Author: Kurt Helin

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry with half-court alley-oop pass to Terrence Ross (VIDEO)

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Kyle Lowry threw the pass and even he seemed a little surprised this play worked.

But Terrence Ross climbed the ladder on an impressive play that was part of Toronto’s strong play early. Their problem was that Brandon Jennings outplayed Lowry and the Pistons owned the second half on the way to a 114-111 Detroit win.

The Raptors have now dropped five of their last six.

Three Things We Learned in the NBA Monday: Start thinking of Detroit as a playoff team

Stan Van Gundy
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Pay attention and every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from a light Monday night in the association. Here’s what you missed while booking your vacation to Philadelphia….

The Pistons could make the playoffs. Don’t laugh, we’re serious. With the Nets loss and the Pistons win over the Raptors on Monday Detroit is now just two games out of the eight seed in the East. They have gone 9-2 in their last 11 and in the East that gets you in the playoff mix. Monday’s win was an example of what the Pistons are doing right — in the first half they struggled and had no good answer for Jonas Valanciunas (he finished the night with 31 points and 12 rebounds). But in the second half the Pistons saw Brandon Jennings get hot when they moved the offense to more side pick-and-rolls, and the Raptors didn’t have an adjustment that worked. Jennings finished with 34 points. If the Pistons make the playoffs, as Zito Madu suggests at SB Nation, we should start calling giving up something bad for you “waiving the Josh Smith.” As in “I used to smoke a pack a day but then I waived Josh Smith and breathe much better now.”

Kevin Garnett is going to get be suspended for the Nets game Wednesday vs. Memphis. Boy, that escalated quickly. Kevin Garnett plays an emotional game, and through all the years of unending trash talk and success he has been known to let his emotions get the best of him now and again. Usually against guys about half his size, but tonight Dwight Howard got under his skin somehow. So KG head butted Howard. He’s going to get suspended for that. Howard may get a fine for that slap (not even a punch really) but KG will get the big penalty here. As he should.

Tom Thibodeau is fed up with how the Bulls are playing defense. The Bulls have been pretty good defensively this season — 10th in the NBA allowing 101.7 points per 100 possessions — but that is not exactly the lock down Bulls defense we know. However, in the last five games the Bulls are giving up 106.7 per 100, which is 25th in the NBA. You can imagine how well that sits with the Zen-like Tom Thibodeau. He ripped his team after the game Monday, saying this to CSNChicago.com:

“We’ve got to decide what we’re going to be. If we’re just going to come in and try to outscore people we’re not going anywhere. I know that doesn’t work,” a displeased Thibodeau said after the game. “We’re going to have to bring a lot more intensity, and the only way you bring more intensity is by working a lot harder. It’s really that simple.”

We’ll see if Thibodeau’s message gets through.

LeBron James attends game, thoroughly enjoys Ohio State title win

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LeBron James — the man who sold his return to Cleveland as part of his love of all things Ohio — may be playing Tuesday night in Phoenix (and the Cavs could use him), but Monday night he was in Dallas.

Why? He was watching his Ohio State Buckeyes win the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship. After the game he was down on field talking to quarterback Cardale Jones and celebrating with the players.

Looks like he was having a good time — as all of Buckeye fans were.

source: Getty Images

For the record, LeBron practiced with the Cavaliers on Monday. He got permission from the team to travel to Phoenix for Tuesday’s game separate from the team so he could attend the game.

Later LeBron tweeted this.

San Antonio Spurs make championship trip to White House, meet Obama

Barack Obama, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker
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It wasn’t Tim Duncan or Tony Parker or Gregg Popovich’s first trip to the White House, but it sure had been a while.

It’s an annual tradition for the NBA champion to visit the White House — which for a couple more years is occupied by a big basketball fan in Barack Obama — and the Spurs were up. Most teams have a big question with “what do we do with the guys who weren’t on the team last season” on these visits, but not the Spurs who made only one roster change for this season.

There were the standard speeches, a POTUS jersey was handed out and lots of kind words were said.

The video above plays it pretty straight, but the president was having some fun with it, too.

Kobe Bryant goes through practice, seems likely to play vs. Heat Tuesday

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers
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Kobe Bryant had missed three of the Lakers’ last four games and six of the last 11 after he sat out Sunday night and the Lakers’ loss to the Trail Blazers. While Byron Scott said he was not concerned about Kobe’s health, that his star just needed some rest, there were a lot of questions about if that was really the case.

Tuesday, Kobe answered them, going through 90 minutes of the Lakers’ practice.

While he is officially questionable for Tuesday’s game vs. Miami, it feels like Kobe will play if you read Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Daily News.

“He looked more focused,” Lakers forward Nick Young said of Bryant.

But will that prove enough for Bryant to return when the Lakers (12-26) host the Miami Heat (16-21) at Staples Center? Lakers coach Byron Scott said he will “pencil” Bryant in, but will not make a final decision until he sees the how 36-year-old feels following both morning shootaround and shortly before tipoff.

Scott sounded like a guy who was going to be cautious going forward with Kobe, saying he was the reason Kobe got worn down with heavy minutes in the first 27 games of the season.

“I thought his workload was too much,” Scott said. “He had a (minutes) number, my number was higher but his number was right, you know, when I look back at it. We cut those numbers down and I think his efficiency has been so much better, in terms of how he’s been able to play…

“I didn’t take into serious consideration him missing almost a whole year and now getting back and playing,” he said before his Lakers faced Portland. “I should have figured out that would take a little time. But watching his workouts and watching what great shape he was in I think I got a little too confident, expecting that he could handle those type of minutes. And like I said, I was wrong….

“You may think it’s not a lot — if it’s a minute or two or three minutes, it doesn’t make much of a difference — but in the long run it does.”

If Kobe plays against Miami expect to see him Thursday against LeBron James (probably, if he’s back) and Cleveland. Scott did say Kobe will sit out at least one game of back-to-backs for the rest of this season.