Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Boston gets best win of the year

Leave a comment

Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while talking about Anne Hathaway’s nipples….

Nuggets 119, Lakers 108: On the second night of a back-to-back the Lakers looked old and slow next to a Nuggets team that ran right past them, exploited the Lakers transition defense and scored a ridiculous 78 points in the paint. We broke it all down in more detail, but Lakers fans may not want to read it.

Celtics 110, Jazz 107 (OT): Boston was playing its fifth game in seven nights all on the road, the second night of a back-to-back up in the altitude in Utah — this is a schedule makers loss. Except someone forgot to tell the Celtics. Doc Rivers called this Boston’s best win of the year.

In the first half on Boston played like a tired team — they missed a lot of good looks, they weren’t rotating out to Jazz three point shooters and they just didn’t look like themselves. Yet they were in it, this was just a five-point game at the half. Then in the third quarter Boston stepped up their defensive pressure and took the lead getting easy buckets in transition off turnovers. And we had a ballgame.

Paul Pierce stepped up in the second half (he finished with 26). He made a last minute, 17-foot up-and-under jumper that had Boston up two late. Utah tied it when Gordon Hayward (who had a great game and 26 points) created off a broken play and found a cutting Alec Burks who hit a layup to tie it. Pierce missed a contested 20 footer and we were headed to overtime. Which Pierce owned. Boston went on a 7-0 run at one point and that was that.

Utah has a tough schedule the rest of the way and the Lakers are getting hot. These are the kind of games they need to win if they are going to stay in the playoffs.

Wizards 90, Raptors 84: A fun contest between two teams playing much better ball lately. Not well played — both teams shot below 36 percent in the first half — but it was close and hard-fought. Washington led the rest of the way after a 19-6 second quarter run but they could never really pull away from a gritty Raptors team, in fact an 11-2 third quarter run had the game tied 49-49 with 4:16 left in the third. Then Bradley Beal (20 points on the night) knocked down a three, Washington went on a 15-5 run and they never looked back. John Wall had 10 points including the dagger layup late.

DeMar DeRozan had 25 for Toronto. Rudy Gay had a rough 1-of-11 shooting night.

Hawks 114, Pistons 103: The Hawks started to pull away in the second quarter behind a big game from Al Horford — 23 points and 22 rebounds — as the Hawks cruised to a win in Detroit. It was a team effort with Atlanta pushing the pace when they could and moving the ball beautifully most of the night. Josh Smith chipped in 23 points and Jeff Teague added 20 points and 12 assists for the Hawks. Jonas Jerebko had 21 points to lead the Pistons. Atlanta has won five of six.

Paul George on trade to Thunder: “I took it as it was a kick in the behind”

Associated Press
1 Comment

Paul George and Russell Westbrook — now with Carmelo Anthony — form one of the more interesting teams in the NBA in Oklahoma City. Deep with quality role players and a defense that should be top 10 (if not top 5) in the league, if the three big names can learn to sacrifice and mesh, the Thunder will be dangerous.

Paul George sounds motivated to take it all on… which he should be the first day of training camp. Still, it’s a good sign for Thunder fans.

George opened up to Sam Amick of the USA Today in a lengthy interview at the start of camp, and among the topics he discussed was the trade to OKC (after George’s camp told Indiana he would test free agency next summer). Did getting sent to the Thunder motivate him?

“I took it as it was a kick in the behind, like, ‘Go ahead and go try to beat the Warriors. Go play alongside Russ and get your butt kicked against the Warriors.’ That’s how I looked at how that trade went down, because honestly we had no idea OKC was even interested or was in the trade until the trade actually happened. But again, I’m not here to trash Indiana. They have some of the best people I’ve ever met in their front office and in that organization. I grew up there. I could go on and on (with) the positives in Indiana, but that’s where my thought process and my – that’s where I, I guess, my opportunity to leave had opened up.”

There was some “go ahead and beat the Warriors” in that trade — it looks, from the outside, like the Pacers did not want George to land anywhere he wanted to go.

Thing is, as human beings, we by our nature try to make the best of situations. Even people who suffer genuine personal tragedies often come out the other side saying that it changed who they were for the better and they are happy with their new life. This is just basketball. George will adapt — and he’s on a very good team. If the bar is “can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a series” then the Thunder will fall short, as will every other team. But the Thunder are on that next tier in the NBA and could be a threat.

Plus, competitors like George always look at a trade as a challenge.

It’s going to be a fascinating season for the Thunder. We’ll see if all that talent is willing to make the sacrifices needed to win at the highest levels of the NBA.

When will Zach LaVine return to court for Bulls? Think Thanksgiving.

Getty Images
1 Comment

When the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler — finally making a decision on the franchise’s direction — one of the centerpieces they got back from Minnesota was Zach LaVine. The wildly athletic two-guard had evolved into more than just a dunker, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three — he had become a legitimate scoring threat against any defense.

Then he blew out his ACL.

How that injury impacts his game remains to be seen… so when will the Bulls see him on the court? Coach Fred Hoiberg addressed that as Chicago started training camp, as reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.

That’s just taking contact in practice. The Bulls will be cautious bringing back a guy they see as part of their future, so expect this to be closer to Thanksgiving or the end of the month before he plays. Which is the smart move to make.

Even then, ACL injuries take a long time to overcome, even for young players putting in the recovery work. It may be next season before we know if LaVine will continue on the trajectory he was on in Minnesota.

Magic Johnson shrugs off concern about Lonzo Ball realty series

Getty Images
4 Comments

Lonzo Ball has yet to play in one NBA game, yet he has his own signature shoe line, and he — along with his father LaVar Ball and the rest of his family — have their own reality show on FaceBook. Lonzo told me he doesn’t foresee this show, nor his bombastic father, being a problem with his teammates or on the court.

Magic Johnson agrees with that. At least for now.

The head of Lakers’ basketball operations said as training camp opened that he’s not worried about the show Ball in the Family being a distraction. If it is, he’ll step in, he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said at the Lakers’ media day when asked about Ball’s reality Facebook series, “Ball in the Family.”

“Right now, I think it is awesome,” Johnson said. “His family is great. They came out Saturday, we had a big Laker picnic. … His dad is wonderful with me, and I am cool with him. … I think [Lonzo] is tired of all this [hype]. He is just like me; I just want to play and I think he wants to play, and then Saturday night [for the Lakers’ preseason opener], sold out, in Anaheim, wow!”

It’s Magic’s job to put a positive spin on things.

That said, he’s right. The Lakers (and every NBA team) have dealt with overinvolved parents before and know how to create some space for the player to focus on the game. Locker rooms have a way of sorting themselves out in these kinds of situations. Plus, the Lakers have been down the reality show road before (when Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian), and while that had an ugly ending, it wasn’t for lack of Lakers’ players and others in the organization trying to step in and help. (Odom just wasn’t yet in a place to accept help.)

Soon LaVar will be focused on his other sons and Lonzo, who appears practiced at tuning his father out and focusing on what is in front of him, will have the grind of the NBA schedule to worry about.

Former NBA player Chuck Person named in college basketball bribery scandal

Associated Press
4 Comments

The recruitment of major college athletes — and then the steering of the handful that get to go pro to shoe companies and agents — is a sleazy business. It makes HBO’s “The Duece” look like Disneyland. It’s something sports fans know but largely turn a blind eye to until it forces its way into the headlines.

It turned up in the headlines Tuesday when four college assistant coaches from major universities were charged by federal prosecutors in a bribery scandal along with a representative of Adidas and others to steer players to specific agents or a financial handler.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, now an assistant coach at Auburn, was among those named in the scandal.

Person is making headlines because he’s the biggest name in the scandal. He is charged with accepting approximately $91,500 from a business manager, who has flipped and is working with prosecutors. This “business manager, offered bribes to Person to steer players toward his services, as well as another person charged in the scandal.

Person told prosecutors he gave $18,500 of the money he took to two players’ families, according to the filings.

Person was the No. 4 pick in the 1986 NBA draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year, followed by a 13-year NBA career. He made $22.9 million over the course of his career.