Warts and all, the Lakers still better than Grizzlies Sunday

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The Laker have flaws. Unless it improves, their point guard play is going to come back to haunt them. Same with their depth issues.

That night was not Sunday night against Memphis. The Lakers deficiencies were on display but could not be exploited by a Memphis team trying to find its way without Zach Randolph. The Lakers won 90-82 in another not very pretty basketball game. (We’re getting a lot of those early this season — thanks lockout!) The Lakers remain undefeated at Staples Center this season.

Things seem to be improving for the Lakers (now 6-4 on the season), they seem to be getting a grasp of what Mike Brown wants from them on offense. Kobe Bryant is getting the ball less in isolation and more in catch-and-shoot spots or in the post. They got the ball to Pau Gasol on the block because he had the mismatch (especially early against Dante Cunningham). All of that generated a lot of inside-out looks for the Lakers.

But then there were the turnovers — 27 of them. It allowed a lot of run-outs by the Grizzlies and 31 fast break points.

“A lot of our turnovers were unforced,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said postgame. “We talked to our guys and said ‘hey, you don’t have to keep making the home run play.’ And I thought we kept trying to make the home run play a few too many times.”

He’s right. The Lakers tried more lob plays that that other team from Los Angeles, but with some horrid results.

The Lakers are improving but could still use someone to better organize the offense. Derek Fisher had five turnovers and while he is the starter he is no longer the closer at the point for this team. That is Steve Blake, who also had five turnovers (but 13 points and was 3-of-6 from beyond the arc).

Maybe the Lakers should let Pau Gasol play point guard.

(After the game, when asked about his Ricky Rubio-like pass, Gasol said “he got all his moves from me.”)

The Lakers depth also was an issue. Metta World Peace played just 12 minutes. The Lakers had a unit on the floor of Blake, rookie Andrew Goudelock, World Peace, Troy Murphy and Andrew Bynum and they could not generate any offense. Memphis went on a run against that unit and cut the deficit to four early in the fourth. Brown responded with his starters and got the win.

Memphis will miss Randolph inside in every game, but particularly against the Lakers length. Memphis lived on the perimeter and when they did go inside Marc Gasol was 0-for-8 on the night.

“We definitely settled for jump shots a lot more than we usually do,” Rudy Gay said. “You know it’s hard to win like that… Every one knows (the Lakers) are not only tall, but they are the longest team in the league. It’s tough playing against them. They frustrate a lot of people.”

The one bright spot for Memphis was the play of Marreese Speights, who had 17 points and 7 rebounds, helping counter the Lakers size. He’s not exactly the most gifted athlete on the floor, but he’s a big guy who worked hard and even showed off a nice little midrange at points. He’s not Zach Randolph, but he can give them solid minutes until Z-Bo returns (then off the bench after that).

Finally, I could have sworn I saw Troy Murphy on a run out fast break. Then later put the ball on the floor and drive the lane for the dunk. Clearly the water in the media room at Staples Center was spiked.

Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

TIP-INS

Warriors: The 47 points allowed in the first quarter was their most given up in any quarter since Portland had 48 in the fourth quarter of a game on Nov. 14, 1992.

76ers: J.J. Redick scored 20 points, and Dario Saric had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Continue their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn.

76ers: Host Utah on Monday night.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.