Baseline to Baseline recaps: Celtics bench gets them a win

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while thinking at least one drug dealer really cares….

Grizzlies 107, Thunder 97: We told you last week in the power rankings Memphis was for real. Believe us now? Brett Pollakoff broke down this game for us.

Clippers 107, Heat 100: Speaking of teams that are for real, meet the Los Angeles Clippers. They are getting much better play out of D’Andre Jordan and they are defending. Brett Pollakoff also broke this game down, too.

Celtics 98, Jazz 93: Boston’s bench was the key in this one. First, we have had a Jeff Green sighting (just ask Al Jefferson) and he had 16 points. Bigger still was Leandro Barbosa — Rajon Rondo left the game in third quarter with a sprained ankle but Barbosa was part of a Celtics team that made a key 14-2 run where they took control of the game. Boston’s bench accounted for 47 of their points. Paul Pierce added 23, Paul Millsap had 20 points and 12 boards.

Pistons 94, Sixers 76: Pistons win! The Pistons win! They are celebrating the Pistons first win of the season on the streets of Detroit. And if you are a Philadelphia fan you may want to ask — how did you just lose to the Pistons at home? Handily.

They lost because they shot 29.8 percent — they couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean (thanks Chick Hearn). They lost because they got outworked on the boards. They lost because they played like they didn’t care. Detroit played with the desperation of a team that needed a win — Greg Monroe had 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Kyle Singler added 16 points.

Bucks 99, Pacers 85: Wow, the Pacers are playing some bad ball right now. This was a 30-point beat down where Tyler Hansbrough and Sam Young made it look like a 14-point loss with a solid fourth quarter. The Bucks made a push at the start — they were up 7-0 and never trailed after that — and played pretty well the rest of the way. They got 16 points each from Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. But mostly, the Bucks just had to stay out of the way of the self-destruction.

Rockets 100, Hornets 96: In the first half James Harden was slashing to the rim at will, with Al-Farouq Aminu trying but unable to stay in front of him. Harden had 19 points in the first half (30 for the game) and when he re-entered in the second quarter it sparked a 17-4 run that capped a 39 point quarter for the Rockets and they were in total control. Credit New Orleans for chipping away at it and making a game of it — the Rockets didn’t pressure Greivis Vasquez and he put up 24 points, Ryan Anderson added 20 points and 12 rebounds. New Orleans got all the way back within 2 points in the final two minutes, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Bulls 112, Suns 106 (OT): The Suns keep digging themselves holes then trying to climb themselves out — this time it was 18 points. They almost did climb out against the Bulls — they forced overtime. But a10-2 Bulls run in overtime and Chicago gets a win in the first game of its dreaded annual circus trip. Carlos Boozer scored 28 points and added 14 rebounds, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah each had 21 points. Luis Scola had 24 for the Suns while Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown were each 4-of-15 shooting on the night.

Bobcats 89, Timberwolves 87: The Charlotte Bobcats are on a three-game winning streak. If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would be the seven seed in the East. Let that marinate for a minute. Charlotte was really in control of this game the entire second half, until a late 16-2 run by the Timberwolves (fueled by some bad Bobcats plays, such as Reggie Williams calling time out when they were out of them) tied it up — and set the stage for Kemba Walkers’ heroics. He had 22 on the night and the game winner. Ramon Sessions came off the bench and added 18 for Charlotte. Andrei Kirilenko led the Wolves with a game-high 26.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 101: Dallas was in control of this one, up 22 in the second half, but Washington opened the fourth quarter on an 18-3 run sparked by Kevin Seraphin. And it was a game. It was within three in the final minute when a Seraphin steal led to a Jannero Pargo open look three to tie it — and he missed. Next possession for Dallas O.J. Mayo fouled, hit the free throws (he had 25 points on the night) and that sealed the game. Chris Kaman had 23 for Dallas, Jordan Crawford 21 for Washington.

Hawks 92, Warriors 88: With Al Horford out and Josh Smith mired in an ugly slump (6-of-16 shooting in this one), the boards belonged to the Warriors in this one and it was key late. Up 3 inside of :30 in the game Stephen Curry missed a three but Harrison Barnes got the offensive board, was fouled, hit is free throws and iced the game. Barnes had his best night as a pro with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Korver scored all of his 14 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting. Ivan Johnson added 15 for the Hawks. David Lee had 18 points and 10 boards for Golden State.

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.