Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lakers show up for a half, that’s enough in New Orleans

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching Bilbo Baggins going on a drunken ‘Unexpected Journey’

Lakers 103, Hornets 87: On night where Kobe Bryant became only the 5th player in NBA history to hit the 30,000 career point plateau, the Lakers also got the win. And so everyone in Laker-land can rest easy for at least one night.

This game really showed the two diverse poles of the Lakers’ personality as a team. In the first half they struggled to defend even the most simple of Hornets’ sets, not rotating on the pick and roll and not recovering to shooters on the wings. On the other side of the ball they played too much one on one basketball, the ball sticking to one side of the floor as the guy who caught the ball looked to score for himself. The result was a first half deficit and a style that looked all too familiar to those who’ve watched this team toil early this season.

In the second half, however, all that changed. The ball moved on offense and everyone started to get involved. Kobe (29 points, 4 assists) poured in his points, but also initiated the offense well by looking to set up others. Dwight Howard asserted himself and controlled the paint on both ends (18 points, 5 blocks). The bench found their stride (27 points) and everything came together for a team that sorely needed it too.
—Darius Soriano

Knicks 100, Bobcats 98: It wasn’t easy for New York, and it took some buzzer-beating heroics from J.R. Smith to ultimately get the job done, But in a classic look-ahead game for the Knicks, with a trip to Miami against the defending champion Heat up next, they’ll take a win any way it comes.

Charlotte was actually in a pretty good position to take this one, outrebounding and outshooting the Knicks on the night. But turnovers killed them, especially late, when they gave it away on their final two possessions, both times with a chance to take the lead or win the game with under 40 seconds remaining.

Kemba Walker’s 25-point, 11-assist outing was ultimately wasted, while Carmelo Anthony left the game with 2:10 to play due to a cut on his left hand which required stitches. His status for Thursday night in Miami is questionable.
—Brett Pollakoff

Spurs 110, Bucks 99: This was a tie game, 76-76, heading into the fourth quarter, the Bucks left their big guns in while Gregg Popovich rolled out a lineup of Nando De Colo, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, and Tiago Splitter. And the Spurs went on a 17-3 run and never looked back. Neal finished with 22, as did Tony Parker. They dominated the Bucks backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings who combined to shoot 10-for-34 for the game. That would be 29 percent for those of you scoring at home.

Clippers 112, Mavericks 90: This was a wire to wire blowout for the Clippers, who got pretty much what they wanted when they wanted it against a Mavericks team that was simply overmatched.

L.A. led by 11 after one and by 18 at the half, before turning the remainder of the game into extended garbage time where they showcased their high-flyers with dunks against little or no resistance. One interesting note for Dallas was the play of Derek Fisher, who scored 11 points in just over eight third-quarter minutes to help his team briefly get back within 12. Fisher was +2 in his time on the floor in this one, the only Maverick player on the positive end of a plus/minus statistic that is usually tells us nothing in a game as lopsided as this one.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pacers 99, Trail Blazers 92: Portland made a run early with LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard combining for 14 first quarter points, but the Pacers cranked up the defensive pressure and this was about even through the half. Then the Pacers ended the third on 19-6 run and never looked back. Another strong game from Paul George with 22. He is taking on the role of leader on this team. David West had 12 of his 16 in the second half.

Warriors 104, Pistons 97: The first half of this game was not pretty — the Pistons struggled against the Warriors 1-2-2 zone, which forced them to be shooters. But the Warriors were not shooting any better. The third quarter was a different story because Klay Thompson was hot — he had five three pointers and he had 19 points in the quarter. The Warriors were in control… until an 18-4 late run by the Pistons made it interesting. Golden State held on for the win.

Stephen Curry had 22 points and 10 assists — that is four straight games of 20 points and 10 assists. You should have drafted him higher in your fantasy league.

Celtics 104, Timberwolves 94: Rajon Rondo was back (with 17 points but 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett played like he was back (he came out hot and hit six of his first seven), and Jason Terry played his best game in a while with 18. It’s not a head turning win, but Boston will take it. Kevin Love had 19 points and 13 assists.

Bulls 95, Cavaliers 85: We have a Marco Belinelli sighting — he had 23 points on 15 shots. Luol Deng had 22 points on 13 shots. So for one night, there was an efficient offense from Chicago (105.7 points per 100 possessions, six better than their season average). The Bulls were in charge of this game from the first quarter on, and when the Pacers made a push late in the third quarter and Kirk Hinrich responded with a couple threes. Donald Sloan gave the Cavs 14 off the bench, if you want a bright spot.

Jazz 87, Magic 81: Utah was able to do what the Lakers were not — beat the Magic in the paint. Jefferson had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 22 points. Which was good for Utah because the rest of the team combined to shoot 25.6 percent on the night. Utah led most of the night but a 12-2 run by the Magic had them up 79-78 lead with 3:33 left in the game. But Utah closed the game on a 9-2 run, including four more Jefferson points, to get the win.

Hawks 108, Nuggets 104: It’s not that Denver doesn’t have an identity, it’s that they can’t execute it. They want to run and gun, but they can’t do that effectively when Andre Iguodala has 5 points and 7 turnovers. They can’t do that when their best shooter — Danilo Gallinari — is 3-for-10 and is more straight-line driver than dangerous weapon.

The Hawks just beat up the Nuggets inside — they had 19 offensive rebounds as a team, Al Horford had 25 points and 12 rebounds, Josh Smith had 16 and 13, and they got Kenneth Faried out of the game and in foul trouble. Still it was close 101-101, but the Hawks made the plays late. The only reason Denver was in the game was Ty Lawson’s 32 points.

Kings 107, Raptors 100: This is how the Kings envisioned winning games — DeMarcus Cousins owns the night (25 points, 13 rebounds) then in crunch time, with the game tied 95-95, Tyreke Evans drains back-to-back threes and the Kings pull away for the win. At least they were able to do it against the Raptors. Kyle Lowry had 34 points and 11 dimes for the Raptors.

Kevin Durant tells fans: ‘Watch the f—ing game and shut the f— up’ (video)

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Kevin Durant once said he appreciated hecklers.

That didn’t appear to be the case during the Warriors’ loss to the Mavericks on Saturday.

Durant – who’s been sour after his highly public argument with Draymond Green – confronted Dallas fans and told them to “watch the f—ing game and shut the f— up.”

TMZ:

One witness who was sitting in spitting distance from the incident tells us … the heckler was just saying the typical NBA fan trash talk — calling KD names like, “Cupcake” and other insults.

Another witness tells TMZ Sports … the hecklers had been bombarding KD with the “cupcake” insults to the point where it became unbearable.

That witness tells us KD complained to the refs at one point but the fans were not removed or disciplined in any way.

We’re told the group laughed off the incident because they knew they got to him and ramped up the trash talk even more for the rest of the game.

Durant obviously has a history of confronting critics. But that’s usually online, not in person.

The NBA generally fines players for getting caught on video talking to fans this way. The league doesn’t seem to have a problem with players responding to fans when it’s not on video. Hecklers’ days are made when players respond, but the league doesn’t seem to account for that.

It’s an unfair system, but it’s the one Durant is in.

He and Golden State are also in a three-game losing streak. Snap that, and Durant will probably become more friendly.

Joel Embiid had a spectacular missed windmill dunk

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Joel Embiid had a brilliant game Monday night, scoring 33 points with 17 boards. He’s a guy whose name deserves to come up when talking about guys playing at an MVP level early this season.

Plus we saw a motivated Embiid Monday going against No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, who Embiid said would get his a** kicked this year around the NBA. Embiid did his part, basically doubling Ayton in points (33-17) and rebounds (17-9).

But Embiid also had one spectacular fail — this missed windmill dunk.

Ben Simmons is not going to let Embiid forget about that one for a while.

Three Things to Know: Kemba Walker, Hornets latest team to expose problems in Boston

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Each night in the NBA there is a lot of action, a lot to unpack. Which is why every weekday morning during the NBA season we bring you three things you need to know out of the night before, to keep you up on all the big happenings around the NBA.

1) Kemba Walker is destroying everyone, including the Celtics Monday night. But Boston has issues. The Boston Celtics, the team that was the favorite in the East going into the season, the team everyone thought they had to beat, is getting beat. A lot more than we expected at 9-8 to start the season. What started as “don’t freak out they just need to get Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward meshed into what they do” has become legitimate reason for concern because the Celtics can’t get key boards, and that elite defense is not slowing their opponent’s best scorer often enough.

Monday night that opponent was maybe the hottest player in the NBA: Kemba Walker. He certainly is the most entertaining player in the league right now he and dropped 43 on the Celtics and yelling “this is my s***” after a big bucket.

Walker is a fringe MVP candidate right now (the way Damian Lillard jumped into the conversation a year ago) and he should thank new coach James Borego. His new Spursian offense has spaced the floor for the Hornets (not having Dwight Howard in the post and clogging the lane helps, too) and Walker is driving into that space and making plays. And if you play back on him, he will destroy you with off-the-dribble threes.

All of that does not change the fact Boston has issues compared to where we thought they would be right now. We went into the season knowing rebounding would be a concern but it has been worse than expected (like at the end of the Hornets’ game, when Charlotte was getting key offensive boards to keep plays alive). The Celtics have the 27th ranked offense in the NBA this season because the ball stops too much — Terry Rozier has been a problem here — plus the team is just not knocking down jumpers (Boston is third in number of three pointers taken a game but 21st in percentage at 34.5 percent). Brad Stevens can’t find a rotation he likes — Aron Baynes started in place of Gordon Hayward Monday — and Stevens just can’t find the toughness we expected from this team on a nightly basis.

Maybe we will get to March and April and shake our heads thinking “why did we worry about Boston?” They can still put this thing together and get up to be a top two or three seed (they are currently four games back of the Raptors, ground not easy to make up because Toronto is good).

But we are now 17 games in, approaching a quarter of the season, and these issues have not gone away in Boston. It’s time to admit this team is flawed right now and it might not be able to put it all together like we expected.

2) The Wizards are a disaster, they are open to trades… and it’s not going to be that easy. The dumpster fire in our nation’s capital… wait, let me be more specific, there are a lot of dumpster fires in our nation’s capital right now.

The dumpster fire in Washington D.C. that is the Washington Wizards got a little hotter Monday when it was reported that GM Ernie Grunfeld would listen for trade offers for anyone on the team. Including the “not exactly that big three” of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. That came just days after a blow up in practice where Beal yelled at Grunfeld and Wall told coach Scott Brooks “f*** you.” That earned Wall an internal fine.

Being open to breaking up its core is something Washington should have been doing last summer (if not earlier) — the chemistry issues around this team are not new. They’re worse right now, but they are not new. Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis kept doubling down on the core guys and thought they could fix the chemistry issues by changing coaches or role players (Marcin Gortat was the guy shipped out last summer and was seen as the chemistry problem… the Clippers look really good with him on the roster, by the way, great chemistry there). But the real problem was the core itself.

Grunfeld has come around to that, but now the trade value is down for all of those guys because of the team’s struggles. Talking to sources around the league there is by far the most interest in Beal, who is just 25 and an All-Star player at a position of need around the league. He’s also the one of the three the Wizards least want to trade, so that will take a massive offer (the kind more often seen in July than mid-season).

Second on the list, but well behind, is Otto Porter, a guy playing average basketball this season but on a max contract for two full seasons after this one. There is interest there, with the Pelicans rumored to be kicking the tires on a trade.

Last in interest from teams is Wall. We can talk about how Wall’s contract will make him very difficult to trade — his designated veteran max contract kicks in next season, he has four years at an average of more than $42 million a season left on his deal after this one — but that may not even be the worst part right now. Wall is coasting on the court too much right now, not playing like an elite player at all, and the bigger problem is the best player on the team sets the culture. Stephen Curry set the “fun but work hard” tone in Golden State. LeBron James sets the tone for the Lakers and that tone won titles in Cleveland and Miami. Tim Duncan set the tone for the Spurs for two winning decades and five rings. What culture is Wall setting right now as he jogs through plays and has his hands on his hips? Forget the money, nobody wants to trade for that player, period. (Well, don’t forget the money, but the combo of the money and his attitude make him almost impossible to move right now.)

3) Joel Embiid backs up his trash talk and puts up 33 on Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns. This summer, Joel Embiid said No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton would get his a** kicked this year once the games got real. Embiid lived up to that on Monday night, almost doubling Ayton in points (33-17) and rebounds (17-9). Embiid was making plays on both ends of the floor.

But it was not all perfect for Embiid — this missed dunk is not something Ben Simmons is going to let Embiid forget.

Giannis Antetokounmpo 29 points, 12 rebounds lead Bucks past Nuggets, 104-98

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks have been plagued lately by sluggish first-half performances.

They got away with it again Monday night.

The Bucks fell behind by 17 points before rallying to down the Denver Nuggets 104-98. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and Eric Bledsoe added 23, including two late 3-pointers.

Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, which came from 22 down in the first half to beat the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. The Bucks also fell behind by double digits in the first quarter in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to do a better job to try to set the tone,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think we did a better job this game, but we can do a lot better. I think our talent saves us. I feel like we are so talented that even when we are down 10, down 15, we can always get back into the game.”

The Bucks swept the two-game season series against the Nuggets for the first time since 2009-10.

Jamal Murray had 17 points, eight rebounds and a season-best nine assists for Denver, which has lost six of its last seven games.

“We still have confidence. We just aren’t winning games,” Murray said.

Nikola Jokic had 20 points, Gary Harris 14 and Malik Beasley chipped in with a season-high 12 points off the bench.

“I was really pleased with the fight and the competitive spirit. We gave ourselves a chance against a very good basketball team on the road,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But there are no moral victories. We’ve got to start winning these games.”

The Bucks led 78-77 heading to fourth quarter. The teams exchanged leads until Milwaukee went on a late 8-0 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Bledsoe.

“I think Eric is in a really good place,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He is understanding what we need in different moments.”

Denver pulled within two points with less than a minute left on Jokic’s 3 but Khris Middleton, who had been 0 for 7 from deep, answered with a 3-pointer to put the Bucks up 103-98 with 27 seconds left.

After trailing by 10 to start the third quarter, the Bucks grabbed the lead late in the period on a slam dunk by Antetokounmpo.

Denver used a 17-4 to start the second quarter to build a 17-point lead and held a 56-46 advantage at the half. Milwaukee closed the half on a 10-3 run.

The Nuggets led 29-25 after the first quarter, sparked by nine points from Gary Harris.