Kobe Bryant

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.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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.
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Derek Fisher is out, but is real change coming to Knicks?

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    New York Knicks President Phil Jackson watches his team play against the Toronto Raptors as head coach Derek Fisher talks with Pablo Prigioni #9 at Madison Square Garden on October 13, 2014 in New York City. The Raptors defeated the Knicks 81-76. 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.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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My thought of the day: If a 71-year-old white-as-white-can-be guy doesn’t get or like the Super Bowl halftime show, then you’ve done it right. He’s not the future of anything. (Not that I have much use for Coldplay.) Now, on with Monday’s NBA news.

1) Derek Fisher out in New York, but does that mean real change is coming? 
Phil Jackson decided that the coach he hired with zero coaching experience whatsoever maybe couldn’t coach after all, and Monday the New York Knicks fired Derek Fisher. This was not necessarily a bad move, Fisher was a better coach this season than last — he was learning on the job — but still had a long, long way to go to be good. He’s not a great Xs and Os guy, and also had said that he shouldn’t have to motivate professional athletes — if you’re a coach who isn’t a great tactician or motivator, what exactly are you doing? Fisher was brought in to establish a culture then undercut himself with things such as the bizarre Matt Barnes incident. Him being out is not the worst thing for the Knicks.

But is the next coach going to be a real change?

Early reports have Phil Jackson sticking with his guys — Luke Walton is the guy at the top of the list, with Brian Shaw next in line, according to early reports. Both, at least, have NBA coaching experience, but Walton has only guided an already-built championship team that knew its roles, while Shaw lost the Denver locker room fast. This fits a pattern, Jackson has stacked the Knicks organization with his guys and now is saying that running the triangle remains an important part of the criteria for the next coach. That’s limiting. (There is still a debate as to how well a full-time triangle team, in the style Jackson likes to run that offense, can thrive in today’s NBA.) Someone from outside his coaching family — Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Hornacek — could provide a different view of things, a counterbalance, a new perspective that the best organizations welcome. Internal debate and differing ideas are a good thing if managed well. Golden State does that beautifully. If Jackson just hires a better version of Fisher, is that real change? Is that doing the franchise justice? Walton will have options as a coach once the Warriors’ season ends, likely in June, we’ll see if Jackson will wait that long for him. Or if he wants to go East.

2) Joe Johnson calls bank on Nets game winner. Mike Malone has Denver playing everyone tough lately (that’s how a coach builds a culture, Knicks), having beat the Bulls and Raptors recently, and on the second night of a back-to-back, it looked like they would sweep New York and topple the Nets as well. But Joe Johnson‘s hard sprint from the low block to out past the arc left Danilo Gallinari a step behind, and that gave Johnson room to drain the game winner — which owner Mikhail Prokhorov loved.

3) Bulls struggles continue, they get thumped by Hornets. Derrick Rose was a last-minute scratch for Chicago due to “general body soreness.” The rest of the team apparently felt the same way. Charlotte — a team playing with urgency as they try to climb back into the playoffs — put up 38 points in the first quarter and easily disposed of Chicago 108-91. The Bulls are now 5-12 in their last 17 games and continue to struggle on the defensive end (without Joakim Noah now) while never finding their identity on the offensive end of the court.

Chicago is now the seven seed in the West and just 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte and falling out of the playoffs completely. There are a lot of things that have gotten the Bulls to this point, but the dominoes started to fall last summer when John Paxson and Gar Forman made their move. There is still time for the Bulls to turn things around, it’s just hard to envision this group doing it.

4) Andre Drummond from three-quarter court? Sure He has Stephen Curry range. Andre Drummond is in the Dunk Contest All-Star Saturday night, but apparently he should have been in the Three Point Contest as well.

5) Allen Crabbe (or Gerald Henderson) tip-in forces OT, where Trail Blazers pull away from Grizzlies for the win. After what had been a smart, gutty game by both teams —one Marc Gasol had to leave after 11 minutes with a foot sprain —  which had the back-and-forth feel of a playoff game at times, the Portland Trail Blazers were down two with time for one last shot. Everyone in the building knew it was going to be a Damian Lillard isolation. Including Memphis. Lillard got off his shot, but it bounced off the rim — right to C.J. McCollum, who had 21 points on the night, but he missed, and then came the tip. Officially Allen Crabbe was credited with the bucket, but maybe Gerald Henderson got it. Portland didn’t care, they just wanted to get to OT, and they did.

Overtime opened with six straight McCollum points before the Grizzlies even scored, and that was the ballgame.

Vucevic leads Magic comeback for 117-110 OT win over Hawks

Nikola Vucevic
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ATLANTA (AP) — A big comeback gave the Orlando Magic their second win over the Hawks in two days and renewed belief they can stage a similar rally in their season.

Nikola Vucevic scored 25 of his 28 points after halftime, and Orlando rallied from 20 points down to beat Atlanta 117-110 in overtime on Monday night.

The Magic beat the Hawks 96-94 on Sunday on a last-second 18-footer by Vucevic. The 7-foot center was the difference again on Monday night, when he had 13 rebounds and six assists.

Thanks to a 2-12 record in January, Orlando is tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference. The wins over the Hawks provide hope for a turnaround.

“It’s big. It’s really big for us,” said Victor Oladipo.

Added Elfrid Payton, who had 20 points, “It’s definitely a step forward.”

Orlando trailed by 20 in the opening period and by 18 in the third. It took its first lead at 96-94 on Mario Hezonja‘s 3-pointer with 3:33 remaining in regulation.

Orlando scored the first six points of overtime, including a jumper by Vucevic, who also had 13 rebounds. Kyle Korver‘s 3-pointer pulled the Hawks to 112-110, but Evan Fournier answered with a 3 for the Magic.

Al Horford led Atlanta with 27 points and Paul Millsap had 22 points and 13 rebounds.

The Hawks were hot while building the big lead in the opening period, but Orlando’s defense kept playing hard.

“We got enough stops to win,” said Orlando coach Scott Skiles.

Millsap made one of two free throws to tie the score at 101 late in regulation. Millsap blocked a shot by Oladipo, leaving the Hawks with 1.2 seconds. Millsap took the inbounds pass, took a step back and sank a short jumper – but it came after the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

“We lost our focus at times,” Horford said. ” … We’ve had this problem all year where we get up and we give up leads. It’s hard to take.”

Atlanta trailed 30-19 after the first quarter of Sunday’s 96-94 loss at Orlando. One day later, the Hawks flipped the script and led 30-18 after one period. They led 71-53 late in the third.

“When you’re up in the third quarter like that, we have to find a way to be better,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “I think we’ve got to be better late in games – myself, the players, everybody.”

Vucevic scored 12 points in the third period, including the last two baskets in an 11-0 run.

 

EVEN HARRY WAS HOT

Things went so well for the Hawks in the first half that even their mascot couldn’t miss. During a timeout, Harry the Hawk hit nothing but net on a half-court shot – with his back to the basket. Harry celebrated by dabbing on his way off the court.

TIP-INS

Magic: F Tobias Harris (sprained left ankle) missed his second straight game. … Fournier had 16 points. Hezonja and Smith had 14 points each. Aaron Gordon had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Hawks: Kent Bazemore had 13 rebounds. … Tiago Splitter (right hip) missed his fifth straight game and is expected to rest through the All-Star break. … The Hawks assigned C Edy Tavares to the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League. Tavares has averaged 9.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in 10 D-League games this season.