Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where we watch Pistons/Clippers so you don’t have to

1 Comment

What you missed while being blinded by Oregon’s home court this season

Timberwolves 112, Knicks 103: We talked about Kevin Love’s 31-31 night that sparked the come-from-behind win. Michael Beasley also dropped 35 in this one. He had 42 the other night. We’re far from convinced with him, but we’re watching now.

Jazz 90, Hawks 86: First Miami, then Orlando, now Atlanta — yup, you can give the Southeast division crown to Utah.

Of course, when the Jazz win it is a comeback. Utah was down 11 at the early in the fourth then came back, completing a trifecta of double-digit come behinds against the Southeast division.

It looked like Deron Williams was going to lead this comeback as he took over in the third quarter, scoring 11 in a row for the Jazz. Josh Smith answered for the Hawks 4-4 shooting plus a couple really nice assists and some key boards. All of which meant the Jazz were down 11 when Williams went to the bench at the start of the fourth quarter — then Earl Watson came in and led the charge to tie this one up. It’s that kind of year for the Jazz, Earl Watson is making big plays. The Jazz starters returned finished it.

All of which led to the quote of the day, courtesy Jerry Sloan (from John Hollinger at ESPN):

“Even when we had a little trouble to start the season,” said Sloan, “at least they stayed together, and worked themselves out of it. That’s the only way you have a chance. If you get [in] an ice pick fight out in the parking lot then you have to try to solve that problem.”

Yeah. Exactly like that.

Thunder 110, Blazers 108: Another classic from these two — sign me up for wanting them to meet in the first round of the playoffs. This one saw very little defense or good rebounding by either team, which helped make it all the more entertaining. The key in this one was the ability down the stretch of Oklahoma City’s best players to make plays — Russell Westbrook (36 points) and Kevin Durant (34) scored the final 18 points for the Thunder. For the Blazers Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez had lots of key shots along with Brandon Roy. Fernandez had a good look to win it at the end (and he had been shooting well), but missed. Which is why you want your stars shooting in the clutch, have your best players making the plays.

Bobcats 93, Wizards 85: Charlotte really dominated this game and would have run away and hid but they turned the ball over 22 times. Gerald Wallace with 25 and 14, looking like his old self.

Raptors 110, Magic 106: How does Toronto grab the offensive rebound on 30 percent of its missed shots on against Orlando? Well, because they hustled more, played with more passion. Shockingly. Nobody on either team was really in the mood to play defense (especially in the first half), Orlando was happy to settle for the jumper (they got to the line just 6 times in the first half) and Andres Bargnani was hot early, hitting 9-12 for 21 before the break.

Every team has some clunkers, this is the Magic’s.

Rockets 102, Pacers 99: How does Darren Collison have zero assists in a game? Brad Miller gets the start at center for the Rockets and drops in 23. Chase Budinger had to be carried off the court at the end of this one but it turns out just to be a sprained ankle.

Mavericks 99, Sixers 90: Dirk Nowitzki still isn’t right, shooting 5 of 15 on his bum ankle. Some team is going to make the Mavs pay for that, but the Sixers can’t. Dallas is just too deep.

Suns 103, Kings 89: Steve Nash with 28 points, 14 assists and when the game got close midway through the fourth quarter he came in and took it over. He’s still playing at an elite level, even if the Suns are not the same.

Pistons 113, Clippers 107 (OT): Blake Griffin’s 18 and 18 would be impressive if it were not for Kevin Love. His dunks certainly were. But in a battle of two bad teams desperate for a win, Detroit played better in overtime — the Clips missed 10 shots in a row in OT. Not pretty.

The time Kobe Bryant tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to the Lakers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 05:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks greets Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers after a game at American Airlines Center on November 5, 2013 in Dallas, 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

TORONTO — Kobe Bryant has been loyal to the Lakers for 20 seasons (if you ignore some “trade me” tantrums along the way). He’s also been über competitive.

Those same qualities are what he most appreciates about Dirk Nowitzki.

Kobe talked a little Dirk during his All-Star media availability Friday.

“Dirk and I have always had a great relationship because we’re both extremely competitive. Also both extremely loyal to our teams,” Bryant said.

“I’ll tell you a story about Dirk. He was up for free agency, and I knew what his response was going to be. But out of respect, everybody’s looking around at all these free agents, I felt I’d shoot you a text, if you want to come to L.A. He goes, ‘I would love to play with you, but Dallas is my home. This is my team. I’m not leaving here.’ So he and I think a lot alike in that regard.”

Nowitzki’s last couple free agencies have been mere formalities, nobody around the league thought he would leave Mark Cuban or Dallas. The only questions were money and years — in 2014 the Lakers reportedly offered the max to Nowitzki, who took three-years, $25 million from Dallas so the Mavs could rebuild their roster. It’s all part of that loyalty — and it’s worked out, Nowitzki and Cuban have a ring.

Kobe’s respect for Nowitzki was clear when Dirk nailed a game winner against the Lakers this season, Kobe just nodded his approval from the bench.

One of the best things the past couple seasons about Kobe, and especially this season with just about to retire Kobe, is that he is giving honest answers. He doesn’t care what people think. That leads to honest moments and great stories.

Watch Kristaps Porzingis drop 30 at Rising Stars Challenge (VIDEO)

1 Comment

TORONTO — Knicks’ fans were in full throat at the Air Canada Centre Friday night. Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the Rising Stars Challenge (behind Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins).

Porzingis didn’t disappoint, dropping 30 and sparking a World Team comeback against the USA that just fell just short, with the USA winning 157-154.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
Getty Images
4 Comments

TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

1 Comment

TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.