Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Sunday, while drowning your tears in maple syrup…

Lakers 95 Nuggets 89: Maybe one day in May, we’ll get to see these two teams play at full strength for a full 48. As it was, like we told you, it was a tale of two halves. The Nuggets’ first half, and the Lakers second half, save a run in the mid-2nd by Denver. The shots dried up, particularly Kenyon Martin’s.

The Nuggets have relied on Martin’s mid-range J way too much this season. It’s one of those shots that is nice to have, but that you can’t rely on. And when the Nuggets came to rely on it today, with Ron Artest smothering Anthony and no other wing offense being produced, they choked on it.

Pau Gasol had one single decisive power move that sealed the game in the midst of yet another soft-as-yogurt performance. But that one move, and up and under finish and-one, was huge.

Spurs 113 Suns 110: Like I said, the Gods hate the Suns. But lost in this other-worldly stuff were two huge factors.

One, Amar’e Stoudemire looked like it was 2007. He was dominant. The way he and Nash work in the pick and roll is sublime. He attacked the offensive glass as well, and finished with some ridiculous numbers. It’s significant because more and more the Spurs have trouble with scoring bigs. That shouldn’t be a problem in the playoffs, when they will face some combination of Stoudemire, Aldridge, Nene, Nowitzki, and Gasol.

Two, the Richard-Jefferson-off-the-bench thing is gangbusters so far. 20 points on 11 shots, 4 rebounds, 5 assists is a good day’s work. Jefferson coming off the bench makes him seem much more comfortable, and gets an aggressive lineup to start off for the Spurs. If this continues to click, it’s a major development.

Both of those guys were considered major liabilities as the deadline approached. Something to watch.

Wizards 89 Nets 85: If you were wondering where Yi Jianlian’s jock is, it’s gone, burned in the fire Andray Blatche put on the floor and then subsequently wizzed on.

Blatche abused Jianlian. From the mid-range. Off the drive. In the post. There’s been some debate out there about Andray Blatche and his place among the young, second tier power forwards in the game (I’m talking to you two). Score one for Blatche tonight.

I was really excited about a Nets winning streak, weren’t you?

Hawks 106 Bucks 102 (OT): Even with 24 combined points scored in overtime, you have to know this isn’t the defensive effort the Bucks wanted. The pace was where they wanted it, but they gave up 108.2 points per 100 possessions (estimated). That’s just not where the Bucks usually perform.

But a road SEGABABA (SEcond GAme of a BAck to BAck) will do that to you. They hung, John Salmons was brilliant once again (32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), the Hawks just have guys who can create all over. Particularly Josh Smith (22 points on 13 shots, 15 rebounds), who was beastly.

The Hawks always push you, no matter if they’re up or down. They just keep testing you, running you, gunning you, and if you don’t have constant vigilance, they’re going to catch you.

Joe Johnson had more shots (26) than points (24), and too often he becomes the entirety of the offense for long stretches, and not very efficiently. It turns into Kobe-time without the Kobe, and I say that as a staunch Joe Johnson supporter (Arkansas represent! Or something).

Thunder 119 Raptors 99: I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun.

Okay, the Thunder got out early and cruised in this one. If you talk about offensive distribution, these two teams are built entirely differently. The Raptors are built for one guy (Bosh) to have a massive games, two to three guys to have big games, and the defense to be opportunistic.

The Thunder are built to have Durantula put in between 20 and 40 every night, but to also create even distribution. And that’s what they got tonight. Six players in double figures. Two players with double-doubles. And their defense? It’s not opportunistic, it’s relentless. It’s Soviet tanks rolling over fences and crushing houses. Holding one of the best offenses in the league to 99 points per 100 estimated possessions? That’s phenomenal.

Bosh or no Bosh, the Thunder were ready to roll tonight.

Crap.

Mavericks 108, Hornets 100: It was what everyone paid to see — a duel between Dirk Nowitzki and… Darren Collison? Yes, Darren Collison. Get used to it, you want to see him play. Kid can ball and Dallas didn’t have an answer (certainly not Kidd). Dropped 35 on 21 shots. Dirk countered him with 36. Dallas has the better rounded roster, and Brendan Haywood is a key reason because he defends the paint better than anyone they have had in there in a long tone. The Mavericks have now won seven in a row, and they won an ugly one. Credit to the Hornets for not rolling over and keeping this one close, but they do that against Dallas.

Orlando 96, Miami 80: The Heat bigs did what every team says is their goal against Orlando — they took Dwight Howard out of the game. He was Bizzaro — 7 points on 1 of 7 shooting, and as many rebounds as fouls (5). But Miami just isn’t good enough to do anything about it. Wade shot 35% as the Magic focused on him, while his teammates shot just 40% with the extra space. Martin Gortat continued to clog the paint for Orlando — get that crap out of here, D Wade — and was a game-best +23. Sure, +/- can be pretty misleading sometimes, but here it is telling the story.

Kings 97, Clippers 92: The Clippers may want to run  but the Kings have the players who can do that. And did that. Ran all over in the Clippers for the first half, but only had a four point lead to show for it. They stretched that to double digits for a while in the second, but when Tyreke Evans went a little cold at the end it got close. However, when it gets close you can count on the Clippers to be the Clippers. Chris Kaman threw the ball away, led to Evans driving for a layup. Horrific Clippers position ends with a Baron Davis 30 footer, followed by the Kings coming down and Evans driving for a layup. You’ve seen this movie on how the Clippers execute late, no need to continue. This is only the third time this season the Kings have back-to-back wins.

Injury note, Clippers power forward Craig Smith had a pretty bad sprain of the tendon on his left bicep. No work on how lon
g he is out but an MRI Monda
y to figure that out.

Joakim Noah talks of “bounce back” year for himself, Knicks

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In a season of disappointments in New York, none was bigger than Joakim Noah.

There was plenty of scoffing around the league in the summer of 2016 when Phil Jackson signed the oft-injured, already declining Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract that was seen as one of the worst of a summer (and it was an ugly summer for contracts). He only played in 46 games, averaging 5.5 points on 49 percent shooting, plus 8.8 rebounds a game in those (and basically being averaged on offense and a step slow defensively). He missed time with a rotator cuff surgery and got a 20-game suspension for testing positive for Androgen (he has 13 of those games left and can’t play until Nov. 13).

Noah realizes how poorly last season went he told the “Truth Barrel’’ podcast, doesn’t think Jackson deserves all the blame, and said his goal is to make it up this season (hat tip The New York Post for the transcription).

“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson…

“I went through a lot of adversity,’’ Noah said. “You go through injuries. I lost my confidence this year. It’s about bouncing back and showing who I am through these tough times. It can really show what you’re made of.”

This is the only attitude Noah should have — look forward, get healthy, and look to right his wrongs next season.

Once he finishes his suspension, Noah likely will come off the bench behind Willy Hernangomez. (The Knicks should spend more time with Kristaps Porzingis at the five, but that’s another discussion.) Noah is going to get his chances, but nothing he has shown the past few seasons should have Knicks’ fans expecting a return to form. Noah has been an average to below-average player for a couple of seasons, he’s not moving the same way, and he’s not getting younger.

Noah can still have a positive impact on this team, he has a role to play, but it has to start with him getting back on the court.

Add Milos Teodosic to long list of stars missing EuroBasket

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The last Olympics in Rio saw a long list of NBA players sitting it out, either due to injuries, concerns about Zika virus, a serious dislike of açaí berries or just choosing to do something else with their time.

Now it looks like EuroBasket is suffering the same fate.

The latest name to come up is Milos Teodosic, who signed this summer with the Clippers, could never get healthy, and is out for Serbia. He joins a long list — Sportando put together a list of NBA players and stars who are out.

More than just one someone is missing, guys such as Ivica Zubac, Mario Hezonja, Paul Zipster, and others are out as well.

Spain, led by Pau Gasol, remain the heavy favorites to win EuroBasket 2017, with Serbia, France, and Lithuania potential contenders. There may be a lot of players missing, but there is still a lot of talent, and when guys are playing for national pride there is plenty of emotion and fire as well.

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.