Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Hornets

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lakers show up for a half, that’s enough in New Orleans

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching Bilbo Baggins going on a drunken ‘Unexpected Journey’

Lakers 103, Hornets 87: On night where Kobe Bryant became only the 5th player in NBA history to hit the 30,000 career point plateau, the Lakers also got the win. And so everyone in Laker-land can rest easy for at least one night.

This game really showed the two diverse poles of the Lakers’ personality as a team. In the first half they struggled to defend even the most simple of Hornets’ sets, not rotating on the pick and roll and not recovering to shooters on the wings. On the other side of the ball they played too much one on one basketball, the ball sticking to one side of the floor as the guy who caught the ball looked to score for himself. The result was a first half deficit and a style that looked all too familiar to those who’ve watched this team toil early this season.

In the second half, however, all that changed. The ball moved on offense and everyone started to get involved. Kobe (29 points, 4 assists) poured in his points, but also initiated the offense well by looking to set up others. Dwight Howard asserted himself and controlled the paint on both ends (18 points, 5 blocks). The bench found their stride (27 points) and everything came together for a team that sorely needed it too.
—Darius Soriano

Knicks 100, Bobcats 98: It wasn’t easy for New York, and it took some buzzer-beating heroics from J.R. Smith to ultimately get the job done, But in a classic look-ahead game for the Knicks, with a trip to Miami against the defending champion Heat up next, they’ll take a win any way it comes.

Charlotte was actually in a pretty good position to take this one, outrebounding and outshooting the Knicks on the night. But turnovers killed them, especially late, when they gave it away on their final two possessions, both times with a chance to take the lead or win the game with under 40 seconds remaining.

Kemba Walker’s 25-point, 11-assist outing was ultimately wasted, while Carmelo Anthony left the game with 2:10 to play due to a cut on his left hand which required stitches. His status for Thursday night in Miami is questionable.
—Brett Pollakoff

Spurs 110, Bucks 99: This was a tie game, 76-76, heading into the fourth quarter, the Bucks left their big guns in while Gregg Popovich rolled out a lineup of Nando De Colo, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, and Tiago Splitter. And the Spurs went on a 17-3 run and never looked back. Neal finished with 22, as did Tony Parker. They dominated the Bucks backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings who combined to shoot 10-for-34 for the game. That would be 29 percent for those of you scoring at home.

Clippers 112, Mavericks 90: This was a wire to wire blowout for the Clippers, who got pretty much what they wanted when they wanted it against a Mavericks team that was simply overmatched.

L.A. led by 11 after one and by 18 at the half, before turning the remainder of the game into extended garbage time where they showcased their high-flyers with dunks against little or no resistance. One interesting note for Dallas was the play of Derek Fisher, who scored 11 points in just over eight third-quarter minutes to help his team briefly get back within 12. Fisher was +2 in his time on the floor in this one, the only Maverick player on the positive end of a plus/minus statistic that is usually tells us nothing in a game as lopsided as this one.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pacers 99, Trail Blazers 92: Portland made a run early with LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard combining for 14 first quarter points, but the Pacers cranked up the defensive pressure and this was about even through the half. Then the Pacers ended the third on 19-6 run and never looked back. Another strong game from Paul George with 22. He is taking on the role of leader on this team. David West had 12 of his 16 in the second half.

Warriors 104, Pistons 97: The first half of this game was not pretty — the Pistons struggled against the Warriors 1-2-2 zone, which forced them to be shooters. But the Warriors were not shooting any better. The third quarter was a different story because Klay Thompson was hot — he had five three pointers and he had 19 points in the quarter. The Warriors were in control… until an 18-4 late run by the Pistons made it interesting. Golden State held on for the win.

Stephen Curry had 22 points and 10 assists — that is four straight games of 20 points and 10 assists. You should have drafted him higher in your fantasy league.

Celtics 104, Timberwolves 94: Rajon Rondo was back (with 17 points but 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett played like he was back (he came out hot and hit six of his first seven), and Jason Terry played his best game in a while with 18. It’s not a head turning win, but Boston will take it. Kevin Love had 19 points and 13 assists.

Bulls 95, Cavaliers 85: We have a Marco Belinelli sighting — he had 23 points on 15 shots. Luol Deng had 22 points on 13 shots. So for one night, there was an efficient offense from Chicago (105.7 points per 100 possessions, six better than their season average). The Bulls were in charge of this game from the first quarter on, and when the Pacers made a push late in the third quarter and Kirk Hinrich responded with a couple threes. Donald Sloan gave the Cavs 14 off the bench, if you want a bright spot.

Jazz 87, Magic 81: Utah was able to do what the Lakers were not — beat the Magic in the paint. Jefferson had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 22 points. Which was good for Utah because the rest of the team combined to shoot 25.6 percent on the night. Utah led most of the night but a 12-2 run by the Magic had them up 79-78 lead with 3:33 left in the game. But Utah closed the game on a 9-2 run, including four more Jefferson points, to get the win.

Hawks 108, Nuggets 104: It’s not that Denver doesn’t have an identity, it’s that they can’t execute it. They want to run and gun, but they can’t do that effectively when Andre Iguodala has 5 points and 7 turnovers. They can’t do that when their best shooter — Danilo Gallinari — is 3-for-10 and is more straight-line driver than dangerous weapon.

The Hawks just beat up the Nuggets inside — they had 19 offensive rebounds as a team, Al Horford had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Josh Smith had 16 and 13, and they got Kenneth Faried out of the game and in foul trouble. Still it was close 101-101, but the Hawks made the plays late. The only reason Denver was in the game was Ty Lawson’s 32 points.

Kings 107, Raptors 100: This is how the Kings envisioned winning games — DeMarcus Cousins owns the night (25 points, 13 rebounds) then in crunch time, with the game tied 95-95, Tyreke Evans drains back-to-back threes and the Kings pull away for the win. At least they were able to do it against the Raptors. Kyle Lowry had 34 points and 11 dimes for the Raptors.

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.

DeMarcus Cousins on trade from Kings: “I’m not sour”

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DeMarcus Cousins met with the press for the first time in New Orleans, and they got a vision of the relaxed and happy side of the big man.

He was cracking jokes, saying he thought himself and Anthony Davis would blend perfectly, and being engaging.

One of the best parts was Cousins being asked how competitive he is, and Cousins replied “About 17 technicals worth.”

Cousins also talked a fair amount about how he and Davis would work together.

Cousins talked a good game, now he has to show it started Thursday on the court against the Rockets.

Report: Wizards trade first-round pick to get Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, unload Andrew Nicholson

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards battles Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets for a loose ball during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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John Wall has been so good, he made himself right.

The Wizards’ starters have been awesome, and their bench has been about equally bad. With Washington surging to third in the East, and the fourth-place Raptors making their move with Serge Ibaka, this was no time to idle.

So, as Wall predicted, the Wizards traded for bench helpBojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough from the Nets.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Andrew Nicholson, with three years and $19,911,007 remaining after this season, had negative value. He was part of the reason the Wizards’ bench stunk. Likewise, Marcus Thornton provided little in reserve. A 29-year-old on an expiring minimum contract, he was likely included only so Washington didn’t exceed the roster maximum of 15 players.

Essentially the Wizards traded a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, McCullough and shedding Nicholson.

Bogdanovic will provide wing scoring for a reserve unit badly in need of juice. He has been an ineffective defender, but his 6-foot-8 frame offers a path to improvement on that end.

The 27-year-old will be a restricted free agent next summer. Assuming re-signing Otto Porter is the priority, keeping Bogdanovic could push Washington into the luxury tax — likely a non-starter. This could win up just a rental, but there’s plenty of time to evaluate Bogdanovic’s (and everyone else’s) long-term fit.

The Nets drafted McCullough No. 29 in 2015 as a project, and he remains one. The 22-year-old has spent far more time in the D-League than the NBA this season. It’s unlikely he contributes this season, as lower as the bar is for the Wizards’ bench. He has two additional seasons left on his rookie-scale contract, time for Washington to figure out what it has.

Now, Brooklyn has a couple first-round picks this year — the Celtics’ and the Wizards’. That doesn’t amount to much, but the Nets are so far from relevance, getting even younger is a wise path forward.