Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while dreaming of a Bill & Ted sequel

Lakers 109, Raptors 107: Ball denial. If the game is on the line, if the Lakers have one last shot to win it, play ball denial. Double team immediately and hard. Get the ball out of his hands, even if it means someone else gets a better shot. Do not – DO NOT – let Kobe Bean Bryant shoot it.

As for the other 47 minutes, 51 seconds of the game: Andrew Bynum is like a microcosm of the Lakers. When he is challenged – like facing Chris Bosh — he rises up with a great performance (both bigs had 22 points but Bynum did it with 8 of 12 shooting to Bosh’s 7 of 18, and Bosh had just one more rebound). Bosh, however, did hit the game-tying three. Toronto had its stretches as well, often fueled by them running the pick-and-roll with some style. They are sort of like Orlando in that Toronto has the depth to space the floor with good shooters, including bigs, that open things up and then they run the pick-and-roll well and they become a very difficult cover.

Magic 113, Clippers 87: The Clippers fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” — but only slightly less well-known is this: Never get into a jump shooting contest with the Orlando Magic.

The Magic took away the Clippers penetration (it helped to have Eric Gordon out, and passive Baron Davis came off the bench for LA). So the Clippers had to settle for contested jump shots. The Clippers could not stop the Magic’s penetration, which led to drive and dish for open outside jumpers for Orlando. And there you have your blowout.

Rockets 96, Wizards 88: We got to see a little hot Argentine on Argentine action — Fabricio Oberto matched up on Luis Scola. And both played some of their most inspired ball in a long time — we actually saw a post move out of Oberto. Scola, however, is far more talented and finished with a game high 23 on 8 of 16 shooting.

Pacers 107, 76ers 96: Where the hell have these Pacers been hiding? The ones that move the ball. The ones where the players cut to the basket. The ones that make smart passes. The ones that normally assist on 55 percent of their baskets but did so for 76 percent in this game. Because, seriously, these Pacers were fun to watch. And I have not written that sentence once this season.

Bobcats 83, Heat 78: Good defense from both squads, but he Bobcats really turned it up after the break and allowed just 30 second half points. Wade got is 27 points for the game, but needed 26 shots to do it. Not that anybody shot well in this one.

Jazz 132, Bulls 107: Wow the Bulls defense has gone to hell without Noah. And the Jazz are the perfect team to exploit that. And they did – 132 points in just a 95-possession game. Nights like this have you thinking the Bulls are the team that will end up on the outside in the East.

Bucks 86, Celtics 84: When the Celtics beat the Wizards at the buzzer just two nights before, Mike Miller was wiped out by a Kevin Garnett screen and his man, Ray Allen, came free for a good look at a three pointer. Net and win for the Celtics. In the same situation down two with four seconds to go Tuesday, the Celtics this time run Paul Pierce off a KG screen, but the Bucks play it better and switch it so that suddenly all seven feet of Andrew Bogut comes out on Pierce and he has to put extra arc on his shot, it misses and the Bucks win. That is how you defend late in games, people.

Trail Blazers 88, Kings 81: That is why Portland went and got Marcus Camby at the trade deadline. He can change a game on defense and that is what he did late in this one, after the Kings had battled back to tie it. Overall the Blazers held the Kings to just a 92 points per 100 possessions pace, well off their season average. It wasn’t a pretty win, but they don’t all have to be. The Kings don’t make it easy, while a lot of lottery teams are rolling over right now, the Kings will fight you. Blazers fans should just happily take the win.

Jordan Clarkson urges NBA to allow players to compete in more global events

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The NBA is trying to walk a fine line. On the one hand, the league and its owners want to globalize the NBA — it is the best, most watched basketball league on the globe and they want people in Europe and Asia to follow the NBA the way American soccer fans follow the Barclays’ Premiere League. That will make the owners more money, and never forget this is a business first, second, and third. With that, the owners allow players to compete for their native countries in major events, such as the FIBA World Cup or Olympics.

However, there is a “club vs. country” tug of war in the NBA. Players want to represent their countries — and sometimes are pressured to do so — while NBA teams see injury risk. They look at the story of Dante Exum blowing out his ACL playing for Australia as a cautionary tale.

So when the Cavaliers’ Jordan Clarkson wanted to play for the Philippines in the Asian Games (his mother is a native of that country, so he is allowed), the NBA shot it down at first saying this tournament was not part of the agreement between FIBA and the NBA that allows the league’s players to take part in major international events (the Olympics, the basketball World Cup, etc.). However, the league eventually flipped and allowed a “one-time exception” for Clarkson (plus Houston’s Zhou Qi and Dallas’ Ding Yanhuyang).

Now Clarkson says he wants the NBA to allow players to compete in more global events, he told Agence France-Presse at the Asian Games.

“After being told no so many times, I refused to give up. I kept fighting,” he said. “I’m here now, ready to compete.”

“I think they get the point — in Asia kids are picking up a basketball. I feel like the NBA is allowing us to do our thing.”

Basketball is a growing sport in Asia — it’s huge in the Philippines already, and it’s growing fast there and in countries such as China. The NBA wants its foot in the door there. It wants to be part of that market — the NBA plays exhibition games in China every year for a reason.

The Asian Games — the second largest multi-national sporting event in the world behind the Olympics — is a good exception to make. Clarkson and other NBA stars playing there — including in the future — is good for the NBA.

However, the league is going to face a challenge trying to find that line in future years between promoting the game and the NBA internationally and protecting its investments in its players.

Watch the top 60 blocked shots of last NBA season

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We love blocked shots. One player is attacking the rim, another gets in his way and rejects that shot. Frankly, we overestimate their importance on defense at points (because it’s a quantifiable stat in a world where defense is hard to quantify), but they matter.

And they are fun.

Check out the top 60 blocks from last season, as put together by NBA.com. It all starts with a chase down block by Kevin Durant (who has improved his rim protection in recent years) and ends with Anthony Davis showing why he is a beast.

It’s Sunday, and what else are you going to do? Watch preseason football?

Grizzlies expected to bring rookie Jaren Jackson along slowly

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Jaren Jackson was one of the standout rookies of Summer League. It started in Salt Lake City at the Jazz Summer League, where he looked like the future of the NBA five — knocking down threes, being athletic enough to run the court on the break, blocking shots, and being physical inside. In Utah, he averaged 15.7 points per game and five boards a night.

Expect the Grizzlies to bring Jackson along slowly, however, once the regular season starts. Jackson likely will come off the bench behind the starting frontline of Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green. That will not be popular with the fan base, but the Grizzlies want to trust their veterans and make a playoff push.

Look at what Grizzlies executive John Hollinger told the Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

I think whatever happens, we want it to happen organically, and not get ahead of ourselves, and make sure we’re taking all the right steps on him, and not getting too excited and skipping ahead….

“We don’t want to put him into overtly physical matchups yet because he’s 18 and his body is still filling out,” he said.

Strength is almost always the biggest challenge facing young big men in the NBA (and Jackson is still 18, he will turn 19 during training camp). These are grown men they are going against nightly, and while Jackson had plenty of strength to hang with the Summer League crowd, things are very different when the big boys come to play. Even in an NBA moving away from old-school power ball, it still matters.

While the Grizzlies will work to not rush Jackson, that plan is somewhat dependent on players with a history of injury issues staying healthy. Jackson is not going to get 30 minutes a night, he’s not going to get the touches that fellow rookies such as Trae Young and Luka Doncic will receive, and he may not be in the mix for Rookie of the Year. We’ll see how things shake out, but on a Grizzlies team looking to put itself in the playoff conversation, the coach likely will lean on veterans he trusts.

Where Jackson will rank in this draft class three years from now could be very different. He has the potential to be the star of this class (or at least one of a few breakouts, this is an interesting group).

Victor Oladipo: ‘I play nothing safe now’ because ‘that really didn’t get me anywhere’

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Victor Oladipo transformed last season.

Traded to the Pacers, he showed up to camp in better shape than he had ever been before, and with a new confidence in his handles and shot making. Coach Nate McMillan realized what he had, put the ball in Oladipo’s hands, and got out of the way. The result was a 48-win Pacers team where Oladipo was the league’s most improved player, made an All-NBA Team, the All-Defensive Team, and was an All-Star for the first time.

Oladipo, after going to the USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas, is back in a Miami gym with the same team of trainers and staff who transformed his body and game a year ago. In a fantastic profile by J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, Oladipo talks about the mental transformation he has undergone as well.

“I push the envelope. I play nothing safe now,” Oladipo says. “I’m the guy if we’re down two, I’m pulling up for three. I work too hard to not push the envelope. I used to be conservative but that really didn’t get me anywhere.”

His trainer, Al Watson, talked about getting Oladipo better prepared for defenses that focus on him and late-game situations.

“Last year we started doing a lot of tightening up his ball-handling skills. This year we took it to another level because I watch a lot of film on him,” Watson says. “In the fourth quarter, he’s like the point guard. Wanted to focus on a lot of combination moves, working on traps. It’s no secret now. They’re going to be double-teaming him.

“You look at the great players, Kobe, they had to do a little bit of everything. His shot from the perimeter may be off so he’s got to learn, ‘Let me get myself going, get to the mid-post, get some fouls.’ He’s got to be able to attack with all different facets of the game. We do a lot of sprinting, getting to your spots. Got to get open. I touch everything with in-game situation stuff.”

Oladipo’s team includes an off-the-court group trying to better position himself to make money off his stardom. He doesn’t want to play it safe off-the-court, either.

Indiana is going to lean heavily on Oladipo again. They added some depth — Doug McDermott, drafting Aaron Holiday — and are counting on more from players such as Myles Turner. However, by and large, the Pacers are running it back, and they are sneaking up on nobody this season. Internal improvement will be their key.

Oladipo is ready. He’s not playing it safe anymore.