Brooklyn Nets Joe Johnson celebrates with Brook Lopez after he shot three-point against New York Knicks in NBA game in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dramatic finishes all over on Monday

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wondering what made Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia think that hat was a good choice at the inauguration….

Bulls 95, Lakers 83: Chicago is what Los Angeles is not — passionate, committed to the system, hustlers on every play and defenders. So, these are the results you get. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Nets 88, Knicks 85: Since P.J. Carlesimo took over the Nets they have been winning games with a killer offense (best in the NBA the past 10 games) — but not Monday. Their win over the Knicks was about defense and grinding it out.

The Nets ground it out when Deron Williams and Joe Johnson had to go to the bench in the first half with foul trouble. They ground it out by outworking the Knicks on the offensive glass. This was not a high scoring game but they defended and stayed close. And ultimately they did it because Joe Johnson had 10 points in the fourth quarter, the last one of those a game-winning pull-up jumper. The Nets win brings them within one game of the Knicks in the Atlantic Division.

Pacers 82, Grizzlies 81: When the two best defenses in the NBA clash you had to expect low scoring, but this game had plenty of drama. No team ever led by double digits. Memphis was behind the entire fourth quarter but went on a 7-0 run capped off by a Mike Conley three that gave them the lead 79-78. But then Paul George (who finished with 12) answered with a three of his own.

All that set up the final play. It was 82-81 Pacers and there were 1.4 seconds remaining as Memphis inbounded the ball. George was covering Rudy Gay and knows the scouting report he wants to go right. Memphis inbounds to Gay who is forced to dribble once because of the defense then lets fly a game winner — that left his hands too late. No bucket, Pacers win.

Warriors 106, Clippers 99: This was a fun one for fans. It felt like a budding rivalry game between two of the up-and-coming teams in the west and it featured plenty of scoring and stars making plays. The star that made the most plays when it mattered was Stephan Curry — he had 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, his six-of-8 from three for the game to spark the Warriors come-from-behind win. His three with 1:26 left, where he came off a screen to get a good look, turned out to be the dagger.

If the Clippers are looking for someone to blame, they can find the mirror and see their 12-of-22 from the free throw line. But late the Warriors just made plays, Jarrett Jack had 10 in the fourth. Blake Griffin had a huge 26 point, 13 rebound night.

Spurs 90, 76ers 85: Philly played well most of the game and led midway through the fourth quarter when the Spurs went on a 13-1 run to take a lead they would never give up. The run was just a matter of the Spurs being the Spurs and executing at a level the Sixers couldn’t match. Tim Duncan had 24 points and 17 rebounds and made some big plays down the stretch, Tony Parker added 20 for the victors. Evan Turner had 18 points and 12 boards for the Sixers.

Wizards 98 Trail Blazers 95: The visiting Wizards took the lead with a 13-2 run in the third quarter and looked like they might be able to hold on to that all the way to the end — until a late 5-0 Portland run capped off by a Wesley Matthews three. Damian Lillard took over in the fourth and had 12 of his 18.

Then Jordan Crawford happened — he had all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter topped off by the buzzer-beater game winner.

Hornets 114, Kings 105: New Orleans was in control of this game most of the way, having dominated the second quarter and leading 64-39 at the half. Sacramento tried to make a late push but never got closer than 7. Ryan Anderson had 27 to lead the Hornets. Whether it is the turmoil around the sale of the team or the 10 a.m. Pacific start time for the MLK Day matinee the Kings were just never into this one.

Rockets 100, Bobcats 94: The Bobcats led most of the way in this game but some Rockets runs in the final frame — 10-0 to start the fourth quarter and 7-0 to end the game — were the difference. James Harden was a big part of that, with 12 of his 29 points coming in the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker was on fire for the Bobcats finishing with 35 points.

Hawks 104, Timberwolves 96: Another tough loss for Minnesota as they led almost the entire game but in the fourth Atlanta woke from its slumber and scored 34 points on 80 percent shooting, took the lead on a 9-0 run and hung on to win. Jannero Pargo helped spark that run with 14 fourth quarter points, while Al Horford pitched in 7 of his 28 in the final frame.

Draymond Green: Warriors laughed at Jazz coach Quin Snyder for late timeouts

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After trailing the Warriors by 25 last night, the Jazz cut the deficit to five early in the fourth quarter. Golden State re-inserted starters and pushed lead back to double digits.

Still, Utah coach Quin Snyder called three timeouts in final 1:05 with Utah never closer than seven – a strategy that earned scorn from Draymond Green.

Green, via CSN Bay Area:

“We were laughing at Quinn Snyder who kept calling timeouts,” Draymond told reporters after the game. “Like bro, you’re down 10 with six seconds left, it’s kinda over my man.”

“Just let us go to the restaurant and have a good dinner; just chill,” Draymond added. “That’s what we were laughing at.

The Warriors travelled hundreds of miles to Utah, and the teams battled for hours. What was a few more minutes for the Jazz to maximize their miniscule chance of a comeback? Honestly, I’m surprised how often teams throw in the towel in those situations.

Besides, it was actually an eight-point difference with nine seconds left for Snyder’s final timeout. The Jazz were down just two four-point plays. There was plenty of time for that.

Nine-year veteran Eric Gordon finally chose his team, and he’s clicking with Rockets

AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 21: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets tires to get a shot off against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on November 21, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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A New Orleans restricted free agent in 2012, Eric Gordon signed a max offer sheet with the Suns and infamously declared his heart to be in Phoenix.

New Orleans matched anyway.

“I knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Gordon said. “I knew they were going to bring me back all along.”

So why make those statements? Why alienate New Orleans fans?

“You just never know what a team might do or not,” Gordon said.

Gordon been around long enough now to know you never know, even when you’re certain you do. But this much he clearly believes: In his ninth NBA season and on the first team he picked, he’s happy with the Rockets.

Gordon was drafted onto the Donald Sterling, pre-Blake Griffin Clippers, who had made the playoffs just four times in the previous 32 years and had developed a reputation for cheapness and disarray. They went 19-63, 29-53 and 32-50 in Gordon’s three years in Los Angeles. Yet he says, “I enjoyed my time there.”

He was traded to New Orleans as the centerpiece of the Clippers’ package for Chris Paul, and he doesn’t look back on his time with the Hornets/Pelicans quite so fondly. “Nobody was on the same page over there,” Gordon said. “It was just different. We had the talent there, and things just didn’t work out.”

Gordon admits he sometimes wonders what would’ve happened if he had gone to the Suns. But they haven’t made the playoffs and are on their fourth coach since his offer sheet. “After looking back on it now, they had a lot of chaos and turmoil there, too,” Gordon said.

So, Houston is a welcome reprieve.

Gordon’s first unrestricted free agency yielded a four-year contract worth more than $52 million. He’s averaging 17.0 points per game, his highest mark in five years. He has been healthy after after missing 173 games in five years with New Orleans. And the Rockets are 15-7, on pace for what would easily be Gordon’s most successful season.

Playing with James Harden and for Mike D’Antoni – whose fondness for Gordon dates back to their gold-medal run with Team USA in the 2010 World Championship – has treated Gordon well. Houston is focused on offense, Gordon’s specialty, and its system accentuates his strengths.

Gordon leads the NBA with seven open 3-pointers per game, which he’s converting at 41.3% clip:

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Notice the other Rockets on that list: Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. Benefitting from playing alongside Harden – an attention-tracker and willing passer – is not unique.

But Gordon does more than just rely on Harden to get him open shots. Since moving to the bench with Patrick Beverley healthy, Gordon has proven particularly valuable when Harden sits.

Houston scores 118.7 points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor, per NBAwowy!. That mark obviously plummets without Harden, one of the NBA’s best offensive players.

Gordon has prevented it from falling too far, though.

He scores more points per 36 minutes (15.5 to 28.5) and does so with a higher true shooting percentage (56.0 to 62.5) from with Harden to without. He also handles more playmaking, increasing his assists per 36 minutes (2.4 to 4.1), though also, disproportionally, his turnovers per 36 minutes (1.5 to 3.6).

Still, Gordon’s effect on the Rockets’ offense without Harden is tremendously positive.

  • Houston’s offensive rating without Harden – with Gordon: 107.7
  • Houston’s offensive rating without Harden – without Gordon: 86.7

Propping up the Rockets’ Harden-less offense has made Gordon an early contender for Sixth Man of the Year. Here are the win-share leaders among eligible players:

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Given voting history, ranking eligible players by points per game is probably more predictive. It’s at least even more flattering to Gordon:

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Lakers guard Lou Williams deserves to be the early favorite for the award. I’m also quite high on Spurs guard Patty Mills.

But Gordon belongs solidly in the mix.

It might not be the stardom the Clippers predicted when they drafted him No. 7 or New Orleans envisioned when it twice acquired him, but at least Gordon is happily contributing to a winner. After so much controversy – both invited (his Suns saga) and uninvited (being part of the Chris Paul trade) – he sounds happy in Houston.

“You just try to stride it out with whatever team you’re on. So, you know, it’s been a unique situation,” Gordon said. “But here, it’s been good.”

Kyle Lowry to critical DeMar DeRozan: ‘Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise’ (video)

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Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.

DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.

  • DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. … To me, it’s a bad shot.”
  • Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”

That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.