Oklahoma City Thunder guard Westbrook controls the inbound pass in front of Chicago Bulls defenders Belinelli and Gibson during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Thunder roll as Bulls need a Rose

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while pointing out to friends the historical inaccuracies of “Argo”

Lakers 103, Mavericks 99: The Lakers are starting to find their identity as a team… of course, some night’s that identity is Kobe Bryant. He dropped 38 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, had 12 rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers are in the playoff hunt and our Brett Pollakoff broke it down.

Thunder 102, Bulls 72: No doubt the Thunder are a very good team, a title contender, a team deep with talent. This game wasn’t about them. This is about how sad and pathetic the Bulls offense can be some nights — they shot 29.1 percent for the game. Or look at it this way, their shot totals by quarter: 6-of-30, 4-of-18, 7-of-20, 8-of-18. It was ugly. These are the games they miss Derrick Rose.

This was a rout from early on, when the Thunder went on a 19-5 run and never looked back. Russell Westbrook had 23, Kevin Durant had 29 and they could have played mahjong on the bench in the fourth quarter as they and all the Thunder starter’s watched as the benches were emptied.

Knicks 99, 76ers 93: So if you want some good news Philadelphia, Thaddeus Young is back and had a double-double (10 and 11). And Jrue Holiday looked every part the All-Star (30 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists). But right now the 76ers are crumbling and the Knicks are a playoff team trying to gear up for a run.

The Knicks needed a win after losing four in a row and got it with 29 from Carmelo Anthony and a season high 22 from Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks bench gave New York the lead with a 17-2 run to start the second quarter, and the Knicks never gave it up. They needed a win, now they need to build on it over the final months of the season.

Trail Blazers 92, Celtics 86: Boston is on a tough West Coast road trip and could use a win. And it looked like they could get one after a Kevin Garnett running hook tied the game a 86-86 with 1:46 to go.

But it wasn’t to be. Damian Lillard attacked off the pick-and-roll, the defensive rotation was late and he picked up and and-one. Then after some good defense taking away a Garnett drive and forcing a miss, then Wesley Matthews — who had an impressive 24 points on the night — knocked down the step back three that sealed it. Good win for a struggling Blazers team.

Heat 109, Cavaliers 105: Miami seemed to be in control after a 10-0 run in the first quarter and were cruising, up 18 at the half. The lead got to 22 at one point. But the Cavaliers opened the second half with some intent and opened it 42-21 and with a 15-2 run in the third quarter the Cavaliers took the lead.

Then Dwyane Wade happened. He had 15 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-10 shooting and you can count a couple of assists in there, too. Dion Waiters tried to answer, the gunner had 8 in the fourth quarter and 26 in the game. But it wasn’t enough.

Grizzlies 76, Nets 72: Seven wins in a row for the Grizzlies. This game shows why Memphis will be a tough out come the playoffs. First, they defend — Brooklyn shot 37.7 percent. Drive the lane and you will pay a price against them as they are physical and will defend the rim. On offense it was five guys in double figures, led by Zach Randolph with 16. They don’t need a lot of points and they get what they need with balance.

Spurs 97, Suns 87: How did you really think this was going to end? The Suns hung around for a quarter but the Spurs opened the second quarter on a 22-4 and that was it. The final score makes it seem closer than it was. The Spurs has six guys scoring in double figures. San Antonio did it without Tony Parker who was out, and they finish the annual rodeo trip 7-2.

Warriors 100, Timberwolves 99: Golden State didn’t play very well, may not have deserved it (22 turnovers), but they got a big game from their All-Star David Lee (22 points, 13 rebounds) and key late shots from Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry and it was enough. Well, that and a late miss by Luke Ridnour, who had a shot at the win but misses. It was really a big game for Carl Landry, too, who had 19 points and 9 rebounds.

There were a couple good performances for the Timberwolves — Derrick Williams had 23 and Ricky Rubio looked more like his old self with 13 points, 9 assists.

Hornets 110, Kings 95: This game was a lot closer than the score shows, the Hornets went on a 22-7 run in the fourth quarter to pull away. They did it with their bench — Ryan Anderson had 13 of his 17 in the fourth quarter, Roger Mason Jr. added 10 in the quarter. The Hornets won the bench battle 45-17.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. 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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.