Baseline to Baseline recaps: Miami gets third win in three nights

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What you missed while watching the Chipotle ad that was the best thing during the Grammys…

Knicks 90, Raptors 87: What else can you say? The legend of Lin just keeps on growing. This was our game of the night.

Heat 105, Pacers 90: Miami was playing their third game in three nights, Indiana had been off since Saturday, and yet it was Miami who came out playing with energy and owned this game from the opening tip. Absolutely owned it. LeBron James was a force early and he and Dwyane Wade combined for 19 first quarter points. The Pacers wilted under Heat defensive pressure and shot just 26 percent for the first quarter and struggled all game. It was a sad level of effort and willingness to fight back from Indiana, and eventually they were down as much as 35 (only a late 12-0 run made the score look as close as it was).

Miami swept to wins in all three of their back-to-back-to-back by a total of 53 points and looked pretty close to dominant in doing it.

Spurs 99, Pistons 95: San Antonio looked to be in complete control of this game from about the middle of the second quarter on, leading by as much as 16. Then came an early fourth quarter 14-0 run by Detroit — sparked by Ben Wallace, the 16-year vet had 8 points in the quarter — and we had a game. A serious game. A Ben Wallace actually drained a three-pointer game. The Spurs might have lost this game had it not been for Manu Ginobili’s flopping being in playoff form (his shot, however, is not). He drew a late charge on Tayshaun Prince, and you can say it was a charge if you want but I say flop all the way. Also helping out was Tony Parker, who was hot late and scored 8 in the fourth quarter, helping spark a late 11-3 Spurs run that secured the win.

Lakers 86, Hawks 78: (To borrow a Clipper Darrell chant) U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi, this game was ugly, it was ugly.

The Lakers actually went to their big men early and often in this one (without Al Horford or Jason Collins the Hawks had no answer). Andrew Bynum had 15 points and 15 boards and had the hot hand early. Pau Gasol had 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, and took over late . The Lakers took control with a 15-1 third quarter run and then shot 58 percent in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win. The Hawks shot just 34.4 percent for the night, you don’t win doing that.

Bulls 121, Kings 115: The Bulls gave Derrick Rose and their vaunted defense the night off and still won. They won because the Kings defense was worse all night long. Luol Deng played 42 minutes and had 12 of his 23 points in the third quarter as Chicago looked like they would run away and hide. The Bulls were up 19 early in the fourth. But then Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton led a comeback that made the Bulls sweat it out at the end.

Now the Kings get Linsanity on the second night of a back-to-back.

Thunder 111, Jazz 85: Utah was on its third game in three nights and it showed. The Thunder were up early after a 14-2 run and never looked back. James Harden had 22 points, Kevin Durant 21.

Wizards 124, Trail Blazers 109: Portland lost to Washington? At home? This game was about as bad as the Blazers can play. LaMarcus Aldridge went down two minutes into the game with a sprained ankle when Trevor Booker stuck his foot under Aldridge during a jump shot. X-rays were negative but Aldridge did not travel with the team to Golden State for Wednesday’s game (and this is the first of a back-to-back-to-back for Portland, so don’t expect him Thursday either). Portland played terrible defense and Nick Young (35 points) and John Wall (29) took advantage.

Grizzlies 93, Rockets 83: Kyle Lowry put up 24 on his old team but the Rockets PG did not get enough help — Kevin Martin had zero points and his back issues may be to blame. Memphis got a good game up front from Marc Gasol (18 points) and Marreese Speights. Houston made an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter and made it look like it would be close at the end but Mike Conley hit a three to restore order and that was it.

Nuggets 109, Suns 92: Steve Nash and Grant Hill got the night off on a back-to-back and that led to about what you’d expect from the Suns. Arron Afflalo had 20 points, third consecutive game he has reached at least that. The guy has found his stroke.

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”

 

Hornets’ center Cody Zeller out six weeks following knee surgery

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Charlotte just cannot get over the injury bug this season, and we found out last week it had struck again.

Now we know how severe the damage is, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by the team).

Ouch.

Zeller has been solid off the bench behind Dwight Howard this season, averaging 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in just under 20 minutes a night. He plays around the basket, 75 percent of his shots come at the rim, but his efficiency has dipped a little this season and he is shooting just 50 percent inside the restricted area.

The Hornets had to start the season without Nicolas Batum, and Michael Carter-Williams has missed time as well. On top of that, coach Steve Clifford had to take a leave of absence from the team for personal health reasons. Stephen Silas has stepped in to replace him.

Report: LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball have deal to play professionally in Lithuania

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This feels like a publicity stunt. Whatever the under/over is on how long it will last, bet the under.

That said, the two younger brothers of Lonzo Ball — LiAngelo, 18, and LaMelo, 16 — have reached a deal to play for a team in the highest level of the Lithuanian league. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony of ESPN (before the signing became official).

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are in serious discussions to sign professional basketball contracts with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, sources told ESPN.

The club plans to decide in the next 24-to-48 hours whether to finalize agreements with the two American teenagers, sources told ESPN.

If signed, the franchise has hopes that the Balls – including their father LaVar — could be a marketing boon for the fledgling franchise, sources told ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports the deal is done.

Lithuania is a hoops-mad Baltic country of an estimated 2.9 million people who has three players currently in the NBA — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total, including Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis. You might remember the Lithuanian National Team wearing Grateful Dead inspired uniforms and taking the bronze medal in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics.

This is a country that takes its basketball seriously, and the Balls are a traveling circus and reality show. The Lithuanian league doesn’t have NBA-level players, but they guys they suit up have a real feel for the game and play a disciplined style. This could be a real culture clash, the kind of thing that ends quickly and spectacularly poorly. Here is some insight into the team from FIBA’s Lithuanian hoops writer.

Don’t expect the Ball children to play much, especially not at first.

The pay at this level is reportedly north of $1,500 a month, but that could be higher if the brothers are seen as a draw. With the report of the tight financial squeeze, this is likely a gambit on the coach’s part to boost revenue (in Europe, coaches are the CEOs of the organization, much more akin to the power top college coaches have than an NBA coach).

This is a league where men play and the game is taken seriously, it has produced not only Lithuanian players but Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes played there. This team apparently does not run the (suprisingly standard in Europe) two-a-day practices on non-game days, but their practices are longer and harder than most American versions. There are a lot of quality players — former American college/D-League guys, as well as good Europeans — who would love a shot like this. Who deserve a chance like this. If the younger Ball children do not perform and do not take this seriously, it will turn on them quickly.

LiAngelo Ball had gone to UCLA to play basketball this season, but after being suspended for shoplifting in China, his father LaVar pulled him out of college, designed a “Gelo 3” signature shoe for his son from the Big Baller Brand, and started looking for a professional contract. I’m not sure LiAngelo belongs at this level. As one scout told me last summer, LiAngelo was only at UCLA because Lonzo was a top recruit and LaMelo had a lot of potential. That scout wasn’t sure LiAngelo could stick in Europe.

LaMelo is a generally highly-rated recruit with NBA potential, a guy with crazy shooting range for a high-school Junior and good handles, but scouts had a lot of questions about his defense and most of his game outside of just shooting. LaMelo put up 70 points in an AAU game, but he cherry-picked the entire time, and the sense is there is a lot of that in his game. His father LaVar pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills High School this season after a new basketball coach said he was going to push his guys to play within a system on both ends. How well LaMelo adapts to a very different culture on and off the court at his age is a big question.

Maybe this works out. Maybe the Ball children are more mature in personality and game than I think, maybe this is the financial boost that Prienu Vytautas needs and it works for them. It’s possible. I just don’t expect it.