Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers

Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Lazy Sunday


What you missed while you were burning Wayne Rooney in effigy….

Lakers 121 Blazers 96: I was going to give you a great big recap of this game. I was going to do slide shows and video and show the intricacies of this matchup. I was going to give you something really enjoyable to read. And then the game was played and the Blazers were blown off the map by the Lakers. I’d love to tell you that it was just the back-to-back game for the Blazers, or a Sunday game at Staples (where the Lakers are nearly unstoppable), or that it was closer than the score. It wasn’t. Because Pau Gasol is simply dominant at this point, to a degree of unbelievable severity. 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, in 32 minutes. Ballgame. Lamar Odom has been locked in every single game of this year where he’s usually only in for 1 out of 4. The Lakers’ reserves are hitting everything from the arc, and Kobe Bryant didn’t have to do anything.

The Lakers are the best team in the league and it’s not even close.

Sixers 106 Knicks 96: A delightful little game that was back and forth and back and forth and then the Sixers just kind of won. Elton Brand was good again and Jrue Holiday finally looked like a point guard. Thaddeus Young played 16 minutes and had 2 points, 5 rebounds, but was really effective. Double-double for Evan Turner. You could argue that Toney Douglas should be starting for the Knicks at this point and that Landry Fields should be sixth man. Amar’e Stoudemire continues to struggle since preseason.

Suns 118 Hawks 114: The Hawks managed to make it all the way to the end of the game without their penchant for switching killing them. Then Al Horford got switched onto Steve Nash. Swish. Channing Frye’s in-the-block, “where did that come from” bucket was just the icing. Hawks wasted a terrific effort from Al Horford with 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal on 13-16 shooting. Interestingly, the Suns are posting Josh Childress a lot, and it’s working. That’s pretty scary with his baseline ability.

Pistons 102 Warriors 97: It’s a win streak! They’re going streaking! The Warrior were right in this, but this was one of those nights when Rip Hamilton’s got it going. And say what you want, that guy can fill it up when he’s going. Good effort for the Warriors, but size and tenacity remain issues. Still, losing because Stephen Curry can’t knock down the tying three in the dying minutes isn’t bad on the road. Rodney Stuckey bounced back after being benched two halves in two games.

Rockets 120 Wolves 94: The Minnesota Timberwolves. Good for what ails you. Kevin Martin was a gametime decision due to injury and scored 21 points on 9-13 shooting. Yup. Timberwolves.

Celtics 92 Thunder 83: Another disappointing home loss for the Thunder, and the Celtics jumped all over them early and didn’t look back. Thunder just couldn’t make the littel plays. You know, all the ones they made constantly last year. Meanwhile the Celtics will take any game, any, and make them passionately boring. That’s how good they are.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.