Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kevin Love outduels Blake Griffin

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What you missed while buying way more Girl Scout cookies than you really should…

Thunder 95, Mavericks 92: Oklahoma City scored the final eight points to win another close contest, which was our game of the night.

Timberwolves 95, Clippers 94: With all their mistakes late, I have no idea how the Timberwolves pulled this one out. There was Martell Webster with the terrible turnover late. Then there was maybe the ugliest end-of-game possession ever: what was essentially a J.J. Barea isolation that ended in a scoop shot. Minnesota was still up three, the Clippers had one possession left when Derrick Williams foolishly fouls Chris Paul on his three attempt to tie it.

But Chris Paul missed the final free throw, Rubio got the rebound, was fouled and that spelled the end. (Really like the way Rubio wisely missed the second free throw intentionally, because with 1.8 seconds left the Clippers had no timeouts and could not go length of court and score). Kevin Love finished with 39 on 25 shots and was a dominant force in this game.

Bulls 92, Pacers 72: Revenge is a dish best served… oh, it doesn’t matter how it is served, it usually tastes pretty good. The Pacers beat the Bulls a couple weeks ago at the United Center and Derrick Rose and others thought the Pacers celebrated too much on their floor. It showed in a third quarter where the Bulls blew this open (33-13 in that quarter). Yes, Derrick Rose had 11 of his 13 in that quarter but it was really about the Bulls defense holding the Pacers to 27 percent shooting in the period.

Nuggets 119, Kings 116 (OT): The most entertaining game of the night. In part because Arron Afflalo had a career night with 32 points and took over late, except when Ty Lawson (16 points) was doing it like he has for the last week. On the other side there was an aggressive Tyreke Evans getting 27.

Great ending to this one. The Kings were up three and Denver had one last shot, Afflalo got the ball and overdribbled trying to get the three for himself rather than pass to a couple open teammates. He took a bad shot but he got bailed out when Marcus Thornton fouled him. Afflalo hit all three free throws and this one was bound for overtime. In the OT Kenneth Faried had four of his 20 — you have to love his energy every night. Still it was 116-116 with 2.6 seconds to go when Lawson hits the three to seal the win. Thornton plays the goat for Sacramento, but he had 27 on the night and they would not have been there at the end without him.

Warriors 120, Wizards 100: Golden State had 41 in the first quarter and just ran away with this one from the start. Monta Ellis had 14 in the first quarter and finished with 25 getting to sit the fourth. Klay Thompson had 18 (11 in the garbage time fourth, but who cares) and six Warriors were in double digits. Stephen Curry was back and made some plays, including a breakaway steal then up-and-under on John Wall that was impressive. Wall finished with 20.

Jazz 109, Cavaliers 100: You can’t stop Gordon Hayward… well, the Cavs couldn’t on Monday anyway as he had 10 in the third and 22 overall. But the real issue was that the Cavs had no answer for Al Jefferson and his 25 inside — the Jazz controlled the pain outrebounding the Cavs by 16. Kyrie Irving had 22, as did Antawn Jamison.

Magic 92, Raptors 88: Credit Toronto for really fighting in this one (something they always seem to do against Orlando). The Raptors had no answer whatsoever for Dwight Howard (sorry Aaron Gray) who finished with 36 points, hitting 16 of 20 shots, plus had 13 rebounds. (Note to Orlando players: You need to feed Dwight like this every night.) The Raptors led at times in the third and kept it close behind 23 from DeMar DeRozan, but J.J. Redick hit the dagger three with 9.7 seconds left. We had a Jerryd Bayless sighting — he had 12 points in the fourth quarter for Toronto (15 in the game). There are moments you think he’ll be good, but then they pass.

Bucks 97, Sixers 93: Brandon Jennings was on fire early with 19 points (and 2 assists) in the first quarter to put the Bucks ahead, but the Sixers fought back and led most of the second and third quarters. The Bucks made their next run (a 15-0 run) from the end of the third into the fourth, sparked in part by Drew Gooden who was the best paint player in this game and finished with 25. In the fourth quarter, on the second night of a back-to-back, Philly relied on Lou Williams who had 16 in the fourth quarter. But with the game tied 93-93 Beno Udrih hit an open 12 footer then at the other end Williams missed the floated with 6.7 left and that was essentially the ballgame. Jennings finished with 33. Sixers have lost 8 of 10 now.

Trail Blazers 86, Hornets 74: The Hornets hung around in this one until a 15-0 run midway through the third blew it open and Portland led by as many as 26 before coasting in for the win (a late 9-0 New Orleans run made it seem closer than it was). Nicolas Batum led the way with 19. The Blazers needed this win.

 

USA vs. Spain notebook: Celtics fans should like what they see

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — After listening to how defections had left Team USA weak and vulnerable, the Americans came out with a chip on their shoulder Friday night, played strong defense, showed they have plenty of athleticism and skill, and handled Spain 90-81 in a game that was not really that close.

Here are some other notes from Friday night’s exhibition game at the Honda Center (usually the home of the NHL’s Ducks)

Donovan Mitchell, who led Team USA with 13 points, summed up the feelings of the guys who did make a commitment to USA Basketball this summer:

“Me, I’m 22, some guys are older and got to rest their bodies and I understand that… For me, I’ve never been part of USA Basketball and I’m honored to be here, I’m honored to have this privilege to go out and compete.”

Marcus Smart was in street clothes and did not play on Friday night. Thursday at team practice he took part in some shooting drills but not the scrimmages or anything with contact. He continues to try to come back from a calf injury and make the World Cup roster.

• Smart said during the broadcast Friday that he is “100 percent confident” he will be back on the court with the team.

• Good news for Celtics fans: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both played well within the team concept, cutting off the ball and attacking when they had the chance. There was a comfort level and confidence with their games that was good to see again.

Tatum, in particular, made good decisions with the ball all night long, found teammates as cutters when defenders came to him, and seemed to do an improved job playing through contact (something he worked on this summer, and if FIBA ball they let more contact go so he needs it).

Kemba Walker‘s hesitation moves are just unfair.

• The USA’s starters were Harrison Barnes, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Mason Plumlee, Kemba Walker.

• To start the second half, Myles Turner got the nod over Plumlee at center. Just a hunch on my part, but Turner is going to have some breakout games for the USA in China.

• Speaking of Myles Turner, this was the Tweet of the night.

• Of the three centers on the roster, Brook Lopez got the fewest minutes by a considerable margin. Lopez is considered a lock to make the roster, this may have been coach Gregg Popovich and staff wanting to get a longer look at Plumlee and Turner in game action (especially against NBA bigs on the Spanish side in Marc Gasol and Juancho Hernangomez). Not sure all three USA centers make the final roster cut.

• Middleton was the best player on Team USA Friday night. He always seems to make the right decision with the ball in his hands.

• This is Southern California, and the Laker fans were out in force. The Honda Center echoed with “Kuuuz” chants every time Lakers’ forward Kyle Kuzma touched the ball.

• Kuzma is considered one of the guys on the bubble to make the team, but he had a strong game on the boards and finished with seven points and five rebounds.

• In the third quarter, the USA rebounder passed ahead to Kuzma in transition, who pushed it up the wing but pulled up and went to the corner because Marc Gasol was back in the paint. As he pulled it out Kuzma found Derrick White as a trailer on break and threw him a pass, White got into the lane and hit an easy floater. When that happened, Popovich stood up and pointed at Kuzma and then Pop pointed at his head, acknowledging and loving the smart play by the Laker.

That was a sign of a maturing of Kuzma’s game, something the Lakers will need this season — and why playing for Popovich this summer is so good for him.

• You can see why Daryl Morey and the Rockets like Serio Llull — the 2017 EuroLeague MVP just knows how to play the game and is well rounded. Houston has Llull’s rights and have tried to lure him to the NBA, but he’s been happy playing for Real Madrid and so far has decided to stay in Spain.

DeMar DeRozan — a gold medalist with Team USA in the Rio Olympics — was in the arena with his children watching the action. Remember he plays for Popovich and the Spurs now (and is a SoCal native).

• In the final minute of a decided game, Team USA had a sloppy offensive possession then lost guys in transition leading to a Marc Gasol three. Popovich called a timeout with 53.4 seconds left to let his team hear about it. There was no chill.

Andrew Wiggins reportedly had shoes, luggage burglarized in Los Angeles

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Like many NBA players, Andrew Wiggins is in Los Angeles this summer working out, practicing against other elite talent, and generally enjoying the summer in the unofficial off-season destination for NBA players.

Wiggins, however, got burglarized — including having his rented SUV stolen. TMZ had the story.

Former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins was burglarized in Los Angeles … and TMZ Sports has learned the thieves made off with the NBA star’s shoes and luggage…

But, we’re told cops described the scene as “amateur hour” … because the burglars left jewelry and other valuables in the heist, and only took about $1,000 worth of the stuff instead.

We’re told the thieves stole a pair of Wiggins’ casual Nikes and his luggage — and also made off with his rental SUV Escalade. But, we’re told authorities were able to locate the vehicle a short time later.

While the car was found, his shoes and luggage have not been, and there have yet to be any arrests. As anyone who has been burglarized can tell you (*raises hand*) the items stolen are rarely recovered and returned, that stuff tends to be in the wind.

With Jimmy Butler gone, Minnesota heads into this season trying to highlight Karl-Anthony Towns and find a second star to go next to him (they went hard after D'Angelo Russell this summer but did not get him). Wiggins has not been that guy as the Timberwolves had hoped, but with his massive max contract that still has four years remaining Wiggins is nearly impossible to trade. That leaves Ryan Saunders with the task of finding out how to get as much as he can out of Wiggins nightly.

USA shows it still has plenty of talent, athleticism, in 90-81 exhibition win against Spain

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — For the past month, whenever anyone mentioned USA Basketball, the talk was about who decided not to suit up this summer — James Harden, Anthony Davis, etc. Everyone wanted to talk about who Team USA did not have and how much trouble the team was in.

It’s time to move on from that topic.

The United States doesn’t just have the most talented players in the world, it has the deepest talent pool. And it’s not even close.

That was on full display Friday night — this version of Team USA still had more than enough talent and skill to comfortably handle Spain, one of the world’s better squads and a medal contender at the upcoming World Cup in China.

The United States picked up a 90-81 confidence-boosting win in its first test, an exhibition game it led by double digits most of the way. After the game, Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo reminded everyone the USA was the “best team in the tournament” and that he wanted to measure his team against this squad now as a learning experience.

The USA will now head to Australia — with 14 players, not making any roster cuts (they need to eventually get to 12) — for a series of exhibition games. From there it’s on to China for the World Cup, with the American’s first game coming Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic.

For a young USA team, Friday night’s exhibition was another step along the learning curve. Especially playing against a Spanish team that has played together for years and executes a deep offense at a high level.

“There were a lot of situations we learned from this evening,” USA coach Gregg Popovich said. “The win or the loss is pretty unimportant at this point. It’s about getting better, coming together, learning to execute…

“I was most pleased with us defensively, I thought we did a good job as a new group, communicating with each other. I thought we rebounded well, we haven’t done that well, to date, consistently, I thought we had a good effort on the boards from everybody tonight.”

The USA came out and attacked as well, pushing the ball in transition and getting to the rim whenever they could. Team USA took just 19 threes (hitting 10), but when the Spanish players closed out on the shorter international three-point line the Americans put the ball on the floor and went hard to the rim. Guys cut off the ball as the defense rotated, and that led to some nice plays.

The USA was led by Donovan Mitchell, who had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. However, the best player on the floor for the Americans was the Bucks’ All-Star Khris Middleton, who had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, three quality assists, played strong defense, and always seemed to make the right decision. Kemba Walker showed off some impressive hesitation moves on his way to 11 points.

“Everybody on this team can score,” Mitchell said. “But we have guys willing to sacrifice to be a defensive player, to rebound, to take charges, to make the little plays. Maybe not play as many minutes but lead from the bench.”

Team USA came opened the game playing with urgency, and using their athleticism both on defense and in transition, something Spain could not match. The Americans also just knocked down their shots. The USA shot 5-of-8 from three and 55.6 percent overall in the first quarter Friday night, while Spain started 2-of-9 from three. The result was a 31-20 lead after one frame, and the USA kept that lead in double digits most of the way.

Spain was led by Marc Gasol‘s 19 points on 13 shots, as well as Ricky Rubio, who had 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

A couple of times in the fourth quarter Spain cut the lead to eight, but each time Team USA responded with a run to push the league back to the mid-teens. The fact they handled the adversity well is a good sign for the USA.

“We have a group of guys that are willing to learn, willing to listen to each other and lock in,” Donovan Mitchell said. “It’s easy to come in and say ‘it’s my show’ but we have a lot of guys willing to sacrifice for each other, and you want to be on a team like that.”

Team USA had plenty of highlights in first half against Spain

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ANAHEIM — Concerns? What concerns about Team USA?

The Americans came out in their first real test, an exhibition against a good Spanish team, and showed their athleticism and depth. The USA led 54-41 at the half, with Khris Middleton (10 points, 4-of-4 shooting, a couple nice assists) and Kemba Walker (nine points on 3-of-3 shooting) leading the way.

The Americans put their athleticism on display, pressuring on defense then getting out and running, and that led to some impressive highlights.

Ricky Rubio led Spain with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting.