Baseline to Baseline recaps: Carmelo Anthony was better but the Knicks were not

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What you missed while thinking the Big East was overrated…

Bucks 100, Knicks 95: Just when you thought things really could not get uglier for the Knick, we bring you the start to Sunday’s game. New York was dismal in the first quarter putting up just 9 points and shooting just 16 percent — the Bucks defense is good but that was about the Knicks.

The Knicks poor play meant the Bucks were up 23 early. Then the Knicks put up 32 in the second quarter (Chauncey Billups put up 13 in the quarter) and only trailed 47-41 at the half. By the middle of the third we had a game. Down the stretch the Bucks executed and got some nice buckets — Carlos Delfino on a kick-out three from John Salmons (Delfino had 30 points), Brandon Jennings with a drive into the defender then step-back elbow jumper. The Bucks executed better than the Knicks in the clutch. For a team with all that firepower New York makes some odd decisions under pressure. Carmelo Anthony was not the problem (23 points on 14 shots), but the Knicks as a whole had issues.

With this loss, the Knicks drop to seventh in the East, the Sixers have passed them.

Wizards 98, Nets 92: The Nets jumped out early with 35 first quarter points on 61.5 percent shooting and looked like they would run away with this one up 17 at one point. But they are the Nets. Washington started the second half on a 19-4 run fueled by good defense (the Nets had 12 points in the quarter) plus offense from Jordan Crawford (9 in the quarter and 21 for the game) and JaVale McGee.

But in crunch time John Wall took over. He had two pretty little free throw line jumpers and it was his play (and 26 points) that won this game.

Hawks 104, Pistons 96: Not much of a defensive showing in this one as both teams shot over 50 percent (and both finished with very good offensive efficiency numbers). But the Hawks have just a little more offensive firepower and balance — six players finished in double digits. So the Hawks get the win, but it’s not one to write home about.

Suns 108, Clippers 99: We’ve already discussed Blake Griffin fouling out on a charge call as he threw down a ridiculous dunk over Marcin Gortat. Thing is, that didn’t really matter as far as the game went. This felt like last year’s Suns team — they bench went on a 17-6 run to start the fourth quarter, open things up and pull away. Good games from both Steve Nash (23 points, 13 assists) and Channing Frye (19 points, 5 threes).

Kings 127, Timberwolves 95: Kevin Love got hurt, DeMarcus Cousins got tossed for pushing. It wasn’t a good game for big men. It was a good game for the rest of the Kings as everybody got to contribute. Maybe the most interesting one was Donte Green coming in to start the fourth quarter and had 13 points to spark a 17-0 run that turned this into a route in the third (then the Kings out scored them 42-20 in the first.

With the win, Sacramento moves out of last place in the West. Minnesota moves in.

Rockets 110, Jazz 108: This is a big win for the Rockets, moving them into 9th in the Western Conference (ahead of Phoenix and Utah), ready to pounce if Memphis or Portland or any playoff team that stumbles. Some amazing individual performances: Houston’s Kyle Lowry had his first ever triple double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) while Utah’s Paul Millsap had 35 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks — not bad for a guy in his first game back from knee tendinitis.

Raptors 95, Thunder 93: It was a very sloppy game from the Thunder, yet they have so much more talent than Toronto they were still in it. Kevin Durant was 6-of-21 shooting, Russell Westbrook was slightly better at 7-of-19. OKC coach Scott Brooks tried everything, from going small to probably a war dance in the locker room. He got his comeback the Thunder were even up three late. But among the list of things Kendrick Perkins does not do well is hit free throws. So his miss of two late that could have sealed it left the door open and Amir Johnson hit a game-winning hook for the Raptors.

Mavericks 101, Warriors 73: Dallas got out fast to an 8 point lead after one, but the Warriors hung around throughout this one. Well, until the fourth quarter. That’s when a 21-2 Mavericks run made it a total blowout. Not much to see here, but Peja Stojakovic had 17.

Lakers 84, Trail Blazers 80: It’s good to have Kobe Bryant on your team. After a pretty sloppy game up to the final five minutes (5 of 15 shooting) Kobe just took over, with 8 points and an assist, which included a steal and a dunk off Andre Miller and a pretty baseline fadeaway over Brandon Roy. Not a real pretty game for the Lakers but the 14-3 run sealed it.

The Lakers will take any win without Andrew Bynum, this one just happens to give them the Pacific Division title. Again.

When will LeBron James break Kareem’s all-time scoring record?

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LeBron James is trying not to think about it too much.

“The only time I’ve kind of like thought about it is when someone, you know, been posting on social and it went through my scroll, through my feed, and I’ve seen it,” LeBron said at Lakers’ media day. “And every single time I’m kind of in awe of it, like, wow.”

The wow is breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record.

It was a record thought almost untouchable at 38,387 points, but now LeBron sits just 1,326 points shy of breaking it — health willing, he should pass Kareem this season.

When? Well, that takes a little math and speculation.

LeBron scored 30.3 points a game last season, but the two seasons prior to that it was closer to 25 points a game. If we split the difference and land at 27.5 points per game, it would take 48-49 games. We have to assume that 37-year-old LeBron (turning 38 just before the New Year) will sit out at least a couple of those first games, pushing this back a few games.

Considering LeBron could slide back in scoring to close to 25 a game again, the smart bet is he breaks Kareem’s record in late January or early February. The Lakers have a five-game East Coast road trip that includes Boston and New York starting Jan. 28 and running through Feb. 4, and that’s about the window.

“To sit here and to know that I’m on the verge of breaking probably the most sought-after record in the NBA, something that people say will probably never be done, I think it’s just super like humbling, for myself,” LeBron said. “I think it’s super cool.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well. I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Having been in the spotlight for as long as LeBron has — remember he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler — he can be very practiced, very polished with the media. His brand is smooth, as are his dealings with the press in general.

However, when talking about passing Abdul-Jabbar, it felt like LeBron’s guard was down. He was raw, more reflective and genuinely moved.

“You guys always see me use my hashtag #thekidfromakron and that those are the moments where I really think about that kid from Akron. Walking those streets and, you know, playing basketball when I had actually had a basketball and the hoop, or actually just walking around and air dribbling and shooting into it and invisible hoop you know, and counting 5…4…3…2…1 and, you know, making game-winning shots.

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on it throughout the season. But I think it’s a pretty historical moment when it gets here and you know, as long as my family and friends are all there that’s that’s the most important for me.”

LeBron’s family will undoubtedly be there, and the whole world will be watching. Longevity and LeBron’s ability to be great into age 38 (and beyond) is part of his GOAT argument — and there is no better cornerstone of that argument than being the game’s all-time leading scorer.

Suns fall to hot shooting Adelaide 36ers from Australia, 134-124

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The Adelaide 36ers may be from Australia’s National Basketball League, but they are professional players — leave them wide open and they will hit shots.

Phoenix treated Sunday like their first preseason game (it was) and the 36ers hit 24 3-pointers on their way to an upset of the Suns, 134-124. The 36ers were the aggressors all night long, playing team basketball and putting Phoenix on its heels.

It’s just preseason. One preseason game is not a bellwether for the season, there should be little more than raised eyebrows in Phoenix. However, with their last game being a crushing 33-point loss to Dallas which eliminated them from the playoffs a season ago, this was not the palate cleanser that Phoenix fans were hoping for.

Craig Randall — you may remember him from the University of Memphis and Tennessee-Martin — scored 35 points while Robert Franks added 32. The 3-point shot is the great equalizer in basketball and the 36ers were on fire.

 

The last NBA team to lose to an International squad before Sunday was the Thunder in 2016 to Real Madrid. The year before, Turkish power Fenerbahce beat Brooklyn in the preseason. It does happen.

Reserve point guard Cameron Payne led the Suns with 23 points, while Deandre Ayton looked solid and dropped 22, as did Mikal Bridges, who also had 22. Devin Booker had 13 points and Chris Paul dished out 12 dimes.

With the size of Ayton and the athletic slashing of Bridges, the Suns scored 64 points in the paint, more than doubling the 36ers. But math was not on the Suns’ side, as they traded twos for threes and kept falling behind.

This is great for the NBL and its efforts to grow the brand — the 36ers will now take on the Thunder later this week.

It’s a shrug and move on game for the Suns. Expect a more focused effort from the team next game.

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
Eric Espada/Getty Images
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Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

Herro went to Twitter to confirm the deal himself.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

This is a straight four years, no options for either side.

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
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It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.