Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kobe passed with the game on the line

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What you missed while trying to figure out how to pay off your $44 million hospital bill….

Thunder 97, Celtics 88: Boston’s fifth loss in a row was our game of the night.

Lakers 73, Mavericks 70: The Lakers won this game — and were the better shooting team — hitting 38.2 percent of their shots. They were just 1-of-10 from three, but that one was Derek Fisher’s dramatic game winner. Which is to say this game was ugly but still entertaining right down the final seconds.

Kobe Bryant’s 40-point game streak came to an end as he shot just 7-of-22. Maybe he was just emotional over Lamar Odom’s return to Staples Center. Nah. That the Lakers struggle to score when Kobe struggles speaks to the problem with the Lakers right now — they have multiple great offensive weapons yet everything goes as Kobe does. Pau Gasol struggled (Dirk Nowitzki defended him well, as he did in the playoffs) but Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 15 rebounds. But things didn’t flow through him. A better point guard might organize and balance the offense better, something the Lakers will eventually need.

But as they have done in recent games, the Lakers won this with defense. Nowitzki had his 21 points but needed 17 shots to get there as Gasol defended him with energy (and Gasol is long enough to at least challenge him). The rest of the Mavericks combined to shoot 31.8 percent (and were just 4-of-26 from three). It wasn’t all Lakers defense, Dallas had an off night, but when the Lakers hold a team down like this they win a lot. No matter what Kobe does.

Grizzlies 102, Bulls 86: No Derrick Rose and no Richard Hamilton for the Bulls — both out injured — and their defense couldn’t bail them out. Mike Conley just dominated John Lucas III on his way to 20, Rudy Gay had 24 and Marreese Speights had 16 points plus 12 rebounds. Don’t read much into the outcome because of everyone missing, but the Grizzlies could use every win they can get.

Be warned Bulls fans, Chicago is likely to sit Rose on Tuesday as well.

Magic 102, Knicks 93: This game was close with five minutes to go, but when Dwight Howard got his fifth foul Orlando decided to protect him by playing a zone — and the Knicks offense went stagnant. Knicks players tried to shoot over the top of the zone and they just missed. Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson dropped 30 and J.J. Redick 21 as the Orlando role players stepped up. Carmelo Anthony had 33 but was 9-for-27, meanwhile the Knicks as a team were just 5-for-20 from three. Also Knicks, you have Tyson Chandler, why all the doubles on Howard?

Clippers 101, Nets 91: Los Angeles was up 18 at one point and 13 early in the fourth, but fell apart and suddenly we were tied at 81-81 with 6:46 left. Why? No Chris Paul or Mo Willaims (both out injured) to take control and settle things down. But Chauncey Billups did step up and hit the dagger three to put this out of reach.

Cavaliers 102, Bobcats 94: With the game on the line — Cavs up 1 with a minute to go — Anderson Varejao caught a bad pass with one hand and turned it into a nifty spin move and basket. Then when Byron Mullens missed on a pick-and-pop Kyrie Irving got the ball and didn’t try to slow down and eat clock, he attacked and scored on a twisting layup around Mullens. Irving, who finished with 25 points, has a fantastic left hand around the rim.

Rockets 114, Wizards 106: Houston pulled away in the third quarter as the Wizards offense did what the Wizards offense does — fall apart — and the Rockets were able to capitalize with some fast break points. Samuel Dalembert had 14 in the quarter as he outplayed the Wizards bigs. The Rockets just know how to execute and the Wizards are showboating at inappropriate times. John Wall tried to lead a comeback with 18 in the fourth quarter (and 38 overall) but it was not enough.

76ers 94, Bucks 82: Not much rocket science here — it was a grinding game and the Sixers shot the ball better and turned it over less (the Bucks turned it over on 18 percent of their possessions and that led to 16 Philly points off turnovers. Jrue Holiday had 24. Andre Iguodala 21. Andrew Bogut is back for the Bucks and he had 20.

Trail Blazers 84, Hornets 77: The Hornets packed the paint on defense and it took about a half for the Blazers to get more comfortable moving the ball and creating the shots they wanted. When they did they pulled away a little bit and held on.

Timberwolves 99, Kings 86: This was close for three quarters, but in a sign of where these teams seem to be headed the Timberwolves had another gear that the Kings couldn’t match it. Kevin Love had 33 and 11, but it was Luke Ridour’s 25. Keith Smart is in a tough spot, trying to find a way to make the Kings work mid-season, but they just seem a challenged team that once something goes wrong they don’t know how to respond.

Hawks 93, Raptors 84: Atlanta led this from the middle of the first quarter on, but the pesky Raptors hung around. Josh Smith was shooting too many jumpers but was hitting them today and had 29, Joe Johnson abused the Raptors zone defense and Jose Calderon in the third and that was basically the ballgame.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.