Baseline to Baseline recaps: Knicks love their ‘Melo iso

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What you missed while waiting for LSU to score….

76ers 96, Pacers 86: This was our game of the night, you can read about it here.

Knicks 91, Bobcats 87: Every good team has a bad team that just gives them fits. Maybe the Bobcats are that for the Knicks. Or, maybe we are overestimating the Knicks.

The Knicks played pretty good defense in this one — particularly Tyson Chandler, who controlled the paint (as the Knicks hoped he would). Sure, Charlotte isn’t a very good offensive team, but you take the small victories where you can get them with the Knicks defense.

The problem is, you get no consistent run of good play from the Knicks at both ends. New York had flashes of good offense in this game, sweet back cuts and ally-oops, movement off the ball. Even a few fast breaks.

But so much of the game — especially late when the game was on the line — the Knicks ran stagnant isolations. The game was tied at 82-82 with 2:55 left and the Knicks sets were: Carmelo Anthony wing isolation (against D.J. White) on the left; Carmelo isolation on the left; Carmelo wing isolation on the right; and finally an isolation that resulted in a missed Carmelo jumper. You get the idea. It was enough for the win, ‘Melo finds ways to score, but the Knicks offense does not impress some nights. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire combined to shoot 13-of-43 (30.2 percent). They don’t have much scoring beyond those two, they can’t both have off nights.

Raptors 97, Timberwolves 87: Um, don’t tell anyone, but Andrea Bargnani is playing really well lately. He had 31 points and 9 rebounds, and this season has seemed a lot more comfortable in the offense. He’s playing like an All-Star. The Raptors played great defense — Amir Johnson held Kevin love to 13 points on 16 shots, ending Love’s 20 point, 12 rebound streak. Dwane Casey has made a huge difference up north.

Hawks 106, Nets 101: Atlanta raced out early and, while the score looked close at the end, Atlanta was never really in danger. The Hawks were up 31-18 after a first quarter where Atlanta shot 63.6 percent and the Nets shot 29.4 percent. It was a night where Josh Smith’s jumper was falling (26 points), Jeff Teague was perfect from three (20 points) and Joe Johnson got good looks and drained them. Credit the Nets for fighting the whole way and not rolling over, but their defense is bad.

Bulls 92, Pistons 68: Detroit hung around early — it was 21-21 at the end of the first quarter — but, really, how did you think this would end? The Pistons got worn down by the Bulls defense and shot just 39.4 percent for the game. Carlos Boozer had 23, Derrick Rose 22 and the Pistons had no answers.

Hornets 94, Nuggets 81: New Orleans just kind of had its way inside against Denver, with Carl Landry scoring 21 and Chris Kaman had 20. Even on the perimeter the looks the Hornets got were good ones and they knocked them down. The Nuggets have had a couple rough defensive outings (the Spurs game) lately, just something to watch.

Salah Mejri threatened to come to Blazers locker room after Jusuf Nurkic tussle

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The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks had a game of many emotions on Saturday night at Moda Center. Of course, the game wasn’t that close — Portland led by 17 at the half and finished the game by beating Dallas, 117-108.

But as we’ve seen in the NBA recently, the propensity for NBA players to get into physical spats is high. So it was no surprise that we saw yet another scrum between NBA players on the east side of the Willamette on Saturday as Dallas’ Salah Mejri got tangled up with Jusuf Nurkic and Evan Turner.

The play began with Nurkic getting a clean block on Mejri. Because of the position of the two players, Nurkic’s arm was angled as such that after the block it came clean through to rest on Mejri’s shoulder. Mejri turned, and the whole thing became a tangle of arms and elbows.

Neither Mejri or Nurkic took kindly to that, so the two squared off. Nurkic gave Mejri an ineffectual little push, while Portland’s Evan Turner jumped in to hold Mejri back. The Mavericks center promptly flopped all the way to the ground, inexplicably grabbing his face. It was Premier League-level flopping from Mejri, just top notch stuff.

Via NBC Sports Northwest:

After the game, Turner told media that Mejri threatened to come get the Blazers.

“He’s like ‘I’ll come to the locker room!'” said Turner. “Out of a 225 lb. dude [Turner] a 275 lb. dude [Nurkic] and a 7-footer [Mejri] who hit the ground?”

Portland’s CJ McCollum didn’t seem too impressed with the threat.

“If they really want to fight, they know where to find people,” said McCollum.

Much like any arena, the visiting locker room is just down the hall from the home squad at Moda Center, so it would have been easy for Mejri to get to. Nothing happened, so it turned out as an empty threat.

Meanwhile, Turner was assessed a technical foul for the tussle — presumably for “pushing” Mejri. There was notable tension the rest of the game between Mejri, Nurkic, and the crowd at Moda Center, but nothing else of consequence happened.

LeBron James: “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs”

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Cleveland’s defense was pathetic Saturday and the Thunder routed them because of it. The Cavaliers gave up 148 points, allowed the Thunder to shoot 58 percent, and basically were little more than traffic cones for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the rest of the Thunder to dribble and pass around. The Cavaliers have lost 8-of-11 and coach Tyronn Lue’s seat is getting warm.

Can the Cavaliers even get out of the East? LeBron James wasn’t even asking that question after the Saturday loss, he wants his team to get to the conference finals first. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Playoffs? We can’t even start thinking about that, not the way we’re playing right now,” James said. “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven’t even began thinking about the postseason.”

It’s January, it’s far too early to write LeBron and the Cavaliers off — his teams have won the East for seven straight seasons in a row for a reason. Cleveland’s mid-season malaise is a thing and they snap out of it, Isaiah Thomas will find his legs and play better, but this season has shown some troubling structural flaws in the Cavaliers. Ones that could bite them in the playoffs. Ones they are active in the trade market trying to address, or at least shore up a little.

Nobody around the league is comfortable picking against a LeBron team in the East — he has been to seven straight Finals for a reason (and how impressive an achievement that is gets overlooked). But this seems to be the weakest LeBron team since he bolted Cleveland (the first time?), and a second-round matchup vs. Toronto is no gimme anymore. LeBron is right to be concerned.

Former LSU star, Trail Blazer Tim Quarterman arrested after leading police on high-speed chase

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If you missed Tim Quarterman’s cup of coffee in the NBA nobody can blame you. The 6’6″ point guard was a star at LSU who went undrafted but got a chance to earn a roster spot in Portland. He bounced between the NBA and D-League last season playing in 16 games for the Trail Blazers, but then this summer was traded to Houston for cash, and the Rockets quickly waived him. He had signed to play in China but never got there due to visa issues, he did not play a game there.

Now he has some big trouble stateside. From Tupelo, Miss., television station WTVA (hat tip to the Times-Picayune):

Master Sgt. Ray Hall with the Mississippi Highway Patrol says the incident began sometime near 10:50 p.m. when troopers attempted to stop a 2018 Dodge Ram pickup truck for traveling eastbound on Highway 278 at a high rate of speed.

Quarterman failed to stop and led officers on the pursuit… The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the pursuit ended near (a family’s) home when Quarterman intentionally rammed a Pontotoc police officer causing both vehicles to crash.

Both Quarterman and the police officer were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

This led to charges of aggravated assault and felony fleeing, according to the report.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: “We are better than them”

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Houston’s home win Saturday night against Golden State was much more important for the Rockets than the Warriors. Not in terms of the standings (Golden State is still 3.5 games up there), but about confidence — the Rockets needed to know they can beat the defending NBA champions. This game fueled their belief that they have a shot against the Warriors.

Houston big man Clint Capela was trying to say that… then took it a step too far.

Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them,” Rockets center Clint Capela told ESPN. “We’ve got to keep playing. We know that they’re going to come back if we have the lead, and we’ve just got to keep that mindset. Sometimes I feel like, in the past, we were all dragging down after mistakes. But today, we were ready. I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on defense — all the switches, the weak side — and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them.

“We are better than them.”

It goes without saying that January games are poor predictors of May playoff series. That said, I have two quick thoughts here:

• The Rockets are the team best built to have a legitimate shot at beating the Warriors. (They can score with Golden State, and they have good switchable defenders on the wing, the two things needed to have a chance.)

• I want guys to say this. I want teams going up against the Warriors to believe — that is the first step to actually doing it. You think the Cavaliers feel confident like this right now? The Rockets have the swagger and are over the intimidation factor, that’s step one.