Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers

The Extra Pass: You may not believe this, but a D’Antoni team is winning with defense, plus game recaps



LOS ANGELES — Six games ago, a frustrated Mike D’Antoni decided to shake up the rotation of his struggling 3-5 Lakers: Chris Kaman was out of the starting lineup, Jordan Hill was in; Nick Young became a sixth man and Wesley Johnson became the starting three; and with Steve Nash out Jodie Meeks became Steve Blake’s backcourt mate.

It worked — after the Lakers 100-86 win over Sacramento Sunday night, Los Angeles improved to 4-2 with that rotation and they have won three straight. Yes, they have done this mostly at home (5-of-6) but the bottom line is the Lakers are a .500 team at 7-7.

And you can thank the defense.

Seriously. A Mike D’Antoni team is winning with defense. A team that was 17th in the NBA in defense last season then lost its two best defenders is winning with defense.

In those six games the Lakers are allowing just 97.9 points per 100 possessions, which would be fifth best in the NBA on the season. Opponents are shooting just 42.5 percent overall and 31 percent from three. Teams are converting on only 55.2 percent of their shots in the restricted area and they are shooting 31.8 percent from the midrange.

An active and at times swarming Lakers defense frustrated the Kings in the second half Sunday as Sacramento shot just 33.3 percent in the final 24 minutes, putting up just 38 points. The Kings had an offensive rating of 88.1

“We are sticking to our principles a lot,” D’Antoni said after the Lakers win Sunday. “I think they’re getting to the point where they’re not thinking about things and just reacting and sticking to what we are doing. They’re just following the game plan really well. The last part is their effort. They want to do it. I think because you share the ball on offense and everyone feels good about how they are playing that transfers on the defensive end and get more team energy.”

The Lakers are doing it with energy — this is not a team of lock-down defenders or elite athletes known for their defense. But starting with the ball of energy that is Jordan Hill on the back end the Lakers are doing a good job of driving guys to help and closing out on shooters. They are playing hard and fundamentally sound defense. In the NBA, a league full of athletes, defense really starts with effort.

“Intensity,” Pau Gasol said of the defensive improvement. “I think we’re communicating. I think we’re doing a good job defensively. For the most part I think we did a good job of holding this team to 86 points. I think we showed a great effort and we just have to keep that up.”

Is this sustainable long-term? Likely not, at least not at this level. We’ll see if the Lakers can keep that up on the road, with three games in four nights this week — Washington, Brooklyn and Detroit. Then they come home to the red-hot offense of Portland. That is going to test the Lakers newfound defensive commitment. Plus soon they will work Kobe Bryant back into the rotation — a 35-year-old guy coming off a serious surgery.

But at least for a couple of weeks now, the Lakers have done it with defense. Which was about the last thing we expected from them this season.



Pistons 109, Nets 97: Brooklyn looked like they could get a win at home after a pretty good first half — Joe Johnson had 16 points in the first 24 (he finished the game with 34) and with a late 13-2 run the Nets were up 7 at the break. Then the third quarter happened. The Nets shot 26.3 percent in the third, the Pistons shot 66.7 percent and got to the line. Brandon Jennings had 10 in the quarter. Brooklyn couldn’t make that up in the fourth as the Pistons stayed hot. Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons with 27.

Clippers 121, Bulls 82: Did Chicago miss Derrick Rose? Yes. But that’s not why they lost by 39 — Chicago just did not show up defensively. The Clippers have the second best offense in the NBA this young season and they showed hit hitting 58.5 percent of their shots, they were moving the ball (32 assists on 48 makes) and they had an offensive rating of 129 on the night (they are averaging 108.6 on the season). Jared Dudley led the way for the Clippers with 21 and hit 4-of-5 from three. Chris Paul had 16 points and 17 assists. Don’t expect another bad Bulls defensive performance, Tom Thibodeau seemed frustrated with it after the game.

Suns 104, Magic 96: The Suns took the lead with a 13-5 run in the first quarter, led the whole way on the road and even when the Magic got within three it felt like the Suns would get the win. The reason is Goran Dragic who was just the best player on the floor — 23 points, 13 assists, and no turnovers. Gerald Green added 20 and the Suns just got the tempo up and the Magic could not keep up. Good news for Orlando —Tobias Harris was back in the lineup. He looked rusty but he was at least back.

Thunder 95, Jazz 73: Oklahoma City is a good team in a good groove lately. Utah is a bad team playing worse than anyone in the NBA. Together this is what you get — OKC had doubled up Utah at one point, 66-33. This game had all the suspense of “How I Met Your Mother” will end, we’ll spare you the long story. Suffice to say moving Marvin Williams into Utah’s starting lineup didn’t change anything, and as you might expect rookie Trey Burke struggled in his first NBA start. Utah won the last quarter by 10 or this would have looked a lot worse. Kevin Durant had 19 on 9 shots, Perry Jones had a nice 13 off the Thunder bench. Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert with 10 each led the Jazz. Yes, seriously.

Lakers 100, Kings 86: As discussed above, the Lakers had a solid offensive night — Xavier Henry had 21 points, Pau Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds — but the Lakers really won this game with defense. In the second half the Kings scored just 38 points on 33.3 percent shooting as the Lakers protected the rim well and closed out aggressively on shooters. The Lakers led most of the way but never by much until the Lakers bench (often its spark plug this season) put up a 10-0 run late in the third then a 15-6 run to start the fourth. At that point it was over. DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists but couldn’t get really going as the Lakers threw a lot of bodies at him. Greivis Vasquez had 20 points and kept the Kings going in the first half. But the Lakers turned their defense into transition offense and pulled away for the win.

Hawks retire Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55

Dikembe Mutombo
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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks retired Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55 jersey Tuesday night to honor the longtime shot blocker’s Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Mutombo signed as a free agent in 1996 to make Atlanta the second stop on an 18-year career he spent with five other teams.

“I don’t think I ever thought my jersey would be retired,” Mutombo told reporters after his jersey was hung from the arena rafters in a halftime ceremony. “My name will stay forever.”

The 7-foot-2 Mutombo was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an eight-time All-Star, and he ranks second on the league’s career blocked shots list and 20th in rebounds.

Through his foundation, Mutombo, 49, built a hospital that has served 140,000 in his native Congo. He twice won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and now works for the league as a global ambassador.

Mutombo was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame two months ago.

Warriors make NBA history as first team to start season 16-0

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The defending champion Golden State Warriors set the record for best start in NBA history at 16-0, as Stephen Curry had 24 points and nine assists in a 111-77 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

With their coach sidelined, the Warriors surpassed the 15-0 starts by the Washington Capitols of 1948-49 and 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

Confetti streamed down when the final buzzer sounded and Golden State’s players barely celebrated.

Kobe Bryant shot 1 of 14 for just four points, matching the worst-shooting performance of his career in a game where he had at least one basket. The Lakers dropped to 2-12 with the second-worst record in the NBA.

Draymond Green added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 27 games with coach Steve Kerr watching from behind the scenes while recovering from complications following two back surgeries.

Interim Luke Walton is leading the way, and it might have been a little sweeter to set the record against the Lakers franchise he helped win two titles.

Golden State became the sixth team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive regular-season games, a streak dating to last season. The Suns have the next shot at stopping this incredible start when the Warriors visit Phoenix on Friday night.

Curry only had to play 30 minutes, taking a seat for good with 6.5 seconds remaining in the third to huge cheers from a sellout crowd of 19,596 that was really closer to 20,000 with all the standing-room only tickets sold.

Bryant went 1 for 7 from 3-point range in 25 minutes as Los Angeles lost its fourth in a row and eighth in nine.

He also finished 1 for 14 last season against San Antonio, according to STATS.

Klay Thompson had 11 points but missed his first seven shots and, as has been the case in a handful of these wins, the Warriors took a few minutes to get rolling – and then they were off and running.

Golden State missed five of its first six shots before Curry’s 3-pointer from the left wing at 8:28. The Warriors knocked down five of their first 12 from long range to build a 27-9 lead with 1:41 left in the opening period.


Former Warriors shooting guard Jason Richardson couldn’t believe the fortunate timing: Golden State honored him Tuesday and he got to be at Oracle Arena to see his old team make history. He received a framed jersey from Adonal Foyle in a presentation after the first quarter.

“Even though I didn’t retire a Warrior, you guys make me feel like a Warrior for life,” he told the crowd.

Richardson, part of the 2007 “We Believe” team that reached the second round of the playoffs after ending a 12-year drought, has been a big supporter of Green, who took a similar path from Saginaw, Michigan, to Michigan State to Golden State. Green wears Richardson’s No. 23.

“I think Draymond shocked everybody besides himself,” said Richardson, Golden State’s first-round pick taken fifth overall in the 2001 draft.


Los Angeles coach Byron Scott was part of his share of special teams with the Lakers, too. He recalls when they were winning nearly every night.

“I think once it’s all over, you look back and realize how much fun it was,” Scott said. “One thing Riles (Pat Riley) wouldn’t let us do is live on what we did the last night.”


Lakers: The Lakers were outscored 35-17 in the third and have lost eight of 11 at Oracle. … Chasing a loose ball in the first, Bryant slid right into the courtside area by owner Joe Lacob, who gave him a safe sign. … Nick Young borrowed ex-Warriors guard Gilbert Arenas’ black and gold shoes.

Warriors: Golden State has won six straight at home against the Lakers for its longest streak since seven in a row from 1993-95. … The Warriors have scored 100 or more points in 43 consecutive home games, longest since the Nuggets did so in 47 straight from Feb. 1, 1990-Feb. 23, 1991. … Walton confirmed before the game his car was stolen last week in Oakland and he credited authorities apprehending and charging a suspect. “That’s part of life,” he said. “They did a good job.”


Lakers: At Portland on Saturday.

Warriors: At Phoenix on Friday.

Kristaps Porzingis grew up a Kobe fan. Still is one.


When you hear player comparisons for Knicks rookie, the most common is Dirk Nowitzki — a European big with ridiculous shooting range and potential to embarrass anyone.

So did he grow up idolizing Dirk? Not so much.

Rather, like many of his generation, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, he told Mike Francesa of WFAN.

“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”

There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.

In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.

There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.

(Hat tip NBA reddit)

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton

If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.