Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kobe drops another 40

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What you missed while you tried to shame your kid into behaving….

Clippers 95, Heat 89: The game where the rims were afraid was our game of the night.

Lakers 90, Jazz 87 (OT): The Lakers might not have gotten to the overtime without Kobe Bryant dropping 40 points — but when Kobe went cold late it was Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who bailed him and the Lakers out.

Through three quarters Kobe had 29 points on 18 shots, like the night before he was shooting a lot but was efficient doing it and carrying a Laker offense where nobody else had scored in double digits. But on the second night of a back-to-back with a sore wrist he seemed to wear down and with that came bad shots late. He was 2-of-7 in the fourth quarter, including an off-balance pull-up jumper at the end of regulation that airballed. He was 1-of-5 in overtime.

The Lakers are not just the Kobe show (even though it doesn’t seem like it at times). They have skilled bigs. Gasol knocked down a key corner three in overtime. Then when Kobe missed a game-winning shot late in overtime it was Bynum who snuck in back door for a tip in that gave the Lakers the lead 88-87. Next possession Bynum blocked an Al Jefferson shot in the paint to preserve the win (Kobe free throws with less than a second left gave us the final score).

The Jazz are a tough team. They have a physical front line with Jefferson, Paul Millsap (who had a team-best 29) and Derek Favors is coming along. Raja Bell is a solid veteran in the back court (although he might have wanted to commit referee homicide after some calls in this one). They have some depth with Josh Howard and C.J. Miles. They play very well at home. They are talking playoffs in Utah, and that looks like a legit goal right now.

Mavericks 90, Celtics 85: Boston seemed to be fighting its way uphill all night, coming from behind by double digits twice to tie it 85-85 on a Paul Pierce three with: 25 left. But Dirk Nowitzki beat an aggressive Kevin Garnett off the dribble, got to the rim and drew the and-one foul from Brandon Bass and that was the ballgame. Vintage Dirk, and Dallas just executed better when it mattered most.

Nowitzki had 17, Jason Terry 18 for Dallas. Rajon Rondo led Boston with 24, the problem was the “Big 3” were 9-of-24 shooting on the night. But give credit where it is due, Dallas is winning because of defense — in the last eight games opponents have shot 39.5 percent and the Mavs are 6-2.

Knicks 85, Sixers 79: Hold off on the coronation of the Sixers in the Atlantic, the Knicks sent their own little message Wednesday. The Sixers good, but the schedule is just starting to test them — like having to play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back. The Sixers looked tired. Carmelo Anthony seemed to be in full hero mode (27 points on 24 shots, plus 9 rebounds) and Amare Stoudemire was efficient on offense with 20. The big story here is the Knicks actually played hard on defense and against a weary 76ers team — they shut them down enough to win.

Kings 98, Raptors 91: The Kings got their first win on the road, thanks to DeMarcus Cousins who had 20 points and 19 boards. The Kings pushed the tempo (99 possessions) and got 29 points from Tyrke Evans. Sacramento attacked all night, getting to the free throw line 34 times and that was really the key.

Pacers 96, Hawks 84: Part of this was matchups — Danny Granger returned for the Pacers, while Al Horford had to leave the game early after straining his shoulder trying to block a Roy Hibbert dunk attempt. (It looked bad, he could be out a little while.) The Pacers had one of their best games of the season, the kind of game that makes you think they could be a playoff threat. Granger found his shooting groove (the guy is an admitted slow starter) and had 24, plus they controlled the paint (as the highlights show).

Bulls 78, Wizards 64: Derrick Rose was out with a sprained big toe and the Bulls offense suffered because of it. John Lucas stepped up with 25 points and 8 dimes in Rose’s absence, but that’s not what won it. The Bulls defense was still good and the Wizards offense is still the Wizards offense — they shot just 31 percent for the game. After the game Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said as much — he kept Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in the game late because they were playing lock-down defense and that was going to be enough to win.

Thunder 95, Hornets 85: Young legs matter this season — Oklahoma City was playing its fifth game in six nights and got the win. The Thunder looked flat to start, the Hornets were fired up and it was 19-9 early for the Thunder. But talent wins out and the Hornets don’t have anyone like Kevin Durant — 29 points on 17 shots and in the fourth quarter played good defense on Emeka Okafor (who was 5-of-7 shooting on the night).

Spurs 101, Rockets 95: Tim Duncan and Toy Parker seemed to set the clock back for a night and they led he Spurs to the win. By the way, they have a player in rookie Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry had 22 points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the Rockets.

Nuggets 123, Nets 115: Up and down, fast paced game (97 possessions), which really played into Denver’s hands. The big difference was Denver attacked and had 18 more free throw attempts. The Nets stayed in this because they were 20-of-35 from three (20 makes is a club record). Danilo Gallinari had 22, Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer each had 19. Jordan Farmar came alive with 26 (yes, it confused us, too, but he did).

Magic 107, Trail Blazers 104: Orlando played a very good game — they had great spacing and crisp ball movement, they got the ball inside to Dwight Howard and when the ball came out it moved fast to the open man. Then they knocked down the shot — the Magic were 16-of-27 from three for the night. When you have the best center in the game and hit 59.3 percent of your threes they are nearly impossible to beat. Orlando had seven guys in double figures, led by J.J. Redick with 17, while Jameer Nelson was 7-of-7 shooting. Jamal Crawford had 24 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 23.

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.