Chicago Bulls v Utah Jazz

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Derrick Rose bests Deron Williams in the clutch

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What you missed while playing a sad, sad song for the end of Guitar Hero

Bulls 91, Jazz 86: At the end of this one Deron Williams and Derrick Rose were putting on a clinic. Two of the best pick and roll ball handlers in the league were slicing defenses with drives, dicing them up with passes to big men. It really was a thing of beauty.

But with the game on the line Rose made the key plays, including running down Williams in transition and making a steal from behind with under a minute to go. Rose was the best player on the floor and that’s why the Bulls won. That and the 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. And the three late key turnovers by the Jazz.

Paul Millsap had spent years as Carlos Boozer’s understudy, and he came out fired up for this one. He finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds. The Jazz did a good job on Boozer, holding him to 14 points on 6 of 16 shooting, and blocking five of his shots. What really hurt the Jazz (again) was depth — they got just five points off the bench all night, and four of those came from C.J. Miles early in the fourth.

But Jazz fans did get to boo Carlos Boozer, and they took full advantage of it.

Pistons 103, Cavaliers 94: There are so, so many ways to beat the Cavaliers. The Pistons went with the “our bench is so much better than yours” system and it worked — 61 bench points for Detroit. Thing is, the Pistons actually have a pretty good bench, they usually lose because of the starters.

Cleveland actually shot 51.4 percent on the night and hit 8 of 19 threes but the 17 turnovers by the Cavs and the 17 offensive rebounds for the Pistons were the difference. We are at 26 straight losses and counting.

Magic 99, Sixers 95: Philadelphia doesn’t have anyone who could stop Dwight Howard. Not a lot of teams do, but Howard made the Sixers pay a steeper price — 30 points, 17 boards. The Sixers tried fouling him — hack-a-Howard — but he hit 14-of-19 free throws. Lou Williams hit two threes in the final minute to make the Magic sweat it out.

Wizards 100, Bucks 85: The Wizards were home where they are over .500, and the Bucks offense still sucks. Washington had six players in double figures and really got solid play out of every key guy not named Rashard Lewis.

Spurs 111, Raptors 100: This game was pretty close for three quarters, then exactly what you expected to happen, happened — DeJuan Blair took over. What, you didn’t expect 16 fourth quarter points and a team-high 28 for the game out of Blair? What if we told you he was being covered by Andrea Bargnani, does it make more sense now? Aside that, basically the Spurs started to focus on defense in the fourth (the Raptors started 5 of 18 for the quarter) and that led to a 22-4 run that was the ballgame.

Nets 103, Hornets 100 (OT): Phil Jackson may try to take credit for this win — former Laker Sasha Vujacic had 25 points, while his former teammate Jordan Farmar was a game high +21 for the Nets. Chris Paul was not at his best (9 points, 11 assists and 7 turnovers) but David West had 32 points, 15 rebounds in the loss.

Pacers 104, Bobcats 103: Here’s why this win was key — if these two teams are tied at the end of the season the Pacers now have the tie-breaker (head-to-head). With the win the Pacers are the eight seed right now, one game up on the Bobcats. Roy Hibbert had 29 points (on 19 shots) because Eduardo Najera can’t guard hm. Indiana led most of the way but 13 points from Stephen Jackson in the fourth quarter led a comeback that made this one tight.

Clippers 116, Knicks 108: Tonight the part of Mr. Clutch will be played by Randy Foye. He had 17 in the fourth quarter to help the Clips hold on. Timofey Mozgov started for the Knicks, and ha 18 points (on 9 shots), six rebounds, and threw down a lot of dunks, as if to say “see me Blake Griffin, I can dunk, too.” Actually, the entire first half seemed like a dunkfest as nobody seemed to play much interior defense. Clippers also got good play out of Ryan Gomes. You read that right.

Mavericks 102, Kings 100: You are right to complain about the call Kings fans — there is no way DeMarcus Cousins (or Tyson Chandler) should have gotten technical for pushing hard to get a free throw rebound with 48 seconds left (it was Cousin’s second tech so he was gone, but the league should rescind). Those two had gone at it hard for a few plays but a ref has to understand the time in the game and let some things go. However that was not reason the Kings lost — the Mavericks executed better and got better looks in crunch time than the Kings. Jason Terry had 26 off the bench.

Warriors 116, Nuggets 114: Terrible end of game execution. Monta Ellis — who hit what turned out to be the game winning three before — tries another from the same spot as the shot clock runs out, he misses and with two timeouts Denver’s Ty Lawson gets the ball and runs up court. Carmelo Anthony trails him b a couple steps asking for the ball but is ignored. No timeout to set up a play, no Melo, the Nuggets end up going with an 18-foot, off-balance jumper by Nene. That predictably clangs off and the Warriors get the win. They executed better in crunch time.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.

Report: No, J.R. Smith isn’t talking to Sixers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.

The latest silliness follows this logic:

This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).

The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.

The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.

So…

No. Not happening.

Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.

I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?

Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.