Manu Ginobili; DeMar DeRozan;

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Celtics, Spurs need OT for wins

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while out buying a $4.2 million gold Christmas tree

Spurs 111, Raptors 106 (2OT): Now this is a close game — at the end of every quarter and the first overtime this was a one-point or tied game. Toronto needs to find solace in that moral victory. The Raptors hung in there despite an off-day shooting for most of the team (36.4 percent for the game, led by Andrea Bargnani who was 2-of-19). They got a great game from Jonas Valanciunas who had a career best 22 points on 13 shots and did a respectable defensive job on Tim Duncan (who still had 26 points and 6 dimes). DeMar DeRozan had 29 and hit the shot that forced the second overtime.

But Tony Parker had 32 points, Manu Ginobili took over for a stretch in the third and the Spurs had enough when it mattered despite some big minutes for the older vets. The second overtime started with a Danny Green three, the Raptors couldn’t climb out of one more hole and Parker sealed it with a couple jumpers.

Celtics 116, Magic 110 (OT): Rajon Rondo got heat for how he extended his double-digit assist streak the other night, but he earned this one — with Boston down six inside five minutes he had four assists to Kevin Garnett, the last one a jumper that tied the game at 102-102 (Rondo now tied John Stockton for consecutive games with double-digit assists). Boston closed the OT on a 12-4 run and the Celtics got a win. Jameer Nelson had some hot streaks — this time he took over for 8 straight points at the end of the third to keep the Magic in it — and J.J. Redick had 21. Boston got really good production out of its bench and that may have been the difference.

Knicks 121, Pistons 100: New York needed an easy win to get back on track after a couple losses — and enter Detroit. The Knicks took control of the game with a 21-9 run in the first quarter and pulled away more in the second, turning this into a laugher early. Carmelo Anthony had 29, 15 in the first quarter when the Knicks took control. Steve Novak had five threes, J.R. Smith had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Rasheed Wallace added 15 points. Maybe the most interesting thing about this game is Darryl Strawberry and Philip Seymour-Hoffman sat courtside at Madison Square Garden.

Nets 98, Trail Blazers 85: This game was tied 70-70 entering the fourth quarter but Brooklyn pulled away for a pretty easy win. Portland had a few problems in this one, starting with LeMarcus Aldridge being out, but also there were the seven turnovers in the fourth, and that their bench didn’t score a point for the first three quarters (and still they were in it). Joe Johnson had 21 to lead a balanced Nets attack. Deron Williams had 15 points (but needed 13 shots) and 12 dimes.

Sixers 104, Suns 101: This was the most fun game of the day, with the two teams trading shots down the stretch — until Michael Beasley missed a layup with 2.8 seconds left that likely would have sent the game to overtime. Jrue Holiday had a monster day with 33 points (a career high) and 13 dimes as Doug Collins just kept the ball in his hands all game. Evan Turner added 16. Beasley had 21 points on just 13 shots, Marcin Gortat had 18.

Nuggets 102, Hornets 84: Denver started to take control of this one with an 11-1 run late in the first half, then owned the third quarter behind Ty Lawson’s 11 in the frame (17 overall). By the fourth quarter this one was garbage time. This is four straight wins for the streaky Nuggets. Anthony Davis is still out (4 games now) for New Orleans, who had Brian Roberts score 17 off the bench and Ryan Anderson add 16.

Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.