Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston rolls over, Miami gets two seed

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Heat 98, Hawks 90: The Heat came out playing with real energy — they wanted to win this and take care of the second seed.

Miami got help early on because Atlanta just played lazy defense in the first half. Hawks players did not fight over screens, did not get back in transition, and the Heat are too good to just let have quality looks. The result was the Heat had 62 points on 63.4 percent shooting in the first half.

But it got close late thanks Miami shooting 33 percent in the fourth and Atlanta going on a 16-2 run sparked by the Hawks bench — Larry Drew ran with the subs the entire fourth quarter. Atlanta got a gift after a frustrated Big Z threw the ball off Zaza Pachulia’s back and got ejected — Atlanta’s technical free throw tied it at 88 with less than three on the clock. But then Hawks fouled James Jones on a three to make it a four-point play. On their next possession the Hawks looked lost and got a 24 second violation. Then another Jones three and Miami was up 7 with 2:30 left the Heat basically had it wrapped up.

Miami now gets Philadelphia in the first round.

Wizard 95, Boston 94 (OT): Boston chose rest over pushing to see if they could get the two seed — the big four all sat. That meant a sloppy game where the winning team shot 40 percent. It also showed us that Boston’s bench is basically as good as the Wizards’ starters. Jordan Crawford hit the game-tying shot at the end of regulation, John Wall had 24 points and got to the line 15 times.

Boston gets New York in the first round.

Mavericks 98, Rockets 91 (OT): Dallas sleepwalked through three quarters of this than woke up in the fourth, made some nice runs and forced overtime (they might not have needed that if Jason Terry had not missed some free throws to win the game). That the Mavs needed overtime against a Houston team without Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry shows you how seriously they seemed to take most of the game.

Magic 95, Sixers 85: No Lou Williams or Andre Iguodala for Philly, and they had no way to stop the Magic inside. Orlando only shot 43.8 percent on the night but they were grabbed 19 offensive rebounds — Ryan Anderson had seven by himself. The Magic grabbed the offensive rebound on 45 percent of their missed shots, and that was the difference.

Bobcats 105, Nets 103: With the game on the line late D.J. Augustin was patient, came off a Boris Diaw pick and hit the fade-away jumper with 1.1 seconds left to seal the Bobcats win. Diaw, by the way, had 18 second half points. Not much defense played in this one but the ending was entertaining.

Cavaliers 110, Pistons 101: CLEVELAND IS NOT THE WORST! Neither team seemed to care in this one, Daniel Gibson sparked a 12-1 run at the end of the third and the result was a Cavs win. That win moved them out of having the worst record in the NBA. Congratulations Timberwolves, wear that crown with pride.

Jazz 90, Hornets 78: Utah started hot, shooting 60 percent for the first 18 minutes, including C.J. Miles taking charge early with 10 first quarter points. Utah never really backed off and won handily. New Orleans is playing poorly heading into the playoffs.

Bucks 93, Raptors 86: Stat of the night from Raptors Republic: Of the nine Raptors that played against the Bucks, only one played on opening night – DeMar DeRozan. Toronto led most of the way but a 15- fourth-quarter run sparked by Drew Gooden got the Bucks the win.

Nuggets 134, Warriors 111: Very fast pace — 102 possessions — suited Denver well as nine Nuggets scored in double digits and they shot 53.2 percent as a team. J.R. Smith had 22, Kosta Koufos had 18 points on 8 shots. This gave Denver win number 50 on the season.

Suns 135, Timberwolves 127 (OT): For a meaningless game both teams really brought some effort to this one. Not defense, nobody brought that. But there was effort. Channing Frye had 33 points and was 9-of-14 from three. The Suns went on an 8-0 run in overtime to earn the win.

Thunder 120, Kings 112: Credit the Thunder for winning what could have been a trap game after beating the Lakers Sunday. The Thunder shot 57 percent, Kevin Durant had 32 points on 16 shots and Serge Ibaka had some big blocks that sparked the Thunder win.

Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
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LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.