Baseline to Baseline recaps: ‘Melo is back, Knicks cruise

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What you missed while getting arrested for attacking people and police with a toy light saber

Knicks 113, Pistons 86: Carmelo Anthony returned, he had 25 efficient points while playing his best game in weeks, and the Knicks cruise to an easy win. Coincidence? Well, kind of. This win was really about the Knicks defense creating turnovers (20) and turning those into fast break buckets. New York also was nailing it’s threes (9-18) and getting inside (52 points in the paint). The Knicks played well and with a little desperation, but don’t lose sight of the fact the Pistons are terrible.

Grizzlies 100, Nuggets 97 (OT): Denver led virtually the entire game — from the second quarter through being up 10 with six minutes left — except the part where the game ends. A 7-0 run by Memphis in the second half of overtime — sparked by O.J. Mayo’s five OT points including a three to take the lead with 35 seconds remaining — got the win. Rudy Fernandez got a look at a three to send it to a second OT but it clanged off the rim.

Marc Gasol played 50 minutes — you read that right, 50 — and had 20 points, 13 boards, but was not very efficient. For Denver, Danilo Gallinari was 1-10 shooting, Timofey Mozgov was a foul sponge and got five in 10 minutes.

Hawks 100, Raptors 77: Atlanta closed out the first half on a 23-6 run and that was pretty much your ballgame. Joe Johnson turned back the clock and had 30, 24 in the first half, and he got to rest the entire fourth. As did all the Hawks starters.

Atlanta is 9-2 without Al Horford. That is impressive.

Celtics 93, Cavaliers 90: Boston was up 22 in the third quarter, then almost gave it all back. Almost. Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 21 in the fourth quarter, and Anderson Varejao was the best player on the court with a 20-20 night. Boston’s offense — led by 20 points from Paul Pierce — had good ball movement, which led to good looks and the team shooting 50.7 percent on the night. Kevin Garnett, who was pretty average all game, did hit a key shot late that helped seal the win.

Warriors 93, Kings 90: Golden State’s bench won this one — Brandon Rush had 20 (15 in the fourth quarter), Nate Robinson 13 and provided his usual spark, and Ekpe Udoh had 6 points and 4 blocks. The Golden State bench sparked a 16-4 run to start the fourth quarter that got the Warriors the lead, so Mark Jackson rode them the rest of the way. Rookie Isaiah Thomas sparked a late 11-1 Kings run to make it close, but it was not enough.

Pacers 106, Nets, 99: Give the Nets credit, the hung in this one when they probably shouldn’t have. This is a tough match up for New Jersey because they have no interior defense to speak of and the Pacers have Roy Hibbert and good slashers that get into the paint. Deron Williams (34) and Anthony Morrow (28) scored every Net point in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough. Paul George had 24 and the dunk of the night, Danny Granger had 21.

Lakers 106, Bobcats 73: Kobe Bryant had 18 points in the first quarter, the Lakers pulled away early and never really looked back. The Lakers shot 46.2 percent from three for the night — when they knock down the outside shot it makes defending the inside games of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum almost impossible. Teams are mostly throwing doubles at the Lakers big three once they make a move, and that means the rest of the guys are getting clean looks from the outside. When those shots fall the Lakers are very hard to beat — Lakers not named Kobe were 10-15 from beyond the arc. The Bobcats are a team that just settles for the first decent look it sees, they don’t work the ball for a better shot at all. They play with no sense of urgency at all (except Kemba Walker, I like him).

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.