Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Kobe_game.jpgOur game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while your wife had control of the remote so she could watch women’s figure skating.

L.A. Lakers 99, Memphis 98:
Kobe Bryant can cover up a multitude of sins for a team. Memphis deserved this one, largely because the Lakers decision making is often terrible. Shannon Brown over dribbles then jacks up bad shots, Jordan Farmar breaks the offense, Derek Fisher has lost a few steps, and seemingly the only guy who can consistently make a good post entry pass is Pau Gasol, but he is usually in the post.

The game winner from Kobe, and the ensuing miss by OJ Mayo, came because of better execution by the Lakers. When the Lakers had to shoot, they inbounded the ball to Gasol, who passed to Odom then Gasol set a moving downscreen pick that took Rudy right out of the play and Kobe got a clean look at a three. You cannot give Kobe a clean look like that. Cannot.

When the Grizzlies get their chance they run the high pick-and-roll for their last shot and the Lakers switch it so Pau Gasol and his massive wingspan are there to disrupt Mayo, who is forced to take a fade away a fade away three and misses it. Bottom line: Gasol and Bryant executed under pressure, and the Lakers win a lot of games because of that.

Cleveland 105, New Orleans 95: Marcus Thornton? Who? Rookie second rounder Marcus Thornton? The scouting report back on draft night said he could score and eventually might develop into a nice spark plug off the bench.  Turns out eventually is now. He had 37 on 15 of 22 shooting, with 23 in the second quarter alone.

Thornton took advantage of something that other teams are going to try to exploit in the playoffs — against really quick guards, whether on penetration or the high pick-and-roll, Shaq has to lay back and give up the jumper. He is just not quick enough to recover and guys can just blow by him, so rather than give up the layup he concedes the jumper. Which is fine, until you run into somebody as hot as Thornton with the jumper. Then all bets are off. Not that it mattered that much, Cleveland still won.

It says a lot about the Cavs — and the expectations of the fan base now — that they snapped a three-game losing streak and Cleveland guru/beat writer Brian Windhorst tweeted after the game that it still “felt like a loss.” They not only expect wins, but convincing ones. They will learn that in an 82 game season sometimes you just take the win. (Well, maybe not, Lakers fans never learned that.)

Boston 110, New York 106: For three quarters this was played exactly in the pace and style the Knicks would want — fast and without defense. Then the fourth quarter was an ugly cocktail of bad decisions, missed shots and a splash of good defense. Left a bad taste in your mouth if you watched it. The Knicks stayed true to themselves in that quarter — they kept shooting threes and they kept missing them, hitting zero of their last seven attempts. The Celtics played about five minutes of good defense. That is basically your ballgame.

But you want to know about Nate Robinson, don’t you? He looked a little uncomfortable, like he was thinking not just reacting and playing. He was trying to facilitate the offense, not just score (and when he did he was just 2 of 7 and got rejected by Lee once). Don’t read too much into one game, there is going to be an adjustment for the Celtics second unit, getting used to Nate’s game and him adjusting to their team style.

Minnesota 91, Miami 88: What do you want me to say, Miami without Wade is just not very good.

Portland 102, New Jersey 93: He’s a Blazers big man so this was bound to happen — Marcus Camby twisted his ankle five minutes into the game, left and did not return. Post-game X-rays were negative, but it is unknown how long he will be out.

As for the game itself, a very slow pace (81 possessions, about 10 off the Nets normal speed of play). But Portland jumped out early and if they had cared about playing defense at the end it wouldn’t have been this close.

Phoenix 104, Oklahoma City 102: Just like so many games this year, the Suns blow a 15 point lead and find themselves down by 10 in the fourth quarter as the Thunder were on their way to another… what do you mean the Suns came back and won? That’s not how the story has gone this year for the Suns. Well, good on them for showing some grit.

Impressive game winner for Phoenix — Jason Richardson beat the Thunder’s defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha off the dribble, found all the help defenders late to arrive and got to put up a pretty little floater in the lane that dropped in with 0.7 left. On another note, credit to Goran Dragic, who took over for Steve Nash but played within himself and didn’t make too many mistakes. He finished with 16 and 10.

Detroit 101 Sacramento 98: This is the kind of game the Pistons lost for much of the season, when Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were out. Those two combined for 52 points on 62 percent shooting.

Philadelphia 110, Golden State 102: The Sixers were up by 24 in the third in this battle of mismatched rosters, in part because Lou Williams stepped into AI’s starting spot and had a night, finishing 26 points, 10 rebounds and 7 dimes. But the Sixers lost interest, the Warriors got hot from the outside as they do at times, and a 16-2 run later the end was in doubt. Williams hit a late three to seal Philly’s win.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.