Baseline to Baseline recaps: For one night at least Celtics look fine post-Rondo

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while thinking you may have finally found the perfect job

Suns 92, Lakers 86: Ouch. You can apply that one word sentence to Dwight Howard’s shoulder, he left the game midway through the fourth quarter and did not return, seeming to aggravate his torn labrum. Or, you can apply the first sentence to the Lakers fourth quarter. Either way it was Michael Beasley’s world and the Lakers just lived in it. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down for us.

Heat 105, Nets 95: Note to Reggie Evans — you may not want to insult LeBron James, you might make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Evans did, saying the Heat’s lockout title didn’t count, and LeBron responded with 24 points and 9 rebounds in the Heat win. Miami owned the second half, and we broke all the details of the game down.

Celtics 99, Kings 81: If you want to ease into the rest of the season without your star point guard, the Kings are a good team to do it against. The Kings hung around for a quarter and a half in the Garden and then the Celtics bench started the onslaught with a 16-2 run — Boston scored 37 points in the second quarter and the rout was on. That second quarter was about as good as Boston can play and when they play like that they can threaten any team. It’s a blueprint for what they want to do the rest of the season.

Paul Pierce had 16 points to lead six Celtics in double figures. Tyreke Evans had 19 for the Kings. One thing of concern for the Celtics — Jared Sullinger left the game in the first half with back spasms not to return. He battled back issues in college. It’s just something to watch.

Bulls 104, Bucks 88: There are nights Nate Robinson can shoot you out of a game, and then there are the nights he can pretty much win you a game. Wednesday night was in the latter category for the Bulls — Robinson had 16 second quarter points, half of the 32 the Bulls put up in the period as they pulled away for a comfortable win. It wasn’t just Robinson off the bench, he had help from Jimmy Butler who has been playing well of late and had 18 in this one. Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 18 points but needed 18 shots to do it.

Clippers 96, Timberwolves 90: Blake Griffin was dominating. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds through three quarters, and Minnesota looked hopeless to stop him.

But then the fourth quarter came and *woosh*, there Griffin went. Disappeared right out of thin air. In a close game down the stretch, he had no points and no shots attempts in the whole quarter. Just as it looked like Minnesota was about to steal a win despite their poor perimeter shooting, Griffin reappeared at just the right time with an impossibly tricky bank shot that served as the dagger.
—D.J. Foster

Pacers 98, Pistons 79: This was a shorthanded Pistons team with Tayshaun Prince — the last member of the 2004 championship team still on the roster — and Austin Daye out for this game and Jose Calderon not in yet. But this game really just followed the trends — the Pacers have now won 12 in a row at home while the Pistons are 5-17 on the road. Greg Monroe tried for Detroit (18 points) but the Pistons couldn’t handle the Pacers size — Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Tyler Hansbrough added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Knicks 113, Magic 97: This was close in the first half because the Magic back court was hot — guards and 35 of Orlando’s 51 first half points. J.J. Redick started out 7-of-7, Jameer Nelson was 7-of-11 in the first half. It was still just a six-point Knicks lead after three quarters when the Knicks offense exploded for 34 points on 63 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. The onslaught wasn’t just one guy — 10 Knicks scored in the quarter, Steve Novak had the most points at 8. It was a team effort. For the game Tyson Chandler had 21 points (on 11 shots) and Carmelo Anthony had 20.

The big news for Orlando is that Glen Davis broke his foot and is most likely done for the season now.

Nuggets 118, Rockets 110: You knew this was going to be an up and down game and we weren’t disappointed (109 possessions, according to the NBA.com stats one of the fastest this season). It made the game entertaining. The Rockets averaged the fastest pace in the league so you thought they would be comfortable there and it showed — they never really pulled away but they led 85-77 with a minute left in the third quarter when the Nuggets went on a 24-3 run to take the lead and pull away for the win. That is five straight for Denver, which went 12-3 in January.

As you expect in these games there were some big offensive numbers: Danilo Gallinari scored 27 points (on 17 shots, plus he had 4 blocks), Kenneth Faried added 19, Ty Lawson 16, Andre Iguodala 15; for Houston Jeremy Lin had 22, James Harden and Chandler Parsons 21.

Spurs 102, Bobcats 78: Really, how did you think this game was going to end? The Spurs have won nine straight overall and 17 in a row at home. With the win, Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars as the Spurs will have the best record in the West come the Sunday cut off. You can bet he’s thrilled, he’s much rather coach an exhibition game in Houston than be home sipping wine with friends and having three days off.

Sixers 92, Wizards 84: In the battle of Jrue Holiday vs. John Wall… nobody won, really. Holiday was better with 21 points but he needed 22 shots while Wall was 3-of-12 shooting. Holiday had six turnovers to Wall’s five.

Philadelphia took control of the game with a 13-3 run in the second quarter and when the Wizards made a run to make it close in the third the Sixers responded with a 17-5 run. Nick Young gunned his way to 18 for Philly. Emeka Okafor had another strong night for Washington with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Hawks 93, Raptors 92: The Raptors were shorthanded — Jose Calderon and Ed Davis had been shipped out and Rudy Gay had yet to arrive, but they still put up a real fight. In fact, they should have had free throws to win.

Atlanta went ahead on a pretty play where Al Horford set a screen off the ball for Kyle Korver, Horford’s defender Aaron Gray tried to cut off a pass to Korver at the arc so Horford rolled and flashed to the paint, Josh Smith had the ball at the top of the arc and passed to Horford in the paint for a dunk. But Toronto had time for a final shot.

Kyle Lowry tried to drive the lane but Al Horford rejected it, but the Raptors recovered and Alan Anderson missed a jumper with 4.9 seconds left, but DeMar DeRozan got the offensive board. He went up and was fouled by Horford but there was no call. It is official a block, Horford gathered the ball and tossed it down the court, and that was the ballgame.

Jazz 104, Hornets 99: Ugly wins count the same as pretty ones. The Jazz will take this, it wasn’t a dominant performance against a team on the second night of a back-to-back and missing its best player (Eric Gordon was out resting his knee), but it’s a win nonetheless. The Jazz front line was strong — Paul Millsap had 25 points and Al Jefferson added 22.

The Jazz carried over some of their 45-point loss to the Rockets and were down early, but they bounced back with an 11-2 run in the second and eventually took a lead.

Australian NBL pumps breaks on report LaMelo Ball has bought a team

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It was a stunning headline, especially considering LaMelo Ball is just 18:

He bought a team in the Australian National Basketball League, specifically the Illawarra Hawks, the team he played for some last season. It’s an insane story.

And it’s not quite true. At least not yet. The NBL released a statement that pumped the breaks on the idea of a sale to Ball and his manager, Jermaine Jackson. Part of the statement reads:

“The league can confirm LaMelo Ball and his management had discussions about being involved with the club while he was playing in the NBL last season. At this point we are continuing to work with current licence holder Simon Stratford on a number of options for what we hope will be a fruitful outcome for Illawarra and the NBL.

The NBL has final approval on any transfer of licence and no application has been made to date. The NBL has no further comment at this stage.

Did LaMelo and his manager jump the gun? Or, is this a negotiating ploy by the NBL and Stratford to get more money by jacking up the price on a sale?

Those two follow a host of other questions, including what percentage of the team would Ball and his manager own? What would their involvement be?

Ineligible for college stateside, Ball chose to play in Australia under the NBL’s Next Stars program. It worked, he’s projected to be a top-five, maybe top-three pick. He left the NBL after suffering a season-ending foot injury, although that came under a cloud of criticism from Hawks owner Stratford.

The ultimate revenge would be to buy the team, if that is actually happening.

Doc Rivers’ reaction when Clippers traded for Lou Williams, “I was not having Lou”

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Lou Williams is integral to the Clippers’ title dreams.

Since coming to the Clippers, he has averaged 20.6 points a game off the bench, twice winning Sixth Man of the Year, and his pick-and-roll with Montrezl Harrell is as smooth and dangerous a combo as there is in the league. Come the playoffs, while teams are trying to deal with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Lou Williams will be a change of pace scorer with a second unit that can quickly tilt the game towards Los Angeles.

But when Williams first got to the Clippers, Doc Rivers was not thrilled.

Rivers talked about Williams on The Bob Ryan and Jeff Goodman Podcast (hat tip SI).

“When we traded for Lou, I was not having Lou,” Rivers said. “I saw a guy that kept getting traded. And I appreciated his offense, but not nearly, never thought it was this good… When he finally showed up three days before training camp, I was not having him. I was like, ‘We’re not gonna work’, you know?..

“I brought him up in the office and I told him my feelings,” Rivers said. “I said, ‘Lou, you’re one of these guys that wanna do whatever you wanna do, and you don’t want to buy-in. We asked everybody to come in. Everyone did except for you… I don’t know how this is gonna work.’ And he said, ‘I’ve been traded five years in a row. Why would I buy-in to you?’, and I didn’t have an answer.”

Both Williams and Rivers have bought into each other now. Williams has control of the offense when he is in and Rivers said he just wants Williams to “be in the right place” on defense. That defense leads to issues playing Williams at the end of big games, but used as a scorer Williams is tough to deal with.

He can still get buckets with the best of them.

 

For NBA coaches, the new game is a waiting game

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MIAMI (AP) — Orlando’s Steve Clifford figures he’s like every other NBA coach right now: Wake up, go to whatever now serves as the office, study his own team, maybe think about possible opponents, and resume planning.

Of course, nobody knows what they’re planning for — or when these plans will get used.

A stoppage in play doesn’t mean vacation time has arrived for NBA coaches, especially those like Clifford in position to take their teams to the postseason — assuming this pandemic-interrupted season is able to resume. They’re all spending more time at home, not able to run practices, but none seem to be sitting idly either.

“Not knowing the restart date is the toughest challenge professionally,” Clifford said. “Obviously, we’re all limited in what we can do, and basketball takes a back seat right now to family and health. But I will say this: When I talk to our guys, the one common question that comes up is ‘When do you think we can start again?’”

And that’s a question with no answer. The waiting game is the only game in town right now.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was coaching the fourth quarter against Charlotte on March 11 when the NBA announced it was suspending the season, a move made once it became known that Utah center Rudy Gobert was the league’s first player to test positive for COVID-19. Spoelstra found out right after the final buzzer, as he walked to the Heat locker room.

He instantly realized that losing to the Hornets that night didn’t ultimately matter much. Spoelstra and his staff are holding Zoom meetings every other day, but he’s also enjoying the benefits of time away — getting more time with his two young sons, his wife and grilling for the family most nights — and is emphasizing to his coaches and players that this is a time to help those less fortunate.

He’s checking the news as well, on a limited basis.

“My routine is checking after dinner, and I usually get on my computer, watch a little bit of what’s going on,” said Spoelstra, who often wears a T-shirt emblazoned with “Stay Positive” and like many coaches he taped a video telling fans the importance of hand-washing and other precautions. “So, I’m staying abreast of the current status of things, but I definitely do not try to start my day that way and I do not obsess about it during the day.”

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle also went the video-message route, doing one for the going-stir-crazy crowd to demonstrate his “Balance, Balance, Shot Drill” that allows players to work on their shooting form even when they don’t have access to a court or a rim.

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan took advantage of downtime to appear on a virtual coaches clinic, and had a safety message for those who attended — online, of course — before spending about an hour breaking down his philosophy.

This is the first in-season stoppage of its kind in NBA history, but Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer is equating the unknown — in terms of when the next game will be — to what the league went through with lockout-shortened seasons in 1998-99 and 2011-12.

His message to his staff: Things may be slow now, but when the suspension ends the pace of everything will be frantic. So while some projects like things in the video room and breakdowns of his roster are being tackled, Budenholzer is also having staff get ready for potential playoff opponents with a first-round series against either Brooklyn or Orlando likely for the NBA-leading Bucks.

“Things happen really fast, whether it’s three games in three nights, or playoff series are shorter or the time between the end of the regular season to the first playoff game, everything can be shorter or can happen quicker,” Budenholzer said. “We can put a little bit of money in the bank now with preparation for first round but also if you go a little bit deeper, the East.”

For 30 teams, 30 coaches, there’s many ways to spend the down time.

And they all know that they’re in the same boat — waiting and wondering.

“It’s hard for all of us,” Clifford said. “It’s hard to set a plan for yourself that will have you ready. But that’s the parallel, not just for us, but for everyone around the world no matter what profession that you’re in.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci was a high school point guard

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You know Dr. Anthony Fauci as the guy trying to inject facts and reason-based decisions into the federal government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. You’ve seen him, the guy with the Sisyphean task of standing behind President Donald Trump at press conferences and not reacting with shock or disgust.

It turns out he was a high school baller.

In a profile of Fauci, the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen wrote about Fauci the high school point guard, who led his 1-16 team to a win against Fordham Prep, led by future Knicks executive Donnie Walsh.

Classic point guard, excellent ballhandler, pesky defender. Six of his classmates and teammates described him as a tenacious competitor in short shorts and striped socks whose feistiness on the court defied some parts of his personality and reflected others.

That sounds like a young version of the person he is now.

Dr. Fauci is one of the people the NBA is listening to as it tries to figure out if or when the league can re-start and what its next steps might be. Right now, all of that is beyond the NBA’s control and more in the hands of the rest of us and whether we as a society follow Dr. Fauci’s suggestions.