New York Knicks forward Anthony reacts to hitting a three-point shot against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: ‘Melo sparks Knicks win

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while doing the Bernie lean

Lakers 105, Thunder 96: For two consecutive games the Lakers have basically moved Kobe Bryant to the point and put Steve Nash off the ball, and their offense has looked better. We have a lot more detail on this game, our man Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Celtics 100, Heat 98 (2OT): It was a dark day for the Celtics, which is too bad because this is the kind of game they could have built on. We broke down the game then we broke down what the Celtics need to do next.

Knicks 106, Hawks 104: Defense? Who wants to see defense? Both teams had offensive ratings of 121 (points per 100 possessions) and the Hawks shot 60 percent for the game. But if you’re going to play a game with just scoring and no defense, you are playing into Carmelo Anthony’s hands — he had 42 points including nine three pointers. Plus, with the game tied late he isolated on Josh Smith, drove around him and got the and-1 layup that won the game for the Knicks.

Josh Smith had his chances to be the hero for Atlanta, but in the games final plays he committed an offensive foul that gave the Knicks the ball back setting up Carmelo’s game winner. Then with time running out he got a good look at a three for the win but missed.

J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire each added18 points off the bench for New York. Raymond Felton had 12 points and 10 assists. Jeff Teague had 27 points for Atlanta and was aggressive.

Hornets 91, Grizzlies 83: Memphis scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter and that did them in — Memphis is a great defensive team but sometimes that can’t cover for their bad offense. Rudy Gay was 0-of-4 in the fourth (3-of-17 all night), and both Tony Wroten and Jerryd Bayless were 1-of-5 in the final frame. The Hornets got their points from their bench — Ryan Anderson had 22 and Jason Smith 16 leading a bench that scored 55 on the night. Zach Randolph had 20 points and 13 boards for Memphis.

Clippers, 96 Trail Blazers 83: This looked nothing like Saturday’s close Blazers win in the first of this home-and-home, save for the names across the teams’ chests. The Clippers owned the paint in this one, scoring 56 points there and they were led by Blake Griffin, who had 23 points and 9 assists (and didn’t set foot on the court in the fourth quarter). The Clippers pulled away in the third and unlike Saturday (when Los Angeles blew a 9 point lead in the final two minutes) they didn’t let up.

What went wrong for the Blazers? Let us count the ways. Portland scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter. Portland also committed the cardinal sin against the Clippers, turning the ball over 19 times (that fuels L.A.’s fast break). The other big difference from Saturday? Portland couldn’t hit a three to save its life (3-for-15).

Pistons 104, Magic 102: Orlando is now 3-15 with games decided 6 points or less. Some of that is just bad luck, but another reason is what we saw at the end of this game — they don’t have anyone who could create a good shot for himself in crunch time. Detroit did — Will Bynum was slicing into the lane and kicking out to shooters and that was the difference (he had 12 assists on the night.

It was tied 95-95 with three minutes when Bynum drove the lane, kicked out to a wide-open Tayshaun Prince for a three, and he missed it. Jameer Nelson got the rebound and threw a home-run ball lass to E’Twaun Moore for a layup and-1. Next trip down the Pistons missed two more threes but Greg Monroe was grabbing offensive rebounds and eventually found Brandon Knight who knocked down a three, part of his career high 31 points on the night. Next trip down was another three for Knight, this one open from the corner. Moore was getting buckets for the Magic on his way to a career high 18, but the Pistons kept getting better looks late. J.J. Redick, who had 31 on the night, had a shot at a game winner but couldn’t create space for himself and it was contested and never really had a chance.

Mavericks 110, Suns 95: Fourth game in five nights for the Suns and it showed, they looked tired. Credit the Mavs for taking advantage of that — Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each had 18 points. The Suns made a run and cut the lead to five in the fourth quarter, but that was all the energy they had. Dallas went on a 10-0 run and that was it.

Pistons reveal “Detroit Chrome” alternate uniform

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I’m a fan of the Pistons’ alternate uniforms in general — their “Motor City” ones may be may favorite alternates around the league.

Now they have a new one — Detroit Chrome.

The Pistons will break these out for seven home games this season. From the official release:

The inspiration for the Detroit Chrome jerseys came about as a way to honor our coolest cars from the past and the cars of the future. Detroit is universally known as the auto capital of the world, where chrome leaves an indelible mark on the cars we create. The uniforms feature a matte chrome base color with clean simple lines inspired by the classic muscle cars that have roared up and down Woodward Avenue for decades. The navy trim and Detroit emblazoned across the chest represent the blue collar work ethic that the auto industry and region was built on.

Clean, simple, cool — I like it.

That would look good in the first round of the playoffs, too. (I’m predicting they get the eight seed.)


51 Questions: Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

It has been five years since the Phoenix Suns made the playoffs, tying the franchise record for longest playoff drought. It’s the fourth longest active drought in the NBA (Timberwolves at 11, Kings at nine, and Pistons at six).

Think about it this way: The Magic, Sixers, and Jazz have been to the playoffs more recently than the Suns.

Phoenix hasn’t bottomed out on a rebuild, they’ve actually been pretty good — they surprised everyone and won 48 games two seasons ago, then had 39 wins last season when things went very wrong and injuries crushed the team after the All-Star break. However, in a deep Western Conference pretty good isn’t good enough.

Suns management and ownership wants that to change. They want back in the playoff dance. Now.

It’s why they went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, coming in a surprising second to a Spurs team that nobody was likely to catch in that chase.

This summer the Suns made other moves to address needs. They went out and got Tyson Chandler as a free agent. The first reaction was he was there to provide a shot blocking and defensive quarterbacking, two things the Suns sorely lacked. However, just as importantly, they needed a vocal locker room leader, a vacuum that was part of the problem in Phoenix’s implosion last season.

The Suns also needed shooting, they went out and got Mirza Teletovic and drafted Devin Booker.

It’s easy to think the Suns regressed because they lost a lot of talent since the last trade deadline — Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright — but they believe the pieces they have now fit together better.

Phoenix believes it can make the playoffs; it thinks it finally has the right formula.

Maybe. They will be in the mix. But a four things have to happen to make that a reality.

First is Chandler has to lead a defensive renaissance on this team. Last season they were average, 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Chandler can help change that. First, he gives them defensive rebounding that they lacked. He gives them a quarterback that they needed to call things out and have everyone on the same page (reports of how he talks on defense are already pouring out of camp). And he helps protects the paint — that means Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and P.J. Tucker can pressure the ball more and take risks out on the perimeter knowing Chandler can erase some mistakes.

The second is an obvious one: Bledsoe and Knight need to be able to work well together. They are going to share playmaking duties, and both are going to spend time working off the ball, both need to be ready for that mental adjustment. We haven’t seen that much yet, we need to see how it works out.

Third, there needs to be shooting to space the floor. Bledsoe is a penetrator who is a career 32 percent from three, while Knight shot just 31.3 percent from three after being traded to the Suns (likely due to ankle injuries that required off-season surgery). Those two men will be running the pick-and-roll with Chandler, who sets a good pick, rolls hard and can finish, but doesn’t have shooting range. The Suns other two starters are likely P.J. Tucker, who is not a huge threat from three but shot a respectable 34.5 percent from there last season, and Markieff Morris, who is a career 32.8 percent from three.

If I’m an opposing defense, what’s to keep me from going under picks and packing the lane against the Suns? Phoenix needs Knight to return to the guy who is a career 36 percent from three, they need Morris to improve from the outside, and they need guys like Teletovic and Booker to play key minutes and space the floor at times.

Fourth, and finally, they need the potentially volatile mixture of an unhappy Morris and a coach in Jeff Hornacek in the last year of his contract not to combust. Everyone is saying all the right things at the start of camp, and this is why guys like Chandler and Ronnie Price were brought in, but there is the potential for things to go sideways, especially if some early losses pile up.

The biggest hurdle for the Suns in ending their playoff drought is they are in the Western Conference.

Even if all four of things mentioned above go right for them — if they run and hit more threes plus play better defense — this is likely a 45 win team (give or take a few, and probably take). The problem is that in the West that may not be enough. Barring injuries, there are likely seven lock playoff teams in the West — Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans. That leaves the Suns battling teams such as the Jazz, Mavericks and maybe the Kings for that final playoff spot. It may take more than 45 wins, and things are going to have to break the Suns’ way to get there.

Maybe Robert Sarver gets his way and the playoff drought ends this season, it’s more likely than snow in Phoenix this winter. But I wouldn’t bet much on either happening.