Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston’s defense has serious issues


Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while in a massive food fight including flour and eggs….

Clippers 107, Jazz 96: The Clippers win streak is at 17 and if you are having an early season MVP discussion and not including Chris Paul in the mix, you are doing it wrong (he likely doesn’t win because his numbers are not gaudy enough for some voters, but he should be in the mix). Our man D.J. Foster broke the game down.

Kings 118, Celtics 96: You can come up with some excuses for the Celtics — second night of a back-to-back, last game of a four-game West Coast road swing, it was past their bedtime — but none of it really holds up because that was not the problem in this ugly loss.

The problem is Boston’s defense isn’t that great. Particularly their ability to keep penetrating guards out of the paint — 19 of the Kings 22 first half Kings field goals came in the paint. They were breaking down the Celtics off the dribble and off the pass, meanwhile the Celtics bigs were a step slow with the rotation — and if the help does get there nobody helps the helper. The result was Isaiah Thomas with 27 points and DeMarcus Cousins putting up a triple double (12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists).

Avery Bradley’s return soon helps the Boston defense in a number of ways, but he alone is not going to solve the focus and rotations issues. It’s bigger than that now.

Boston made some fourth quarter pushes behind Paul Pierce (20 points), but Sacramento had answers, going 9-of-14 from three in the second half. John Salmons helped that cause with an efficient 23 points on 12 shoots.

Pistons 96, Bucks 94: Detroit jumped out to a 13-0 lead and it looked like it would never surrender that lead. The Pistons were in control. Detroit was aggressive, going right at a pretty good Bucks defense and getting into the paint to get their shots.

But the Bucks had a 13-0 run of their own in the fourth quarter, led by Monta Ellis who had 30 points and 9 assists on the night. It was Ellis that hit a jumper with 1:06 left to give Milwaukee a 94-92 lead. But Tayshaun Prince scored the Pistons’ final four points — two on a hook shot, two from the free throw line — to secure the win. Prince finished with 20 points.

Spurs 111, Mavericks 86: After the game Manu Ginobili said that the Mavericks did not look “very inspired.” Which frankly is pretty kind. And if you combine a lethargic Mavericks team with the quintessential efficiency of the Spurs you get a game that wasn’t in doubt from early on. It was the usual suspects doing the damage for San Antonio: Tony Parker had 21 points, Manu Ginobili added 20, and Tim Duncan had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds

Dirk Nowitzki had eight points in limited minutes. That is six straight losses for the Mavs.

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor
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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


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.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.