Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Kobe pushes Lakers to .500

10 Comments

Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching the wildest ending to a high school state championship game you will ever see…

Lakers 99, Hawks 98: It took a phenomenal performance down the stretch from Kobe Bryant, after the Lakers gave back all of a 16-point third quarter lead and found themselves trailing by one with 26 seconds remaining. But L.A. got this win thanks to Bryant, who drove and converted a tough lay-in over Josh Smith with nine seconds remaining that turned out to be the game-winner, getting the Lakers back to .500 for the first time since December.

This game featured wild swings by both teams, but neither held a lead of more than three points in the final period — one that featured six ties and 10 lead changes.

In the end, Bryant was the difference. He had an emphatic one-handed driving dunk over Josh Smith with just over two minutes left, and scored 11 points in the final period, including his team’s last six.

It isn’t great that the Lakers blew such a large lead at home, and needed heroics on the game’s penultimate possession to end up pulling this one out. It’s also not ideal that when the game got tight, L.A. went into isolation mode with Kobe for multiple possessions down the stretch. It worked on this night, however, and next up for the Lakers is a date with the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
—Brett Pollakoff

Heat 99, Knicks 93: The Knicks were getting some stops and knocking down threes in the first half (Jason Kidd, who had been a mess for a couple weeks, started out 4-of-4 from deep) and the Knicks led by as many as 16. But the Heat cranked up the defense, were the aggressors on offense and came back for the win. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Thunder 108 Clippers 104: Oklahoma City led pretty much from the start here and it looked for a long time like this would be a blowout win. But the Clippers made a spirited comeback, Serge Ibaka punched Blake Griffin in the… groin (and somehow didn’t get ejected) and the Thunder won behind some strong play from Russell Westbrook late. Brett broke this game down, also.

Pacers 97, Bulls 92: This win gives the Pacers the season series over the Bulls and a likely Central Division win. Add this with the loss by the Knicks and the Pacers are the current second seed in the East. David West was an anchor in this game, scoring 31 against the always-scrappy Bulls defense. West had 10 in the final quarter, which is when George Hill had 11 of his 21. Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 10 rebounds on the night and as he starts to find his groove again the Pacers, which makes them an even more dangerous playoff team.

One thing of note — for the second straight game coach Frank Vogel sat Danny Granger the entire second half. He played 8 minutes total. That concerns me.

Rockets 136, Mavericks 103: That ends a nine-game losing streak for the Rockets to the Mavs about as convincingly as you can. After a tight first half the Rockets opened the third quarter on a 15-0 run, went on to win the third 44-17 and that was all she wrote. Chandler Parsons had a career-high 32 points on an impressive 12-for-13 shooting. Jeremy Lin and James Harden each had 21, but Lin won the assists battle between the two nine to seven. Dallas had dropped four of five.

Spurs 114, Pistons 75: No Tony Parker but the Spurs ball movement was still crisp all night and that just overwhelmed the Pistons defense. The Spurs did it with incredible balance — Manu Ginobili led them with 17 points, and he scored them all in the first half. Tim Duncan and Danny Green each had 16 points for San Antonio. The Pistons have lost five of their last six.

Memphis 108, Magic 82: This was a rout from the first quarter, from when the Grizzlies went on an 18-6 run and never looked back. Memphis did it with balance, having six players scoring in double digits led by Tayshaun Prince’s 14. Marc Gasol was dishing as he finished with 12 points and 11 assists. As for the Magic, they haven’t held a team under 53 percent shooting in three games now.

Wizards 90, Sixers 87: How about that John Wall — he had six points in the final 1:37 of this game and that was enough to get the Wizards a win. Washington had led most of the second half until an 11-0 Sixers run gave them the lead, setting up Wall’s heroics. Down three late Wall hit a jumper, then on the next possession drew a foul and got to the line, hitting both. Washington was up one and Wall blocked an Evan Turner shot. Then on the next possession Wall iced it with a 20 footer. As everyone has said about Wall, if he gets a steady outside shot.

Kings 119, Bobcats 83: Wow, the Bobcats are bad. Yes, give the Kings some credit for exorcizing the demons of a 1-4 road trip thanks to John Salmons and his 22 points, plus Jason Thompson finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. But mostly, the Bobcats are bad.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
2 Comments

Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

2 Comments

Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
4 Comments

The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?

Spurs GM still optimistic relationship with Kawhi Leonard can be salvaged

Associated Press
4 Comments

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs.

He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged.

Leonard has requested a trade from San Antonio because he is unhappy after missing most of last season with a right quadriceps injury. Buford would not comment on “speculation” of a trade demand, but agreed there is a fractured relationship between Leonard and the only franchise he has played for.

“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to the organization and to the community and while none of wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him,” Buford said Thursday night as the Spurs made two late picks in the NBA Draft. “We’ll explore all of our options, but the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season but returned to play in nine games. He complained of discomfort and pain in the leg in his final game. Leonard sought an outside opinion after the Spurs cleared him to play, working with his own medical team in New York in an attempt to return to the court. The 6-foot-7 forward reportedly grew upset that the Spurs had questioned his rehabilitation process.

The Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year citing “injury management.” While San Antonio was in the playoffs, losing in the first round to eventual repeat champion Golden State, Leonard was rehabbing in New York – which meant that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked for the situation, deferred all comment to “Kawhi and his group.”

“I think all of us would wish that things would have gone differently,” Buford said.

The Spurs held a team meeting late in the season where veterans, led by Tony Parker, implored Leonard to return. Leonard said he was unable to due to the injury.

In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA defensive player of the year is due just over $20 million next season, and can become a free agent in the summer of 2019. He is eligible to sign a $220 million extension with San Antonio.

He is reportedly willing to walk away from that to play elsewhere, possibly in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this from today … he’s under contract for another year, our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time,” Buford said.