Baseline to Baseline recaps: Boston falls and fails in Detroit

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while watching the Andrew Bynum bowling gif over and over.

Lakers 119, Rockets 108: Two straight games with big point totals for the Lakers — 114 last game, 119 this one — and two wins. And that’s with Mike D’Antoni not even on the bench yet. Kobe Bryant fueled this one and Brett Pollakoff broke it down for us.

Pistons 103, Celtics 83: Well, this was ugly for Boston. On a lot of levels. Mostly that they came in against a weak team on the second night of a back-to-back and played like they wanted to be anywhere else. A little secret is that Boston’s defense hasn’t been that great this season — they were 19th in the league in points per possession before the Pistons lit them up shooting 54 percent. And scoring 44 points in the paint. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 13 boards.

Then came the fourth quarter sham where the Celtics kept Rajon Rondo on the court trying to get him to 10 assists to keep his streak alive. It felt like Wilt’s 100 point game (where his team started fouling to stop the clock and get the ball back so they could feed him). It was just ugly.

Sixers 86, Cavaliers 79: Jrue Holiday deserves the credit for this win — his defense on Kyrie Irving was fantastic all night, holding Irving to 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting, with 4 assists and 5 turnovers. Holiday was Irving’s blanket. Still the Cavs hung in until late in the game the Sixers hit five straight — two from Evan Turner (who finished with 19), two corner threes from Spencer Hawes, and that was enough. It wasn’t just Irving, Dion Waiters struggled in Philly with five points on 2-of-13 shooting and not a rebound or assist.

Nets 99, Kings 90: That would be five straight wins for the Nets, heading into a good test with the suddenly run-and-gun Lakers Tuesday. Andray Blatche was the star, dropping 29 points, 11 in the fourth quarter when they needed it. This was a two-point game early in the fourth quarter until a 13-2 Brooklyn run changed the dynamic. This was also the Kings fifth straight loss but they actually played better than in recent efforts. Maybe that was a new starting lineup, maybe a players-only meeting. Who knows? But it was a step in the right direction, led by DeMarcus Cousins’ 29 points.

Thunder 119, Warriors 109: Kevin Durant has his first ever career triple-double, Russell Westbrook dropped 30 and when that’s going on beating the Thunder is almost impossible. The Warriors made a go of it, they were getting balanced scoring (five guys in double figures) and Curry had 22. But it wasn’t enough because, well, the Thunder are just really good.

Knicks 88, Pacers 76: This is a game where the winning team shot 36.7 percent from the floor. You wouldn’t use the word pretty. The Knicks took control with a 13-3 run in the second quarter (they won the period 20-12) and that was enough. The Pacers offense without Danny Granger to create shots or as a safety valve late in the clock can just struggle. Carmelo Anthony had 26 to lead all scorers and still looks great when he gets the ball on the block.

Trail Blazers 102, Bulls 94: This game was tied up 73-73 but an 8-0 run gave Portland a lead they never let go of. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum each scored 21 points; LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points and 13 rebounds. Maybe the best player on the floor was Joakim Noah, who had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists. Both teams are now 5-5.

Raptors 97, Magic 86: Toronto is simply the more athletic, longer, more skilled squad and it showed in a couple runs. There was a 14-2 first quarter run sparked by DeMar DeRozan (11 points in the first quarter, 20 for the game), but to the Magic’s credit they fought back. Until the fourth quarter when a 19-4 Toronto run sealed it. Orlando shot just 26.3 percent and hit one three in the fourth. That won’t cut it. Meanwhile the Raptors bench took over — Amir Johnson had 14 in the fourth, Linas Kleiza 10. Quick shout out to former Celtic E’Twaun Moore who had 16 points and four assists.

WNBA veteran Chasity Melvin joins Hornets’ G-League team coaching staff

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chasity Melvin has been hired by the Charlotte Hornets’ G League team, the Greensboro Swarm, as an assistant coach.

She becomes the first female coach in Hornets and Swarm history.

The former North Carolina State standout was the 11th overall selection in the 1999 WNBA draft. She played 12 seasons in the WNBA and was an All-Star in 2001.

Melvin was part of the NBA Assistant Coaches Program, which prepares current and former NBA, WNBA and G League players for coaching careers. Former program participants include James Posey (Cavaliers), Jerry Stackhouse (Grizzlies) and Vin Baker (Bucks).

Her hire comes one day after Kristy Toliver became the first active WNBA player to become an NBA assistant when she joined the Washington Wizards.

Other female assistants in the NBA include Becky Hammon with the Spurs and Dallas’ Jenny Boucek.

 

Timberwolves fans boo Jimmy Butler, Tom Thibodeau at home opener

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How is Tom Thibodeau doing in Minnesota tonight?

Friday night is the Timberwolves home opener — a big production where every player is introduced and the crowd is hyped. How hyped? Derrick Rose got a surprising amount of love from the fans.

However, the reception for Jimmy Butlerwho has demanded a trade out of Minnesota, thrown a tirade during practice, and generally been disruptive — and coach/GM Tom Thibodeau (blamed by many for creating and dragging out this situation) both heard it from fans.

Watching the broadcast you could hear some boos, but the pumped-up in-arena entertainment noise on that feed made it hard to hear anything clearly. In the arena were a few cheers mixed in there for Butler, although mostly he was booed. Loudly.

Thibodeau didn’t get even that much love.

Timberwolves fans were indiscriminate and were ready to boo anyone who ever pissed them off — enter Kevin Love.

The boos for Butler subsided as the game went on.

The coach and star player getting booed maybe motivate owner Glen Taylor to step in and force the situation, but probably not. At this point how much more embarrassing is it going to get? If the Timberwolves get off to a slow start this season because of the chemistry, that might be the tipping point.

Right now, Butler trade talks are dormant. This — and these boos — are the status quo.

But everything is fine.

Mike D’Antoni on Rockets’ defense: “I don’t see it like falling so far off. I don’t see it.”

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Last season the Houston Rockets’ defense allowed 105.7 points per 100 possessions, seventh best in the NBA. After the All-Star break they allowed just 103.8 per 100, fourth best during that stretch. By the end of the season, the Rockets switched every screen on- and off-ball (something they felt they needed to handle the Warriors in the playoffs) and leaned on defensive minded role players such as Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. It got them within a game — within a half, really, the Rockets led at half of Games 6 and 7 vs the Warriors — of reaching the NBA Finals and almost certainly bringing home a title.

This season, the conventional wisdom was the Rockets would take a big step back defensively. Ariza and Mbah a Moute left as free agents, replaced on some level by James Ennis (a quality defender), Carmelo Anthony (not so much) and Michael Carter-Williams. Defensive-focused assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik retired, adding to the losses.

That narrative was fed opening night when Anthony Davis did whatever he wanted on his way to 32 points, Elfird Payton (yes, Elfrid Payton) put up a triple-double, and the Pelicans scored at a 124.8 points per 100 pace in blowing the Rockets out.

Mike D’Antoni doesn’t see the season going that way. Speaking to  Sam Amick of The Athletic he defended the team’s defense this season.

I think we’re even deeper this year, so we can have fresher guys on the floor… Trevor and Mbah a Moute were big parts of (Houston’s switching defense), but it’ll be taken up by Michael Carter-Williams. He’s a very good defensive player. James Ennis, who has energy and can play defense, and has all kinds of energy, to Eric Gordon, who will play with Chris and James a little bit more. So I don’t see it like falling so far off. I don’t see it. ‘Melo and the guys are smart enough (to know that) by switching it helps them too. They don’t have to fight through screens and all that. We’re just switching everything to try to keep guys in front. We have a nice philosophy, I think, where players understand what we’re trying to do.

The only thing that’s really changed is that (assistant coach) Roy (Rogers) has the (defensive) voice, in film sessions, talking to them, and (former assistant) Jeff (Bzdelik) had the voice (last season, before unexpectedly leaving during the summer). We all sat down to figure out what we wanted to do defensively, what were the best matchups, talking to Chris and James and PJ about, ‘OK, who you guarding tonight, and what do you think?’ And they’ll figure it out. But at the end of the day, the information still flows exactly the same.”

While the system may be the same, the players executing it are not. Carter-Williams was just lost and a mess defensively in the opener. Anthony will be better than some think as a team defender during the regular season (not good, but not a complete dumpster fire), but he can be exploited in a playoff series (Utah hunted him out in the first round last season, and it worked). P.J. Tucker is a fantastic defender, as is Chris Paul, but both are a year older and not getting faster.

Opening night was an aberration — the Rockets are not that bad on either end of the floor. It’s just one game and every team will have a few clunkers over the course of 82. The Rockets will play better against the Lakers in LeBron James‘ home opener Saturday night (that will not be an easy game for Houston by any measure).

Right now it feels like the Rockets are headed for a step back defensively this season, and with that their margins against the Warriors get even smaller. We’ll see over time if D’Antoni knows best.

Russell Westbrook out vs. Clippers Friday night, second game he’s missed

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The Thunder offense struggled on opening night, scoring less than a point per possession (96.2 per 100 possessions, to be specific). While the Thunder got out and ran a decent amount, 18.6 percent of their possessions started in transition, they scored just 0.88 points per possession on those chances (stats via Cleaning the Glass). On spot-up jump shots, they shot scored just 0.67 points per possession (via Synergy Sports) and they shot 27.8 percent from three in the part of the game that mattered.

How much of that was the Thunder offense missing their engine in Russell Westbrook, and how much of that was going against the solid defense and length of the Golden State Warriors?

We may find out Friday night because Westbrook is out again, still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on right knee back on Sept. 12. Royce Young of ESPN broke the news.

That means again most of the offense will flow through Paul George, which worked reasonably well but he needs more help from other players. The Clippers’ defense was fairly good opening night, and they played Denver close, but couldn’t score enough and lost a lead down the stretch, dropping their season opener.

What really matters is this gives us another chance to watch Westbrook try to sneak-snack on the bench.