Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s Bizzaro World night in NBA

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What you missed while watching the Australian Open and thinking “I need to go to vacation there”….

Wizards 105, Thunder 102: Yes, you are reading that right. The worst team in the NBA (1-12 entering the game) just beat a title contender (12-2 before this started). It gets weirder — Oklahoma City shot 48.1 percent to Washington’s 38.4 percent. And the Thunder led the majority of the second half and midway through the fourth seemed in complete control as Russell Westbrook was on his way to 36 points and Kevin Durant 33.

What happened? To start with, 21 Thunder turnovers, seven by Kevin Durant. That will always get you in trouble. So will giving up the offensive rebound on 33.9 percent of your opponents missed shot (19 offensive boards) — that is a lot of extra chances for Washington to score. Finally, Washington got to the free throw line 43 times (they attacked for a night). But mostly it was Nick Young (10 fourth quarter points) and John Wall (nine in the final quarter) who just refused to let the Thunder take the game back like everyone expected.

Even Wizards fans expected their team to fold and find a way to lose. They did not. That alone is a sign of growth.

Clippers 91, Mavericks 89: The most dramatic game of the night, on a night filled with dramatic games. This was close the entire fourth quarter but felt like a game the Clippers would win, mostly thanks to Mo Williams hot hand (he finished with 26 points). Then it wasn’t. Then suddenly it was again.

First came Jason Terry’s three to put the Mavericks ahead one with 5.2 seconds left. There are two Mavs players you want to cut off on a last second shot, Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. D’Andre Jordan showed out on Terry off a pick only to slide back over to Ian Mahinmi near the arc. Boom goes the dynamite. Looks like a Mavs win by one.

But the Clippers have 4.8 seconds left, and Chauncey Billups inbounds the ball to Blake Griffin out by the arc. There is at this point one Clipper that should be feared — Billups. Mr. Big Shot. But Jason Kidd retreats toward the hoops and off Billups, who runs behind Griffin and uses him as a screen. Game. Set. Match.

Spurs 85, Magic 83 (OT): The Spurs have their first road win of the season, but only because a J.J. Redick game-winning three left his hands just a fraction of a second too late. Well, he’s not the only reason. Tim Duncan had a good game and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker carried the Spurs in the fourth quarter with 14 points — they needed it because late in games is when this team really misses Manu Ginobili’s creativeness. Also, the Spurs held the Magic to 33 percent shooting on the night — take out Dwight Howard (24 points on 9-of-15) and Orlando shot 27.8 percent. And they were 4-21 from three (19.1 percent for a team shooting 41.1 percent coming in).

Nets 107, Warriors 100: The Nets are the last NBA team to pick up a home win — celebrate New Jersey, you guys have a winner. Well, until they leave next season. The Nets took charge of this game on an 18-4 run in the fourth quarter, sparked by Deron Williams (24 points on the night) and Anthony Morrow. MarShon Brooks finished with 22 and Kris Humphries had 18 points and 15 boards. Monta Ellis had 30, but they miss Stephen Curry.

Nuggets 108, Sixers 104 (OT): The Sixers get their first home loss of the season, in large part due to a former Sixer. Andre Miller was clearly motivated and finished with 28 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Both teams went small for long stretches and this led to an up-tempo game (103 possessions). Denver’s small lineup did a good job defensively, they switched every screen, and that took away a lot of good looks the Sixers got early and helped key the Denver win.

Celtics 96, Raptors 83: This was an unconventional Celtics win. Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 2 assists. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were a combined 5-for-17 shooting. So how did Boston win this after five straight losses? They were playing the Raptors.

Timberwolves 93, Pistons 85: The Pistons seemed in control of this one in the second quarter and early part of the third, then they decided to see if they could still do that turning the ball over a lot. Turns out they couldn’t. For the Wolves, rookie Nikola Pekovic started the third quarter over Darko Milicic, and that trend may continue for a while.

Suns 91, Knicks 88: Man, the Knicks need someone like Steve Nash to organize their offense. Next season they may have him. In the mean time they have Carmelo Anthony going 5-for-22 and Amare Stoudemire going 7-for-22. The Knicks shot 37.3 percent but still were in this late after an Iman Shumpert three. The difference was the Suns point guard was in classic form — and at 37 did not look the least like he was on a back-to-back. Nash had 26 points and 11 assists. Also, he is the perfect guy to exploit all the switching the Knicks do on defense, which creates some ugly mismatches.

Hawks 92, Trail Blazers 89: Credit goes to Josh Smith for playing good defense on LaMarcus Aldridge all night. The Hawks were just the more efficient shooting team all night long, particularly in the fourth quarter when former Hawk Jamal Crawford took over shooting everything for Portland and going 4-of-10, while the Hawks spread the ball around more and got the win.

Grizzlies 93, Hornets 87: Marc Gasol had 22 points on 14 shots. When the Grizzlies work the offense inside-out, they are hard to beat. Memphis was just a little bit better at everything than the Hornets in this one.

Kings 92, Pacers 88: The Pacers were up 16 late in the third and in control of this one, then the Kings went zone and Indiana fell apart — 8 fourth quarter points on 19 percent shooting with 9 turnovers. Francisco Garcia had 10 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t so much the Kings were good as the Pacers were just terrible for 12 minutes.

What happened to Willy Hernangomez’s minutes with Knicks?

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When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.

He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.

What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.

“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”

“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.

Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.

Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.

Patrick Beverley talks a lot of smack, taunts Lonzo Ball in opener

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LOS ANGELES — Welcome to the NBA Lonzo Ball. Guys are gunning for you.

“He’s a great talent, but he’s got to go through the tough times. I just had to set the tone,” the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley said of his physical play on Ball from the opening tip. “I told him after the game, due to all the riffraff his dad brings he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. He’s got to be ready for that, and I let him know after the game…

“(I had to) welcome his little young a** to the NBA.”

Beverley said a lot more than that.

Beverly is known as a physical defender who talks a lot and tries to get under the skin of opponents. Throw in an overhyped rookie — one who other players feel hasn’t earned his place yet, one with a Facebook reality show, one with a father who talks a lot — and you get the full Beverley treatment from the opening tip.

Maybe Snoop Dogg put it best, as he often does.

Both Lakers coach Luke Walton and team president Magic Johnson said they warned Ball what was coming, but words don’t always do justice to the reality of a guy in your grill all night.

In the second quarter, Beverley stole the ball from Ball from Ball shouted “first team!” three times while holding up his index finger — a reference to him being First Team All-Defense last season.

Thing is, it wasn’t just Beverley. When he sat Austin Rivers had the Ball defensive assignment, and on a couple of occasions Ball tried to drive past Rivers but couldn’t. All night long a Clippers team that always prioritizes getting back in transition took away the look-ahead passes that Ball was known for over the summer (he had a couple, but there were few opportunities).

Ball sat the entire fourth quarter and finished the night 1-of-6 shooting with four assists and nine rebounds. The Lakers were blown out by Beverley’s Clippers 108-92, a game the Clippers led by 30 at one point.

To his credit, Ball handled it well.

“He plays 94 feet,” Ball said of Beverley. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. He’s a good defender. I just tried to do what I can.”

“It was good for (Lonzo),” Walton said of the rough first night. “Beverley is as good as anyone, if not the best, at the point guard position of getting into other people and getting under their skin. I thought Zo kept his composure.”

Ball is going to need that composure over a long season — Beverley is right, other guys will come at him. Lonzo’s father LaVar wrote a lot of checks with his mouth this summer — he called out LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and others — that will come due on Lonzo. There are more learning experiences ahead for the rookie, especially on a young Lakers team without nearly enough shooting around him to create the space he needs for his passing to thrive.

However, hold his own this season, improve, and keep that composure and he will win over NBA players. Respect is earned in the league, and Ball is just starting that process as far as other teams are concerned.

 

Former Celtic Justin Reed passes away from cancer at age 35

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This is depressing.

Justin Reed, a second-round pick of the Celtics back in 2004, the former Ole Miss star, has passed away from cancer at the age of 35.

Angiosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels, his happened around his spine.

Reed played in 136 NBA games, both for Boston and then the Timberwolves after he was traded in 2006. He had played four years at Ole Miss and led the school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Our thoughts are with Reed’s family and friends.

NBA Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook is back to triple-double ways

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Every night in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, and that was certainly true on the first TNT Thursday night games of the season. Every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Another game, another Russell Westbrook triple-double — but this time he had two 20+ point friends to help. If all you saw was the box score, you’d think this was the perfect opening night for the Oklahoma City Thunder — they won by 21 (105-84), their defense looked dominant in stretches (allowing 17 points in the third quarter), and their stars had big nights. Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds for another triple-double, Paul George had 28, and Carmelo Anthony 22.

However, if you watched the game, you saw a very good team that had some work to do. The Thunder big three combined for 71 points, yet they were just a +8 when on the court as a trio. The Thunder halfcourt offense wasn’t impressive, there was still a lot of them playing next to each other — “you take a turn in isolation, now I go” — and not the ball switching sides into quick action that they need. It’s not all bad, these are three very good isolation players, but to make the whole more than the sum of the parts that’s the next step. But the Thunder got a lot of transition buckets, the three of them played well, and Stephen Adams was able to set a physical tone. The OKC bench is a bit of a concern, but it’s not like the Knicks could exploit that.

It was a good start for OKC fans, they got a win and their stars racked up impressive numbers. Nothing wrong with that.

For New York, Kristaps Porzingis looked good scoring 31. Beyond that… just watch some Kristaps Porzingis highlights, that’s the best we’ve got for Knicks’ fans.

2) Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley bring a dose of reality to Lonzo Ball, Lakers’ hype machine. I live in Los Angeles, and I had a Lakers’ fan friend trying to pitch to me how they were good enough to be a playoff team in the West. I just shook my head at the idea, but the Lakers and Lonzo Ball hype machine had been in overdrive all summer, and some Lakers’ fans were not just drinking the Kool-Aid, they were chugging it.

Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, and the Los Angeles Clippers woke Lakers fans up to reality Thursday night. They showed those Lakers’ fans what a playoff team in the West looks like. The Clippers cruised to a 108-92 win that wasn’t that close, the Clippers led by 30 at one point.

Griffin had 29 points and played as moved as well as we’ve seen him in a year (get to No. 3 on our list). Patrick Beverley was physical and in Lonzo Ball’s face from the opening tip, ““(I had to) welcome his little young a** to the NBA.” DeAndre Jordan had 24 rebounds, 14 points, and owned the paint. The Clippers defended while the young Lakers struggled on every front on that side — they don’t have a lot of talented defenders, their young players often don’t know where to be, and there was a real lack of effort on that end.

Griffin did a good job protecting the rim (the most active I have seen him down there in years), that was in addition to Jordan’s usual efforts in that phase of the game. Lou Williams did what he does and gave the team a dozen points off the bench. Danilo Gallinari struggled a little with his shot (3-of-11) but played hard on the defensive end. The Clippers got solid bench games from Austin Rivers and Willie Reed.

The Lakers are still a young team learning to play. Ball has to become more comfortable scoring to open up the passes he wants to make in the half court, but he was just 1-of-6 as a reluctant shooter (and admitted after the game he needs to be more aggressive). More concerning, Brandon Ingram was 3-of-15 shooting, he continues to struggle from everywhere — he was just 1-of-5 at the rim, 1-of-7 in the paint overall, and 2-of-8 outside it. As a team the Lakers shot 35.4 percent in the first half, and for the game were 11-of-42 outside the paint.

As young teams will do, the Lakers let their missed shots effect their defensive effort, and that’s what did them in.

It’s going to be a long season filled with some harsh lessons for the young Lakers. The Clippers were just happy to provide the first one.

3) If you think Blake Griffin doesn’t dunk anymore… we suggest you ask Julius Randle about that. Or, just watch this video. Maybe he doesn’t throw it down as often, but he still brings the power when he goes to the rim.