Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs lose and we have a DeAndre Jordan sighting

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while you were watching the first episode of the new season of Top Chef and thinking you could make an omelet….

Jazz 95, Lakers 86: Well, that was about as ugly as the Lakers have looked this season. Utah’s front line owned the Lakers, our own Darius Soranio broke it down.

Nuggets 93, Rockets 87: The Nuggets looked more like the Nuggets team a lot of us thought would give the better teams in the West trouble. D.J. Foster broke this down as our Game of the Night.

Clippers 106, Spurs 84: If DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin came out and played like this every night, we’d all be thinking the Clippers could be contenders. Jordan had 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds and was aggressive rolling to the basket like we almost never see from him, while Griffin added 22 points (on 16 shots) and 10 rebounds. The Clippers hit their first seven shots of the second half to pull away and never look back in this one.

The Clippers didn’t play with this kind of defensive energy against the Cavaliers or Warriors in recent games, they floated through those. This time they came out with a real focus to stop the other team. We’ll see if they can find that consistently. San Antonio falls to 4-1, after the game they just called it an off night for them. Which is also true, no Spur hit more than 4 shots from the field, but the Clips deserve some credit for causing part of it as well.

Celtics 98, Wizards 94 (OT): Boston didn’t look impressive but they got the win and that’s what counts. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead but never led by more, they shot 36 percent in the first half and let the depleted Wizards hang around. They got away with it.

Boston had a chance to end this on the last play of regulation, but rather than running a play we got to see a Rondo isolation three with no imagination whatsoever, and he missed it. In overtime Brandon Bass scored 5 to get Boston the win. Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 boards. Bradley Beal had 16 in his best game as a Wizard.

Suns 117, Bobcats 110: This ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the night, a game was tied 85-85 late before Phoenix pulled away. Mind you it was not one of the best played games — it lacked little things like defense, but it was fun. Shannon Brown had 24 points — 18 in the fourth quarter — and was a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc to lead the Suns to the win. He got help from Michael Beasley who had his best game as a Sun with 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Marcin Gortat had seven blocks. Byron Mullens had 24 to lead the Bobcats.

Hawks 89, Pacers 86: Welcome to the game of wild second half swings. Atlanta had been in the lead until an 18-0 run by the Pacers not only gave them a lead but a comfortable 14 point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Then Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver took over and Atlanta had an 18-0 run of its own to get the win.

Roy Hibbert continues to struggle this season — 9 points on 4-11 shooting and 7 boards. They need more from him with Danny Granger out.

Heat 103, Nets 77: Brooklyn is not a good defensive team. Miami is. That is what this game really was about.

Miami hadn’t shown a lot of defense yet this season but they held the Nets to 37 percent shooting overall and 3-of-21 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile the Nets could not figure out how to matchup with the Heat (they missed Gerald Wallace who was out injured). Brook Lopez was chasing Chris Bosh around and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade beat their men off the dribble and found nobody between them and the rim. The Heat were moving the ball crisply and it seems every shot they took was an open one. Wade had 22 points, LeBron 20 points (on 12 shots) and 12 rebounds. Rashard Lewis added 13 off the bench.

Grizzlies 108, Bucks 90: Memphis started the second quarter with a 9-0 run to take a comfortable lead and never looked back, cruising to a win on the road. Zach Randolph was a force with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Marreese Speights added 18 points and 11 boards off the bench. Everyone was pitching in for Memphis — Milwaukee made a run to get the lead down to 7 in the third quarter and Quincy Pondexter first then Wayne Ellington knocked down key threes and that was all she wrote.

Sixers 77, Hornets 62: No Anthony Davis, no Eric Gordon and no Austin Rivers meant no points — New Orleans scored a record franchise low as they shot just 33.8 percent and had 24 turnovers. The first half of this game was sloppy and ugly, but Philly opened the second half on a 10-0 run, took care of the rock and defended. Jrue Holiday had 14 points and 12 assists.

Mavericks 109, Raptors 104: Dirk who? Dallas is off to a fast 4-1 start with another win, this one earned without Elton Brand (wife having a baby), Shawn Marion (left knee), Rodrigue Beaubois (left ankle) and Dirk Nowitizki (knee surgery). Still Dallas was in control from the start, up double digits most of the night and got 22 from Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo. Andrea Bargnani led Toronto with 25 points.

Kings 105, Pistons 103: Well, someone had to win this one. The Kings picked up their second straight win at home over a Pistons team that is winless and playing worse than pretty much anyone in the NBA. Sacramento took charge in the second quarter and never really looked back, DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way. Greg Monroe had a triple-double in a loosing effort — 21 points, 12 boards and 11 assists.

Warriors 106, Cavaliers 96: No Anderson Varejao and no Tyler Zeller for Cleveland due to injuries meant it was the David Lee show for Golden State as he racked up 22 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Warriors to victory. The Warriors took control with a 17-4 run late in the third quarter, a run fueled by Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry (he finished with 19 points).

Timberwolves 90, Magic 75: This was a thrashing — Orlando needed a late 14-2 run to get the finals score as close as it was. To be fair, they got the lead down to five in the third quarter but Minny responded with a 28-6 run fueled by Greg Stiemsma scoring 10 of his 12 on the night, and that was it. Luke Ridnour led the Timberwolves with 19 points. Orlando shot just 35 percent for the game.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“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,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.

Wembanyama scores 37, Scoot Henderson 28, as both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.