Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): The night the Grizzlies were thieves


What you missed while carving your pumpkin to look like the Death Star

Hornets 99, Spurs 90: It’s really a simple game at the end of the day — just put the ball in the bucket. The Spurs struggled mightily to do that. They missed the tough shots as the clock was winding down, they missed wide-open looks, they missed from the midrange, they missed at the rim, they just missed. It was just not their night.

Well, to be clear they missed for three quarters — they shot 31.7 percent through the first three quarters and were down 18 early in the fourth. Then they shot 59 percent for the final quarter, had a 16-3 run and made a game of it at the end. They got within three and Richard Jefferson even got a good look at a three to tie, but the Spurs were 6-26 from beyond the arc for the game so that didn’t go down.

That Spurs run, by the way, came with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on the bench.

The Spurs defense did what it does — tried to take Chris Paul out of the game and force long twos, taking away easy stuff inside. But the Hornets were hitting — they shot 53.9 percent on long twos (16 feet or more) and drained 7 of 11 from three.

Big win for the Hornets, which David West celebrated by punching Chris Paul over and over as he dribbled out the clock. In a good way. The Hornets are now 3-0 to start the season. Didn’t see that coming.

Grizzlies 109, Timberwolves 89: Memphis had 22 steals in this game. Minnesota turned the ball over on 26 percent of their possessions — when you turn it over one in four times down the court, you lose. Big.

Trail Blazers 100, Knicks 95: Early on Portland was just an efficient offense — lots of cuts off the ball, movement and attacking the mismatch on offense (and the mismatch was whomever Raymond Felton was guarding). They sprinted out to a big lead. Then they stopped doing it. Just because. The Knicks started to step up their defense, started rebounding (they had 18 offensive boards, which never should happen against the Blazers) and generally outplayed Portland for a stretch.

The Knicks would have won if Portland hadn’t reverted to form and went on a 17-3 run to close out the game and secure the win. You can thank Andre Miller for that late run and the win.

Hawks 99, Wizards 95: Washington got off to an early lead because a zone defense confused the Hawks, while Washington was hot and shot 60 percent for the first quarter. The Hawks didn’t shoot terribly well most of the game, but they battled back, then Joe Johnson took over in the fourth with 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting — because he stopped taking the long twos he was missing and started driving, hitting shorter pull ups or draining the three.

This just in: John Wall is a stud. He had 28 and was the reason Washington hung around.

Kings 107, Cavaliers 104: It’s weird to say this, but Beno Udrih is playing well so far this season. Smart, in control, had 12 points (6-9 shooting) and 11 dimes in this one. He almost looks like a guy who deserves that contract. Almost.

Fun game to watch if you don’t care about good defense, because that was missing. Really a tale of two halves, the Cavs dominated the second quarter, were up 14 at the break then the second half was just the Kings playing smarter and better.

Pacers 99, Sixers 86: Indiana started out the second half on an 18-5 run, sparked by 8 from Danny Granger, and that’s your ballgame. The Pacers were just more aggressive, they got to the line more often, got the offensive boards and just seemed to win all the hustle plays.

Bulls 101, Pistons 91: Chicago won the fourth quarter 34-9. Damn. Derrick Rose put up 39 and led the charge, looking like a stud. He has to carry that team’s offense, and it’s quite a show.

Aside that, not much to love here, just a fast-paced game (102 possessions) with a lot of missed shots from both teams.

Bucks 98, Bobcats 88: Andrew Bogut had four blocks on the night and really seemed to control the paint on defense, with the Bobcats shooting just 47.7 percent on shots near the rim. When you miss the chippies, it’s a long night.

Nuggets 107, Rockets 94: Carmelo Anthony had 24 points but needed 20 shots to get there. Al Harrington had 28 points but needed 24 shots to get there. Basically, the Nuggets were their usual, inefficient selves on offense. But, they attacked the rim and so got to the line more, they rebounded better, they were just more aggressive. Some night’s that’s enough. Houston just fouled and took bad shots rather than attack, they really don’t know who they are on offense. The fact Aaron Brooks sat a lot for foul trouble didn’t help.

Watch Stephen Curry drop 35 in final preseason game

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It’s just preseason, it matters as much public pay phones do now, but still.

The Warriors just went 6-1 in the preseason, and they capped it off with Stephen Curry dropping 35. He was hitting three, driving to the rim, hitting shots falling out-of-bounds, and all the rest of the Stephen Curry highlight reel specials.

The guy is just fun to watch play basketball.

Clippers seeking deep playoff run to erase past failures

PLAYA VISTA, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  L-R; Paul Pierce #34, Austin Rivers #25, DeAndre Jordan #6, J.J. Redick #4, head coach Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin #32, Jamal Crawford #11, Luc Mbah A Moute #12 and Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers pose for a photo during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Center on September 26, 2016 in Playa Vista, California. 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. Mandatory copyright notice.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Clippers’ regular-season record of 166-80 in Doc Rivers’ first three years as coach proves they’re one of the better teams in the NBA.

Their postseason results, however, suggest something else.

They’ve never gotten past the second round of the playoffs in pursuit of the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship.

Now, time is ticking on Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, who enter their sixth year together. Griffin and Paul will be free agents at season’s end, while J.J. Redick is also in the final year of his contract.

If the Clippers don’t at least make the Western Conference finals, speculation is rife that the team could be broken up and rebuilt.

“We have the talent, leadership, tangibles and coaches,” Griffin said, “we just have to put it together.”

The Clippers went 53-29 in the regular season and lost to Portland in the first round of the playoffs, when Paul broke his right hand and Griffin reinjured his left quadriceps tendon, forcing both to miss the last two games of the series, which the Clippers lost in six.

It was the latest in a series of playoff failures for a team whose potential has yet to be fully realized.

In 2015, the Clippers lost to Houston in seven games in the Western Conference semifinals after blowing a 3-1 lead. In 2014, they bowed out in six games to Oklahoma City in the second round.

“This is the deepest, most talented group we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Rivers said. “That’s why this year should be great.”

Los Angeles opens the season on Oct. 27 at Portland in a rematch of last season’s playoff series and opens at home against Utah three days later.

Some things to watch for this season with the Clippers:

HOW GRIFFIN GOES: After missing much of last season because of a broken hand and the quad injury, he figures to have extra motivation. Griffin averaged 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists while limited to 35 regular-season games. His hand injury was the result of a fight with a former staff member and landed him a four-game suspension and a loss of pay. Besides demonstrating greater maturity, Griffin needs to stay injury-free and boost a shooting percentage that has declined five consecutive seasons.

FIFTH STARTER: Who will join Griffin, Paul, big man Jordan and shooting guard J.J. Redick as a reliable fifth starter? The small forward options are Luc Mbah a Moute, Wesley Johnson, veteran Alan Anderson and Austin Rivers. The elder Rivers may pick one or rotate depending on the need in a particular game. Mbah a Moute started 61 games last season, Johnson shot 33 percent from 3-point range last season, and the younger Rivers can guard an opposing team’s top guard, giving Paul a chance to focus on offense.

ADDING VETERANS: Rivers, who also serves as director of basketball operations, went after veterans during the offseason to add depth. He brought in 12-year pro Dorell Wright, 11-year pros Brandon Bass and Raymond Felton, eight-year pro Marreese Speights, who left Golden State, and seven-year pro Anderson. Along with three-time sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford, they’ll comprise a talented bench. “We all understand what we’re playing for,” Crawford said. Starting the season, they all appear to have bought into the vision of Rivers, who will have to juggle minutes among veterans who might have found more playing time had they gone elsewhere.

PIERCE’S FINALE: Paul Pierce is playing his 19th and final season before retiring at season’s end. He turned 39 earlier this month and is the NBA’s only active player with 25,000-plus points, 7,000-plus rebounds and 4,500-plus assists. He and Doc Rivers won the 2008 NBA Finals together in Boston, and Rivers enjoys having him around as a veteran presence in addition to the Big Three of Griffin, Paul and Jordan. Pierce started 38 of 68 games last season and he’d like to improve his averages of 6.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists before calling it a career.

D’Antoni says Rockets’ Patrick Beverley to miss about 20 games

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets walks to the bench during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Patrick Beverley is going to have a key role with the Rockets — he is their best defending guard. And it’s not close. He can help space the floor as a three-point shooter, he can work off the ball on offense and serve as a backup playmaker, but mostly what he brings is fearless, physical defense.

Except he’s not going to bring it for a while.

Following rumors he might knee surgery comes this from Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he expects guard Pat Beverley to miss at least 20 games with a left knee injury. His absence “complicates” some roster spots.

Beverley is going to have surgery but may only miss three weeks or so, which is less than D’Antoni’s predicting, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Rockets are going to have one of the best offenses in the NBA but whether they finish fourth or seventh or out of the playoffs completely in the West will come down to a combination of health and how well they defend. This is a setback on both counts.

Expect to see more Eric Gordon, Tyler Ennis, and P.J. Hairston. Gordon has a real chance here. This is going to be an interesting year in Houston.

Jimmy Butler shrugs off idea he’s a “diva”

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler goes up for a dunk past Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.

But the drama isn’t gone yet.

On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.

“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.

“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’

Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.

What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.

Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.