Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while getting geeked about the return of Tecmo Bowl…

Heat 114, Lakers 111 (OT): Just was just a fun one to watch –there was a duel between Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, there was spots of good defense but better offense, there was a playoff feel. Just an entertaining game.

A couple defensive things that were interesting in this game. One was when Miami went to a zone for a stretch, which the Lakers struggled with. The Lakers reverted back to their isolation ways and were happy to shoot over the top of the zone rather than attack it inside by getting the ball to Bynum or Gasol. If teams make it hard to make a post entry pass for the Lakers, their guards will give up quickly. Miami only gave up on this when Kobe started getting into the soft middle of the zone with dribble penetration.

The other fun matchup was Ron Artest guarding Wade. Artest was Artest — relentless and trying not to let Wade get the ball in spots he wanted on the floor. It sort of worked. The problem was when Wade did get the ball Artest was often up tight on him and Wade blew past him. When Artest stepped back, Wade hit some jumpers. Still, Wade was just 9 of 21 on the night. Artest did his job.

The problem for the Lakers was with Artest on Wade, Kobe was on Quentin Richardson. Kobe loves to “play free safety” and gamble off his man to jump passing lanes and make steals. Richardson made him pay. A usually solid three point shooter (38% so far this season), Richardson was 7 of 11 from beyond the arc on the night and got looks because Kobe was roaming. And that was  a key difference. (To be fair, Artest spent a handful of possessions on Richardson as well, and nobody was stopping him on Thursday.)

Grizzlies 105, Bulls 96: This is going to happen to the Bulls again in the next three weeks, or however long it is until Joakim Noah returns to the Bulls lineup. They don’t have the body to stop anybody inside — they start Brad Miller and Taj Gibson as their bigs. So you get Zach Randolph putting up 31 and grabbing 18 boards. You get Memphis scoring 62 points in the paint. Teams like Memphis with a powerful inside game are going to be very tough for the Bulls to beat for a few weeks (although Brad Miller did a good job on Mark Gasol).Good effort, as usual, from the Bulls.

Jazz 116, Suns 108: There are plenty of fans who scoff at the idea that NBA teams do or should struggle in the second game of a back-to-back, that these are professional athletes who shouldn’t get tired. Which is crap but people think it. Games like this are perfect evidence of what happens in a back-to-back. The Suns seemed to be in control of this one, jumping out to the early lead and leading by 12 early in the fourth. Grant Hill had been hanging with Ponce de Leon at the fountain of youth. Then the two nights of running hit them in the fourth quarter. The Jazz are too good, Deron Williams is far too good (13 points in the fourth quarter) and Mehmet Okur to hot to give the Jazz the added advantage of tired Suns legs.

The other thing in this one were the little things — Utah grabbed 19 offensive boards, or 40% of their missed shots on the night. Phoenix had 18 turnovers, 21% of their possessions on the night. That is just too many giveaways to a good team to expect to win.

Former Knicks, Warriors F David Lee announces retirement from NBA

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One of the NBA’s more under appreciated forwards has announced his retirement from the NBA.

David Lee, who spent time in his career with the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs, told the NBA world about his retirement via his Instagram page on Sunday.

Lee, 34, played last season with the Spurs. He averaged 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists for Gregg Popovich’s team.

Via Instagram:

Lee played 14 seasons in the NBA, the majority of which came with the Knicks. During his time in New York, Lee was seen as an unsung hero, nabbing rebounds and doing yeoman’s work from the power forward position.

The Knicks traded Lee to Golden State in the summer of 2010 for Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, and two second round picks. He was part of the Warriors’ 2014-15 NBA Championship before eventually being traded to Boston in 2015.

Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks

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We were all waiting for supposed “good news” about injured Philadelpia 76ers guard and No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. And it looks like we’ve got it? It’s hard to tell with this one.

On Sunday, the Sixers announced that Fultz — suffering from a sore right shoulder — would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

That’s at least some kind of timeline, which is more than we got when Fultz was originally ruled out indefinitely at the end of October.

Here’s the announcement from the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

Fultz has reportedly been working out and shooting left handed, which one can only hope is adding to his dexterity.

No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

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It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

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We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.