Denver Nuggets' Iguodala is ejected during their NBA basketball game against Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jazz, Bucks make it night of the comebacks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking there are some really screwed up people in Germany….

Nets 96, Knicks 89 (OT): It certainly wasn’t the best-played, prettiest game of the young season, but it was the most intense. The one with the most playoff feel, both in the stands and on the court. The Knicks had their chances but had key lapses on offense and defense, and I broke those down in our game of the night post.

Thunder 114, Bobcats 69: The game wasn’t really as close as the score indicates. No, seriously it wasn’t. This was a 40-point game at halftime – 64-24 OKC — and Scott Brooks called off the dogs and benched his starters five minutes into the second half. The Bobcats have the only bench that made the struggling Thunder bench look good. If you want to see the number on this ugliness, we broke it down right here.

Jazz 105, Nuggets 103: The only thing hotter than the Nuggets and their four-game winning streak was the Jazz at home, where they have yet to lose this season. The Nuggets were running and gunning through the first 20 minutes of this game and were up 16, shooting 73 percent and getting 48 points in the paint in the first half.

But in the second half the Jazz were able to use their physicality to slow the game down to a pace they were more comfortable at, which led to a 14-0 third quarter run that made it a game. Denver got frustrated. Andre Iguodala got ejected. Utah also closed the game out with key bench players — Derrick Favors had 7 of his 19 in the fourth quarter. Al Jefferson had 28 to lead Utah.

Bucks 93, Bulls 92: If the Bucks can stretch out their lead early in the season and hold on to win the Central division once Chicago and Indiana get healthy, this will be the game they look back on. The Bulls had a 27-point third quarter lead but a 31-4 Bucks run by their bench keyed he comeback win. Milwaukee bench players had 56 points, Bulls reserves 10. Ersan Ilyasova — just moved to the bench so rookie John Henson could get more run, had a game-high 18. Rip Hamilton did have 30 for the Bulls.

Pistons 108, Trail Blazers 91: It was a tale of two young point guard. The Pistons raced out to an early 9 point lead as the shots fell, then in the second quarter Brandon Knight took over with 11 points on his way to 26 for the night. On the other end, the Pistons did good job cutting off Portland’s Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, plus he was just off, and he started 0-11 from the floor. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. LaMarcus Aldridge had a season-high 32 points for the Trail Blazers. Detroit has won three in a row on their hone court.

Spurs 118, Wizards 91: Seriously, how did you expect this to end? Nene and Trevor Booker were out for Washington and the Spurs are now a ridiculous 8-1 on the road. To the Wizards credit they came out with some desperate play early and kept it close for a quarter. Martell Webster had 13 first half points and played well. But the Spurs were the machine that is the Spurs. They wear you down with execution until they get open shots or have or Parker drawing fouls on drives. They went on a 17-6 run to take the lead in the second quarter, then a 10-0 run a few minutes later to stretch out that lead. And then it was over — seven Spurs scored in double figures, led by Boris Diaw with 16.

Grizzlies 84, Cavaliers 78: No Mike Conley for Grizzlies and if you look at the season-long numbers their offense takes a nose dive without him (it drops 10 points per 100 possessions when he sits). That proved true here. Meanwhile the Cavaliers got a fantastic effort from Anderson Varejao, who had 15 points and 22 rebounds, and Dion Waiters added 15 as well. Cleveland led most of the way but in the fourth quarter the Grizzlies defense woke up — Cleveland shot only 20 percent (4 of 20) and had one bucked in the final 5:30 of the game. That will do a team in pretty much every time.

Hornets 105, Clippers 98: It was bombs away — the to teams combined to take 33 three pointers, second most in NBA history (for a regulation game). Caron Butler had 9 threes (on 15 tries) and as a team the Clippers were 18-of-37 (48.6 percent). Impressive. But the Hornets were even better from deep —15-for-25 (60 percent), with Greivis Vasquez (5-for-8) and Ryan Anderson (5-for-9) leading the way.

The key moment was late in the third quarter, when the Clippers made and 8-0 run to tie things up and you expected the home team to pull away, instead they seemed to relax and the Hornets went on a 13-2 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. For the Clippers, the key things they need to do right this season went horribly wrong for a night. DeAndre Jordan was terrible (and played just 15 minutes). Their defense allowed the Hornets to score 117.8 points per 100 possessions and was terrible. I’d say chalk it up to an off night, but the Clippers are now 1-4 in their last five.

Carmelo Anthony on talk with Jackson: “We didn’t break bread….It was a short conversation”

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2016 in New York City. 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 Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t long. It wasn’t outwardly contentious. But you can bet it was colder than the weather outside Madison Square Garden in January.

Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony sat down and talked about Anthony’s future with the Knicks Tuesday, with Anthony reiterating again he doesn’t want to be traded. And since he has a no-trade clause and two years on his deal after this one, he has the power.

Anthony seems done with the entire topic and is ready to move on. From Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“The conversation was not that long. We didn’t break bread,’’ Anthony said. “We didn’t have hours of conversation. It was a short conversation.”

This entire topic came up when Phil Rosen — a Phil Jackson confidant who swears he’s not a surrogate — penned an article saying Anthony was willing to accept a move to the Cavaliers or Clippers (or maybe the Lakers). The move felt like a classic Jackson mind game move where Anthony was forced to respond to it — and Anthony seems done with the drama.

“I’m done asking why,’’ Anthony said. “My focus is playing ball at this point. My focus is these guys. That’s all I care about at this point. Making sure these guys stay strong and positive and have their head on right and not be a distraction to them.

“I’m committed [to the Knicks]. I don’t have to prove that to anybody. I don’t have to keep saying that and keep talking about it. I know for a fact people know that and people see that.”

Anthony is ready to move on, is Jackson? Or do we see another mind game move coming?

Anthony isn’t going anywhere, not in the short term. Even if Anthony would entertain a trade to those mentioned, markets, you think the Cavaliers would like to give Kevin Love‘s minutes and some of LeBron James‘ touches to 33-year-old Anthony? You think Doc Rivers would swap 27-year-old Blake Griffin for ‘Melo? Anthony is expensive and while he can still score the other limitations in his game make it very hard to trade him.

Jackson is the master of convincing guys to do what he wants and think it’s their own idea, but I have a hard time seeing that happening with Anthony.

Kevin Durant reflects on “AAU basketball” of Durant/Westbrook/Harden Thunder

Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden
Associated Press
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If MVP voting took place today, James Harden and Russell Westbrook would be in a photo finish for the win — they are the clear first and second choices in that race. Third could well be Kevin Durant, who is having a strong and efficient season in Golden State (it’s who Dan Feldman and I said we would pick third during the PBT Podcast, although certainly guys like LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, Kawhi Leonard and others are in the mix).

Remember when Durant, Westbrook, and Harden were all on the same team? The NBA’s ultimate “what if?”

Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News got Durant to reminisce about those days (the Warriors play the Thunder and Rockets this week).

“It’s easy to say we were supposed to be together for the rest of our careers, but it didn’t play out like that,” Durant said. “I think all three of us will have memorable careers. And it’ll be a journey we’ll always remember, something that’s different and unique, playing with two different guys who are doing incredible things in the league right now. But when you look back, think about the fun times instead of what could’ve been.”

Could they have ruled the NBA for a decade?

“No. We never looked at it that way, like we could be best of all-time,” Durant said. “It was really AAU basketball, man. We were just having fun. We weren’t listening to anyone on the outside, media, none of that. It was just pure fun. When we did hear something about the group, it was like, what is this? That was so foreign to us because we never paid attention to it.”

It was Harden that was traded — he wanted and deserved the max, the Thunder has spent on Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. They weren’t willing to pay the costs — the luxury tax bill would have come calling — to keep all three. The other side of that debate: Could Harden have continued happily in his sixth man role? This guy dominates the ball now (he leads the league in time of possession this season), would he have stayed coming off the bench to win?

“I think he’d have stayed in that role. I think so,” Durant said. “He’d have still been a really great player. You look at it, a lot of people wouldn’t have looked at him as a Sixth Man. He’d have been better. I think he’d have been better. Obviously I’m sure he loves what he’s doing now, but if we would’ve won a championship, I think the perception of him would’ve just been as a great player. ‘He’s the heart, he’s what makes us go.’ That’s what his label would’ve been, instead of just Sixth Man. He would’ve probably been the best Sixth Man that ever was.”

Maybe, and maybe that would have been enough. It’s all moot now.

But what if?

 

European star point guard Milos Teodosic says he wants to play in NBA. Eventually.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  Milos Teodosic #4 of Serbia reacts in the second half while taking on the United States in the Men's Preliminary Round Group A match on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Milos Teodosic is the best point guard not in the NBA. Unless you’re not a fan of CSKA Moscow and Euroleague Basketball, you most likely remember him as the point guard for the Serbian team that won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics last summer — they guy who torched Kyrie Irving for 18 points and six assists, plus ran the offense beautifully in a group stage game against the USA.

Next summer he is a free agent and there is a lot of speculation he is finally going to come to the NBA (there have been reports the Grizzlies and other NBA teams have already reached out). Speaking with Mozzartsport, Teodosic said he may come but nothing is set in stone. Via Sportando:

“2016 was my best year” Teodosic told Mozzartsport (he won EuroLeague, VTB League and a silver medal at Olympics). “I will go to the NBA for sure, but I still don’t know when, in which club and on what terms. We’ll see. CSKA Moscow certainly has an advantage in the negotiations of a new contract “ the point guard added. “Offers from Grizzlies, Jazz, Spurs or Rockets? I did not get any offers from them. I don’t know who said that”.

Teodosic was asked his thoughts about the young European players that are “rushing” to the NBA even if they know they won’t have playing time: “For me this is an error. I like to play and I don’t like to sit on the bench and I would not agree on any contract if I have to sit on the bench. This is my condition for going to the NBA.”

And it becomes the challenge for a team looking to sign him.

Teodosic is a good offensive player — smart passer and he can shoot the three. He certainly knows how to run an offense (especially one with ball and player movement). He’s also a defensive liability. Watching him at the Olympics, I was thinking he’d be a great sixth man and fill-in starter when needed. But if he doesn’t want that role, what team is willing to give him more? Not a good one, or one with an established NBA point guard.

Mike Krzyzewski called Teodosic “one of the all-time great players internationally” and said they did game plan for him in the Gold Medal game (where the USA athleticism overwhelmed Serbia). The guy can play, and as well paid as he may be with CSKA Moscow he could make more in the bloated NBA. The only question is can he find a fit?

The only question is can he find a fit?

Brandon Ingram with the steal, slam (VIDEO)

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Very little has gone right for the Lakers of late. They have dropped five in a row. Around Los Angeles, the talk has gone from “this team could make the playoffs” after a 10-10 start to “they need to tank and try to keep the pick” after going 5-21 since. (The Lakers pick this draft is top-three protected, if it’s outside that it goes to the Sixers. The Lakers currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA.)

The Lakers young players look… young. D'Angelo Russell admitted he just started trying to follow a game-day routine, then said Tuesday night he didn’t focus and deserved to be benched down the stretch. Brandon Ingram shows flashes, he’s smart and sees the game, but he’s still physically pushed around.

But those flashes, like the steal and dunk above are fun.

Lakers fans, welcome to the process. This is what rebuilding is like. It’s a roller coaster, you just hope the trajectory generally remains up.