Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Where the Clippers are fun to watch

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Our game of the night was Kevin Durant doing Durant like things all over the Bulls in the closing minutes. Which was a great choice because after the slog of ugly basketball that was much of Heat/Celtics opening night we needed new energy.

But that wasn’t the only good show Wednesday night. Blake Griffin’s first regular season game was a dunk fest, and Baron Davis looked like he was having fun. Halfway through a Clippers game people across the nation were saying, “I like these guys, they’re entertaining.” Griffin is a monster on the offensive glass. East Coasters, stay up late and watch you some Clippers.

Here’s a rundown of the fun.

Miami 97, Philadelphia 87: Early on it looked like the same movie as Tuesday — LeBron dominated the ball and had five turnovers in the first quarter alone. And the Sixers want to run, so those turnovers fueled them and kept it closer than it should have been. But the Sixers defense is not the Celtics defense and Miami found the gaps, blowing it open with a 31-13 third. James Jones was bombing threes, playing the Mike Miller role, and that in part is what opened up everything else.

We should note that Evan Turner, the rookie No. 2 pick overall of Philadelphia, looked pretty good (which if you saw him in Summer League is a change). He had 16 points on 7-10 shooting. Not bad rook.

New York 98, Toronto 93: It was not pretty. Especially the rebounding. By both teams. But an 18-9 run by the Knicks in the fourth quarter was the difference. A run that came with starting center Timofey Mozgov sitting and Wilson Chandler in — Chandler had 22 and looked like a guy who wants to be Sixth Man of the year.

New Jersey 101, Detroit 98: The Nets had success when they could get a stop and push the pace, which was not often enough. That is, until an 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter that put this one away. A run that started just as Ben Wallace replaced Jason Maxiell in the lineup. The Pistons bench played well in this one, but why ride the hot hand. Go back to your starters, what could go wrong? Oh, that.

New Orleans 95, Milwaukee 91: The Bucks looked like a team whose players did not really get the chance to play together during the preseason and were rusty. Coincidence? New Orleans, on the other hand, has Chris Paul (17 points 16 assists) and David West (22 points) and that is enough some nights.

Sacramento 117, Minnesota 116: The Kings were without Tyreke Evans (suspension for reckless driving arrest), so Francisco Garcia stepped up with 22 points. Carl Landry had 22 and 11. Key for the Kings was getting to the line 19 more times. Well, that and the ability to hang on for deer life at the end.

Note to Kurt Rambis — Michael Beasley is playing 34 minutes but Kevin Love got 23? Really? What do you have against this guy?

Atlanta 119, Memphis 104: All hail Zaza Pachulia, who had 17 and 11 for the Hawks is this one. Why Zaza? With Marc Gasol out for the Grizzlies, his team had nobody who could really do the job for him protecting the paint. Atlanta owned this one the whole way.

Dallas 101, Charlotte 86: The Mavericks controlled this one in the second half and here isthe big secret why — they shoot better. Dallas hit 54.7 percent of their shots, Charlotte 39.7 percent. Game over.

San Antonio 122, Indiana 109: San Antonio got out and ran with the Pacers, 101 possessions on the night — that is faster than Golden State were tonight. Spurs pulled away with a 15-2 run in the fourth fueled by their bench. Spurs bench outscored the Pacers 32-17.

Denver 109, Utah 88: This was just an old school, “go get me my belt” whooping. Denver started on a 9-0 run and never looked back. Utah, try to put it behind you and just move on, it happens to everyone.

Golden State 132, Houston 128: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry can’t play together, it’s not like they’ll score 71 points between them… oh, yes they will. Both teams put up gaudy offensive numbers, but the Rockets did what teams do on the second night of back-to-backs — they were a step slower and shot just missed some shot.

Portland 98, LA Clippers 88: Blake Griffin is just fun to watch — he had two highlight dunks, one off an ally-oop, another off an offensive rebound, that brought the house down. He just overwhelms. Really, the Clippers could become everybody’s guilty pleasure this season. But Griffin and Chris Kaman allowed 21 offensive rebounds for Portland and it is far too good a team to just give it second chances. Blazers closed this game on an 18-1 run to win it.

Jeremy Lin says “at times it kind of sucks” being only Asian-American in NBA

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When Jeremy Lin landed in Toronto — after being bought out and waived by the Hawks, clearing the way for him to sign with the Raptors for the playoff push — the number of cameras and reporters in the Raptors locker room instantly ballooned. Lin remains one of the most popular players worldwide in the NBA, he’s a social media phenom, and there are cameras there to track his every move and send it around the world, particularly back to Asia.

Lin isn’t in the NBA because he’s famous and sells tickets — he’s a quality guard who can help a team, there’s a reason the contending Raptors picked him up — but he inhabits the role of both player and groundbreaker.

Lin talked about that (and Asians in popular culture) with Cary Chow of the Undefeated in an interesting Q&A at The Undefeated, where he said being the only Asian-American in the NBA is not easy.

At times it kind of sucks. At other times it’s amazing. Amazing because you get to challenge everyone’s viewpoints and perspectives. I’m rooting for so many more Asians to come in. Last year, when I was with Brooklyn and we had Ding [Yanyuhang] on the summer league team, I was like, ‘Dude, please make the team. We’d have so much fun together during the season.’

On the feeling that he has to represent an entire race.

Yeah. At first it was something I ran from and really struggled with. Now I embrace it way more and am more equipped to handle it. I’m not perfect, but I kind of know who I want to be at this point in my career, so I keep trucking along and doing things the right way and stay above all the distractions.

Lin has handled his fame deftly over the years. He has challenges and opportunities not open to other players, and that’s the balancing act. It takes someone smart, but also grounded and balanced to pull it all off. The Raptors got all that, along with the extra cameras around the team.

Mostly, though, the Raptors got a player who is going to help them make a deep playoff run.

 

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

Associated Press
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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.