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

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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.

What happened to Willy Hernangomez’s minutes with Knicks?

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When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.

He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.

What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.

“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”

“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.

Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.

Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.

Patrick Beverley talks a lot of smack, taunts Lonzo Ball in opener

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LOS ANGELES — Welcome to the NBA Lonzo Ball. Guys are gunning for you.

“He’s a great talent, but he’s got to go through the tough times. I just had to set the tone,” the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley said of his physical play on Ball from the opening tip. “I told him after the game, due to all the riffraff his dad brings he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. He’s got to be ready for that, and I let him know after the game…

“(I had to) welcome his little young a** to the NBA.”

Beverley said a lot more than that.

Beverly is known as a physical defender who talks a lot and tries to get under the skin of opponents. Throw in an overhyped rookie — one who other players feel hasn’t earned his place yet, one with a Facebook reality show, one with a father who talks a lot — and you get the full Beverley treatment from the opening tip.

Maybe Snoop Dogg put it best, as he often does.

Both Lakers coach Luke Walton and team president Magic Johnson said they warned Ball what was coming, but words don’t always do justice to the reality of a guy in your grill all night.

In the second quarter, Beverley stole the ball from Ball from Ball shouted “first team!” three times while holding up his index finger — a reference to him being First Team All-Defense last season.

Thing is, it wasn’t just Beverley. When he sat Austin Rivers had the Ball defensive assignment, and on a couple of occasions Ball tried to drive past Rivers but couldn’t. All night long a Clippers team that always prioritizes getting back in transition took away the look-ahead passes that Ball was known for over the summer (he had a couple, but there were few opportunities).

Ball sat the entire fourth quarter and finished the night 1-of-6 shooting with four assists and nine rebounds. The Lakers were blown out by Beverley’s Clippers 108-92, a game the Clippers led by 30 at one point.

To his credit, Ball handled it well.

“He plays 94 feet,” Ball said of Beverley. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. He’s a good defender. I just tried to do what I can.”

“It was good for (Lonzo),” Walton said of the rough first night. “Beverley is as good as anyone, if not the best, at the point guard position of getting into other people and getting under their skin. I thought Zo kept his composure.”

Ball is going to need that composure over a long season — Beverley is right, other guys will come at him. Lonzo’s father LaVar wrote a lot of checks with his mouth this summer — he called out LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and others — that will come due on Lonzo. There are more learning experiences ahead for the rookie, especially on a young Lakers team without nearly enough shooting around him to create the space he needs for his passing to thrive.

However, hold his own this season, improve, and keep that composure and he will win over NBA players. Respect is earned in the league, and Ball is just starting that process as far as other teams are concerned.

 

Former Celtic Justin Reed passes away from cancer at age 35

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This is depressing.

Justin Reed, a second-round pick of the Celtics back in 2004, the former Ole Miss star, has passed away from cancer at the age of 35.

Angiosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels, his happened around his spine.

Reed played in 136 NBA games, both for Boston and then the Timberwolves after he was traded in 2006. He had played four years at Ole Miss and led the school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Our thoughts are with Reed’s family and friends.

NBA Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook is back to triple-double ways

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Every night in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, and that was certainly true on the first TNT Thursday night games of the season. Every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Another game, another Russell Westbrook triple-double — but this time he had two 20+ point friends to help. If all you saw was the box score, you’d think this was the perfect opening night for the Oklahoma City Thunder — they won by 21 (105-84), their defense looked dominant in stretches (allowing 17 points in the third quarter), and their stars had big nights. Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds for another triple-double, Paul George had 28, and Carmelo Anthony 22.

However, if you watched the game, you saw a very good team that had some work to do. The Thunder big three combined for 71 points, yet they were just a +8 when on the court as a trio. The Thunder halfcourt offense wasn’t impressive, there was still a lot of them playing next to each other — “you take a turn in isolation, now I go” — and not the ball switching sides into quick action that they need. It’s not all bad, these are three very good isolation players, but to make the whole more than the sum of the parts that’s the next step. But the Thunder got a lot of transition buckets, the three of them played well, and Stephen Adams was able to set a physical tone. The OKC bench is a bit of a concern, but it’s not like the Knicks could exploit that.

It was a good start for OKC fans, they got a win and their stars racked up impressive numbers. Nothing wrong with that.

For New York, Kristaps Porzingis looked good scoring 31. Beyond that… just watch some Kristaps Porzingis highlights, that’s the best we’ve got for Knicks’ fans.

2) Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley bring a dose of reality to Lonzo Ball, Lakers’ hype machine. I live in Los Angeles, and I had a Lakers’ fan friend trying to pitch to me how they were good enough to be a playoff team in the West. I just shook my head at the idea, but the Lakers and Lonzo Ball hype machine had been in overdrive all summer, and some Lakers’ fans were not just drinking the Kool-Aid, they were chugging it.

Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, and the Los Angeles Clippers woke Lakers fans up to reality Thursday night. They showed those Lakers’ fans what a playoff team in the West looks like. The Clippers cruised to a 108-92 win that wasn’t that close, the Clippers led by 30 at one point.

Griffin had 29 points and played as moved as well as we’ve seen him in a year (get to No. 3 on our list). Patrick Beverley was physical and in Lonzo Ball’s face from the opening tip, ““(I had to) welcome his little young a** to the NBA.” DeAndre Jordan had 24 rebounds, 14 points, and owned the paint. The Clippers defended while the young Lakers struggled on every front on that side — they don’t have a lot of talented defenders, their young players often don’t know where to be, and there was a real lack of effort on that end.

Griffin did a good job protecting the rim (the most active I have seen him down there in years), that was in addition to Jordan’s usual efforts in that phase of the game. Lou Williams did what he does and gave the team a dozen points off the bench. Danilo Gallinari struggled a little with his shot (3-of-11) but played hard on the defensive end. The Clippers got solid bench games from Austin Rivers and Willie Reed.

The Lakers are still a young team learning to play. Ball has to become more comfortable scoring to open up the passes he wants to make in the half court, but he was just 1-of-6 as a reluctant shooter (and admitted after the game he needs to be more aggressive). More concerning, Brandon Ingram was 3-of-15 shooting, he continues to struggle from everywhere — he was just 1-of-5 at the rim, 1-of-7 in the paint overall, and 2-of-8 outside it. As a team the Lakers shot 35.4 percent in the first half, and for the game were 11-of-42 outside the paint.

As young teams will do, the Lakers let their missed shots effect their defensive effort, and that’s what did them in.

It’s going to be a long season filled with some harsh lessons for the young Lakers. The Clippers were just happy to provide the first one.

3) If you think Blake Griffin doesn’t dunk anymore… we suggest you ask Julius Randle about that. Or, just watch this video. Maybe he doesn’t throw it down as often, but he still brings the power when he goes to the rim.