Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jeremy Lin is king of New York

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What you missed while thinking that even though you didn’t love Madonna’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, it was better than the Black Eyed Peas doing Tron or whatever it was the year before….

76ers 95, Lakers 90: It was the Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams show, and it was our game of the night.

Knicks 99, Jazz 88: Jeremy Lin is not a great point guard (he turns the ball over too much, not great going to his left), but he attacks off the pick-and-roll like a pit bull, and the Knicks have been missing that. Badly. They look like a different team with a guy who can run Mike D’Antoni’s offense as it was designed.

There was no Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony pulled up injured midway through the first quarter, but the Knicks had Lin’s 28 including 13 in the fourth to seal the win. His ability to drive and draw defenders had Tyson Chandler throwing down lob passes from him, Steve Novak draining open threes and the entire Knicks offense humming. It looks like a new offense we haven’t seen this season in New York. Knicks fans are ready to name a park after Lin and put up a statue.

The Jazz looked like a tired team that had just flown across the country. Or gone out partying in New York like the city had won the Super Bow (not saying they did, saying they played like they did)l. Al Jefferson had 22 but needed 20 shots to get there. Utah looked a step slow and couldn’t catch up with the Lin momentum.

Thunder 111, Trail Blazers 107 (OT): The best game of the night, one of the most entertaining of the season.

There was controversy at the end of this one — Kevin Durant tied the game and sent it to overtime with a layup that LaMarcus Aldridge blocked but was called a goaltend. It wasn’t, he got it before it hit the glass. Look for yourself (although I think you could have called a foul here with his arm into Durant’s body):

(As a side note, this game featured two of the most homer announcing crews in the league. Both called that play with their hearts, but for the OKC crew not to admit it was a block moves them up the ladder to one of the worst homer crews in the league, right there with the Spurs.)

That controversy shouldn’t mar a fun game. Kevin Durant had 33 points (although he needed 33 shots to get there), with a lot of jumpers down the stretch that kept the Thunder in it. Russell Westbrook had 28 points and a key block on Nicolas Batum at the end of regulation. Aldridge was the best player on the floor with 39 points and 15 rebounds, OKC did not have an answer for him. The Thunder won this game because of their amazing athletes, but their end-of-game execution is not impressive and they are often left with tough shots in isolation, come the playoffs that is going to haunt them if it doesn’t improve.

Clippers 107, Magic 102 (OT): The Magic had their offense clicking in the first quarter — Dwight Howard was getting baskets at the rim (he had 13 in the quarter, 33 for the game) and Jason Richardson was knocking down a couple threes as Orlando shot 68 percent and raced out to a lead that reached 15.

But this was a game all about offense (the Magic had an offensive rating of 110 points per 100 possessions, the Clippers 115.4, both insanely high numbers) and that meant the Clippers were going to get back in it. Chris Paul dissected the Magic with dribble penetration that got him 29 points on the game (13 in the fourth quarter) and eight assists. The Clippers led by nine in the second half but it was Orlando’s turn to fight back. However, in the overtime Los Angeles secured the lead with a Caron Butler three off a Glen Davis turnover, then next trip down Paul hit a baseline step back rainbow over Howard — how anyone gets that shot off over D-12 is beyond me, let alone a PG. Clippers got a hard-fought win.

Bulls 108, Nets 87: I liked the Nets throwback uniforms. That’s about the only think Nets related I liked. Chicago’s defense suffocated New Jersey and this was a blowout from the first quarter on, Derrick Rose or not (he left with back spasms and is day-to-day). Deron Williams had 25 for New Jersey, Carlos Boozer 24 for the Bulls.

Wizards 111, Raptors 108 (OT): Washington did a good job pushing the pace early and that led to a healthy lead. John Wall had 11 of his 31 in the first quarter, Nick Young 10 of his 29. But midway through the fourth the Raptors starting hitting every three — Jarryd Bayless had four from deep in the quarter and 16 points and it was a ball game again. One headed to overtime — not a very pretty overtime as only one field goal made, everything else at the line. But the Wizards will take it.

Spurs 89, Grizzlies 84: Three Spurs stood out in this one. Tim Duncan continues to find himself, scoring 17 and playing some good defense on Marc Gasol, including having a key block. Kawhi Leonard was given the task of guarding Rudy Gay and held one of the game’s best forwards to 18 points on 9-of-26 shooting. Tony Parker is playing like an All-Star on both ends of the floor; he had 21 points, 7 assists and some good defensive plays as well.

Kings 100, Hornets 92: New Orleans was in charge of this one, up 18 just before the half and cruising behind its defense, holding the Kings to 33 percent shooting for the half, and Emeka Okafor, who had 11 points in the first quarter alone. But Kings’ rookie Isaiah Thomas sparked a comeback, playing with real energy and scoring 14 points and having 5 assists in the second half (he had 17 points total). That seemed to wake up DeMarcus Cousins, too, who was a beast and finished with 28 points and 19 rebounds.

Rockets 99, Denver 90: This was a tight game the whole way, the final score was actually the largest lead either team had all game. Houston took control in the fourth with a small lineup that had Kyle Lowry (20 points on the night plus he played great defense on Ty Lawson, winning that battle) and Goran Dragic in at the same time, along with Courtney Lee. Luis Scola’s face and game seemed fine, and he dropped 25. The difference in this game was the threes — the Rockets were 10-19, the Nuggets 3-22.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.