Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while getting geeked about the return of Tecmo Bowl…

Heat 114, Lakers 111 (OT): Just was just a fun one to watch –there was a duel between Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, there was spots of good defense but better offense, there was a playoff feel. Just an entertaining game.

A couple defensive things that were interesting in this game. One was when Miami went to a zone for a stretch, which the Lakers struggled with. The Lakers reverted back to their isolation ways and were happy to shoot over the top of the zone rather than attack it inside by getting the ball to Bynum or Gasol. If teams make it hard to make a post entry pass for the Lakers, their guards will give up quickly. Miami only gave up on this when Kobe started getting into the soft middle of the zone with dribble penetration.

The other fun matchup was Ron Artest guarding Wade. Artest was Artest — relentless and trying not to let Wade get the ball in spots he wanted on the floor. It sort of worked. The problem was when Wade did get the ball Artest was often up tight on him and Wade blew past him. When Artest stepped back, Wade hit some jumpers. Still, Wade was just 9 of 21 on the night. Artest did his job.

The problem for the Lakers was with Artest on Wade, Kobe was on Quentin Richardson. Kobe loves to “play free safety” and gamble off his man to jump passing lanes and make steals. Richardson made him pay. A usually solid three point shooter (38% so far this season), Richardson was 7 of 11 from beyond the arc on the night and got looks because Kobe was roaming. And that was  a key difference. (To be fair, Artest spent a handful of possessions on Richardson as well, and nobody was stopping him on Thursday.)

Grizzlies 105, Bulls 96: This is going to happen to the Bulls again in the next three weeks, or however long it is until Joakim Noah returns to the Bulls lineup. They don’t have the body to stop anybody inside — they start Brad Miller and Taj Gibson as their bigs. So you get Zach Randolph putting up 31 and grabbing 18 boards. You get Memphis scoring 62 points in the paint. Teams like Memphis with a powerful inside game are going to be very tough for the Bulls to beat for a few weeks (although Brad Miller did a good job on Mark Gasol).Good effort, as usual, from the Bulls.

Jazz 116, Suns 108: There are plenty of fans who scoff at the idea that NBA teams do or should struggle in the second game of a back-to-back, that these are professional athletes who shouldn’t get tired. Which is crap but people think it. Games like this are perfect evidence of what happens in a back-to-back. The Suns seemed to be in control of this one, jumping out to the early lead and leading by 12 early in the fourth. Grant Hill had been hanging with Ponce de Leon at the fountain of youth. Then the two nights of running hit them in the fourth quarter. The Jazz are too good, Deron Williams is far too good (13 points in the fourth quarter) and Mehmet Okur to hot to give the Jazz the added advantage of tired Suns legs.

The other thing in this one were the little things — Utah grabbed 19 offensive boards, or 40% of their missed shots on the night. Phoenix had 18 turnovers, 21% of their possessions on the night. That is just too many giveaways to a good team to expect to win.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.