Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the offensive outbursts

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while thinking about what a jump to hyperspace in the Millennium Falcon would really be like

Lakers 104, Bucks 88: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard each had 31 points, but the real key for Los Angles was their defense — Kobe was on Brandon Jennings, Earl Clark on Monta Ellis most of the way, and the Bucks backcourt shot 10-of-30 on the night. We broke it all down just for you.

Nuggets 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT): This was hands down the most fun game of the night. Ty Lawson had 24 points and 12 assists for Denver, LaMarcus Aldridge looked like an All-Star again with 25.

Denver led 97-90 with 2:30 left in the game but six of it back quickly and we had a 1-point game with a minute to go. Lawson drove then hit a quick pull up elbow jumper to make it 99-96. The Blazers got to Aldridge at the elbow extended, he drove into paint 12 feet from the rim and drew three defenders, one of whom was Andre Miller helping off Wes Mathews — kick out pass and a clean-look three for Mathews and it was tied. After that Iguuodala tried pretty much the same elbow pull up that Lawson hit and missed it. Portland had the last shot and it was a Lillard difficult 12-foot, fade-away, fading left contested shot that missed. And we had OT.

Which had its own drama and was back and forth at the end. A Danilo Gallinari three up against the shot clock had Denver up two with 1:08 left. A sweet back-down then fade-away by Aldridge tied it. A ridiculous JaVale McGee catch then reverse dunk alley-oop (it’s hard to describe) put Denver up two. Aldridge drove the lane, drew the foul and hits two free throws to tie it 111-111 with 32 seconds left. Then drive-and-kick by Iguodala gave Wilson Chandler a decent look at a corner three. He drained it. Portland tried to get three but Nuggets did a good job defending, took away the easy looks, and it was a miss. Lawson fouled and with free throws that was the ball game.

Clippers 117, Rockets 109: Houston puts a lot teams in a precarious position by playing at the league’s fastest pace, but the chameleon Clippers showed once again that they can adapt to any style. Although the Rockets were passable offensively, their perimeter defense left an awful lot to be desired. With Jeremy Lin unable to stay in front of anyone and James Harden doing an awful lot of standing around, both Willie Green (15 points) and Jamal Crawford (30 points) recorded season-highs in points.

Getting out and running is great, but it’s a whole lot harder to do when you’re constantly taking the ball out of your own net.
—D.J. Foster

Nets 113, Raptors 106: This makes seven wins in a row for Brooklyn, or what we like to call the “P.J. Carlesimo wants to keep this job” run. Toronto has been playing well of late also and this one was relatively close for two-and-a-half quarters before an 11-3 Brooklyn run gave them control of the game they would not let go of. The Nets got a balanced attack with Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combining for 64 points. Plus they got a nice boost from Mirza Teletovic off the bench.

Kyle Lowry, who left the game in the second quarter after spraining an ankle, came back in the fourth with a vengeance scoring 19, but it wasn’t enough.

Pacers 103, Bobcats 76: This was another vintage Pacers win — their suffocating defense locked the other team down while they scored enough points to win. The Bobcats shot 37.4 percent for the game against Indy. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert woke up to the tune of 18 points as the Pacers one getting the ball inside to the tone of 52 points in the paint. Paul George hit two key threes when the Pacers started to pull away at the end of the first.

Hornets 111, 76ers 99: The Sixers have lost eight of 10 now. What’s the problem? Well, a few things, but it starts with they don’t have a lot of talent of the roster. Philly got 29 points from Jrue Holiday and after that the drop off is pretty steep.

Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 23 points and nine assists, meanwhile Eric Gordon dropped 19. One fun stretch was when the Sixers Nick Young scored all of his 14 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Not that it mattered, the Hornets remained in control.

Michael Porter Jr.’s status for Summer League, next season unclear

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Blake Griffin. Joel Embiid. Ben Simmons. Most recently, Harry Giles.

NBA teams are not afraid to sit an injured player throughout his rookie year, not if they think there’s a payoff on the other side.

Thursday night during the NBA Draft concerns about Michael Porter Jr.’s surgically repaired back (among other things) had the guy considered a potential top pick a year ago sliding down the board to Denver at No. 14. That’s potentially a steal for the Nuggets, but even at the press conference immediately after the pick Nuggets’ president of basketball operations Tim Connelly sounded very cautious.

A day later, speaking to Marc Spears of The Undefeated at ESPN, both Porter Jr. and the Nuggets’ owner/president were suggesting he is out for Summer League and could have a redshirt year next season.

Porter Jr. said the day before the draft that it was possible he could miss summer league action through injury…

Nuggets president Josh Kroenke told The Undefeated he was uncertain about whether Porter Jr. would play in summer league or during the 2018-19 season.

According to reports, Porter Jr. was showing a slight limp at his introductory press conference with the Nuggets Friday.

The Nuggets are right to be cautious here and think long-term. It would be a shock to see Porter Jr. at Summer League in July. Could he lace up his shoes and play at some point next season? Maybe. Depends on his rehab and how he progresses, but the Nuggets have zero fear of letting him sit out a season. This is a team that just missed the playoffs last season and is expected to take a step forward this time around without Porter — they don’t need him to be good, they have Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and the rest.

Porter needs to get healthy, and that very well may mean sitting out a season. Then when he does play accept a role and go from there.

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.”