Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lots of ‘Melo, not much else for Knicks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while breaking your New Year’s resolutions already….

Nuggets 92, Clippers 78: The Clippers win streak dies at 17on a night they were just ice-cold from the floor — 38.5 percent as a team, with leading scorer Jamal Crawford shooting 2-of-11. Denver played well but it was just one of those nights for Los Angeles. We broke it all down as our game of the night.

Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 100: Carmelo Anthony showed up to play — 45 points on just 24 shots, plus seven rebounds. J.R. Smith was trying to go with him, gunning his way to 28 points. The rest of the Knicks… not so much. They were a step slow on defense and for reasons unknown it took them to the third quarter to figure out that Portland plays J.J. Hickson at center and he can’t stop a Tyson Chandler roll to the bucket.

Portland pulled away with an 11-0 run in the second and held on at the end to get the win. Portland took at advantage of a sloppy Knicks defense to shoot 50.6 percent on the night. Nicolas Batum had 26, LaMarcus Aldridge had 18, J.J. Hickson 19.

And Amar’e Stoudemire was back. Not shockingly he looked rusty. He started 0-4 shooting and is a little ways away from being his old self. Lineups with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler together were +2 in five minutes of action. That is not indicative of much, just something to watch going forward.

Sixers 103, Lakers 99: And the Lakers fall below .500 again because they couldn’t defend. That sound familiar? It’s been like that all season and the return of Steve Nash and the better play of late didn’t change the Lakers narrative — this looked and felt like a lot of Lakers games this year.

Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner did the damage — both would shake loose of their perimeter defender pretty easily and get a good look then knock down the shot. This wasn’t some brilliant Doug Collins scheme, this was those two exploiting the Lakers defenders in isolation sets all night. Holiday had 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting plus had 10 assists. Turner had 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, plus had 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol was 2-of-12 and Dwight Howard 1-of-7 shooting. Kobe Bryant was back to being a gunner who scored 36, Metta World Peace had 13 points and needed 17 shots to get them. As a team the Lakers were 3-of-22 from three point range.

Hawks 95, Hornets 86: This was the fourth game in five nights on the road for the Hawks, the kind of game where a lot of teams just roll over. Credit Atlanta, they found the energy for an 11-2 third quarter run to pull away for the win. That run featured a Kyle Kover three but the guy driving it was Josh Smith, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Al Horford pitched in 20 points on the night. Ryan Anderson had 23 for the Hornets. Eric Gordon looked like a guy who just came off knee surgery and is rusty and not in game shape yet — which he is — and was 5-of-17 shooting in 24 minutes.

Dallas 103, Wizards 94: The Wizards controlled the first half of this game and led by as many as 14 at one point, and it looked like Dallas could lose their seventh in a row. But Darren Collison sparked a 22-6 third quarter run for the Mavericks that gave them the lead and Dallas never looked back. Vince Carter led Dallas with 23 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki looked better, shooting 5-of-7 from the field as he plays himself back into shape. If Wizards fans are looking for a bright spot, Bradley Beal had a career-high 22 points.

Pistons 103, Kings 97: Detroit was in control of this game from the second quarter on until a 20-5 run by Sacramento in the fourth — fueled by Jimmer Fredette who had 13 in the quarter — made it close down the stretch. It was Austin Daye who knocked down the game-clinching three for Detroit. Greg Monroe had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who now have a three-game winning streak. Brandon Knight added 20. For the Kings DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 14 rebounds, but Sacramento fell to 1-13 on the road this season.

John Wall has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral (VIDEO)

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If the Redskins need a quarterback should Kirk Cousins go down — he has played a full 16-game schedule the past two years, which is pretty remarkable — maybe rather than Colt McCoy Washington should look at the guy who makes the Wizards’ go.

John Wall showed on Friday he has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral, and hit his man.

I love that Wall starts calling out Tom Brady after one good pass.

Michael Beasley had his truck stolen out of his driveway

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Michael Beasley will be getting buckets, shooting long twos, and playing inconsistent defense for the New York Knicks next season (the analysis is just based on recent history).

But first, he’d like to find his truck. Which was stolen.

Well, I did see a Dodge Ram 1500 on the road today, but since I’m on the West Coast and I have no idea what color/year Beasley’s truck is, I’m going to assume the guy I saw didn’t perpetrate the heist.

Still, that sucks for Beasley, even if he can easily afford to replace it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.