Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Thumbnail image for marion_game.jpgWhat happened Wednesday night, while falling flat on your face in a gigantic dinosaur suit

Mavericks 101 Lakers 96: So many Mavericks played well. Jason Kidd constantly pushed the tempo, but knew not to press the Lakers’ transition defense. Brendan Haywood provides the kind of toughness critics have said they have lacked for years. Jason Terry was en fuego, and Dirk was his usual, brilliant self. And yet the Mavericks only won by five, at home with the Lakers on a back-to-back.

Why was it this close? Lamar Odom was everywhere, with rebounds, key plays, and, get this, smart plays. Odom was the one Laker that was dialed in. Even Kobe (9-23, inconsistent defense) wasn’t in till the last four possessions, but Odom was a huge reason they got there.

But when the Lakers went into the penalty with over 7 minutes to go, they were sunk. You give Dirk Nowtizki one-on-one coverage (killed Odom once, Bryant once down the stretch), and the ability to shoot free throws on touch fouls? You’re dead before the ship even sinks. Big win for the Mavs, who were without Caron Butler.

Spurs 95 Thunder 87: Manu Ginobili.

Manu freaking Ginobili.

Look, I made a bet this year with a friend that Ginobili would not score 30+ points this season (he did it within the first month of the season), so if anyone’s going to doubt the man at his age, it’s going to be me. Ginobili won this game nearly by himself.

Ginobili hit huge bucket after huge bucket, came up with a series of key offensive rebounds, and blocked Kevin Durant on a breakaway layup. He was everything he used to be. Best game of the season for Manu.

The Thunder just couldn’t get good looks to go down. It’s fitting that the Spurs were the ones to end the streak. Always the villain, SA, even when no one’s scared of the boogeyman anymore.

Grizzlies 99 Wizards 94: Novel effort from the Wizards in their first without Josh Howard, but too much Marc Gasol in this one. Gasol went 10-10 until missing everything but backboard inside two minutes once the game was out of reach.

Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Hamed Haddadi combined for 50 points. If you let the Grizzlies control the rebounds like that, you’re doomed. And the Wizards were.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in professional basketball.

Blazers 101 Raptors 87: Portland was desperate, the Raptors didn’t have Bosh. One of the best offenses in the league only scored 40 in the second half. You do the math.

Brandon Roy had 20 points tonight, even if it was on 17 shots. Maybe McMillan is right and he just needs to play himself into shape.

Magic 110 Rockets 92 Call me crazy, but I think Dwight Howard may be putting it together for this season. 11-11, 30 points, 16 rebounds. That’s just ridiculous. Even against a light and small Rockets team, the way Howard has been dominating teams in the last two weeks is
astounding. Fear Big Baby Jesus.

The Rockets are in trouble. Big trouble. There’s nothing clicking right now. The effort’s waning as the season drags on, and the talent differential is killing them. Aaron Brooks’ ineffiicient scoring is at once necessary and damaging. Kevin Martin’s still not in rhythm. No on on the team seems to know where the others are, and they just seem battered. They need a break. Which they got. Two weeks ago.

Bucks 115 Hornets 95: Andrew Bogut played some of the best basketball you’re going to see out of a big man in the NBA last night. Positively brilliant. Weakside blocks, front-side blocks. Man denial. Baseline cut-off. Offensive boards, and that sweet little baby hook he’s got that when it’s working, is unstoppable.

This is probably a truer representation of this Hornets roster, but they’re made to overachieve. Just know that they have this kind of effort in them, despite Collison (22 and 9) and Thornton (25 points). This team has some older pieces that are going to get tired and throw up clunkers. Especially against a stout defensive squad like the Bucks.

Jazz 102 Bobcats 93: Carlos Boozer was unstoppable. 33 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. The Cats were without three of their centers (Diop, Chandler, Mohammed), but even if they had Kareem down there it wouldn’t have mattered. The Jazz believe it right now.

The quiet way Deron Williams is running the offense is incredible right now. He’s got such great awareness of what the offense needs to do. He will readily reset the offense when he needs to in order to create opportunities.

Wallace tried to do it all for the Cats, as he has for years.

Bulls 120, Pacers 110: The Pacers have packed it in for the season. The only games they are winning from here on out are the ones where they are motivated by something unique or where the other team decides to let them have open three pointers. The Pacers love them some three pointers. The Bulls gave them those threes in the second quarter, so this game stayed closer than it should have been, but in the end it was never really in doubt. The Bulls are still playing to win this season.

Suns 106, Sixers 95: Steve Nash had the extra day off, not playing the front end of the back-to-back, and the result was he had energy nobody else on the court did. Nash came out with14 points in the first quarter. He finished with 20 points, 13 assists. He controlled the game and Jason Richardson was still on the shooting high from the night before. It was all far, far to much for the Sixers.

Nash is not young, the nights off are good for him (which means watch out in the first round of the playoffs). Look for the Suns to do more resting of Nash this season, as Gregg Popovich has done with Tim Duncan and the Suns did last year with Shaq.

Hawks 98 Wolves 92: On the one hand, the Hawks got the win, but on the other, the Wolves largely just could not figure out what to do with all the opportunities they were given. On the one hand, the Hawks were lost and discombobulated on offense, but on the other, they shut down Al Jefferson and owned the glass.

Josh Smith was everywhere in this game down the stretch. When he’s integrated and motivated, he’s capable of crushing teams under his boot. And he did that late with assists and what felt like a million o
ffensive boards.

Clippers 97, Pistons 91:  Down the stretch, Rasual Butler out dueled Rip Hamilton. Didn’t think that was a sentence that I would ever type, but it’s the truth. Butler had 12 points in the fourth quarter, knocked down three threes (as did Hamilton), and had a key block late on Rodney Stuckey.

Entertaining finish not withstanding, this was not pretty basketball by any stretch — slow pace and the winning team shot 40.5 percent. Detroit had the chance to pull away in the first half but the Clippers dominated on the offensive glass, grabbing 44% of their missed shots for the game. That’s too many second chances, do that in the NBA and you’re done.

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.

DeMar DeRozan throws down massive dunk against Timberwolves (VIDEO)

derozan
AP
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DeMar DeRozan is having one of those seasons for the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors. During Thursday night’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 124-110, DeRozan scored 27 points while adding eight rebounds, five assists, and shooting a whopping 13 free throws.

DeRozan also sealed the victory in the final minute with a huge put back dunk.

The Raptors led by 9 points with a minute left as they were inbounding the ball. A long pass from the baseline to a streaking DeMarre Carroll resulted in a blocked layup, but DeRozan was there to clean up the mess.

Via CJZero on Twitter:

Three things we learned Thursday: Memphis, Marc Gasol just win every close game

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) shoots between Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu, from left, center Mason Plumlee, and forward Jake Layman (10) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Associated Press
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Here’s what you missed Thursday around the NBA while you were drinking homemade glow-in-the-dark beer with jellyfish genes in it (no, you try it first, I insist)…

1) Don’t play Memphis in a close game, they just find a way to win.
Last week, when Mike Conley went down with a back injury and was going to miss six weeks (give or take), we questioned if Memphis could keep their heads above water. They promptly went out and lost to a very good Toronto team.

Since then they have won five in a row, capped by an impressive 88-86 win over Portland Tuesday. Impressive because:

• Memphis is now 12-0 in games that were within 3 points in the final minute. You get in a close game with Memphis, you lose. (Statistically, we know some of that is luck, that there will be some regression to the mean, but that stat has propelled a team has been outscored by nine points this season, one that should be 12-12, to the 16-8 record they have.)

• Memphis trailed Portland 79-68 with less than five minutes to go, and still won.

Marc Gasol had 36 points and has been an absolute beast since Conley went down, doing whatever it takes to win.

• Toney Douglas — a guy the Grizzlies just picked up off the street this week, basically — comes in and is clutch down the stretch for them, including hitting the game-winning free throws with 0.5 seconds left (Damian Lillard tried to argue the call, to no avail).

The schedule gets tough for Memphis the next couple of weeks — Golden State, home-and-home with Cleveland, then Boston and Utah looming not long after — but do not doubt the Grizzlies. No team is as resilient as this bunch.

2) Bulls prove Spurs aren’t perfect on the road. It was bound to happen, the San Antonio Spurs were 13-0 on the road, they were going to stumble at some point. That point turned out to be Thursday night in Chicago, where the Spurs came out of the gate like they went out and had a big pregame meal of Lou Malnati’s pizza — 32 points on 30.6 percent shooting in the first half for San Antonio. The Spurs didn’t defend poorly, for example Kawhi Leonard held Jimmy Butler to no first-half points — in fact, midway through the first quarter Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez had scored almost all the Bulls’ buckets — but the San Antonio offense was dreadful. Throw a little credit to the Chicago defense if you want, but this was more San Antonio stumbling than a Chicago return to the Thibodeau era.

The Bulls were up 12 at the half and were able to hang on despite a strong second 24 minutes from Leonard (17 of his 24 came in the second half) and get the win. Dwyane Wade had 20 points and hit a couple of key buckets late to stabilize Chicago. For a Bulls team that is going to be in a playoff battle all season — they are the seven seed right now, one game ahead of the Pacers in ninth — these kinds of wins at home can prove huge.

3) What is it with Minnesota and second half? On the road, the Minnesota Timberwolves had played the Toronto Raptors even for the first 24 minutes — it was 59-59 at the half. And yet, there was a sense of dread for Timberwolves fans because all season their young team has just come apart in the third quarter — and then Toronto opened the second half on an 11-2 run. Minnesota, to their credit, crawls back into it, but midway through the fourth the Raptors go on a 17-4 run sparked by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and the Raptors pull away for the 124-110 win. The Timberwolves lost another game because they can’t defend well.

Minnesota shows flashes of the kind of brilliance that has everyone thinking they might be a contender in a few years. But we all expected too much too soon from this group. Those impressive stretches are followed by ones where they play like a young team, they don’t defend well, and they throw those good efforts away. Not that they were going to beat a good Toronto team on the road, but the Timberwolves can be frustrating to watch. Patience is hard, and Minnesota fans are being asked to show a lot of it. We can debate if it’s time to bring Ricky Rubio off the bench and let Kris Dunn sink or swim, but that’s not the core problem. Ultimately, the Timberwolves are young and playing like it. They don’t know how and aren’t putting in the effort to defend well yet. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, they can be the core of a contender eventually, but there is a lot of learning to do along the way. Tom Thibodeau can teach them. But it’s going to require patience.