Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pacers win with offense. Again.

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching a toddler drain trick shot after trick shot

Lakers 92, Nets 83: Up until this game I was still sure the Lakers were not a playoff team, that the recent streak would not be enough for the hole they dug. But they pushed through adversity in this game and it’s the first time I said “maybe.” They may have to do it all without Pau Gasol for a while, but they looked like a team that could. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down for us.

Rockets 140, Warriors 109: Houston tied the NBA record by hitting 23 three-pointers. But really it got interesting at the end when Warriors coach Mark Jackson made sure his players knew not to let that become 24. D.J. Foster broke the game down for us.

Pacers 114, Hawks 103: On the season, the Pacers have won with as good a defense as there is in the NBA making up for an offense that scores just a point a possession (22nd in the league, according to NBA.com). But Monday night against the Bulls the Pacers scored at a 120 points per 100 possessions pace, and that carried over to Tuesday night against the Hawks when it was 114.5. Indy has broken into triple digits in five of their last six games. Keep that up while still paying defense and the Pacers become a real threat.

The Pacers took control of the game in the third quarter, which was when Paul George scored 11 of his 29 points, then George added another 11 in the fourth. The Pacers bench — D.J. Augustin and Ian Mahinmi in particular — helped the Pacers push out that lead in the third. We saw some good play from Roy Hibbert as well, a good sign if you are a Pacers fan. That is 15 straight wins at home for the Pacers.

The strangest part of this game was the 10 minute delay in the third quarter while referees Bill Kennedy, Josh Tiven, and Scott Wall tried to make one call. Augustin had the ball on the right wing and drove, and the Hawks Al Horford came over to cut off his drive. Augustin stepped around him but to create space elbowed Horford in the gut, then Horford came down with both of his arms hard. So was the foul on Augustin for the initial elbow or Horford for the hard foul after? The refs watched the video and gave a technical to Augustin and a flagrant I to Horford. It was a strange call that left nobody happy.

Nuggets 112, Bucks 104: The Bucks led this pretty much the entire way and looked in control until Denver closed the game on a 19-4 run to get the win. Danilo Gallinari had 8 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, including one crazy trick shot during the comeback that was the sure sign this was Denver’s night after all. But it really was the Nuggets defense down the stretch that was key for them — faced with ball pressure the Bucks went away from the ball movement that worked all game for them and fell to isolation ball.

But the best player on the floor for the night was Samuel Dalembert, who had a career high 35 points plus pulled down 12 boards. It looked like he was going to carry the Bucks to victory, but then Denver’s late surge changed that. Ty Lawson also had 22 for Denver.

Suns 96, Grizzlies 90: This game was tied 88-88 with two minutes to go and that’s when the Memphis just came apart. Marc Gasol had fouled out and Darrell Arthur had an ugly turnover, some missed defensive assignments and generally looked like a guys who shot 1-of-10 on the night. Why do the Grizzlies seem to ignore Zach Randolph at the end of games? Meanwhile Goran Dragic kept attacking — he had 15 points in the fourth quarter and was the difference maker late making baskets and drawing fouls. Marcin Gortat chipped in 20 for the Suns.

Writer recants report that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers executive Larry Bird
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The report from ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because the team didn’t spend enough?

Never mind.

Pacers release:

Statement from Larry Bird

“A published report indicated that I left my position as President of Basketball Operations in 2017 because ownership was not willing to spend “big money” and that it frustrated me enough to step aside. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want everyone to know I left there because it was time for me to move on from the Pacers.

“I had worked with Kevin Pritchard and at that time I felt Kevin was ready to take over and he has proven that. I can’t thank Herb and Mel Simon, along with Pacers Sports & Entertainment, for the opportunities to, at first, coach, and then later move into the front office.”

Statement from ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan:

“About three weeks ago during a discussion on the podcast The Hoop Collective, I misspoke when I expressed my opinion regarding the business practices of the Indiana Pacers, and inferred that Larry Bird had been frustrated during his time as team president. It was a careless remark, based solely on my opinion, and therefore should have never been said. Larry Bird never expressed those feelings to me, and I apologize to both Larry and team owner Herb Simon for poor choice of my words.”

I don’t know why the Pacers bothered quoting Bird, who still works for the organization as Advisor to the President of Basketball Operations. MacMullan’s clear recantation says everything necessary (and speaks to her integrity and humility).

It’s good this story got cleared up.

Some things that remain true:

Three Things to Know: Is it time to worry about the Laker offense?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Is it time to worry about the Laker offense?

The Los Angeles Lakers have the worst offense in the bubble.

We’re not just talking about the 86 points on 35.2% shooting in Wednesday’s loss to Chris Paul and the Thunder, although that was a low point.

Four games into the NBA’s restart, the Lakers are scoring less than a point per possession while shooting 39.4% overall and 25.2% from three. Their offense has been worse than the Wizards in Orlando — and how many Wizards starters could you name right now? The Lakers’ starting five — LeBron James, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Anthony Davis, and JaVale McGee — have a dreadful 74.4 offensive rating though four games (and a -30.1 net rating).

Or, since a picture is worth 1,000 words, take a look at the Lakers’ shot chart in the restart.

That’s a lot of red.

Should Lakers’ fans be worried?

Probably not. This is some small sample size theater with just four games. Coach Frank Vogel has been playing around with the lineup rotations, things haven’t been playoff tight. Plus, after the Lakers beat the Clippers opening night they had the top seed all but sewn up, there hasn’t been real motivation for L.A. to play its best.

More importantly, don’t worry because this team still has LeBron James (although he shot just 42% overall and 27.3% from three over the last four games). They still have Anthony Davis, who has been one of the MVPs of the bubble so far. Those two form the best pick-and-roll combo in the league, and so long as they are on the roster the Lakers have a chance to win it all.

The shooting is a concern — and not a new problem. The Lakers were a below-average shooting team in the season before the shut down (21st in the league on open look three-point percentage). We’ve watched LeBron’s play cover up the flaws in a team and take them to the Finals for years, and it certainly could happen again, but the Lakers shooting — and right now their entire offense — is a concern.

2) Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons leaves game with a knee issue

Non-contact injuries keep fans and coaches up at night, which is why Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons walking off the court with a limp and going straight to the locker room with a knee issue Wednesday was very concerning.

Simmons did not return to the game after that.

The good news is there is reportedly no swelling and the MRI came back clean, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. Officially, Simmons is day-to-day.

Simmons had eight points on 2-of-10 shooting when he left the court. Through three games of the restart — where he is playing more off the ball as a power forward — he’s averaged 11.7 points and seven rebounds a game.

3) Memphis lost again, now 0-4 and could fall out of the eighth seed

The Grizzlies came to the NBA’s restart in Orlando with a 3.5 game cushion for the eighth seed, all they had to do was hold on to that through eight games. Now, after and 0-4 start, that lead is down to just one game over Portland.

On Wednesday, Memphis couldn’t slow down what had been a previously struggling Utah offense and lost 124-115.

The Grizzlies next four games? The Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks. Memphis is going to have to find a couple of wins in there without Jaren Jackson Jr., who is out for the rest of this season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Before games started in the bubble, the idea of two teams passing Memphis — meaning the Grizzlies would fall even out of a play-in series for the eighth seed — seemed impossible. Right now, both the Pelicans and Spurs are just two games back, and both have soft schedules the rest of the way.

Memphis wanted to get some playoff experience for their talented young roster during the restart. Well, this is it — every game becomes must-win now for the Grizzlies. They need to be a focused team that finds another gear. For them to hold on and get in a play-in series will require a couple of wins in their last four.

The race for eighth in the West remains the best thing at the NBA restart. On Thursday Portland faces Denver, while New Orleans takes on winless Sacramento.

LeBron James: On behalf of basketball community, we won’t miss Donald Trump’s viewership

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NBA players kneeled for the national anthem.

President Donald Trump called the protest – which is meant to call attention to racism, particularly through police brutality – “disgraceful” and said he stopped watching games.

And in yet another predictable turn in this news cycle, Lakers star LeBron James fired back at Trump.

LeBron:

I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game.

And that’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to – I’m not going to get into a – because I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it.

But I think our game is in a beautiful position. And we have fans all over the world. And our fans not only love the way we play the game – we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game – but also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge what’s right and what’s wrong.

And I hope everyone – no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter their size – will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner. And it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about we want better, want change, we have an opportunity to do that.

But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball. We could care less.

LeBron has frequently criticized the president. Trump has also criticized LeBron. That’s how it goes.

In this case (and others), LeBron has the moral high ground. Kneeling during the national anthem is a patriotic act designed to make the United States a better place for all its people to live – something far more noble than saluting a piece of cloth during a song.

However, LeBron is wrong to speak for the entire basketball community. A lot of people love basketball. They don’t all hold the same political views. Some care about remaining in the good graces of the president of the United States, whomever that is. Some even care about the approval of Trump specifically.

Is there a limit on how much you love basketball if you’d stop watching because of a peaceful protest before a game? Obviously. But there’s still room to love basketball and also care about other things.

LeBron doesn’t have to personally dignify people who care both about basketball and Trump. But LeBron shouldn’t try to speak on their behalf, either.

LeBron’s rebuke would have been powerful enough (and more fair) on its own.

 

Jazz forward Joe Ingles joins Grizzlies huddle, drapes arms over Memphis players (video)

Jazz forward Joe Ingles vs. Grizzlies
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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Jazz forward Joe Ingles has no boundaries with huddles.

Ingles invaded the Grizzlies huddle today, even putting his arms around – and some weight on – Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen. Gorgui Dieng appeared to notice the intruder just before the video cut away:

Beyond the hijinks, Ingles also scored 25 points – including 12 in the fourth quarter – to lead Utah to a 124-115 win.