Baseline to baseline recaps: Kevin Durant is an assassin

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What you missed while watching an octopus pick the BCS matchups….

Lakers 99, Knicks 82: We broke this down as our game of the night.

Thunder 104, Mavericks 102: This was easily the best game the Mavericks have played this season. The ball movement was back, the clever veteran plays were there. Delonte West said they looked different yesterday at practice and they did.

But they don’t have Kevin Durant, so they are 0-3.

The Thunder were sloppy all night — they had 26 turnovers — and Dallas for the first time this season was a team that could take advantage of it. They kept it close behind 29 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 16 from Jason Terry (although he needed 17 shots to do it). Down the stretch a rejuvenated Russell Westbrook was making plays for the Thunder. The close game set up the dramatic finish.

A Jason Terry three leaning to his right made it 101-99, which is how it stayed after Serge Ibaka missed two free throws. Next trip down, with 9.3 seconds remaining, Nowitzki drove to his spot at the left elbow (with Perkins on him), but Durant doubled Dirk off Vince Carter. Nowitzki kicked it out to Carter for an open straight away three, he drained it with 1.4 seconds left. 102-101 Mavs, and it looked like they would get a win. Then this happened.

If the Mavs play like this every game, they will get a lot of wins. But right now the undefeated Thunder look special and the Mavericks are 0-3.

Bulls 108, Kings 98: The Bulls were up 26-11 quickly in this one as not only was Derrick Rose doing his thing but Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng were attacking the rim. The Bulls asserted themselves early for the first time this season. It set a different tone, and the Bulls held on for a comfortable win. Rose finished with 19, Boozer and Richard Hamilton each had 16. Marcus Thornton had 20 to lead the Kings and Jimmer Fredette had 14 off the bench.

Magic 94, Nets 78: Dwight Howard has 16 points and 24 rebounds, showing the Nets would could be theirs if only….

The Magic took control of this game midway through the first quarter and never really looked to be in danger. Marshaun Brooks tried to lead a comeback for the Nets, but it was not enough. So they are left to dream and wonder.

Rockets 105, Spurs 85: This was the game where the Spurs looked tired. Third game in four nights, second night of a back-to-back after spanking the Clippers and that was it for the Spurs. Luis Scola had 10 in the first quarter to help the Rockets get a lead they would never give up, Kevin Martin finished with a game high 25. DeJuan Blair led the Spurs with 22 and was feisty in this one.

Trail Blazers 111, Nuggets 102: When was the last time a team won when it had 25 turnovers compared to its opponents 7?

This was maybe the most entertaining game of the night, a real back-and-forth in the fourth quarter between two genuinely good teams. And it was played at a fast pace (106 possessions). The difference was the second half the Blazers just shot the lights out — 61 percent as a team in the half, and it seemed like every three they took fell. It was the guards that led the Blazers as Wesley Mathews had 25, Raymond Felton 23 and Jamal Crawford 22.

The Blazers are 3-0. And that is no accident.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

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Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.