Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston falls and fails in Detroit

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while watching the Andrew Bynum bowling gif over and over.

Lakers 119, Rockets 108: Two straight games with big point totals for the Lakers — 114 last game, 119 this one — and two wins. And that’s with Mike D’Antoni not even on the bench yet. Kobe Bryant fueled this one and Brett Pollakoff broke it down for us.

Pistons 103, Celtics 83: Well, this was ugly for Boston. On a lot of levels. Mostly that they came in against a weak team on the second night of a back-to-back and played like they wanted to be anywhere else. A little secret is that Boston’s defense hasn’t been that great this season — they were 19th in the league in points per possession before the Pistons lit them up shooting 54 percent. And scoring 44 points in the paint. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 13 boards.

Then came the fourth quarter sham where the Celtics kept Rajon Rondo on the court trying to get him to 10 assists to keep his streak alive. It felt like Wilt’s 100 point game (where his team started fouling to stop the clock and get the ball back so they could feed him). It was just ugly.

Sixers 86, Cavaliers 79: Jrue Holiday deserves the credit for this win — his defense on Kyrie Irving was fantastic all night, holding Irving to 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting, with 4 assists and 5 turnovers. Holiday was Irving’s blanket. Still the Cavs hung in until late in the game the Sixers hit five straight — two from Evan Turner (who finished with 19), two corner threes from Spencer Hawes, and that was enough. It wasn’t just Irving, Dion Waiters struggled in Philly with five points on 2-of-13 shooting and not a rebound or assist.

Nets 99, Kings 90: That would be five straight wins for the Nets, heading into a good test with the suddenly run-and-gun Lakers Tuesday. Andray Blatche was the star, dropping 29 points, 11 in the fourth quarter when they needed it. This was a two-point game early in the fourth quarter until a 13-2 Brooklyn run changed the dynamic. This was also the Kings fifth straight loss but they actually played better than in recent efforts. Maybe that was a new starting lineup, maybe a players-only meeting. Who knows? But it was a step in the right direction, led by DeMarcus Cousins’ 29 points.

Thunder 119, Warriors 109: Kevin Durant has his first ever career triple-double, Russell Westbrook dropped 30 and when that’s going on beating the Thunder is almost impossible. The Warriors made a go of it, they were getting balanced scoring (five guys in double figures) and Curry had 22. But it wasn’t enough because, well, the Thunder are just really good.

Knicks 88, Pacers 76: This is a game where the winning team shot 36.7 percent from the floor. You wouldn’t use the word pretty. The Knicks took control with a 13-3 run in the second quarter (they won the period 20-12) and that was enough. The Pacers offense without Danny Granger to create shots or as a safety valve late in the clock can just struggle. Carmelo Anthony had 26 to lead all scorers and still looks great when he gets the ball on the block.

Trail Blazers 102, Bulls 94: This game was tied up 73-73 but an 8-0 run gave Portland a lead they never let go of. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum each scored 21 points; LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 13 rebounds. Maybe the best player on the floor was Joakim Noah, who had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists. Both teams are now 5-5.

Raptors 97, Magic 86: Toronto is simply the more athletic, longer, more skilled squad and it showed in a couple runs. There was a 14-2 first quarter run sparked by DeMar DeRozan (11 points in the first quarter, 20 for the game), but to the Magic’s credit they fought back. Until the fourth quarter when a 19-4 Toronto run sealed it. Orlando shot just 26.3 percent and hit one three in the fourth. That won’t cut it. Meanwhile the Raptors bench took over — Amir Johnson had 14 in the fourth, Linas Kleiza 10. Quick shout out to former Celtic E’Twaun Moore who had 16 points and four assists.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.

Tampering is common in the NBA, but proving it is very difficult

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Want proof there is tampering in the NBA: Free agency starts on July 1 at midnight Eastern every year, and every year a number of new contracts for players with new teams are announced at 12:01 a.m. There is no way that a complicated NBA contract — even one where the two sides are both interested and will agree quickly on the price — is negotiated faster than it takes to get an In-N-Out Burger (or Five Guys burger, if you prefer the inferior).

Those deals are announced that fast because everything’s already been agreed to through back channels. Same with meetings when a major (or even mediocre) free agent starts talking to teams on July 1. Yet, the NBA rarely investigates, and even more rarely punishes a team for tampering. Why? Because it’s very difficult to prove.

The Lakers are being investigated for tampering with Paul George while he was under contract to the Indiana Pacers, an investigation reportedly started at the request of Pacers’ owner Herb Simon. Teams are not allowed to recruit or entice players under contract. The Lakers have denied any wrongdoing. Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and, with a wink, joked about what he’d tell George if they met this summer, and that ticked Simon off. The Pacers had to trade George, and because everyone around the league knows he more likely than not is a Laker next summer (long before Magic went on TV), his trade value was diminished. The Pacers got back Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him the day before free agency opened (although there may have been better offers on the table, and the choice and timing were odd). The Pacers think if there is an agreement in place between the Lakers and George that would have driven down the trade market (because he was a one-year rental, that market was already depressed).

Good luck proving tampering. Unless Magic did something stupid like text George directly, it will be almost impossible to prove.

NBA agents and front offices know how to avoid tampering using “back channels” — not unlike how governments who are public enemies still communicate. Someone, a couple of people removed from the agent/GM, can talk with someone a couple of people removed from the other side and set something up that gets brought back and agreed to. Or, an agent can have one of his other players do some of the work for him — players recruit each other all the time on social media (and off it), and the league doesn’t see that as tampering, unless specifically ordered by a GM/owner. James Harden recruited Chris PaulDraymond Green and other Warriors recruited Kevin Durant, and the league shrugged, but GM Bob Myers could not have done that (or directed the players to do that… again, good luck proving it if you think he did).

There are a few reasons it will be hard to prove the Lakers did anything. First, the Lakers’ GM Rob Pelinka is a former agent and knows how to work the system — he’s not getting caught. Look what another agent told Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer.

“Pelinka for sure knows how to tamper without getting caught,” one agent told me. “Pelinka will do whatever it takes to get players. Magic could easily have done something dumb and got caught for it, though.”

To prove tampering, Magic needs to have left a “paper trail,” which more accurately is a digital trail of texts or emails. But even that can get tricky. If Magic was texting with George’s agent Aaron Mintz that alone proves nothing, he also represents Julius Randle on the Lakers and D'Angelo Russell, who the Lakers traded a week before the George trade. It will take an email or text specifically talking about George for the Lakers to get in trouble, and Magic is smarter than that. Well, we think he is.

The bottom line is tampering is common and almost impossible to prove. Unless Magic screwed up, it will be unprovable here. Maybe the Pacers made their point, maybe Simon feels better, but it’s hard to see how this is going to be tampering.

Joakim Noah talks of “bounce back” year for himself, Knicks

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In a season of disappointments in New York, none was bigger than Joakim Noah.

There was plenty of scoffing around the league in the summer of 2016 when Phil Jackson signed the oft-injured, already declining Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract that was seen as one of the worst of a summer (and it was an ugly summer for contracts). He only played in 46 games, averaging 5.5 points on 49 percent shooting, plus 8.8 rebounds a game in those (and basically being averaged on offense and a step slow defensively). He missed time with a rotator cuff surgery and got a 20-game suspension for testing positive for Androgen (he has 13 of those games left and can’t play until Nov. 13).

Noah realizes how poorly last season went he told the “Truth Barrel’’ podcast, doesn’t think Jackson deserves all the blame, and said his goal is to make it up this season (hat tip The New York Post for the transcription).

“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson…

“I went through a lot of adversity,’’ Noah said. “You go through injuries. I lost my confidence this year. It’s about bouncing back and showing who I am through these tough times. It can really show what you’re made of.”

This is the only attitude Noah should have — look forward, get healthy, and look to right his wrongs next season.

Once he finishes his suspension, Noah likely will come off the bench behind Willy Hernangomez. (The Knicks should spend more time with Kristaps Porzingis at the five, but that’s another discussion.) Noah is going to get his chances, but nothing he has shown the past few seasons should have Knicks’ fans expecting a return to form. Noah has been an average to below-average player for a couple of seasons, he’s not moving the same way, and he’s not getting younger.

Noah can still have a positive impact on this team, he has a role to play, but it has to start with him getting back on the court.

Add Milos Teodosic to long list of stars missing EuroBasket

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The last Olympics in Rio saw a long list of NBA players sitting it out, either due to injuries, concerns about Zika virus, a serious dislike of açaí berries or just choosing to do something else with their time.

Now it looks like EuroBasket is suffering the same fate.

The latest name to come up is Milos Teodosic, who signed this summer with the Clippers, could never get healthy, and is out for Serbia. He joins a long list — Sportando put together a list of NBA players and stars who are out.

More than just one someone is missing, guys such as Ivica Zubac, Mario Hezonja, Paul Zipster, and others are out as well.

Spain, led by Pau Gasol, remain the heavy favorites to win EuroBasket 2017, with Serbia, France, and Lithuania potential contenders. There may be a lot of players missing, but there is still a lot of talent, and when guys are playing for national pride there is plenty of emotion and fire as well.