Miami Heat forward James watches a replay of his score with teammate Miller against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their NBA basketball game in Miami

Baseline to Baseline recaps: LeBron beats Cleveland. Yawn.


What you missed while learning to play a-ha on the accordion….

Heat 107, Cavaliers 91: As has been their pattern, this is another game where the Heat played down to the level of the competition. At least for three quarters — in the fourth the Heat cranked up the defense and that was enough to pull away and get a comfortable win.

The Heat’s offense was clicking all night as both Dwyane Wade (26 points) and LeBron James (24) were attacking and getting in the lane (it seemed like dunking practice for LeBron). But give the Cavaliers some credit — Kyrie Irving was the fourth best player on the court and Anderson Varejao may have been the fifth (Udonis Haslem had a good night as well). Antawn Jamison had 25 for Cleveland.

Timberwolves 86, Kings 84: Minnesota has a winning record. Let that sink in for a moment.

No Kevin Love for the Timberwolves (two game suspension for using Luis Scola as a doormat), but Nikola Pekovic started and filled in pretty well, knocking down 9-of-12 shots for 23 points, 10 rebounds, and a couple blocks. Sacamento kept it close because it was Jimmer time late, Fredette had 13 fourth quarter points. He and Isaiah Thomas pushed the pace and helped make this a game again — so why does Keith Smart take them out and put Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton back in for the final minute?

Tied 82-82 with a minute left, Ricky Rubio drove the lane and four defenders were in the paint watching him, which meant nobody was out with Derrick Williams at the three point line, he got the pass and drained it. But the Kings had their chance at the end. Rubio needs to develop a floater, because late he drove again (a little too early in the clock) with a chance to seal it but missed an awkward pull up. The Kings grabbed the miss and pushed it in transition, and in a scramble the ball came out to Donte Green, who got a good look at the game winning three, but clanked it off the rim. If the Kings ever have a good first quarter (they were down 15) they may win a game.

Pacers 104, Jazz 99: Indiana got this win thanks to a fantastic fourth quarter by Danny Granger, who had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final period and finished the game with 25 points. It took a late 8-0 run for the Pacers to secure the win at all. Credit to the Jazz for even making a game of this — the Pacers had gone on a 14-2 run early in the third quarter and were up 21, but the Jazz would not just roll over. Utah went on a 25-4 run (sparked in part by Josh Howard and C.J. Miles off the Jazz bench), Indy shot 0-for-10 during it, and we had a tie game in the fourth. Paul Millsap was playing like a beast again and had 18. But the Pacers finally responded with nice ball movement and a Darren Collison three and they took the lead for good. Another great game for Roy Hibbert, who finished with 17 and 10. This is four road losses in a row for the Jazz, who are becoming one of those home/road Jekyll/Hyde teams.

Suns 107, Bucks 105: There was a moment early in the second quarter when Michael Redd came in, drained 5-of-6 for a quick 10 points, that must have been like a flashback to the people in Milwaukee. This was not a game with a lot of defense played by either side, the result was six Suns in double figures scoring (Marcin Gortat led the way with 21) and on the other side Drew Gooden had 25 (on 21 shots). But in the end, the best player on the floor — Steve Nash — hit the game winner and dominated Brandon Jennings on the night.

Celtics 94, Bobcats 84: It was Paul Pierce’s night — he passed Larry Bird on Boston’s all-time scoring list, had 15 points (but needed 18 shots to get there), 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Late in the first half the Celtics were forcing the ball to him to get him to the record and against a better team it might have hurt them, but this is the worst team in the league they faced. Charlotte, to their credit, hung pretty close for three quarters but an 11-0 Celtics run early in the fourth put this one away. Kevin Garnett had 22 points, Rajon Rondo had 14 assists and zero turnovers. Derrick Brown was 10-for-10 shooting for Charlotte, but they just lack players who can impact the game.

Thunder 119, Warriors 116: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. The losing team in this game had an offensive rating of 117.2 in what was a fast-paced game with 99 possessions. Monta Ellis put up a blistering 48 points (on 29 shots), while on the other side Kevin Durant had 33 — do you think he meant to bank in the game winner? — and Russell Westbrook 31 (but nine turnovers). This came down to who make the plays at the end — Durant hit his game winner and blocked a Brandon Rush shot, while Ellis just could not knock down his good look. Some nights that’s the difference.

NBA: Warriors wins credited to Steve Kerr, Luke Walton can win awards

Luke Walton
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Later on Tuesday it will be announced that Warriors interim coach Luke Walton is the NBA Coach of the Month for November. (That’s not official yet, but seriously who else is going to get it?)

Yet Luke Walton’s record will remain 0-0 as a head coach. Those record 19 wins to start the season belong to Steve Kerr.

The league clarified its position to the media on Tuesday with a release:

…the head coach of record is credited with team wins and losses.  Steve Kerr remains the head coach of record for the Golden State Warriors and is credited with those results.  Additionally, any team head coach, interim head coach or acting head coach is eligible to be recognized with league coaching awards.  Therefore, Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton is eligible for NBA Coach of the Month.

The logic is that the systems installed in Golden State were put in place by Kerr, and while Walton has managed games he is not the overall architect of their success. Which is true. With all due to respect to what Walton has done Kerr laid the foundation for this team, Walton has managed it this season. He hasn’t crashed the car.

There still is no official timeframe for Kerr’s return from his back issues. He is around the team at the practice facility all the time, but is not coaching games or traveling with the team consistently.

This performance will be a significant step toward Walton getting job where his wins and losses will count on his permanent record soon enough.

Clippers’ Chris Paul exits game with “rib muscle strain” may miss time

Chris Paul, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, C.J. McCollum
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It happened in the third quarter, although it’s not clear exactly how. All anyone saw was Chris Paul calling a timeout to remove himself from the game (an eventual Clippers’ victory over the Trail Blazers) and grabbing his left side.

After the game, the Clippers said that Paul had suffered a “rib muscle strain.” CP3 will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, and then a timetable for his return will be set. It looks like he could miss a little time. Since the term “rib muscle strain” is intentionally vague we’re left to speculate a little: This could be an oblique muscle strain and if so they can be tricky, and it takes a couple of weeks (or more) to get back.

The Clippers might be wise to give Paul a little time away from the game; he has battled through a fractured finger and a strained groin this season. A little time off could help all of this. Paul played in all 82 regular season games for the Clippers last season, the first time he had done that in his career.

Paul is averaging 17.5 points and 8.4 assists per game, and the Clippers elite offense is 13.9 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor rather than sitting. Look at it this way, the Clippers’ most used lineup (Paul, J.J. Redick, Lance Stephenson, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) outscores opponents by 19 points per 100 possessions, but sub Austin Rivers in for Paul and they get outscored by 13.8 per 100 and their defense falls apart. (For the record, I know that they are trying different players at the three and that Luc Mbah a Moute got the chance Monday, but I was using the lineups with the most played minutes to lessen the sample size error.)

The Clippers are not the same without Chris Paul, if he is out for any stretch of time, it’s a setback for a team that had seemed to start finding it groove.

Will Kobe Bryant’s pending retirement change how Lakers use him?

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott
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This is Kobe Bryant‘s final season in the NBA; he made that clear with his announcement on Sunday. If for the Lakers organization that means they want Kobe to go out playing his way — still trying to create and make tough shots — then go right ahead. As evidenced by the reactions at Staples Center Sunday night, the fans love it.

But what should have been the Lakers’ primary goal for this season — developing young players D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance — has seemed at cross purposes with that. At least in the mind of coach Byron Scott.

So there it was in crunch time against the Pacers’ Sunday and Kobe and Nick Young were on the court while Russell watched from the bench. It gives the perception the Lakers don’t embrace the future.

Will how they use Kobe Bryant — and by extension the younger players — change now that Kobe has made it official this is his final season?

“I don’t know that I’ll change that much, as far as I want him to play,” Scott said. “I still want him to go out on a very positive note. And there’s a part of me that feels he is going to have those glimmers, having some of those games I know he’s capable of having.”

Scott’s job as coach, at least in his mind, seems to have been to make the last couple seasons of Kobe’s career comfortable. He said that Kobe has earned the right to take his tough, contested shots but has benched the players he’s tried to develop for their mistakes (and not clearly communicated to those players why they are sitting, if you ask the youngsters).

Beyond the coach, this is an organizational decision and priority.

“We have to huddle up and decide if there is going to be anything different in terms of minutes,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “It’s not something that’s going to be decided today. But since he has made it clear this will be the last season for him, it will be more enjoyable and I think people can appreciate and will appreciate what he’s accomplished, not only in our building — with loads of love — but even more so on the road.”

Kobe isn’t going to change.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Kupchak joked. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

I understand the need to let the fans see Kobe be Kobe, to let him go out on his terms (although playing him 30+ minutes a night and saying the goal is to have him standing at the end of the season is an odd mix, Scott). The Lakers are selling Kobe while they try to develop their young players.

The question of how well they are developing them remains.

One thing I would like to see is more Kobe with the second unit, and by extension less with Russell and Randle. Kobe’s going to take his shots, but if he is taking those away from Nick Young or Lou Williams, so what? Let those guys fight over the ball a little (that would be entertaining). But then rest him and let Russell and Randle and the other youth learn to work together for long stretches without any of those ball dominating players on the court. That includes letting the kids close some games, even if it’s not pretty.

This was always going to be a rough Lakers’ season, although it is uglier than the team and its fans imagined. But that’s okay if the young players are getting their minutes, being coached up, and developing. The Lakers can’t let the Kobe farewell tour get in the way of that.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert with the crazy high alley-oop finish (VIDEO)

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I love that the Jazz were going to be themselves against the Warriors — two of our three best players are big men in Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, and we are going to use them whether you go small or not. Those two have the athleticism to make that work in a way few teams can’t. The result was a close game, one ultimately won by the Warriors because Stephen Curry can do Stephen Curry things, but you had to love the way the Jazz played.

And you had to love this finish by Gobert in the fourth quarter.

This alley-oop is pretty well defended, but there’s not much a defender can do when you can lob the ball above the box on the backboard, and Gobert can just go get it and finish.