New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire dunks during their NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: The Knicks are comeback kings


Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while listening to a Trent Reznor/Carly Ray Jepson mash up

Knicks 102, Cavaliers 97: The Knicks had to really work for this win — they trailed by 22 in the second quarter and lost Carmelo Anthony for the game around the same time (he tweaked his knee and did not play the second half).

But around the time he went down the rest of the Knicks decided to bring a little more energy on defense. Meaning they decided to contest a shot. Which was a change. Then at the other end the Knicks started to move the ball on offense. And pretty soon they were climbing back with a 17-4 run in the second. Then early in the third the Knicks went on a 12-1 run and with a Steve Novak three in the third quarter they retook the lead.

Cleveland would not roll over and this was close at the end — the Knicks needed Novak and then Jason Kidd knocking down key threes. Still the Cavs got the lead down to two on some Wayne Ellington free throws. Next possession after that Amare Stoudemire — who had his best game of the season and finished with 22 points — drove the lane, missed but got his own rebound and hit the more difficult putback to make it a four-point game with 38 seconds left. Kyrie Irving, back after missing three games, quickly made it a two-point game with a layup (he finished with 22 points and 6 assists). Stoudemire tried to ice it next trip down but missed — only to have Tyson Chandler tip out the missed shot, Kidd chased it down, got fouled, hit one and it was a three point game. Then to really ice it, Chandler blocked a Irving three (could have been a foul, maybe should have been) and the Knicks get a hard fought win on the road.

Heat 97, Timberwolves 81: Miami took the lead with a 15-2 run in the first quarter and never lost it, although the game was closer than many expected most of the way.

Minnesota got the lead down the three early in the fourth quarter, which was until Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade took over — each had nine points in the final period. J.J. Barea tried to put a stop to Allen, but that didn’t work — he got ejected instead for knocking Allen to the ground. Wade had maybe his best game this season with 32 points plus 10 assists, and the Heat got the comfortable win. Derrick Williams led the Timberwolves with 25, and Minnesota put up a good fight considering they are only dressing nine.

Bucks 109, Jazz 108 (OT): For much of the game it was Monta Ellis doing the damage, he finished with 34 points. When it wasn’t him it was Brandon Jennings, who had 20 points and 17 assists. But in overtime it was J.J. Redick scoring 8 points in those five minutes to spark the Bucks win.

The Jazz felt Gordon Hayward should have gone to the line at the end of regulation on what the refs called a fair Larry Sanders block but certainly plenty of contact. But alas, no such lock for the Jazz. If Utah plans on holding off the charging Lakers, these are the kind of close games they need to win.

Nuggets 104, Hawks 88: Atlanta was saddled with the toughest back-to-back in the league — one night in Los Angeles followed by the next night at altitude in Denver. It looked like it, the Hawks went flat in the fourth quarter, turned the ball over seven times, and the Nuggets pulled away to win their 11th straight game at home. Corey Brewer had 22 points, Ty Lawson added 18 points and eight assists. Nuggets fans even got a couple monster putback dunks from JaVale McGee to entertain them.

Warriors 125, Raptors 118: Toronto led this by 7 entering the fourth quarter, but went ice cold for the quarter, shooting just 27.6 percent. On the other side Golden State had Stephen Curry, who had 15 points in the quarter (26 for the game, plus 12 assists) and that was enough. Curry had help: Klay Thompson had 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, and David Lee ha 29 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Rudy Gay returned the lineup and had 26 points but on 22 shots, and Andrea Bargnani had 26 points as well (18 shots, and he was 5-of-7 from three). They combined for 6 in the final quarter.

More good news for Warriors fans, Andrew Bogut returned and after missing 6 games and had 4 points and 8 rebounds.

Trail Blazers 122, Bobcats 105: The Blazers shot 59.8 percent as a team and had seven players in double figures as they cruised to a win over the sad and struggling Bobcats. Portland was 12-of-24 from three, the Bobcats 1-of-10. LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots to lead Portland. It was the kind of game where Portland’s Nicolas Batum threw a pass off the backboard to Meyers Leonard for a dunk — the Blazers are not usually a showtime team, but they could be in this one.

Magic 105, Hornets 102: Orlando went on a late 15-3 to earn this win. Part of that was their key players were at their best in the second half — Arron Afflalo had 17 of his 26 points after halftime, while Jameer Nelson scored all of his 15 points after the break. The Magic also got key plays like a three from Al Herrington, Mo Harkless throwing down a putback and more. It’s a good win because for the Magic any win is a good one. The Hornets are supposed to be a better defensive team than they showed.

Kobe Bryant: “Do I want to play again or don’t I… the reality is no, I don’t.”

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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant has known the answer for a while, he just wasn’t ready to admit it to himself. Let alone the world.

He wanted to try to wring one more season of good basketball out of his 37-year-old body. He wanted to try to talk himself out what his body was telling him. If he put in the work like he always had — if he lifted weights and stretched and took ice baths and watched film obsessively — he could still have a dramatic, positive impact on an NBA court.

A month into the season, Kobe admitted to himself he couldn’t will himself to do it anymore.

“Ultimately it’s a decision I had to make in life: Do I want to play again or don’t I?” Kobe asked. “It’s a very simple question, but it’s hard question to really answer. And the reality is no, I don’t. So why belabor it?”

Kobe announced that he will retire from the NBA at the end of this season.

Speaking to the media at Staples Center after another Lakers’ loss Sunday, what was clear was Kobe was comfortable with his decision. As Byron Scott had said before, Kobe was at peace with it.

“I’ve known for a while,” Bryant said. “I’ve always said if anything changes, I’ll change my mind. The problem for me, you can’t make a decision like this based on outside circumstances. It has to be an internal decision. Finally I just had to accept it, I don’t want to go through this anymore. And I’m okay with that.”

For two decades of his NBA career — in reality, much longer than that — basketball had been Kobe’s obsession. It drove his every decision, his every action. But even that had begun to change. He regularly meditates (thanks, Phil Jackson) and it was there he started to realize what was happening.

“Sitting in meditation for me, my mind starts drifting, and it always drifted to basketball. Always. And it doesn’t do that anymore,” Kobe said. “It does that sometimes, it doesn’t do that all the time. That was the first indicator that this game was not something I can obsess over much longer.”

Not that Kobe was going to give up the game without a fight. Kobe is not going to just roll over. However, after 20 seasons, 55,000 NBA minutes, a torn Achilles and major knee injury, hard work was not enough. Obsession was no longer enough. His body was quitting on him.

He’s accepted and come to peace with that.

“I honestly feel really good about it. I really do. I’m at peace with it…” Bryant said. “I’ve worked so hard and I continue to work really hard even though I played like shit, I’ve worked really, really hard not to play like crap and I do everything I possibly can. And I feel good about that.”

Make no mistake he is playing like crap. He’s a shell of his old self on defense. After a 4-of-20 shooting performance against the Pacers Sunday night, Kobe is shooting 30.5 percent on the season. He was 2-of-15 to start the game.

But a flash of vintage Kobe is what everyone will remember from Sunday’s game — they will talk about his two late fourth quarter three pointers, one a ridiculous leaner, that helped a Lakers’ comeback and brought the team within two points of the Pacers late in the fourth. After a Paul George free throw (George had 35 on the night), Kobe got a chance for a three to tie the game. He sprinted up off a down screen, caught the ball and moved along the top of the arc, getting enough space to get off a quick shot. And he airballed it. Which speaks to where his legs are now.

Kobe still loves putting in the work, which is one reason he’s not walking away mid-season (that $25 million contract may be a factor as well). He said “there is so much beauty in the pain of this league.” He still loves the effort of trying to get better every day.

He’s just not seeing results anymore. If he were playing better, if the young Lakers like D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle were coming along more quickly, if this Lakers’ team was more respectable, then his decision might be different. But none of those things are happening.

That doesn’t mean anyone gets to talk smack to Kobe.

“We were playing Portland and some kid from the bench said something to me, said ‘we’re going to beat you tonight.’ I looked at him and said ‘I’ve got one rule: If you weren’t born when I started playing you can’t talk trash. It’s a simple rule’ And he looked and said, ‘Yes sir.’”

Coach Byron Scott and GM Mitch Kupchak have not talked about how Kobe will be used going forward after this decision, although don’t expect much of a change. This is the Kobe Bryant farewell tour now, and at home and on the road he will have adulation rained on him by the fans. They want to see Kobe be Kobe, and it’s not like he’s suddenly going to change playing styles.

Kobe appreciates and said he loves the fans, but it’s what he hears from other players — guys who have gone to him for advice such as Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, James Harden — that matters most to Bryant.

“The coolest thing is the messages I receive from the players,” he said. “They say thank you for the inspiration, thank you for the lessons, for the mentality. Those things honestly mean the most from me, that respect from the peers, there’s nothing in the world that beats that.”

It’s hard to walk away from that. To willingly step back from the only life you’ve known for two decades. Even if it’s been obvious for a little while it was time.

Bryant had to admit to himself it was time. Now he has, hopefully he can savor every moment of this season and leave it on his own terms.


76ers tie NBA worst with 0-18 start after loss to Grizzlies

Matt Barnes, Nik Stauskas, Jerami Grant
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Zach Randolph had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 92-84 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday, sending the 76ers to their record-tying 18th straight loss to start the season.

The Sixers have lost an NBA-record 28 consecutive games dating to last season and at 0-18 matched the New Jersey Nets’ start in 2009-10.

Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 20 points, while Matt Barnes and Jeff Green finished with 13 apiece as Memphis won for the seventh time in the last nine.

Isaiah Canaan led the Sixers with 16 points, while Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson scored 12 points apiece. Jerami Grant finished with 11 points.

The Sixers led 76-71 with 7:38 remaining and Memphis fans were booing their team. But the Grizzlies went on a 15-1 run to retake control of the game, with Randolph scoring eight points in the rally.

Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant “at peace” with decision to retire after season

Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant was never going to go quietly into that good night. He would rage, rage against the dying of the light — and torn Achilles, knee ligaments, shoulders, and everything else holding him back.

But now, the end is near, and Kobe will face the final curtain at the end of this season. And he is at peace with it, if you ask his coach.

“It was so matter of fact, and he was so at peace with (the decision),” Lakers’ coach Byron Scott said of when Kobe told him this season would be it. “After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything, it was like ‘I’m announcing I’m retiring’ and just kind of went on from there.”

Bryant told Scott before anyone else in the Lakers’ organization, and told him sometime Saturday (when the Lakers played and lost in Portland).

“I said, ‘what?’ He just told me at a very awkward time; we started laughing about it,” Scott said. “He said ‘you looked like you were saying ‘what they hell are you talking about’ but it just caught me off guard.”

It’s been an ugly season for Kobe, his body can no longer do what he expects of it — he can’t get the separation, the lift needed for his shoots. He was shooting 31.1 percent on the season going into Sunday’s game against Indiana, and he started 1-of-11 from the floor Sunday night. Yet he kept gunning.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

Kupchak added hoped this decision would ease the pressure on Bryant.

“I would hope that he has more fun, and appears less frustrated, and also gets more appreciation,” Kupchak said. “He’ll get it at home, but on the road too, because people will have to recognize this is his last year and they are watching one of the all-time greats.”

Kobe got plenty of appreciation from Lakers’ fans on Sunday night with a massive ovation when he was introduced. Kobe had wanted to avoid a Derek Jeter style farewell tour, but with that announcement and the Lakers playing 13-of-17 on the road in December you can bet there will be some of that.

“One of the best ever to play the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “I don’t know if there’s any one moment, just throughout the course of his career you didn’t want him to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, period. Because you knew he was going to beat you.”

No doubt Kobe goes down as one of the game’s all-time greats — five-time NBA champion, MVP, two Finals MVP’s, 17 All-Star Games, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — but what Scott ultimately wants is Bryant to leave the game on his terms.

“What I want from Kobe is basically his last game to be able to walk off the court, wave to the fans, and be able to go into the locker room standing up,” Scott said.


Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.