Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lin, ‘Melo play together well


What you missed while stacking 2.5 feet of pancakes

Warriors 106, Suns 104: We have other details, but you really should just click this link to see Monta Ellis’ game winning shot.

Knicks 99, Hawks 82: It was just a second game with everyone healthy on the Knicks, but you could see an improved chemistry. Jeremy Lin had a rough first quarter trying to find the holes in the Hawks defense, but when the Knicks bench came in they led a 15-0 New York run, and from there the Knicks dominated the game (the Hawks made a 19-2 third quarter run, but the Knicks answered quickly with a 9-0 run of their own). Lin had 17 points and 9 assists as he found his groove and made plays. Steve Novak also had 17. Carmelo Anthony had 15 points but took 16 shots to get there. Baron Davis and J.R. Smith are showing some chemistry and that could make the Knicks second unit dangerous.

Thunder 119, Celtics 104: Boston hung tight for half of the first quarter, but a 23-3 run made this a blowout. Without Rajon Rondo (you can’t throw the ball at the ref young man) the Celtics stood no chance and gave up 72 points in the first half. Really, not sure Rondo would have mattered much. Boston did make a 15-4 run behind Ray Allen’s 9 fourth quarter points to cut the lead to six, but the Thunder answered with a 11-2 run of their own and that was the ballgame. Russell Westbrook had 31, Kevin Durant 28 for Oklahoma City. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led Boston with 23 a piece.

Lakers 96, Mavericks 91: When I think Dallas could be in trouble in the playoffs, it’s games like this that plant that seed in my mind. Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine boards, Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds. And Dallas had no real answer for it. They had Dirk Nowitzki (25 points) and Vince Carter (20) but they miss what Tyson Chandler brings in the paint. The Lakers are playing pretty well of late.

Raptors 103, Pistons 93: Fantastic game from DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 and showed tremendous energy (and following his lead, the Raptors played with great energy). Greg Monroe did drop 30 points in a losing effort.

Hornets 89, Cavaliers 84: Chris Kaman is just a little better at everything than you think he is — he is a good NBA center. Some team is going to trade for him. He had 21 points and 13 boards, and suddenly the Hornets are 4-2 in their last 6.

Timberwolves 100, Jazz 98: When you finish the sentence “The guy I want to take the game winning shot for Minnesota is…” the name Luke Ridnour doesn’t come up all that often. But he had the opening, drove the lane and put up an ugly floater that fell as the red light went on behind the backboard. It capped an 18-point comeback by Minnesota. Paul Millsap had 25 for Utah, Al Jefferson 18 including the sweet face-up jumper over Kevin Love with 7 seconds left to tie it up. J.J. Barea had 22 off the bench for Minnesota.

Pacers 102, Bobcats 88: The Pacers should wear those blue ABA throwbacks every game. Love those. They were the best part of this game.

Kings 115, Wizards 107: Kings had lost the first five games of and East Coast swing but found the energy to have a big fourth quarter — led by Isaiah Thomas who had 10 in the quarter — to get the win. Marcus Thornton also had a big fourth quarter and finished with 22 (as did Tyreke Evans). Jordan Crawford had 32 off the bench for the Wizards, John Wall had 21 (and is still fast end-to-end).

Bulls 110, Bucks 91: There was balance in Chicago — six Bulls were in double figures, led by Carlos Boozer with 20. Joakim Noah had the triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The Bucks got behind a little and played like a team thinking about having the weekend off.

Magic 108, Nets 91: Orlando dominated this game behind 20 points and 17 assists. This one was over early. The only hope for the Nets would have been to have Dwight Howard on their side… oh, yea.

Rockets 93, Sixers 87: This is now five losses in a row for the Sixers, who could use the All-Star break to right the ship. The Sixers did get a big tame out of Nikola Vucevic, the rookie led Philly with 18 points. This was a close game but down the stretch Kyle Lowry who twice got in the lane (going to his right) and finished. He had 13 and will be great at the All-Star Game… oh yea, he got snubbed. Luis Scola had 19 to lead r

Clippers 103, Nuggets 95: Was this game played on NBA 2K12? NBA Jam? Sure felt like it. Blake Griffin was in in “boom shakalaka” form. Kenneth Faried was catching half-court lobs from Andre Miller. Jordan Hamilton and DeAndre Jordan were throwing down monster slams. This was close the entire was and tied 91-91, but down the stretch the Clippers had Chris Paul (36 points) and Griffin (27) and the Nuggets (without Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Nene) didn’t have someone who could get the buckets they needed.


Damian Lillard’s goal for season: Win MVP

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) poses for a photograph during NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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When the PBT staff made our predictions for MVP you saw some expected names — LeBron James, James Harden — and a smart pick off some people’s radar in Kawhi Leonard. Russell Westbrook was discussed as someone with a chance.

What about Damian Lillard? You know, the hip-hop star.

Lillard told a Jay Allen of Portland area Fox Sports Radio that’s his goal.

Lillard averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists per game last season, he is unquestionably a dynamic offensive force — he has a great pull up jumper and he can get to the rim and finish. Plus, he’s just entertaining to watch.

But MVP? That’s going to take more than numbers.

Portland won 44 games last season. The MVP almost always goes to the best player on a top two or three seed, meaning a team winning around 55 games or more. For Portland to add 10 wins or so and get Lillard noticed in the MVP race is going to be about defense — Portland was bottom 10 last season in defense and they need to be at least middle of the pack this time around. Which comes back to Lillard on some level, he’s often an overmatched defender and he can lose focus on that end. He’s gotten better over the years, but Lillard is going to have to lift up the Blazers defense, not just offense, to get in the MVP discussion.

I’m skeptical (of Lillard’s chances and the Trail Blazers taking a step forward), but we all underestimated Portland last season, too.

LeBron James says he can still win MVP with reduced workload, cites Stephen Curry

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP.

But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN

“No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.”

“Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on both sides of the floor. I’ve been healthy.

Curry won 2015 MVP while playing 32.7 minutes per game, the fewest by any MVP. He played 34.2 minutes per game last season, third-fewest by an MVP – ahead of just himself and 1978 Bill Walton, who played 33.3 minutes per game.

To contrast, LeBron has set career lows the last two seasons with 36.1 and 35.6 minutes per game. So, LeBron could get a reduced workload and still play more than Curry did.

But Curry, to some degree is an anomaly. He often sat late in games with his Warriors on the right side of blowouts. The Cavs aren’t good enough regularly rest LeBron as much in those situations.

It’s not that voters care directly about minutes. But the less LeBron plays, the lower his per-game averages will be and the less Cleveland will win. Those factors matter significantly.

LeBron can overcome that. He’s darned good, and there could be a push to reward him after the last two Finals have shown he’s still better than Curry when it matters most.

Playing fewer minutes per game won’t eliminate LeBron from the MVP race, not even close. But it will – and should – hurt his case. After all, MVP should reward the player who does the most to help his team win. MVP-caliber players don’t significantly help while sitting on the bench.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder prepare for life without Kevin Durant

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Maybe life after Kevin Durant won’t be so bad for the Thunder.

After the longtime face of the franchise left for Golden State, crestfallen Oklahoma City fans were worried it was just a matter of time before the team’s co-star, Russell Westbrook, would follow suit. In a move that shocked many, Westbrook re-signed with Oklahoma City. The former scoring champion and two-time All-Star MVP’s return gives the team hope.

New faces such as shooting guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, both acquired in the deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando, might take some time to fit in. Westbrook believes the team is talented enough to succeed if it is focused and the new pieces blend with the old ones who helped the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals last season.

“Just play hard, man,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know, win or lose. The only thing I know is that as long as we play hard, we give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Westbrook could post historic numbers. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season and had 18 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. Without Durant, more of that could be on the way.

Sabonis, a rookie out of Gonzaga who played for Lithuania’s Olympic team, played with the starters throughout the preseason. Oladipo averaged 15.9 points and 4.0 assists in three years with Orlando. He joins Westbrook to form arguably the most athletic backcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Defensively, I think we can be the best defensive backcourt in the league because we can do different things with our size and using our length and our speed,” Westbrook said.

Here are some things to watch for the Thunder:

Steven Adams

The 7-footer from New Zealand was already a top-notch defender and rebounder before stepping up his offense and averaging 10.1 points during the playoffs last season. In his final two preseason games, he scored 20 points against Minnesota and 17 points against Denver. He could be a breakout star.

“I think we’ve had an opportunity these last two nights (against Minnesota and Denver) how good he is around the basket, how smart he has become and how much of a presence he is in the middle,” Westbrook said.

Enes Kanter

The natural expectation was that Ibaka’s departure would prompt coach Billy Donovan to move Kanter, who finished third in balloting for the league’s sixth-man award last season, into the starting lineup. Instead, Donovan started Sabonis throughout the preseason. Perhaps Donovan knows best – Sabonis showed he can hang with the starters, and Kanter averaged 17.8 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 61.7 percent in the preseason.


Oklahoma City’s defense could slip with Ibaka in Orlando. Sabonis has great potential, but he’s young, and NBA defense takes some time to learn. Donovan said Sabonis has caught on quickly, but there still could be a dip early because Ibaka’s level of play is difficult to replace – he was a three-time first-team All-NBA defender and a two-time blocks leader.


The Thunder added several foreign players to the roster who will add depth – Spain’s Alex Abrines, France’s Joffrey Lauvergne and Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova. Donovan said he likes the maturity foreign players add to a team. Abrines played for Spain’s national team that earned bronze medals at the Olympics. Lauvergne played for France in Rio.


Andre Roberson has shifted from the starting shooting guard to starting small forward. That means the Thunder still have Roberson’s dynamic athletic ability, defensive prowess and nose for the ball on the boards in the lineup. He was a liability on offense in the past, but he started becoming more of a factor on offense during the playoffs last season.

“I think he feels more comfortable and confident offensively,” Donovan said. “He’s put forth effort in that area. It’s just him continuing to grow offensively and trying to put him in situations where he slashes to the basket and he can cut and he can get out in transition and he can take his open corner threes.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP

Raptors’ Jared Sullinger to have foot surgery, miss “extended time”

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19:  Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics looks on from the bench against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Raptors are counting on Jared Sullinger to cover for the loss of Bismack Biyombo by crashing the boards, helping them space the floor on offense, and just being solid.

But they are going to have to get by without him for a while, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and confirmed by the team.

There is no timeline for Sullinger’s return, but it’s going to be a while. Sullinger had battled a stress reaction in his foot a year ago, this is likely an extension of that problem.

This certainly hurts the Raptors’ depth up front, but it’s also not a massive setback for a team with lofty aspirations this season. Patrick Patterson will get more minutes, which is a good thing, plus the Raptors need to play DeMarre Carroll more at the four. They can wait for Sullinger (who they signed this summer after Boston let him walk in the wake of signing Al Horford.