Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Monday, or what you missed while deciding how many bottles of the John Calipari bourbon bottles you want to buy….

Mavericks 89, Bobcats 84: Maybe the most interesting thing about this game was the jacket new Charlotte owner Michael Jordan wore. Close first half (and the Bobcats closed that second quarter out well) as Dallas looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back. Flat as that Coke you left out last night.

But change was coming. You knew the run was coming. Everyone watching knew change was coming. Jordan’s jacket even knew the run was coming. Dallas had won seven (now eight) in a row, you don’t get that if you roll over. Charlotte did not have the players to stop the big run, the result was the Mavericks taking the lead and holding on with some key late shots.

Cavaliers 124, Knicks 93: Without Shaq or Big Z, the Cavaliers have to go small. And as Rob Mahoney pointed out, that’s not such a bad thing — especially against a Knicks team that wants to go smaller than you. The Cleveland small is so much more athletic, just so much flat out better than the Knicks’ version. Cleveland had 74 points at the half, and this was over. Of course, some New York fans want to blame this on Mike D’Antoni, as if there is some magical Xs and Os trick that turns Tracy McGrady into a superstar defender. D’Antoni could have a time machine and it would not help much with that problem.

After the game D’Antoni was asked if the 2010 plan was worth suffering losses like this. “I’ll tell you next year.”

Trail Blazers 103, Grizzlies 93: Memphis did not treat this like any other regular season game — they came in 3.5 games back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the West. It’s starting to get late, these are the wins you need. But the reason they are now 4.5 back is that Portland is the better team. Memphis was up at the half then went into hibernation on offense. They provided 15 second half turnovers to make sure the Trail Blazers got some easy transition buckets. It was ugly.

Memphis made some runs when they could get the ball inside to Zach Randolph and Mark Gasol. Still not enough, Portland’s front line defenders may be undersized but Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard did just enough, and Brandon Roy played well off the pick and roll when it mattered.

Magic 126, 76ers 105: The real Jameer Nelson is back, he had 22 points and 10 rebounds. With him at the helm Orlando played maybe their best offensive game of the season (138 points per 100 possessions), and that was far, far to much for Philly.

Hawks 116, Bulls 92: Pound it inside, work inside out. The Hawks should do that just about every night, but they really executed it in the first half against the smallish Bulls and the result was 59 first half points and a 16 point lead. The Bulls made it close in the fourth again, but when it got too close Atlanta went back to dominating inside and that was ballgame.

The result of this game — the Hawks are now two games clear of Boston for the third playoff spot in the East.

Rockets 116, Raptors 92: Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin combined for 56 points on 62.5% shooting, and they hit 9 of 17 from three. Think the Rockets may have found their backcourt?

Suns 101, Nuggets 85: In the second quarter Phoenix went to a zone, and Denver apparently has not practiced much against that. Or ever seen it before. No good shooting over the top, very little attacking the soft middle of the zone. Far too much dribble penetration, and most of it was a step slow. Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony combined for 23 first quarter points, but had none in the second. JR Smith’s always questionable shot selection killed them against the zone.

But Denver has other worries. Like that the small front line of the Suns grabbed 40% of their missed shots for offensive rebounds. Or that while Ty Lawson has been a great story, when they have to go to Anthony Carter the entire state of Colorado winces. He is not playing well.

Clippers 108, Jazz 104: The Clippers led wire-to-wife on this one. They jumped out early, and were still up 12 with 150 seconds left to play — and almost lost it. They had to hang on with free throws. Typical Clippers. Not typical Jazz, who have been red hot lately but looked like a tired team on the road.

Spurs 106, Hornets 92: The Spurs dominated this one, it looked like an old-school, vintage Spurs win. Which is to say not that fun to watch. The fun thing was Hornets rookie Marcus Thornton, who went off for 30 on 12 of 19 shooting off the bench. The kid can play. Byron Scott did a nice job of sitting on Darren Collison and Thornton to start the season, nobody knew New Orleans had this talent buried on the bench.

Andre Iguodala’s flopping game is in midseason form (VIDEO)

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The Golden State Warriors “superteam” is clearly still a work in progress, it’s going to take them some time this season to iron out the kinks. Most of which were on the defensive side of the ball.

But Andre Iguodala‘s flopping game is in mid-season form.

Kawhi Leonard came off a screen and reaching out his hand grazed the… um, midsection of Iguodala. There was light contact. But it’s the delayed reaction sending him into the first row that could earn Iguodala an Oscar.

If the league deems that a flop, Andre Iguodala will get a warning from the league. If he gets a second one over the course of the season, that will cost him $5,000. Iguodala is making $11.1 million this season.

It’s time: Russell Westbrook looks to fill void after Durant’s exit

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4), head coach Billy Donovan, guard Russell Westbrook (0) and center Steven Adams pose for a photo during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — There were few indications before August that Russell Westbrook would be so willing to be the hero downtrodden Thunder fans needed.

For years, the sometimes combustible Westbrook toiled in Kevin Durant‘s shadow. He often was viewed as the talented, selfish player who was as likely to get in Durant’s way as he was to make a winning play. His flashy style seemed at odds with small-market Oklahoma City so when Durant, who seemingly was a better fit in OKC, left for rival Golden State, fear that Westbrook would bolt for a larger market increased.

He didn’t. He chose to re-sign with the Thunder and now that he has answered the call, it’s time to deliver.

“We know a few things about Russell at this point,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “He’s going to bring his lunch pail every day. He’s going to compete. He’s going to inspire. He’s going to show great conviction and courage to his teammates, to the city, to the organization. And from there, we have to figure out how that comes together.”

That trek begins Wednesday in Philadelphia when Oklahoma City officially tips off the post-Durant era in its season opener against the 76ers.

Westbrook is now the unquestioned leader of the Thunder and player folks behind the scenes knew – the thoughtful, humble, giving man – has more readily come to the surface. He has gone to great lengths to connect with Thunder fans in recent months.

Among other things, he unveiled his new line of True Religion clothing near downtown Oklahoma City and he attended an Oklahoma home football game against Louisiana-Monroe wearing a custom-made Sooners jersey. When he was introduced to the crowd before the Thunder’s preseason home opener, he got the kinds of cheers normally reserved for a return from injury.

Westbrook seems more at ease on the court, too. His preseason play seemed more effortless than electric, with an occasional flourish.

“I want the team to play how they want to play,” Westbrook said. “I mean, it’s not totally up to me how we play. You have to adjust to the team you have and adjust on a night-in, night-out basis on how you want to play. You want to play fast some nights and you want to play slow. I think it depends on the game, on the situation, who is on the floor.”

He is poised to put up astronomical numbers this season as he tries to keep the Thunder among the NBA elite.

Last season Westbrook averaged 23.5 points and career highs of 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He posted 18 triple-doubles, the most for a player since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. The two-time All-Star MVP and former scoring champion could do more damage without Durant, but the Thunder don’t want too much pressure on him.

“I think we have to be able to play in a way that’s not just relying on him to do everything and create every single shot, whether it’s him making the shot or making the play for another guy,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said.

Westbrook already has left an impression on his new backcourt mate Victor Oladipo, who was acquired in the trade that sent defensive enforcer Serge Ibaka to Orlando.

“After working with Russ, I can see the intensity in how serious he was about his craft,” Oladipo said. “But one thing that I realized that after guarding him for three years – I can see why he’s so effective at what he does. I definitely stole that from him, and I’m going to take it and run as fast as I can with it.”

How Oladipo and the rest of the Thunder do in keeping up with Russell will determine how much success the team will have. Oklahoma City is no longer considered the team to beat in championship conversations, and that’s fine with Westbrook. He said the team embraces the underdog role.

“I love it,” he said. “I love it, man. I think it’s a great challenge, not just for myself, but for our whole team. I think just from talking to the guys throughout the summer, they understand that. They want to win. They want to get better.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP .

Memphis’ Chandler Parsons says he’s playing 5-on-5, hopes to be on court soon

Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons poses for a picture on NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Parsons signed with the Grizzlies in July. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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When the Memphis Grizzlies get their full starting five on the court, that lineup is going to be a handful.

But the Grizzlies enter their opener Wednesday night likely without Tony Allen and certainly without Chandler Parsons.

Parsons is being brought along slowly following his latest knee surgery, but in an update on the team’s Twitter account notes he is now playing 5-on-5 and hopes to be on the court “soon.”

Parsons also says he hasn’t lost a step. We may need to see that before we fully buy in.

Memphis needs him — and Allen — on the court as soon as possible. While their starting five can be a force, there is not a lot of depth on the Grizzlies’ roster. Plus Parsons provides the floor-spacing shooting and second shot creator the Grizzlies desperately need.

Charles Barkley: Klay Thompson is a better player than Kevin Durant


You know the NBA season is back when Charles Barkley is just talking out his… er, saying ridiculous things.

On Inside the NBA before the tip off of San Antonio thrashing Golden State, Barkley said then tried to defend the idea that Klay Thompson is a better all-around player than Kevin Durant. It was vintage Barkley — and it’s what makes the barbershop feel of Inside the NBA must-watch television every week.

The flaw in Barkley’s argument is that he tries to use the “two-way player” argument to try and balance out Durant’s and Thompson’s offensive contributions. Is Thompson a better defender than Durant? Yes. Even though people underestimate Durant’s defense a little, I will stipulate Thompson is a better defender. But does that defense make up for how much more offensive versatility and shot creation Durant brings to the table compared to Thompson? No. Again, Thompson is an excellent offensive player and probably the second best shooter in the game, but he does not create shots or force a defense to adjust the way Durant does. KD’s amazing offense tips the scales more than Thompson’s defense. KD is the better overall player.

And The Jet is way too quick to dismiss Kawhi Leonard as maybe the second best player in the league. But Leonard made his case just after these comments.