Corey Maggette, Pau Gasol, Matt Barnes

Game of the night: Where the Bucks didn’t want a shootout with the Lakers

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This was supposed to be strength-on-strength. Los Angeles versus Milwaukee. The League’s best offense so far (the Lakers) versus the best defense so far (the Bucks). The Lakers were scoring 116.7 points per 100 possessions, the Bucks were giving up just 96.9. Something had to give.

The Bucks gave. Not just gave, collapsed. Reverted to the fetal position. They couldn’t stop the Lakers so instead they got in a shootout with the best offense in the league. That ended about like you’d expect.

The Lakers won 117-108 putting up a crazy good 126.9 points per 100 possessions.

The Lakers did that doing what they do every game — getting smart, good looks. Simple clean shots from Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, or kick-outs to shooters. Well, all that and the Kobe show.

The Bucks could not stop it. The Lakers got t the rim, they hit 10 of 16 threes. Kobe was posting up and hitting shots on the move, Shannon Brown had 21 off the bench. All the shots were working.

Meanwhile, it was he Lakers defense that really won them the game. The Bucks stayed close bombing threes and hitting difficult shots (Drew Gooden taking deep twos is not a good offensive strategy). Still, that made for an entertaining first half.

The Lakers wasted no time shredding the Bucks vaunted defense. Well, not the Lakers so much as Kobe. From the start you could tell this was one of those games where Kobe was going to do what he wanted when he wanted.

He scored seven of Lakers’ first nine showing all the different ways you can make John Salmons look bad — first came the bucket-and-one beating Salmons down the floor on the break; then Kobe posted him for two; Then he just elevated and knocked down a jumper right over Salmons.

What made this fun early on is the Bucks couldn’t miss either — while Kobe was going Kobe, Brandon Jennings had two threes and one long two. The Bucks hit 5 of 6 early threes, and even Gooden was in on the act bombing from the outside.

The Bucks were just on fire — they shot 76.3% eFG% in the first quarter, 5-7 from three. And they still trailed by three. That’s when you knew where this was headed. When you’re hitting every shot on your wish list and still trail, it’s bad. Milwaukee didn’t want an old-fashioned shootout but they were in one and found a way to lead 59-57 at the half.

Then the Lakers started playing much better defense. The Bucks shot 38 percent in the third quarter, scored just 22 points. They had six turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Lakers just kept being the Lakers. The Bucks focused on stopping Kobe as the second half wore on and he went into facilitator mode. Shannon Brown continued to show the maturity of his game, as he knocked down key threes whenever he wanted. He had 19 in the second half. The Bucks could do nothing about it.

This was a one-off for the Bucks — their defense is better than this, but they hadn’t gone up against player movement, ball movement and shooting like this yet. There are nights when nobody is stopping the Lakers. This was one.

One other note — Andrew Bogut tweaked is bad elbow during the game and admitted that might bother him more for a little while. Bogut was under the Lakers basket and was undercut by Corey Maggette. When Bogut fell he instinctively put his arms down to break the fall. That aggravated the elbow, which Bogut said would hurt tomorrow.

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.