Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nuggets knock of Thunder in OT

2 Comments

Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while taking out your frustrations in the “rage room”

Nuggets 121, Thunder 118 (OT): This was the kind of game that fans find entertaining and makes a coach cringe. Entertaining because it was close most of the way, was played at a fast pace with a lot of scoring, and saw a dramatic late run by the Thunder that helped send the game to overtime. But these two teams combined for 48 turnovers and 61 personal fouls. The game was played fast but sloppy.

Thunder fans looking to why their team lost were blaming the referees. With 10 seconds left in overtime and down one, Denver’s Kenneth Faried — who played a great game and frustrated the Thunder bigs all night — missed two free throws. The Thunder called timeout and set up a play, but on it Nick Collison got called for a moving screen (the third moving screen call on the Thunder of the overtime). Thing is, you can’t blame the refs when you had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get to the line 38 times by themselves in the game. The Thunder stars were aggressive and the whistles were tight, but that eventually goes both ways.

If Thunder fans want to blame something, it’s that Denver got the offensive rebound on 41.7 percent of their missed shots (20 offensive rebounds). Denver is not a team of great shooters (although Corey Brewer was for a night on his way to 26 points) but they will make you pay of you keep giving them chances. OKC did and Denver gets a big win.

Raptors 108, Lakers 103: Lakers fans, tell me if you’ve seen this movie before: The team plays disinterested and dispassionate basketball for 40 minutes, taking their opponent (who is better than they think) for granted, then down in a deep hole they make a late run, get close but fall ultimately short.

Sums up the Lakers loss to Raptors Sunday. Sums up the Lakers season.

What was different in this case was Dwight Howard getting ejected in the second quarter, something Brett Prollakoff wrote about that earlier at PBT. With just five points and two rebounds. Pau Gasol looked much the better big with 25 points on 15 shots.

But the rest of the story was familiar — the Lakers defense was bad and the Raptors offense was balanced and smart in shot selection — they shot 54.8 percent. Jose Calderon had 22 points, both Ed Davis (who has played well since Andrea Bargnani left) and Landry Fields had 18. The Raptors got 55 of their points in the paint.

Pistons 103, Celtics 88: Nobody in Boston was paying attention — the game was on opposite the Patriots in the AFC championship game — which was probably best. Boston opened 1-of-8 shooting and fell behind 13-2 to open the game. They battled back with runs of their own to tie it and Detroit led by four at halftime. But the second half brought more of the same as the first quarter and this time Boston couldn’t make it up (thanks to Will Bynum, who had 9 of his 15 in the fourth).

Doc Rivers was talking trades after the game he was so frustrated. Who with? Rajon Rondo was 4-of-16 shooting and had 15 assists but 9 turnovers in an erratic game. Brandon Bass was nonexistent no points and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes. Jason Terry wasn’t a spark plug off the bench with four points (Courtney Lee with 16 and Jeff Green with 14 were).

Don’t sell Detroit short here, their front line was fantastic. Greg Monroe had 15 points and 11 rebounds, rookie Andre Drummond dame in off the bench with 16 points on just six shots. But yes, keep starting Jason Maxiell over Drummond.

Mavericks 111, Magic 105: The first quarter of this game was wild. Orlando opened the game hitting everything and raced out to an 18-4 lead half way through the first. Then Dallas responded with a 19-2 run of its own to take the lead. Orlando hung around in this one because Glen Davis got 24 points in the paint and Dallas did a poor job defending J.J. Redick half the night and he can shoot (he finished with 18). Seriously, with the game tight late how does Redick get left WIDE open for a three. Dallas got great stuff from the old guard of Shawn Marion (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Vince Carter (15 points, six assists).

LeBron James, Stephen Curry top NBA jersey sales again

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There are new names on and climbing the list: Joel Embiid is up to No. 5, Luka Doncic came in 13th as a rookie.

However, for the most part, the names on the list of the most sold jerseys in the NBA look very familiar.

With LeBron James jumping teams to the Los Angeles Lakers, it should be no surprise he tops the list of most-sold jerseys (based on NBAStore.com sales since the start of the season). Stephen Curry is second, and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo climbed up to third.

Here are the top 15 in jersey sales this season.

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
4. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
6. James Harden, Houston Rockets
7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
9. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
10. Jimmy Butler, Philadelphia 76ers
11. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
12. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
13. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
14. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
15. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Three Sixers made the list (Embiid, Simmons, Butler), the most of any team. Also, Wade went out in the top 15 after his Last Dance farewell tour.

Here are the top 10 franchises in team merchandise sales:

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Golden State Warriors
3. Boston Celtics
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Chicago Bulls
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
8. Houston Rockets
9. Toronto Raptors
10. New York Knicks

Malcom Brogdon out for Bucks-Celtics Games 1 and 2

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Malcolm Brogdon suffered a foot injury that’d sideline him for the start of the playoffs.

The Bucks (vs. Pistons) and Celtics (vs. Pacers) won their first-round series too quickly.

Milwaukee-Boston will be the first series between teams coming off sweeps since Lakers-Suns in the 2010 Western Conference finals and first such second-round series since Pistons-Bulls in 2007. So, the Bucks-Celtics series will begin Sunday, the second-earliest of four possible dates.

Which means no Brogdon to begin the series.

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Game 1 is Sunday, and Game 2 is Tuesday. That leaves open the possibility of Brogdon returning for Game 3 Friday, May 3.

Brogdon is a good shooting guard, but the Bucks were just fine without him in the first round. Sterling Brown and Pat Connaughton played well against Detroit, and Tony Snell could enter the rotation as he gets healthy.

But the Celtics are a far bigger challenge. Milwaukee won’t necessarily need Brogdon against Boston, but the Bucks’ chances are much higher if he returns to full strength.

Russell Westbrook to critics: ‘I don’t really care what people say’

Getty Images
4 Comments

Russell Westbrook has faced a lot of criticism this season, a chorus that grew louder in the first round of the playoffs.

While he averaged a triple-double for the third straight season, his shooting degenerated and his efficiency dropped. This is Westbrook’s shot chart for the regular season.

Which was better than his playoff shot chart.

The results of his shooting woes were obvious in the playoffs. Portland big man Enes Kanter can be exposed as a pick-and-roll defender if pulled out on the perimeter to deal with a ball handler, but the Trail Blazers didn’t have to do that. Kanter would sag back, clog the paint, and dare Westbrook to take jumpers or drive past him. Even when Westbrook drove there were not clear lanes and he struggled to finish.

That swelled the volume of criticism of Westbrook. Not that he cares. Did anyone actually expect him to be bothered? Westbrook brushed off his critics speaking with the media after his exit interview on Thursday. Via Royce Young of ESPN.

“There used to be conversations if I was a ball hog, but now I lead the league in assists for the past three years or whatever it is, that’s getting squashed out,” he said. “So now the conversation is about shooting. Next year I’m going to become a better shooter. After that it’ll be probably, f—, my left foot is bigger than my right one. Who knows.

“So that’s why, back to your point, I don’t really care what people say, what they think about me, because it doesn’t really matter. I know what I’m able to do and know what I’m able to do at a high level every night, and nobody else can do what I can do on a night-in, night-out basis, and I truly believe that. If they could, I’m pretty sure they would. But I know for a fact that nobody can.”

Westbrook still impacts the game with his drives and athleticism, he is still an All-NBA level guard in this league, if not MVP level anymore. He is still one of the game’s elite players. However, as he was getting outplayed by Damian Lillard in the first round the questions came up again, “just how far can the Thunder go with Westbrook as their primary option?” After four surgeries in six years, can he still carry a team deep into the playoffs?

When Westbrook was on the floor without Paul George this season, the Thunder struggled. When it was George without Westbrook, they still played well. It’s become clear that not only must Westbrook improve his shooting — not to Curry levels, but closer to his MVP self that shot better from the midrange — but also Sam Presti and Thunder management need to find a way to get more shooting around Westbrook. A stretch-five, in particular, would help (Stephen Adams is good at a lot of things, but spacing the floor is not one of them). OKC needs shooters around Westbrook.

How the Thunder pull that off with a capped-out team — they have the second-highest payroll in the league this season and Westbrook and George are maxed out for years — is going to require some real creativity. But if the Thunder are going to be more than a first-round-exit team in the West, they need to find a way.

Rumor: Lakers want to make Kurt Rambis associate head coach

Rob Carr/Getty Images
5 Comments

When Magic Johnson resigned as Lakers president, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss had an opportunity to be bold. Instead of empowering cronies, she could find the best available executive to lead the front office.

Instead, she’s apparently again leaning on the comfort of friends.

As the Lakers’ conduct their coaching search, Kurt Rambis (Senior Basketball Advisor) and his wife Linda Rambis (Executive Director, Special Projects) are quite involved.

Bill Oram of The Athletic:

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:

The goal is seemingly to move Rambis to the bench as an associate head coach. But if that doesn’t work, he could become the assistant general manager.

Kurt Rambis interviewing Monty Williams makes sense. Kurt Rambis works in basketball operations, after all. Linda Rambis’ presence makes less sense given her official role within the organization, but she is close to Jeanie Buss.

It’d be something else entirely to install Kurt Rambis as an associate head coach, though. He did poorly as Timberwolves coach and, as New York’s interim coach a couple years ago, made the Knicks into an even bigger mess than they already were.

This shines new light on Magic Johnson reportedly admonishing Luke Walton for not having an experienced coaching staff. Walton had Brian Shaw, a former Nuggets head coach (and someone with his own problems relating to players). Shaw wasn’t enough?

Maybe there was a preference from above, not for any experienced assistant coach, but Kurt Rambis specifically.

This should scare any Lakers coaching candidates. Not getting to pick your own staff is a negative. Having the owner’s hand-picked choice forced upon you is a huge red flag. That means management will be confident in an internal replacement if it’s considering firing you.