Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks

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

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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.

NBA: Warriors wins credited to Steve Kerr, Luke Walton can win awards

Luke Walton
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Later on Tuesday it will be announced that Warriors interim coach Luke Walton is the NBA Coach of the Month for November. (That’s not official yet, but seriously who else is going to get it?)

Yet Luke Walton’s record will remain 0-0 as a head coach. Those record 19 wins to start the season belong to Steve Kerr.

The league clarified its position to the media on Tuesday with a release:

…the head coach of record is credited with team wins and losses.  Steve Kerr remains the head coach of record for the Golden State Warriors and is credited with those results.  Additionally, any team head coach, interim head coach or acting head coach is eligible to be recognized with league coaching awards.  Therefore, Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton is eligible for NBA Coach of the Month.

The logic is that the systems installed in Golden State were put in place by Kerr, and while Walton has managed games he is not the overall architect of their success. Which is true. With all due to respect to what Walton has done Kerr laid the foundation for this team, Walton has managed it this season. He hasn’t crashed the car.

There still is no official timeframe for Kerr’s return from his back issues. He is around the team at the practice facility all the time, but is not coaching games or traveling with the team consistently.

This performance will be a significant step toward Walton getting job where his wins and losses will count on his permanent record soon enough.

Clippers’ Chris Paul exits game with “rib muscle strain” may miss time

Chris Paul, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, C.J. McCollum
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It happened in the third quarter, although it’s not clear exactly how. All anyone saw was Chris Paul calling a timeout to remove himself from the game (an eventual Clippers’ victory over the Trail Blazers) and grabbing his left side.

After the game, the Clippers said that Paul had suffered a “rib muscle strain.” CP3 will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, and then a timetable for his return will be set. It looks like he could miss a little time. Since the term “rib muscle strain” is intentionally vague we’re left to speculate a little: This could be an oblique muscle strain and if so they can be tricky, and it takes a couple of weeks (or more) to get back.

The Clippers might be wise to give Paul a little time away from the game; he has battled through a fractured finger and a strained groin this season. A little time off could help all of this. Paul played in all 82 regular season games for the Clippers last season, the first time he had done that in his career.

Paul is averaging 17.5 points and 8.4 assists per game, and the Clippers elite offense is 13.9 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor rather than sitting. Look at it this way, the Clippers’ most used lineup (Paul, J.J. Redick, Lance Stephenson, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) outscores opponents by 19 points per 100 possessions, but sub Austin Rivers in for Paul and they get outscored by 13.8 per 100 and their defense falls apart. (For the record, I know that they are trying different players at the three and that Luc Mbah a Moute got the chance Monday, but I was using the lineups with the most played minutes to lessen the sample size error.)

The Clippers are not the same without Chris Paul, if he is out for any stretch of time, it’s a setback for a team that had seemed to start finding it groove.

Will Kobe Bryant’s pending retirement change how Lakers use him?

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott
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This is Kobe Bryant‘s final season in the NBA; he made that clear with his announcement on Sunday. If for the Lakers organization that means they want Kobe to go out playing his way — still trying to create and make tough shots — then go right ahead. As evidenced by the reactions at Staples Center Sunday night, the fans love it.

But what should have been the Lakers’ primary goal for this season — developing young players D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance — has seemed at cross purposes with that. At least in the mind of coach Byron Scott.

So there it was in crunch time against the Pacers’ Sunday and Kobe and Nick Young were on the court while Russell watched from the bench. It gives the perception the Lakers don’t embrace the future.

Will how they use Kobe Bryant — and by extension the younger players — change now that Kobe has made it official this is his final season?

“I don’t know that I’ll change that much, as far as I want him to play,” Scott said. “I still want him to go out on a very positive note. And there’s a part of me that feels he is going to have those glimmers, having some of those games I know he’s capable of having.”

Scott’s job as coach, at least in his mind, seems to have been to make the last couple seasons of Kobe’s career comfortable. He said that Kobe has earned the right to take his tough, contested shots but has benched the players he’s tried to develop for their mistakes (and not clearly communicated to those players why they are sitting, if you ask the youngsters).

Beyond the coach, this is an organizational decision and priority.

“We have to huddle up and decide if there is going to be anything different in terms of minutes,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “It’s not something that’s going to be decided today. But since he has made it clear this will be the last season for him, it will be more enjoyable and I think people can appreciate and will appreciate what he’s accomplished, not only in our building — with loads of love — but even more so on the road.”

Kobe isn’t going to change.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Kupchak joked. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

I understand the need to let the fans see Kobe be Kobe, to let him go out on his terms (although playing him 30+ minutes a night and saying the goal is to have him standing at the end of the season is an odd mix, Scott). The Lakers are selling Kobe while they try to develop their young players.

The question of how well they are developing them remains.

One thing I would like to see is more Kobe with the second unit, and by extension less with Russell and Randle. Kobe’s going to take his shots, but if he is taking those away from Nick Young or Lou Williams, so what? Let those guys fight over the ball a little (that would be entertaining). But then rest him and let Russell and Randle and the other youth learn to work together for long stretches without any of those ball dominating players on the court. That includes letting the kids close some games, even if it’s not pretty.

This was always going to be a rough Lakers’ season, although it is uglier than the team and its fans imagined. But that’s okay if the young players are getting their minutes, being coached up, and developing. The Lakers can’t let the Kobe farewell tour get in the way of that.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert with the crazy high alley-oop finish (VIDEO)

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I love that the Jazz were going to be themselves against the Warriors — two of our three best players are big men in Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, and we are going to use them whether you go small or not. Those two have the athleticism to make that work in a way few teams can’t. The result was a close game, one ultimately won by the Warriors because Stephen Curry can do Stephen Curry things, but you had to love the way the Jazz played.

And you had to love this finish by Gobert in the fourth quarter.

This alley-oop is pretty well defended, but there’s not much a defender can do when you can lob the ball above the box on the backboard, and Gobert can just go get it and finish.