Kings, DeMarcus Cousins

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Sacramento fans come out in force

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What you missed while making your Valentines Day dinner reservations at Waffle House….

Lakers 88, Celtics 87 (OT): It felt like and old rivalry when these two got together in our game of the night.

Kings 106, Thunder 101: Kings fans used this game to remind you that they are as good as they come. The team has sucked for years, the building needs to be replaced, but if you remember the Chris Webber/cowbell era you know how great the fans in that city are. And they were out in force to remind you they love the Kings in a nationally televised game. Arena issues or no, these are not fans who deserve to lose a team.

And they got treated to a great ending. The Kings came out on an 11-2 run and while the Thunder came back the Kings hung with the top team in the West all night long (neither team ever got a double-digit lead).

Then early in the fourth it seemed the Thunder were going to run away and hide. Which is kind of what everyone expected. But this was the playoffs for the Kings — they were on national television against the best in the West and this is as good as it gets for them this year.

In the final five minutes, Sacramento outscored OKC 19-6. In the final six minutes Kevin Durant shot 1-of-5 and Russell Westbrook had three turnovers — at the end of games the Thunder go with too much isolation (and long jumpers) and too little ball movement. It ‘s something they need to work on. Tyreke Evans had 22, DeMarcus Cousins 19. Great win for the Kings.

Rockets 96, Suns 89: Depth matters a lot in a condensed NBA season and it won Houston this game — the Rockets won the bench scoring battle 57-13. Houston had seven players in double figures scoring and guys like Goran Dragic came in and dominated. But our man Brett Pollakoff pointed out what may be most important — Kevin McHale trusted his bench and went with the hot hands, Alvin Gentry did not and ran his starters big minutes (41 for Marcin Gortat, it cost them late). Let the results speak for themselves.

In case you wonder why Steve Nash is an All-Star, he had 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting plus 13 assists. Imagine what he could do with actual talent around him.

Warriors 109, Nuggets 101: The Denver Nuggets got blown out at home by Golden State, the Nuggets fifth straight loss. That should send up enough red flags to start a Les Miserables musical production. It’s not all about the Danilo Gallinari injury, it’s about this team not playing with the effort and precision they did earlier in the season. Golden State started the second half on a 23-5 run, pulled away and never looked back. Stephen Curry had 36 and was a flat out stud.

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton
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If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.

Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards

Paul George, Marcus Morris
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.

Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

Hassan Whiteside

Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.

LeBron James: Spend less time comparing, more appreciating the greats

Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Monday night, LeBron James joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to be in the top 25 all-time in assists and scoring. Somewhere this summer (maybe late last season), Stephen Curry passed LeBron James and the best player walking the face of the earth. Don’t even get started on trying to compare LeBron or Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.

No, seriously, don’t. LeBron thinks we spend to much time comparing and not enough time appreciating the great players of sport, such as comparing him to Robertson (or Magic). Here is what LeBron said to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“I think what we get caught up in, in our league too much is trying to compare greats to greats instead of just accepting and acknowledging and saying, ‘Wow, these are just great players,'” James said. “I think in the NFL when you talk about great quarterbacks, they don’t really compare great quarterbacks. They say, ‘Oh, Joe Montana is great.’ You know, ‘Tom Brady is great. Aaron Rodgers is great. Steve Young is great.’ (Terry) Bradshaw, all those great quarterbacks they never compare them as much, but when it comes to our sport we’re so eager to say, ‘Who is better, Oscar or (Michael) Jordan?’ or, ‘Jordan or LeBron or Kobe (Bryant) or these guys?’ instead of just accepting greatness.”

He’s right.

I admit I can get as sucked into this as the next person, it’s a fun barstool argument to have, but in the end it can suck the joy out of watching great players. This is not a new position for me, I was a Laker blogger back in the Kobe/Gasol era and tried to tell those fans to enjoy it while they could. Be a fan of the game has been my mantra.

No player has had to deal with this level of scrutiny like LeBron, the first NBA superstar of the social media age. LeBron is a lock Hall of Famer, he will go down as one of the greats to ever play the game, maybe the most physically gifted ever (him or Wilt), yet while he is still just 30 years old we try to rank him against MJ, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and a host of others. It’s been going on since he was 24. Probably earlier.

Can you imagine the online heat Jordan would have faced online when the Pistons rolled him and the Bulls in the playoffs three straight years, up to his age 26? But now in the mythology of Jordan those times are almost forgotten. They were dissected at the time, but not with the venom found on twitter. Not with the level of scrutiny LeBron faces.

Does Kobe suck this season? Maybe. But there are flashes of the great player and as fans we should try to savor those moments (even if we question now Byron Scott uses him). Same with Tim Duncan (who doesn’t suck). Or Kevin  Garnett. Plus there are all these great players on the rise like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns and on and on, yet the NBA world is critical first.

We all need to savor these players, these moments more.

Even if we know LeBron is not MJ, it doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t special.