Baseline to Baseline

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Our game recaps from Sunday, the stuff you missed while watching four hours of Super Bowl previews. Did you really need to watch all of it?

Orlando 96, Boston 89.
Another game, another collapse from the Celtics. In the final seven minutes of the third quarter (after a Rajon Rondo three put the Celtics up by nine), the Celtics went 0-8 from the floor with five turnovers. Meanwhile, Orlando went 8-11, and 4 of 4 from three. Orlando did not collapse, they got the win.

Celtics fans should be worried. This is not a little slump anymore. Injuries are a part of it, but the Celtics don’t respond well to adversity, they don’t seem to believe in their offensive identity. They still get the penetration their offense needs but against Orlando when they kicked out they clanked it. They rarely drove and got the contact and got to the line. Orlando backed off and dared Rondo to shoot and it started to work, the Boston ball movement was inconsistent. Their defense can take lapses as well. Mike Breen beat this stat into the ground but it is a good one — the Celtics have blown nine double digit leads and lost since Christmas.

Of course, if you are an Orlando fan, this was not a collapse but a comeback. And they did earn this. Orlando could not seem to miss in the third. They stiffened up their defense. If they  got the kind of game out of Vince Carter consistently would scare the entire NBA — a very controlled 20 points on 7 of 13 from the floor. Their big run came after Dwight Howard got his fourth foul and Stan Van Gundy left him in the game. Credit Van Gundy for the move, and Howard for playing smart and not picking up another foul.

Orlando has not put it all together for a stretch yet and looked like a title contender, but it’s games like this — second halves like this really — where you think they could. You don’t get that feeling watching Boston right now.

Raptors 115, Kings 104. Here’s everything you really need to know about this game: The Kings entered the fourth quarter up three then went 2 of 11 in the paint the rest of the way. Bosh had one of the best blocks of the year on a Jason Thompson shot, while Spencer Hawes couldn’t hit his little running hook to save his life. The Kings scored just 15 in the final stanza because Toronto played some defense. Seriously.

The Kings have other things to think abut: Kevin Martin still can’t find his outside shot. He finished 4 of 13 from the midrange or deeper. To his credit, Martin attacked the rim, got to the free throw like 12 times and finished with a team-high 24. But with Tyreke Evans on the team, you don’t need the slashing as much as you do the outside threat. When Toronto actually played a little defense in the paint in the fourth quarter, Sacramento had no good counter punch (save Delonte Green). Dallas still wants to trade for Martin, if the Kings don’t think Martin can play along side Evans (they have just one win since Martin returned to the lineup) they have to consider decent offers.

For Toronto, Bosh was Bosh like, 36 points of 14 of 18 from the floor. Hedo Turkoglu is not going to be confused with Rip Hamilton anytime soon (the new mask clearly irritated him as he fidgeted with it all game). He didn’t wear it during warm-ups but had to for the game on team orders (a hit to the bridge of his nose right now could cost him his eyesight). Turkoglu went out and hit four of his first five and had nine first quarter points, but was 2 of 9 the rest of the way.

Report: Bulls expect Dwyane Wade to opt in

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Dwyane Wade said he wants to see the Bulls’ plan for Jimmy Butler and the rest of the roster before deciding on a $23.8 million player option for next season.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I can tell you is most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season. More surprising things have happened in league history, though. So stay tuned.

This could be a tell that Wade will opt in. The Bulls could obviously be positioned to base their prediction on inside information into Wade’s thinking.

This could a tell the Bulls won’t trade Butler. If they know they’ll keep Butler, they can extrapolate what that’d mean for Wade.

Or the Bulls, like so many of us, just assume a 35-year-old Wade won’t turn down so much guaranteed money at this stage of his career.

PBT Extra: Why Derrick Rose more likely to be Spur than Chris Paul next season

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San Antonio heads into this summer looking to answer the question: What do we need to do to challenge the Golden State Warriors? Well, besides keeping Kawhi Leonard healthy.

They need to get more athletic, particularly along the front line, and they need a secondary shot creator and playmaker, that’s all at the top of the list.

One rumor that keeps gaining traction, Chris Paul to the Spurs. In this PBT Extra, I get into why that move is unlikely, and why a one-year contract with Derrick Rose is more probable. Basically, if you want to see a significant roster shift in San Antonio, wait until the summer of 2018.

LeBron James: ‘The closeout game is always the hardest, and Boston is going to make it even harder’

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BOSTON (AP) — It took 10 games and halfway through the third round of the NBA playoffs before the Cleveland Cavaliers finally encountered their first true dose of resistance this postseason.

After cruising to a 2-0 Eastern Conference finals lead over Boston, the Cavs were humbled at home in a Game 3 loss, and needed a 42-point night from Kyrie Irving to battle back from a 16-point hole and win Game 4.

The chatter about an NBA Finals’ matchup of two teams with unblemished playoff records is gone, but the challenge from the Celtics has sharpened the focus of the defending champs. Cleveland is expecting another unflinching effort in Game 5 from a Celtics team that isn’t backing down despite facing a 3-1 deficit in the series.

“The closeout game is always the hardest, and Boston is going to make it even harder,” said LeBron James, who rebounded from a playoff-low 11 points in Game 3 to score 34 in Game 4.

James had been saying that he felt like the Cavs needed to go through some adversity after a blistering 10-0 start to the postseason.

The way they responded Tuesday night – particularly on the defensive end – is a good sign for their prospects of wrapping up their third straight Eastern Conference crown on Thursday.

Boston shot 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line in the first half of Game 4 on their way to building as much as a 16-point lead.

While Irving’s scoring ignited the Cavs’ comeback, it was made possible thanks to Cleveland’s defensive effort over the final 24 minutes. Cleveland limited the Celtics to 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc.

“We have to go in with a bunker mentality that we had in Game 1 and Game 2, to go out and do what we do, but we have to defend,” James said. “We have to execute offensively. We have to have low turnovers, and we have to try to make them miss because some of those guys play a lot better at home. That’s just how the game be played.”

If the Celtics were playing with house money heading into the series, they are flush with it again as they return to the Garden.

They’ve given themselves a chance to erase the sting of their 44-point loss in Game 2. The Celtics are also guarding against ending their season by having to watch the Cavs celebrate a conference title on their home floor.

Boston lost All-Star Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of the postseason to a hip injury in Game 2, forcing coach Brad Stevens to shuffle his lineup and rotations in Games 3 and 4.

In addition, Jae Crowder suffered a strained left thigh in the third quarter of Game 4 as well, but returned to play the entire fourth quarter.

It’s an indication that despite still being in a dire 3-1 hole, the resolve inside Boston’s locker room remains strong.

“We owe our fans a better performance, and we know that, and we’re going to play hard,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “You’re going to see a team playing hard, very hard, the entire game.”

It’s also why Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said that his team must keep all thoughts of being on the cusp of a return to the NBA Finals at bay for now.

“You can’t (think about it). As much as you want to, it’s not over,” he said.

If nothing else, Lue said their recent taste of adversity should help them remain humble heading into Game 5.

“I think it is making us better. And it’s making us tougher. It’s making us work,” the Cavs coach said. “Because they got a tough group over there. (Terry) Rozier is tough, Avery is tough, (Marcus) Smart’s tough. Crowder. So, they got a lot of tough guys that are going to compete so they’re making us compete, which is good for us.”

 

PBT Podcast: Celtics draft or trade? Carmelo future? All from your Twitter questions.

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What will Boston do with the No. 1 pick, keep it or trade it?

What does the future hold for Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks?

Is there a correct way to eat pizza? Actually, the answer to that one is yes, and it is not with a knife and fork, Donald Trump.

PBT’s Kurt Helin and Dane Carbaugh discuss all that that and more from your Twitter questions.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.