Miami Heat's LeBron James is guarded by Chicago Bulls' John Lucas and Luol Deng during their NBA basketball game in Chicago

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bulls beat Heat even without that Rose guy


What you missed while waiting for Dwight Howard to change his mind again….

Bulls 106, Heat 102: This just shows the different mentalities of these two teams. No Derrick Rose, no Richard Hamilton and yet the Bulls just brought it with fantastic energy. They defended, guys like John Lucas III (24 points) and Jimmy Butler step in in their roles and the Bulls lead the whole way. Joakim Noah was everywhere.

Miami got good games from LeBron James (35 points on 25 shots) and Dwyane Wade (36 points on 26 shots) but after that nothing. They had two bench points for the entire first half. Chris Bosh had 12 points on 15 shots. Nobody else showed passion or brought it.

I’m not going to take much out of this game and apply it to the future Eastern Conference Finals between these two teams. But it does show a difference of mentality toward the regular season.

Knicks 121, Trail Blazers 79: I don’t want to rain on the Knicks parade, but this game really had nothing to do with Mike Woodson replacing Mike D’Antoni and everything to do with the Trail Blazers being this bad. They may have been the worst team in the NBA over the past two weeks, and they were on the second night of a back-to-back with trade rumors hanging over them. It was ugly. J.R. Smith had 23 to lead the Knicks.

We’ll be able to judge the Knicks better after some time for Woodson to put his stamp on this team. Just remember, when he coached the Hawks his offense was nicknamed “iso Joe” for how often they ran Joe Johnson isolations. Carmelo Anthony has to love that.

Spurs 122, Magic 111: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. San Antonio put up 63 points in the second half — Tony Parker had 16 in the fourth quarter alone — and the Spurs come from behind to win. Second night of a back-to-back for Orlando, and they may have been distracted by something.

Lakers 107, Hornets 101 (OT): Two overtime games in two nights — Kobe Bryant has played more than 100 minutes in them. But that didn’t slow him in the overtime when he had seven points then and 33 on the night. Andrew Bynum had 25 points, 18 boards. Gritty effort by the Hornets.

Pacers 111, Sixers 94: Philadelphia is a good defensive team. They were not this night. Indy shot 56.6 percent as a team and hit 7 of 17 from three (41.2 percent). Danny Granger led the way with 20 points on 13 shots.

Nets 98, Raptors 94: Do you really think anybody in the Nets organization is celebrating this win right now?

Bucks 115, Cavaliers 105: The Bucks had 38 assists on 46 baskets, they really had great ball movement and had six players in double figures scoring. We’ll see how that goes when Monta Ellis is in the lineup. The Bucks remain tied for eighth in the East with the Knicks but this win puts the two up on the Cavaliers, who are 10th.

Rockets 107, Bobcats 87: Houston led the whole way and this game went pretty much to form. Wonder what these rosters will look like 24 hours from now.

Pistons 124, Kings 112: In a game between two teams capable of mental nights off, the Pistons seemed more engaged. At least their stars did. Rodney Stuckey had 35 points, Greg Monroe had 32, 11 in the fourth quarter.

Clippers 96, Hawks 81: Atlanta did a pretty good job defensively of taking the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands and slowing Blake Griffin (at least for a half). Dare someone else to beat you. Like Mo Williams, who had 25 points. The Hawks on offense never seem to really go at the mismatches they have, they just take what they can get.

Celtics, 105 Warriors 103: Someone needs to explain to the Warriors about how to tank to improve your lottery odds — they played with great energy all night. Boston played up-tempo on the second night of a back-to-back and won. They got 24 from Kevin Garnett, who had 12 in the fourth quarter.

Suns 119, Jazz 111: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed this report: Utah put a 20-3 stretch together early that had them ahead by 13 points two minutes into the second quarter. The Suns then dropped a 34-13 run from the second quarter into the third, pushing Phoenix’s lead to eight.

Phoenix held a lead of seven heading into the fourth, and Utah came back to tie it at 91 before the Suns’ starting unit was able to regain control.

The Suns were able to shoot 56.4 percent from the field for the game, including a combined 9-of-16 from three-point range from Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Steve Nash was ridiculously efficient, finishing with 12 points on just four shots, while dishing out 16 assists. Marcin Gortat bounced back from his dismal effort against Minnesota with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting.

The Suns weren’t pleased with their defense, but were happy to get the win. They’re now tied with Utah in the standings with a record of 20-22, still three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race that’s currently shared by Houston and Dallas.


Nuggets’ Emmanuel Mudiay apologizes for verbal spat with coach

Emmanuel Mudiay, Michael Malone
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Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone was willing to get into it with just about anyone Tuesday night. He had a few words with Blake Griffin.

And he had a few words with his rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay — and Mudiay gave it right back. Then got benched. Later the rookie realized he should be a little more deferential to the guy who controls his minutes, and apologized. Malone played it down. Everything is fine in Denver (well, except for the four straight losses). Here are the quotes, via Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post.

Said Mudiay: “It’s just both of us being competitors. It probably was my fault, I could have been doing a lot more. So I kind of put the blame on myself. I’ve got nothing against Coach, I respect him. He’s a great person, and I have all the respect in the world for him.

“Me and him are both competitive. We want to win. We hate losing. We’re on a four-game losing streak, something like that. It’s just us trying to win. At the same time, it’s over with. It’s on to the next game. It’s been like that my whole life. He’s just trying to challenge me, which I accept.”

“There is frustration on our end, having lost four games in a row now,” Malone said. “Just trying to find way to get a win. Winning is a great cure-all for anybody, like it was for (the Clippers) tonight, coming in having lost three in a row. So this is a very competitive game, guys are out there working hard trying to do their best, and sometimes emotions get involved. By no means is there an issue with Emmanuel or anybody else on this team. We are together, we are unified and we’re going to continue to fight to stay together to get this thing turned around.”


These kinds of little flare-ups are a common part of the NBA season — if the Nuggets were not frustrated after losing four straight, it would be a bigger concern. That Mudiay pushed back is some fire I want to see from a rookie.

Mudiay is learning, his turnovers are down of late (although they flared up against Golden State). His shooting is still an issue, and his decision making has a ways to go, but there is progress.  Which is all you can ask of a rookie. And it helps to have a coach who will push him. (And play him in the fourth quarter — Byron Scott, we’re looking at you.)

Rockets conduct “mini training camp” to try and right ship

J.B. Bickerstaff
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One of the reasons Kevin McHale was fired and J.B. Bickerstaff hired last week was the Rockets’ schedule — it got softer, and there were a couple longish breaks (for the NBA) where he could schedule practices and install changes. It gave Bickerstaff a fighting chance for success.

One of those breaks was the past few days. Houston had three days between games after they lost to New York Sunday, Wednesday night against Memphis is the next time they take the court. Bickerstaff used the time to have a “mini training camp” and try to return the team to some basics, he told the Houston Chronicle.

“Our attitude has changed over the past week and a half,” Bickerstaff said. “We’ve taken a more serious approach in what we’re doing. Guys are more disciplined in what we’re doing and they were hungry for that. As a group, we brought them together. That was the first thing they were calling for, some more discipline, more structure and more rules.”


“It was a hard practice,” Jason Terry said. “It was attention to detail. There were consequences for not paying attention to detail. Just getting back to our roots, that’s defense first, executing on offense and making the extra pass. We got to put the work in if we want to get the results. Though we thought we were doing that before, we weren’t doing that enough, obviously. It was good to see. It felt great. Today was a day, mentally we got better.

“The next step is winning basketball games. I believe in this group. If we do the things we practiced the last two days, we were going to put ourselves in great position to win. We’ll have to get that results, but I think we’ll have that opportunity.”

We will see if that carries over Wednesday night. Memphis has been playing better of late as well; this will be a tough test.

The bigger question is can Houston’s leaders — Terry, James Harden, Dwight Howard — make sure this improved foundation carries over a week from now? Then a month from now? Bickerstaff can talk discipline all he wants, he can tweak the rotations — finally separating Harden and Ty Lawson more — and sit guys playing poorly, but if the leaders in the locker room are not the ones keeping everyone in line everything will fall apart. You think Tim Duncan would have allowed the Rockets’ mindless, sloppy start in San Antonio? (Or Tony Parker? Or David West? Or a lot of guys in that locker room?)

There is so much talent on the Houston roster it’s still hard to imagine they don’t get it together and become a playoff team in the West. But whether they are a playoff team to truly fear remains to be seen.

Frank Vogel says Paul George is best two-way player in game

Paul George, John Wall

The moniker of the “best two-way player” sounds more like something an agent made up to gain a little leverage contract negotiations. It’s a nebulous concept. It’s an intentional dig at whomever is perceived as a better player, suggesting they don’t play enough defense.

But it’s part of the NBA lexicon now, and Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel thinks he has the best two-way player in the game in the resurgent Paul George. Tuesday night George dropped 40 points on Wizards and Vogel said this after the game, via the Washington Post.

“It’s tough to quantify in words,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, he just does so much. He’s capable of going for 40, carrying the offensive load and being the best defensive player on either team. He’s a special player, and the best two-way player in the game. We’re a different team with him out there.”

Paul George’s return to an elite level of play is one of the best stories of this young NBA season — for nine straight games now he has scored at least 25 points, he has pushed the Pacers to a 9-5 record with a top 10 NBA offense and defense. Tuesday night John Wall talked about how George’s improved jumper has made him a far more dangerous, more difficult to guard player. And he’s still a lock-down defender.

But George is not the best two-way player in the game — that’s Stephen Curry. George does not have the offensive impact that Curry brings to the Warriors, plus Curry has developed into a solid NBA defender. Curry gets steals, plays smart, and is a positive on defense, plus he’s the best offensive player in the league right now.

That doesn’t make the return of Paul George any less fun, any less good for the game. It’s great to see George back. Whatever you want to call him.



Kobe Bryant “not really worried” about his shooting after 1-of-14 night


Sometimes a picture can tell the story better than words.

That’s why above you can see all of Kobe Bryant‘s shot attempts against the Warriors Tuesday, a night where he went 1-of-14 from the floor (and “facilitator Kobe” had two assists). If you want another picture, here is Kobe’s shot chart for the game.

Kobe shot chart vs. Warriors

On the season, Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall, 19.5 percent from three, and he has a career low true shooting percentage of 41.5 percent. It’s hard to watch. On a team that is supposed to be developing their young stars, Kobe took as many shots as D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle combined. Laker coach Byron Scott is good with Kobe doing whatever he wants.

But Kobe is worried about his shooting performances, right? Not so much. From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

If Kobe can figure out the Lakers’ system this season, he will be in a club of one.

I could go on a longer rant here, but the bottom line is this is just a sad spectacle to watch. And there’s a lot of season left to watch it.