away in the third quarter and got the kind of comfortable win behind 19 points from Al Jefferson that should have the team smiling. But the Jazz may have lost Marvin Williams for a little while after his head hit the floor hard late in the third quarter, which led Utah to talk about a likely concussion after the game.

Grizzlies 103, Raptors 82: In the third quarter Utah shot 72.2 percent as a team with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combining for 15 points on 6-of7 shooting. Meanwhile Toronto shot 23.5 percent in the third quarter. Memphis won the third quarter by 18 points and made the fourth quarter basically meaningless. By the way, good on Mike Conley for out playing Kyle Lowry for the night — Lowry usually gets up for this matchup (remember it was Conley’s presence that had Memphis moving Lowry). Conley had 16 on the night.

Spurs 110, Magic 89: Manu Ginobili had 12 points in the first quarter, going 4-of-4 from three and sparking a 13-0 San Antonio run where they took a comfortable lead and the game was never really in doubt from there. San Antonio essentially did whatever they wanted, got whatever shots they wanted and met with little resistance. Did you expect otherwise? Ginobili had 20 points, Gary Neal 19.

Hawks 94, Bobcats 90: Ben Gordon almost won the Bobcats this game — he went off for 20 points in the fourth quarter and single handedly made this a game. The Hawks were up by 7 inside of 2:30 in the game but Gordon kept sinking contested threes. The Bobcats had a chance to win it with 5.2 seconds left, getting the ball down 1, and to tie it a few seconds later, but in both cases the Hawks — we’re looking at you Josh Smith — did a good job of denying a clean entry pass to Gordon. And that was enough. Smith, Al Horford and Lou Williams each had 17 for the Hawks.

Take 2: Collin Sexton to wear Kyrie Irving’s jersey number with Cavaliers

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Collin Sexton endeared himself to the Cavaliers with his competitive streak, speed and attitude long before they picked him in the NBA draft.

His jersey number showed them something else: He’s fearless.

Sexton made quite a first impression by deciding to take No. 2, his college number but also the one previously worn in Cleveland by All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. After showing off his jersey at a news conference Friday, Sexton said he doesn’t feel pressure to live up to Irving’s high standards.

“Not at all,” he said. “Coming in, I’m going to set goals for myself and then as well there’s going to be team goals set. But I feel like I’m not going to have to live up to anybody’s shoes, but I’m going to come in and learn and be the best player I can be on the court as well as off the court.”

Some Cleveland fans feel No. 2 should be retired. After all, Irving made the biggest shot in franchise history in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals before asking to be traded last summer to escape the daunting shadow cast by LeBron James.

Maybe one day No. 2 will hang in the rafters. For now, it belongs to Sexton.

With an eye toward rebuilding – and maybe persuading James to re-sign this summer – the Cavs selected Sexton, the lightning-quick Alabama point guard, on Thursday night with the No. 8 overall pick. As a freshman, the 19-year-old Sexton carried the Crimson Tide to the NCAA Tournament, for a brief time giving the school’s rabid football fans a late-winter diversion before coach Nick Saban blew his whistle in spring practice.

The Cavs believe Sexton, who earned his “Young Bull” nickname in high school for his charge-ahead playing style, can help them finally offset the loss of Irving. Without him, Cleveland lacked a dependable second-scoring option for James; the club spent the entire season with a virtual revolving door at the position as coach Tyronn Lue started eight point guards.

Irving’s absence was never felt more than in the Finals as the Golden State Warriors only had to concentrate on James. The Cavs didn’t have another player capable of breaking down their defense.

Sexton gives Cleveland a new weapon.

He’s in good hands. At Alabama, Sexton played for former NBA guard Avery Johnson, and he’s being passed to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, a 14-year pro looking forward to developing the youngster.

“I’ve watched him play,” Lue said. “I understand who he is as a player and as a person, talked to his parents a lot throughout the course of his college selection, so I know them very well. I’m just excited, man. To be able to have a young talent that I can help mold and build and make better and teach him what suit to wear, what shoes to wear with a suit, how to tie a tie, when you go to dinner, things like that that Bryan Shaw and Robert Horry and Ron Harper and those guys taught me, so I’m very excited about that.”

Sexton wowed the Cavs during his personal workout, which came one day after Cleveland was swept by the Warriors. He attended Game 4, and as he witnessed James, Kevin Durant and others competing at the highest level the game offers, Sexton could imagine one day being part of the action.

“Like the seats were shaking,” he said. “Fans were screaming. Just I feel like I’ll be ready to play in something like that when it’s my time.”

Sexton smiled throughout his introductory news conference, which came following a nearly sleepless night in New York. And while he came across as easygoing and affable, there’s a darker side to Sexton.

On the floor, he’s ferocious.

“When you get between those lines, there’s no friends,” he said. “When you get between those lines it’s us against them, and we’re trying to win. It’s like a switch that cuts on. It’s go time when you get on the court.”

Celtics’ draftee Robert Williams overslept introductory conference call

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For a guy who slid way down the draft board due to serious concerns about his motor and work ethic, this is not the start Robert Williams wanted with the Celtics.

The Texas A&M center was selected 27th by Boston, but he chose not to go to New York for the draft itself and stayed home in Louisiana to watch it with family. They apparently had a good time, because his introductory conference call with the media started an hour late on Friday, and Williams admitted he overslept.

From Chris Forsberg at ESPN:

“Right after the draft, I actually ran to my aunt’s house and went to sleep because I was so tired from everything,” Williams said Friday afternoon in a call that took place an hour later than originally scheduled. “When I woke up, my sister woke me up, she said, ‘You have a conference call.'”

Williams later noted that it was, “a good night’s sleep after a busy two days.”

The Celtics blamed this on a miscommunication and the one-hour time difference between Boston and Louisiana. They let it slide.

Williams could be the steal of the draft. Could be — if those he can prove all those concerns about his motor and effort level to be false.

Williams has the skills to be an elite NBA defender, and despite his up-and-down efforts in college he was a defensive and rebounding force. His NBA game is going to be as a rim and paint protector on one end and a rim runner finishing alley-oops on the other. Think DeAndre Jordan style of big. The difference: thanks to a lot of work by Jordan (and some smart coaching by Doc Rivers to restore his confidence) Jordan fulfilled his potential. Can Boston get that out of Williams? Will Williams himself to work?

If they do, this is a steal for the Celtics.

If not, well, missing on the No. 27 pick in the draft is not going to set back their contender arc.

Cavaliers GM on LeBron James: ‘We want to respect his space’ during contract decision

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — With one deadline looming on his future in Cleveland, LeBron James has been in contact with the Cavaliers through his representatives.

Following the NBA draft on Thursday night, Cavs general manager Koby Altman said he has had positive discussions with the three-time champion’s group. James has until June 29 to tell the team if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or become a free agent.

“We continue to have good dialogue with his management team,” Altman said. “I think LeBron has more than earned the right to approach his contracts the way he does. He’s done that before, so this is nothing new for us. We want to respect his space during this process and I continue to have really good dialogue with his management team as he goes through that process.

“That’s probably all I can say at this point regarding him, but we don’t take him for granted. We love him, this city loves him. He means the world to us and this franchise.”

James led the Cavs to their fourth straight NBA Finals this season, carrying a team that endured injuries and a roster overhaul at the trading deadline. Cleveland was swept by the Golden State Warriors, and following Game 4 the 33-year-old said he would weight family concerns and his desire to win more titles into his decision.

James has signed several short-term contracts since returning to the Cavs in 2014 after spending four seasons with Miami. After the Cavs won the championship in 2016, James signed a two-year contract with an option for this season.

The Cavs can offer him a five-year, $209 million deal this time. It’s possible James could choose to sign a one-year deal again with a player option and go through the free-agency dance again next summer.

To look more appealing to James, the Cavs need to upgrade their roster and they took a significant step by selecting Alabama point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick. Sexton averaged 19.2 points as a freshman and he addresses the club’s biggest need – a playmaker to fill the void left when the Cavs traded All-Star Kyrie Irving last summer.

Altman hopes Sexton’s arrival will make the Cavs more attractive to James.

The 19-year-old lacks professional experience, but Altman pointed out that James dealt with that issue this season.

“He went through it this year a little bit with some of our young guys, especially in the playoffs,” Altman said. “What’s amazing, he talks about this all the time – the best teacher is experience. And our young guys got some really good experience this year. And while it wasn’t consistent throughout the playoffs, each guy had their moments. And we went through two Game 7s and got to a Finals, and that experience is a huge teacher for those guys.

“So that experience is amazing for them and their confidence level as they approach next year. And then Collin, we got to get there with experience as well. But like he (James) says, experience is the best teacher, and we gave those guys a great experience over 30 games and into the playoffs and into the Finals, and what does that mean for us moving forward, I think it’s all really positive.”

Report: Lakers tell LiAngelo Ball he will not be invited to Summer League team

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LiAngelo Ball was never going to get drafted Thursday night. He simply is not that good (something I heard from every scout I talked to that saw him play).

He did get invited to work out for some teams before the draft (including the Warriors and Lakers). Impress there and the next step is an invite to play on a Summer League team. I don’t know if the middle Ball son impressed enough in workouts to earn an invite, but I do know he had an extra hurdle to climb — and a big one to most teams — because organizations do not want to deal with LaVar Ball and that circus.

That includes the Lakers, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

It will be interesting to see if another team is willing to give LiAngelo Ball a roster spot in Las Vegas. I would be shocked if a G-League team or two does not make him an offer for next season — for them, the marketing and publicity would be worth the hassle. How well he plays is secondary.

If a player is as talented and has the potential of Lonzo Ball, teams will put up with a lot. The Lakers organization has its frustrations with LaVar (to put it kindly), but they like Lonzo and what he could become (the team just played better with him on the court last season). Yes, Lonzo has trade value, too, but they’re not opposed to keeping him, depending upon how this summer shakes out. They can ignore the dad for him.

LiAngelo simply isn’t the level of talent where teams will tolerate the circus around him.

The big question for me is LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers, who was considered a top prospect for colleges a couple of years ago (and had committed to UCLA). How has being pulled out of his high school and playing low-level European competition in exhibitions in Lithuania impacted his standing? Something to watch over the next few years.

Just know LaVar Ball is never giving up the dream.