Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Friday, or what you missed while filling out your Oscars pool

Bobcats 98, Lakers 83: The Lakers are not playing well right now, they are playing without confidence in the offensive system. That said, they are not playing as poorly as Lakers fans think they are.

Before we get too far into that, lets give the Bobcats some credit. This is a good defensive team that saves some of its best efforts for the Lakers. Larry Brown breaks out that 2004 Finals defense that pushes the triangle out higher on the floor, and the Lakers just can’t adjust. On offense, Charlotte ran the pick-and-roll well and hit their midrange jumpers consistently. This was a quality win.

This was always a trap game for the Lakers — second game of a back-to-back with everyone talking about the Orlando rematch on Sunday. But right now the Lakers look like a team killing time until the playoffs. And these Lakers are just not good enough to win doing that. They need to be engaged in the game — or for at least part of the game, as they were against Denver. The Lakers are in a funk — they are lazy taking care of the ball, their bigs are missing shots and every night different players seem to take the night off.

This, however, does not mean they are not title contenders, that they are not going to turn it on. There are 19 games left until a first round playoff matchup where they will be the heavy favorites. Kobe ad Phil Jackson have been down this road before, they can get a team functioning and focused. But it has to happen pretty soon.

Cavaliers 99, Pistons 92: The only important thing out of this game is that Rodney Stuckey is okay.

The incident may have had an impact on the outcome. The Pistons had been up on a rather lazy and unfocused Cavaliers team, by 21 at one point in the first half, nine at halftime and six at the time of Stuckey’s collapse. Pistons players admitted they were the ones not focused after that. LeBron James dropped 40.

Thunder 104, Clippers 87: Here is all you need to know about Kevin Durant: I was at this game, sitting next to two advanced scouts, and at least four different times Durant would make a play — slashing to the hoop or a jumper with a man in his face — and these scouts just shook their heads in disbelief. Twice once scout turned to the other and said, “How the hell are you supposed to defend that?” When you are wowing the oft-jaded advanced scouts, you are good.

This was really about the Thunder getting focused on defense and the Clippers having no good offensive answer for that.

Celtics 96, Sixers 86: There were some great games tonight. This was not one of them. Two teams played uninspired perimeter defense, and the big difference was that the Celtics have better outside shooters than the Sixers. Well, except for Paul “1-9” Pierce. But KG is 5 of 7 from the outside. Bottom line, ugly wins are still wins.

Raptors 102, Knicks 96: Here’s one of the things you have to like about David Lee — he still cares. The Raptors were without an ill Chris Bosh and they still scored 62 of their points in the paint. When the New York media called Lee on it after the game (as if it was all his fault, he’s a 6’9″ center), he took responsibility. Nobody else on that team still seems to be taking responsibility.

Bucks 102, Wizards 74: These two play a home-and-home and the Bucks win them both by a combined 44 points. The Wizards fans were booing, and Flip Saunders should have joined in as his charges had just 10 assists all game. We’ve all seen his offense at other stops, it’s not about isolation. (Although part of the reason for the 10 assists is that somebody has to hit the shot off the pass for their to be an assist, and the Wizards shot a woeful 37.8%.) Bogut with a double-double, he has been the second best center in the East the last few weeks.

Hawks 127, Warriors 122: If Mike Bibby could have played his entire career against the Warriors he might have been talked about like MJ — he torched his favorite opponent again, this time for 23 on 8 of 10, with seven three pointers. Al Horford had 25 and a big game inside for Atlanta because every decent center has a big game inside against the Warriors. At least Steph Curry is still fun to watch for Golden State, they’d kill to have that in New York right now.

Magic 97, Nets 87: The Magic acted like they cared for a quarter, and jumped out to 32-18 lead (Matt Barnes had 14 of those), then started thinking about the Lakers showdown Sunday and coasted. Against the Nets that’s still enough to get them a win.

Mavericks 108, Kings 100: Brendan Haywood hurt his back on the opening tip (it had been bothering him some before) and played just seven minutes. Rick Carlisle joined him in the locker room after getting tossed arguing for Dirk to get some calls. Doesn’t matter when you are as hot as Dallas. Key stat: The Mavericks won the turnover battle handily, giving it up eight time but having 10 steals and forcing the Kings into 17 turnovers.

Nuggets 122, Pacers 114: Denver is banged up and did not play very well. Fortunately for them, they played the Pacers.

Spurs 102, Hornets 91: Darren Collison continues to be the man — 32 points on 14 of 19 shooting.  But the Spurs played a very good and balanced  offensive game — seven players in double figures — and they get the win because they are the better team.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

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.