Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the offensive outbursts

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while thinking about what a jump to hyperspace in the Millennium Falcon would really be like

Lakers 104, Bucks 88: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard each had 31 points, but the real key for Los Angles was their defense — Kobe was on Brandon Jennings, Earl Clark on Monta Ellis most of the way, and the Bucks backcourt shot 10-of-30 on the night. We broke it all down just for you.

Nuggets 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT): This was hands down the most fun game of the night. Ty Lawson had 24 points and 12 assists for Denver, LaMarcus Aldridge looked like an All-Star again with 25.

Denver led 97-90 with 2:30 left in the game but six of it back quickly and we had a 1-point game with a minute to go. Lawson drove then hit a quick pull up elbow jumper to make it 99-96. The Blazers got to Aldridge at the elbow extended, he drove into paint 12 feet from the rim and drew three defenders, one of whom was Andre Miller helping off Wes Mathews — kick out pass and a clean-look three for Mathews and it was tied. After that Iguuodala tried pretty much the same elbow pull up that Lawson hit and missed it. Portland had the last shot and it was a Lillard difficult 12-foot, fade-away, fading left contested shot that missed. And we had OT.

Which had its own drama and was back and forth at the end. A Danilo Gallinari three up against the shot clock had Denver up two with 1:08 left. A sweet back-down then fade-away by Aldridge tied it. A ridiculous JaVale McGee catch then reverse dunk alley-oop (it’s hard to describe) put Denver up two. Aldridge drove the lane, drew the foul and hits two free throws to tie it 111-111 with 32 seconds left. Then drive-and-kick by Iguodala gave Wilson Chandler a decent look at a corner three. He drained it. Portland tried to get three but Nuggets did a good job defending, took away the easy looks, and it was a miss. Lawson fouled and with free throws that was the ball game.

Clippers 117, Rockets 109: Houston puts a lot teams in a precarious position by playing at the league’s fastest pace, but the chameleon Clippers showed once again that they can adapt to any style. Although the Rockets were passable offensively, their perimeter defense left an awful lot to be desired. With Jeremy Lin unable to stay in front of anyone and James Harden doing an awful lot of standing around, both Willie Green (15 points) and Jamal Crawford (30 points) recorded season-highs in points.

Getting out and running is great, but it’s a whole lot harder to do when you’re constantly taking the ball out of your own net.
—D.J. Foster

Nets 113, Raptors 106: This makes seven wins in a row for Brooklyn, or what we like to call the “P.J. Carlesimo wants to keep this job” run. Toronto has been playing well of late also and this one was relatively close for two-and-a-half quarters before an 11-3 Brooklyn run gave them control of the game they would not let go of. The Nets got a balanced attack with Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combining for 64 points. Plus they got a nice boost from Mirza Teletovic off the bench.

Kyle Lowry, who left the game in the second quarter after spraining an ankle, came back in the fourth with a vengeance scoring 19, but it wasn’t enough.

Pacers 103, Bobcats 76: This was another vintage Pacers win — their suffocating defense locked the other team down while they scored enough points to win. The Bobcats shot 37.4 percent for the game against Indy. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert woke up to the tune of 18 points as the Pacers one getting the ball inside to the tone of 52 points in the paint. Paul George hit two key threes when the Pacers started to pull away at the end of the first.

Hornets 111, 76ers 99: The Sixers have lost eight of 10 now. What’s the problem? Well, a few things, but it starts with they don’t have a lot of talent of the roster. Philly got 29 points from Jrue Holiday and after that the drop off is pretty steep.

Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 23 points and nine assists, meanwhile Eric Gordon dropped 19. One fun stretch was when the Sixers Nick Young scored all of his 14 points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Not that it mattered, the Hornets remained in control.

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safty

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.