Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Every game from the most entertaining night of NBA season

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching the rest of the legendary “pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” commercial….

Knicks 109, Warriors 105: Stephen Curry was the story… except for the part where his team didn’t win the game. That’s not on him — 54 points on 28 shots and 11-of-13 from three, he did his part. The Knicks kept throwing different defenses at him and he either would attack the rim or just step back another few feet and knock it down anyway.

Golden State was without All-Star David Lee (suspended) yet Curry tied the game 105-105 with a couple free throws at 2:04 remaining. But the Warriors had gone cold — they never made a shot from the field in the final 3:30. That was enough for the Knicks to get the win. Carmelo Anthony had a big night himself with 35 points, J.R. Smith had 26 off the bench. Tyson Chandler also was a beast with 28 boards. The Knicks team effort was enough to beat Curry and the Warriors… but just barely, Curry was that good. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke the game down in more detail.

Suns 105, Spurs 101 (OT): In order for a team with the third-worst record in the West to beat the team with the best record in the league on the road, some strange things need to happen. They all did, at least enough for the Suns to pull out an overtime win in San Antonio by taking advantage of an off night from the Spurs.

Jermaine O’Neal outplayed Tim Duncan, scoring 22 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking a couple of shots in just 27 minutes of action. The Suns actually had six more offensive rebounds than the Spurs, resulting in a surprising 10-point advantage in the category of second chance points. As a team, the Spurs didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and Manu Ginobili was the worst of the bunch, going 2-8 from the field overall, which included 2-6 three-point shooting to go along with making only four of six free throw attempts.

One of those misses was extremely costly, as it left the door open for the Suns with just a few seconds remaining. Trailing by three, O’Neal threw the ball nearly the length of the court to Wesley Johnson, who immediately pulled up for a three as time expired that went down, forcing the overtime session.

Once there, the Suns shot just 2-9 from the field in the period, but the Spurs went 0-10, and this game came to its merciful conclusion with the Suns in the victory column for the second straight night.
—Brett Pollakoff

Nuggets 111, Trail Blazers 109: This was maybe the most intense game on a night of seemingly nothing but intense games. While Denver threatened to pull away in the second quarter most of the game was close. Denver scored seemingly at will, getting into the paint (72 points) with little resistance in transition or the half court. Denver’s big guns were making plays — Ty Lawson had 30 pints and Andre Iguodala added 29.

But Damian Lillard seemed to match Lawson play for play, on his way to 26 points. Behind his play and a number of threes (10-of-25 for Portland) it was a two-point Denver lead late after Wesley Mathews knocked down a three. A few plays later LaMarcus Aldridge tied the game 106-106 with 33 seconds left (Portland is one of the few teams in the league that runs its late-game possessions through its big man). An Andre Miller layup (terrible Portland defense) and some Lawson free throws made it a four point game with 13 seconds left. But Lillard hit a three and after Miller hit only one of two free throws on the intentional foul Portland was down two with one last shot.

Portland got the ball to Aldridge in the post again — 10 feet out and single covered by Wilson Chandler, who can’t handle him. Aldridge has a very good spin and slight fade away from the left block that is one of his best shots — but this time it rimmed out and Denver escaped with the win.

Grizzlies 90, Mavericks 84: By only looking at the final score, you might assume this game was actually a close and competitive contest. It wasn’t.

After Dallas ran out to a first-half lead of as many as 25 points, Memphis locked down defensively after halftime, holding the Mavericks to just five third-quarter points while going on a 34-4 run from 5:25 left in the first half to under four minutes remaining in the third.

The game never got out of hand in the Grizzlies’ favor, but it was clear Dallas had lost whatever it had early in this one and had no chance of regaining that magic. That’s eight straight wins for Memphis now, though it’s worth noting that most of those have come against non-playoff teams.
—Brett Pollakoff

Thunder 119, Hornets 74: This was hard to watch, mainly because you felt bad for the poor Hornets. They didn’t have any real hope without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon on the floor, but if they did, Russell Westbrook obliterated it right away. Westbrook rattled off 18 points in the first quarter, and Kevin Durant recorded a triple-double in just 27 minutes of play. This was nothing more than a sparring session for the Thunder, and they looked plenty impressive in all aspects of this 45-point drubbing of the hapless Hornets.
—D.J. Foster

Bucks 110, Rockets 107: This didn’t look interesting early, the Rockets led by as many as 17 in the first half. That started to change as the Bucks got some better transition defense and Mike Dunleavy started knocking down his looks (11 first half points, he finished with 16). By halftime the game was tied and it was close the entire second half. Part of the reason the Rockets could not pull away was the 19 turnovers. But they got a good game from James Harden (25 points) and Omer Asik (16 points and 22 rebounds). For the Bucks Ersan Ilyasova had 20 points and 10 rebounds

Then Monta Ellis got a prayer answered. The play started with Ellis missing a jumper then Larry Sanders missing a tip-in, but it was the hustling Ellis who came out of all that with he offensive rebound. He threw the ball to Brandon Jennings, who tried to create off the dribble but got nowhere and had to pass to Ellis, who knocked down the last second prayer to win.

Hawks 102, Jazz 91: In the battle of which Al is better, Horford bested Jefferson and thus, the Hawks came away with the win.

Horford had a monster game and finished with 34 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocked shots. Jefferson wasn’t bad at all for the Jazz, finishing with 26 and 11 himself.

Josh Smith played one of his better all-around games, and found his shots mostly within the flow of the offense. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Atlanta got solid play from its guards as well, as Jeff Teague continued to play above-average basketball for his squad.

The Hawks were able to get out in transition often in this one, which helped build their early lead which reached as many as 20. Atlanta outscored Utah 20-7 in fast break points.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pistons 96, Wizards 95: Detroit came roaring back, outscoring Washington 31-13 in the fourth quarter to get the win. The fourth quarter for Washington was typified by their final shot, when Trevor Ariza got a pretty clean look at a corner three for the win and airballed it. But let’s not blame Ariza — Washington was down 96-87 with just over a minute to go and he scored eight straight points — two three-pointers and two free throws — to give Washington even a shot at the win.

Brandon Knight put in a career-best 32 points, Greg Monroe had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Calderon added 18 assists for the Pistons.

Cavaliers 103, Raptors 92: Cleveland opened the game shooting 1-for-15, they looked lost without Kyrie Irving out and were quickly down 21-7. Which frankly was a lot closer than it should have been, the Raptors didn’t own that first quarter like they needed to and it came back to bite them. In the second quarter the Cavaliers started scoring at will, went on a 20-7 run at one point, took the lead back and never trailed again. Dion Waiters eventually found his groove and had 25 points. Shaun Livingston, forced to start with Kyrie Irving out, had a solid 15 points and six assists.

DeMar DeRozan had 34 points for the Raptors, Rudy Gay added 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

Kings 125, Magic 101: Sacramento carried some momentum over from their double-overtime loss to the Heat the night before and the team that had the worst road record in the NBA rolled the Magic. This was over early, with the Kings leading 60-37 in the second quarter. John Salmons had 21 points but it was the 64 points from the Sacramento Bench that was key.

There was one bright spot for Magic fans, recently acquired Tobias Harris had 23 points. He has scored in double figures off the bench in every game since joining Orlando. So there’s that.

USA’s 78-game international win streak ends at hands of Australia, Patty Mills, 98-94

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Gregg Popovich wanted his USA team to face some adversity. For them to be challenged and see how they’d respond.

He got his wish on a Saturday afternoon in Australia and has to be disturbed by the result.

Australia, behind a red-hot Patty Mills who finished 30 points and drained seemingly every big bucket down the stretch, tore up the USA defense and outplayed the Americans when it mattered most, beating Team USA 98-94 in an exhibition match in front of a raucous 52,000 people in Melbourne.

Team USA had won 78 consecutive games — including both friendlies and in international tournaments — before this loss. The last USA exhibition game loss was in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics (when the Americans took home the bronze).

The USA opens FIBA World Cup play in just more than a week, facing the Czech Republic in their first game on Sept. 1. The Americans enter that tournament as the favorites, but the combination of improved international play and a lot of elite American talent staying home means the USA’s margin for error very slim. Teams such as Serbia and Spain — not to mention Australia — have to see this result and gain confidence.

This loss comes just two days after the USA had beaten this same team by 15 points, pulling away in the second half.

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Kemba Walker said after the game. “Lesson learned for us.”

Those lessons include needing to clean up a defense that still has communication issues, and to find more consistent shot creation outside of pick-and-rolls with Kemba Walker or Donovan Mitchell.

Defensively, Australia got to the rim all night long — they scored 46 points in the paint (compared to the USA’s 26). Most of that came on cutters that American defenders lost and Utah’s Joe Ingles or Andrew Bogut found with a nifty pass.

Walker, who came off the bench to score 22, was clearly America’s best player. His ability to penetrate was the only thing all night that either forced the Aussie defense to collapse, or it allowed him to get space for a good shot. Donovan Mitchell, who finished with a dozen points including seven straight late in the game, was able to provide a little shot creation, but the Americans lacked much ball or player movement in this one. Harrison Barnes finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Popovich is clearly still experimenting with lineups and combinations, and that is the silver lining of this USA loss. This was not the American’s best foot forward.

But don’t take anything away from Australia, which played a physical and feisty game all afternoon. They put the ball more in the hands of Ingles and he responded with 15 points, seven assists, and he and Bogut set up the offense and were smart with their passes. Bogut finished with 15 points. The Australian team played as a unit and their off-the-ball movement was impressive.

Team USA takes on Canada in a final exhibition game in a couple of days, before heading to China for the World Cup.

Report: Dwight Howard gave back $2.6 million in buyout with Memphis, what he will make in L.A.

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Dwight Howard will get his money, the full $5.6 million he opted into this summer. The man is getting paid.

The checks are just coming from two different teams.

To facilitate a move to the Lakers, Howard is giving back $2.6 million in a buyout with the Grizzlies — exactly how much he makes on a minimum contract with Los Angeles. From Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN:

My guess is the Grizzlies will just take the cap hit this season to get Howard off the books.

This is exactly how this was expected to go down financially if Howard came to Los Angeles. The risk for Howard is he will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers — they can waive him for whatever reason, pay a small buyout fee, and Howard loses out on the $2.6 million.

That’s motivation for him to follow through on what he promised the team.

 

Former NBA, ABA coach Tom Nissalke dead at 87

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tom Nissalke, who won coach of the year honors in the NBA and ABA, has died. He was 87.

Nissalke passed away at his home in Salt Lake City on Thursday after facing a “series of health-related problems” in recent years, according to the Deseret News.

He was the first coach of the Utah Jazz after the franchise relocated from New Orleans in 1979.

Nissalke was also an NBA head coach in Seattle, Houston, and Cleveland.

Nissalke got his start in the pro ranks as an assistant with Milwaukee and helped guide a team featuring Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an NBA title in 1971. His work with the Bucks landed him a head coaching gig with the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals. He led them to a 42-42 record in his first season and was named the league’s top coach.

He was hired the next season in Seattle but was fired after a 13-32 start. Nissalke then coached the Utah Stars and San Antonio before returning to the NBA with the Rockets. He won 124 games in three seasons with Houston, twice taking the team to the playoffs and the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.

Nissalke was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year after going 49-33 in 1976-77.

After retiring, he was active with the YMCA and worked as a radio analyst.

Nissalke is survived by a daughter, Holly, son Thomas Jr, and two grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, died in 2006.

 

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.