Kobe Bryant, Jason Maxiell

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lakers keep it simple and win. Finally.

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while thinking that a 14-year-old is a whole lot better at golf than you….

Lakers 108, Pistons 79: The Lakers had a 23-5 run in the second half of the first quarter, and that was pretty much it for this game. This looked like the Lakers we all expected this season.

What happened? Well, a lot of things, all interconnected. The Lakers really simplified what they did on offense. They pushed the ball at nearly every opportunity and tried to get easy baskets in transition. And while they only scored 11 fast break points, the speed at which they got up court allowed them to get into their offense faster and take advantage of a porous Piston defense.

Once in the half court, the Lakers really did a good job at focusing on getting their big men involved, as evidenced by their 56 points in the paint. Pau Gasol started the game as the offensive focal point scoring 8 first quarter points. Dwight Howard was a presence all game long carving out space on the block and finished with 28 points on only 14 shots. The work they did down low also created tons of room on the perimeter for the Lakers’ wings to take advantage. It’s no coincidence that Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Steve Blake were all able to shoot so well from distance (combined 8-14 from three) as they got countless spot up chances simply due to ball movement and the play of the big men drawing defensive attention.

Defensively the Lakers were also much improved. They moved on a string more than in another game this season, helping each other when the ball penetrated and then recovering back to shooters when the ball got kicked out. Howard was also tracking the ball from the back line better than he has, allowing him to block 3 shots and contest several others.

For Pistons fans… um… there was a Jonas Jerebko sighting, he led the team with 18. Aside that, burn the tape.

Before Lakers fans start to go “The Lakers have arrived, count the ringzzzzz,” remember this was one game and it was against the Pistons (who stink). But for a team that looked to be losing some confidence this is a positive step. They looked together, for longer stretches, on both sides of the ball and that is what they need to do to win games.
—Darius Soriano

Knicks 100, 76ers 84: Two impressive games in a row for the Knicks, and coincidentally Carmelo Anthony is plying the four. Or, not so coincidentally. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke this game down for PBT.

Hawks 105, Thunder 95: The good news for the Thunder is Kevin Martin showed up gunning — 29 points including 6-of-8 from three. The bad news was he hit the last of those three pointers with 4 minutes to go in the game (a shot that got the Thunder within two) and the Thunder didn’t get him a shot the rest of the way. The Thunder went away from the hottest hand in the building. The Thunder shot 35.3 percent in the fourth

The ugly news for the Thunder was their defense, which gave up 57 points in the second half. The Hawks, without Josh Smith, completely out worked the Thunder inside all night. Al Horford had 23 points and 12 boards, Lou Williams added 19 for the Hawks off the bench. The Hawks have guys who can shoot and they found space to do it Sunday.

Durant has the ball in his hands a lot more this season, playing more point forward, and he is trying to set guys up more. He’s getting assists but has not scored more than 25 in a game this season. He’s the best scorer on the planet, he needs to shoot the rock.

Raptors 105, Timberwolves 96: Some teams just have another teams number — this is 9 straight Raptors wins at home over Minnesota, 15 of the last 16 meetings total. This time it might have been the 24 Timberwolves turnovers, but this was close until the start of the fourth quarter when a 13-6 Raptors run and they never looked back. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had 22 for the Raptors (Lowry has been impressive so far this season). Andrei Kirilenko’s 17 points led the Timberwolves.

Magic 115, Suns 94: Dwight who? The Magic are 2-0.

Phoenix led most of the first half and was up by 11 midway through the third quarter, then Orlando went 37-9 run over and that was it. The Suns lived (and built their lead) by the jumper and died by it when it stopped falling. Nice win for a Magic team without Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu — J.J. Redick had 24 (non in the third quarter during the run, however), Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo each had 22.

Isaiah Thomas’ big fourth quarter carries Celtics past Hornets 108-98

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) raises his arms as he celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Thomas had 35 points as the Celtics defeated the Hornets 108-98. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Associated Press
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BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas’ 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He’s been putting up big final quarters of late – scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams had 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight – all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 1/2 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Entered averaging the second-fewest turnovers in the league at 12.1 per game. They had 11.

Celtics: G Avery Bradley returned after missing four straight games because of a strained right Achilles. He scored five points on 2-of -9 shooting. … Thomas scored a team-record 29 points in the final quarter of a victory against Miami on Dec. 30 to finish with 52.

INSPIRING WORDS

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown addressed the crowd before the game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Without notes, he quoted King in saying: “The day our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.”

NICE CATCH

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount sat courtside behind a basket and made a two-handed grab of a ball flying out of bounds.

SPORTS TRANSITION

It was the nightcap of a hockey/basketball doubleheader, and 6-foot-4 Celtics guard Marcus Smart entered TD Garden wearing a winter jacket and hat. He paused and stood seemingly unnoticed as a group of youngsters and parents – most wearing Boston Bruins colors – walked down a hall to meet some of the hockey players.

Smart smiled when a media member said, “I don’t think anyone noticed you.”

Later, 6-foot-9 Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara headed past folks walking in for the basketball game.

 

Clippers guard Chris Paul leaves game with sprained thumb, more tests coming

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The Clippers have now won seven games in a row, but if they don’t have Chris Paul in the lineup that streak is going to turn around very quickly (remember just a couple of weeks ago when he missed seven games with a hamstring strain?).

Which is why Paul leaving the game with what the team has called a sprained thumb is potentially troubling news. Paul was trying to get over the top of a Joffrey Lauvergne screen when he ran into Russell Westbrook who had pulled up to take a three, Paul’s hand hitting Westbrook’s hip and seemingly getting caught up in his shorts. Paul walked off the court and went straight to the locker room, making it seem worse than the team said it is so far.

From the press release from the Clippers:

X-rays during the game were negative, but further tests still need to be done to determine the extent of the injury, which occurred in the second quarter after Paul jammed his left hand on Russell Westbrook’s right leg.

The Clippers held on without Paul for the comfortable win over the Thunder, 120-98.

The Clippers are the four seed in the West but could fall down that ladder if Paul is out for any stretch of time. Starting Saturday The Clippers have 10-of-11 games on the road — and the one home game is the Warriors. That’s going to be a tough run of games even with Paul.

Kevin Durant scores 21, Stephen Curry 20 to help Warriors cruise past Cavs (VIDEOS)

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Pretty much everything the Warriors did Monday against the Cavaliers worked — transition buckets, pull-up threes, drive-and-dish plays, curls off screens, you name it and the Warriors got enough space to get a shot they wanted. Then they knocked them down. Which is why the Warriors won going away.

Stephen Curry had a big night with 20 points and 11 assists, which you can see highlights of above. It was a big night for Curry’s confidence: In the Cavaliers four-straight wins against the Warriors, Cleveland trapped Curry off picks, were physical, and when Curry tried to make the playground passes that worked against other teams Cavaliers’ help defenders made steals and were off in transition the other way. Monday night Curry took the pressure in stride, used his handles to create space, used his gravity to draw defenders to him, then he whipped smart passes around the floor. Curry had 10 assists and zero turnovers in the first half.

Kevin Durant benefitted from some of those passes and had 21 points on the night, and he chipped in three blocks.

 

Get out of my head: Golden State routs Cleveland in last regular season meeting before Finals

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No regular season game is going to erase the memory of blowing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead.

No January game is an accurate crystal ball into an NBA Finals matchup.

But the Warriors can put to rest the “Cleveland is in their heads” rhetoric and take a little confidence away from an absolute drubbing of the NBA Champions on national television Monday night.

Golden State caught fire midway through the first quarter and led by 15 after one, put up 78 points in the first half to lead by 29 at the break, and it all happened so fast it left Tyronn Lue’s face as the meme of the night.

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From there, the Warriors cruised in (sloppily at times, but cruised) for the 126-91 win.

“It was very important to come out and get off to a good start, but more importantly to hold on to that, to continue to keep our foot on the gas,” Draymond Green, speaking to the blown leads issue in his postgame TNT interview. “We did that the entire night, they had one little stretch there, I think it was the end of the third quarter, but other than that we kept our foot on the gas the entire time.”

Everyone in a Warriors uniform looked sharp. Klay Thompson had 26 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. Kevin Durant had 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Stephen Curry had 20 points and 11 assists. Green had a triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Conversely, for the Cavaliers LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were a combined 13-of-43 (30.2 percent shooting), with just five assists to 13 turnovers between them. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 35.2 percent overall and 9-of-34 from three (26.5 percent). Love didn’t play in the second half due to lower back soreness.

The Cavaliers looked like the team on the last night of a six-game road trip counting the minutes until they got back home, which is exactly what they were.

Neither side thinks this game portends anything going forward.

“It wasn’t about sending a message,” Green said in his interview. “At the end of the day, that’s the defending champs, we played them guys in two straight Finals, you’re not sending a message with a regular season win.”

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good for the Warriors (and is cathartic for their fans).

The only real moment of drama in the game was when Green shouldered LeBron to the ground in the second quarter and picked up a Flagrant 1 for his efforts.

Golden State started the game slow, getting good looks but shooting just 1-of-7 from three. Still, it felt like with the looks they were getting the shots would fall at some point, and they did as the Warriors hit six of their next eight from deep. Cleveland tried to match that but found no rhythm, shooting 2-of-12 from three early. With the hot shooting continuing for them, the Warriors stretched the lead up as high as 22, but the Cavaliers had Richard Jefferson come in and muck the game up, LeBron started attacking off the drive, and the Cavaliers cut the lead down to 14.

Then the Warriors got a couple of live-ball turnovers — including Curry stripping LeBron — and converted those to fast-break buckets the other way, then all that was left was Lue looking dazed. The Warriors were moving the ball and not getting sucked into isolation, racking up 26 first half assists. The Warriors also were out and running and had 34 fast break points in the first half — credit Golden State for pushing the tempo, but the Cavaliers transition defense was a horror show. And not in a cool, “Let the Right One In” kind of way, but in the “Cavs fans never want to see that again” kind of way. Dazed Lue is right there with them.

No more meetings between these teams until the Finals we all expect to see. It’s six months of these teams getting better, trying to stay healthy, and gaining confidence going into that series. Cleveland has plenty of confidence. Golden State just got a little more.