Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kobe passed with the game on the line

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What you missed while trying to figure out how to pay off your $44 million hospital bill….

Thunder 97, Celtics 88: Boston’s fifth loss in a row was our game of the night.

Lakers 73, Mavericks 70: The Lakers won this game — and were the better shooting team — hitting 38.2 percent of their shots. They were just 1-of-10 from three, but that one was Derek Fisher’s dramatic game winner. Which is to say this game was ugly but still entertaining right down the final seconds.

Kobe Bryant’s 40-point game streak came to an end as he shot just 7-of-22. Maybe he was just emotional over Lamar Odom’s return to Staples Center. Nah. That the Lakers struggle to score when Kobe struggles speaks to the problem with the Lakers right now — they have multiple great offensive weapons yet everything goes as Kobe does. Pau Gasol struggled (Dirk Nowitzki defended him well, as he did in the playoffs) but Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 15 rebounds. But things didn’t flow through him. A better point guard might organize and balance the offense better, something the Lakers will eventually need.

But as they have done in recent games, the Lakers won this with defense. Nowitzki had his 21 points but needed 17 shots to get there as Gasol defended him with energy (and Gasol is long enough to at least challenge him). The rest of the Mavericks combined to shoot 31.8 percent (and were just 4-of-26 from three). It wasn’t all Lakers defense, Dallas had an off night, but when the Lakers hold a team down like this they win a lot. No matter what Kobe does.

Grizzlies 102, Bulls 86: No Derrick Rose and no Richard Hamilton for the Bulls — both out injured — and their defense couldn’t bail them out. Mike Conley just dominated John Lucas III on his way to 20, Rudy Gay had 24 and Marreese Speights had 16 points plus 12 rebounds. Don’t read much into the outcome because of everyone missing, but the Grizzlies could use every win they can get.

Be warned Bulls fans, Chicago is likely to sit Rose on Tuesday as well.

Magic 102, Knicks 93: This game was close with five minutes to go, but when Dwight Howard got his fifth foul Orlando decided to protect him by playing a zone — and the Knicks offense went stagnant. Knicks players tried to shoot over the top of the zone and they just missed. Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson dropped 30 and J.J. Redick 21 as the Orlando role players stepped up. Carmelo Anthony had 33 but was 9-for-27, meanwhile the Knicks as a team were just 5-for-20 from three. Also Knicks, you have Tyson Chandler, why all the doubles on Howard?

Clippers 101, Nets 91: Los Angeles was up 18 at one point and 13 early in the fourth, but fell apart and suddenly we were tied at 81-81 with 6:46 left. Why? No Chris Paul or Mo Willaims (both out injured) to take control and settle things down. But Chauncey Billups did step up and hit the dagger three to put this out of reach.

Cavaliers 102, Bobcats 94: With the game on the line — Cavs up 1 with a minute to go — Anderson Varejao caught a bad pass with one hand and turned it into a nifty spin move and basket. Then when Byron Mullens missed on a pick-and-pop Kyrie Irving got the ball and didn’t try to slow down and eat clock, he attacked and scored on a twisting layup around Mullens. Irving, who finished with 25 points, has a fantastic left hand around the rim.

Rockets 114, Wizards 106: Houston pulled away in the third quarter as the Wizards offense did what the Wizards offense does — fall apart — and the Rockets were able to capitalize with some fast break points. Samuel Dalembert had 14 in the quarter as he outplayed the Wizards bigs. The Rockets just know how to execute and the Wizards are showboating at inappropriate times. John Wall tried to lead a comeback with 18 in the fourth quarter (and 38 overall) but it was not enough.

76ers 94, Bucks 82: Not much rocket science here — it was a grinding game and the Sixers shot the ball better and turned it over less (the Bucks turned it over on 18 percent of their possessions and that led to 16 Philly points off turnovers. Jrue Holiday had 24. Andre Iguodala 21. Andrew Bogut is back for the Bucks and he had 20.

Trail Blazers 84, Hornets 77: The Hornets packed the paint on defense and it took about a half for the Blazers to get more comfortable moving the ball and creating the shots they wanted. When they did they pulled away a little bit and held on.

Timberwolves 99, Kings 86: This was close for three quarters, but in a sign of where these teams seem to be headed the Timberwolves had another gear that the Kings couldn’t match it. Kevin Love had 33 and 11, but it was Luke Ridour’s 25. Keith Smart is in a tough spot, trying to find a way to make the Kings work mid-season, but they just seem a challenged team that once something goes wrong they don’t know how to respond.

Hawks 93, Raptors 84: Atlanta led this from the middle of the first quarter on, but the pesky Raptors hung around. Josh Smith was shooting too many jumpers but was hitting them today and had 29, Joe Johnson abused the Raptors zone defense and Jose Calderon in the third and that was basically the ballgame.

Pacers’ Myles Turner fined $15,000 for flipping bird at Sixers fans

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Myles Turner had to know this was coming.

Frustrated after fouling Joel Embiid under the basket and being taken out of the game, the Pacers’ big man flipped off some Sixers fans as he walked to the bench.

Saturday the league announced Turner was fined $15,000 for “making an inappropriate gesture toward the spectator stands.” The league, understandably, is not a fan of its players flipping off fans.

That fine is pretty much the going rate for these kinds of incidences.

Embiid went on to score 40 Friday night in a dominant performance, but the Pacers won the game 113-101.

Why are Lakers saving their young core? Reportedly to chase Anthony Davis.

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Anthony Davis is the target at the top of the Lakers’ wish list.

He’s also at the top of the wish list for the Boston Celtics and about 27 other teams, too. But if Davis is put on the trade block — something that is not likely until this summer, New Orleans is working to keep him — the Lakers and Celtics will be at the front of the line.

Which is why, when reports that the Lakers would not include any of their young core in a trade for Trevor Ariza came out, it fit with the Lakers’ long-term thinking. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN discussed this on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency…

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

The dream is to sign Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant and get Davis, and while that dream may be a long shot the only chance they have is if they still have their core players to throw in a package.

The larger point also is valid — the Lakers are not going to beat the Warriors come the playoffs this season (assuming the Warriors are healthy) and L.A. should keep its powder dry for bigger battles. And Davis will be the biggest of battles.

New Orleans wants to keep Davis, they are actively trying to be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers. Sources have told me the Pelicans’ plan is to win as much as possible this season and show Davis they are serious, then come July 1 offer Davis a designated veteran contract extension worth $230 million (or a little more, depending upon the cap). It’s roughly $40 million more than any other team can offer guaranteed. If Davis and his agent Rich Paul — the same agent as LeBron James — turn down that contract then the Pelicans will be forced to consider a trade.

If we get to that point, then all bets are off and the Lakers are all in. Until then, the Lakers are wise just to be patient.

Despite fast start in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard reportedly still eyeing return to Los Angeles

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The Toronto Raptors are making their case to Kawhi Leonard this season — Toronto is 23-8, in first place in the East by 2.5 games, and look like a real threat to make the NBA Finals. Leonard, averaging 26.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, is a guy who has returned to the MVP conversation.

Still, the Raptors don’t know if he’s staying, or what he’s thinking, because Leonard doesn’t talk about it in a meaningful way.

“It’s been good so far,” Leonard told NBC Sports of the fit in Toronto. “Like I said, we’ve been winning, everyone’s playing well. Can’t complain.”

Nothing he’s done has slowed the speculation and buzz about what Leonard will do as a free agent next summer… which Leonard is working to ignore.

“I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me,” Leonard said before the Raptors faced the Clippers last week. “At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.”

A lot of the speculation around the league has remained that Leonard is headed back to Los Angeles next summer, most likely with the Clippers. Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”

“Just wear a jacket,” Leonard said about the weather. “We’re in a building. We’re not outside playing in the snow. And it’s good scenery.”

Clippers president Lawrence Frank and other Clippers executives have been a fixture at Raptors games this season, doing their part to recruit him early. They are going to make a strong play for him. So will the Lakers, although I have heard from multiple sources he’s not likely to play with LeBron and in that spotlight.

Nobody knows what Leonard will do next summer, or even what he’s thinking. Leonard doesn’t speak much, and when he does it’s in cautious cliches providing little if any insight. As long as that is the case, the speculation will continue.

Why didn’t Lakers trade for Trevor Ariza? Suns owner reportedly blocked it.

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There were eight teams (that we know of) having some level of contact with Phoenix about getting in on a Trevor Ariza trade. The Lakers were one and — as with all things Lakers — were the most talked about.

But the Lakers were never going to pull off that trade because the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, didn’t want it to happen, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Sarver — a very hands-on owner when it comes to basketball decisions — is probably still stung by buying out Tyson Chandler and watching him go to the Lakers and dramatically helping their defense (the Lakers are allowing less than a point per possession when Chandler is on the court). And certainly spiting the Lakers will play well with the Suns’ fan base.

However, the best franchises put aside petty thinking and do what’s best for them. If the Lakers had made the best offer (and we don’t know if it was) then take it. If it makes the Lakers better this season, or even the next few seasons, so what? If you’re the Suns, you’re in a rebuilding process and should be focused on the long term.

That said, the Laker trade was always going to be complicated and hard to pull off, LeBron James wasn’t going to be able to call up Suns GM James Jones and make this one happen. The Lakers wanted to land Ariza but also wanted to send out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and KCP doesn’t fit with what the Suns wanted (a point guard and young players or draft assets). That means a third team was going to have to get involved, maybe Philadelphia, and possibly even a fourth. The Lakers were not going to trade any of their four core young players, making this trade even harder.

What the Suns got in the trade with Washington was what they wanted: A point guard (Austin Rivers, who is not all that good, as evidenced by his 7.1 PER this season, but is better than anyone the Suns have) and a young wing in Kelly Oubre who fits on the timeline of Devin Booker and the other young Suns. Phoenix did reasonably well in this trade.

Could they have done better? Doesn’t matter, if the owner is shooting down an idea then it’s dead. That’s his prerogative.