Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Friday while you were debating Tiger’s human touch:

Mavericks 95 Magic 85: And things were going so well for the Magic, too. Dwight Howard was beastin’-flat-out-beastin’ with 29 points, six rebounds, and five blocks. Those weren’t easy stats, either, as Brendan Haywood fits into this team like a glove. But Howard had the turnaround bank going, and that’s incredibly hard to stop. The Magic had ball movement, were rolling, everything looked good for a home win.

But two things helped sink the Magic. One, and stop me if you’ve heard this one, the Magic’s threes stopped falling, ending up just 4 for 25 (!). You’d think at some point they’d stop shooting them, but if the defense is able to deny penetration and tease them into taking 3’s, Orlando will bomb all day. And if they’re not hitting, they’re sunk.

Two, a 19-0 run between the 3rd and 4th periods. The Mavericks just absolutely blew the doors off the hinges during this stretch, and that was really the run. It was marked by contributions from everyone. Butler created off the cut, Haywood finished off of weakside draws, Shawn Marion controlled the boards, and Dirk and Terry rang up the points like a pinball machine.

I know Dirk is the obvious point here (23 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks), but you expect Dirk to do that kind of damage (and usually off fewer than 24 shots).  Throw in some defense and Dirk, and a huge road win for the Mavs.

J.J Redick, Jason Williams, and Ryan Anderson were 0-10 from the field. Now that’s a Whiteout.

Wizards 107 Nuggets 97: Hell hath no fury like scoring wings spurned. Josh Howard and Al Thornton, two scoring small forwards whose teams thought they were expendable and shipped them out before the trade deadline, went OFF. Try 15 of 23 shooting for 41 points and an inspiring win for the hard-luck Wizards.

The Wizards definitely benefited from the Nuggets being on the second game of a back to back (SEGABABA). Nuggets defenders were pretty much giving the “one-try, oh, he’s too far, nevermind”approach.And the Nuggets are built to attack super-long, big forwards in the West, like Amaré Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, etc. They’re less adept at shutting down athletic thin-wings like Horford and Howard, especially when they’re motivated.

James Singleton, largely considered a throw-away in the Butler trade, had 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks (including a weakside erasure of J.R. Smith at the rim early in the fourth) in 20 minutes. It’s had not to root for the Wizards, who are showing the most effort they have all year.

Bobcats 110 Cavaliers 93: We already covered the Jamison FAIL escapade, so what else fell into this little blip on the radar screen? LeBron James and Anderson Varejao had eight rebounds combined. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson had eight rebounds each. Mo Williams got thoroughly outplayed by D.J. Augustine, who looked as if Flip Murray took whatever funk had been holding over Augustine with him.

Stephen Jackson’s ability to simply create shots is huge for this squad. It allows them to focus on the defensive end, where they are absolutely phenomenal. Charlotte kills itself to run off threes, disrupts passing lanes in whatever way it can, and and focuses on consistent, efficient offense. Big win for the Çats, who are looking more and more like the team you don’t want to run into in the playoffs, first round.

Tyrus Thomas with 9 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks in 25 minutes. Big up yourself, youngster.

Philadelphia 106, San Antonio 94: There was a time, not so many years ago, when in the fourth quarter the Spurs were always the aggressor. Those days have largely gone the way of the Dodo, especially on the road. San Antonio was up three going into the fourth but the Sixers stepped up the defensive pressure and forced five turnovers, then were rewarded with some easy transition hoops. The Sixers attacked the rim and got to the line 11 times in the final stanza. That was the ball game. In the NBA the aggressors get the calls and the wins.

Raptors 106 Nets 89: Seven Raptors were in double figures, three Nets were. This is a terrible matchup for the Nets, who don’t have many matchup advantages all season long to begin with. But a fast-paced offensively geared team with tall players? Doom.

Brook Lopez had 22 points on 12 shots, and a whole bunch of sadness.

Hornets 107 Pacers 106: The Pacers let a rookie point guard, a sensational point guard, but still, rack up 13 rebounds on his way to a triple-double. I don’t know what else to tell you about this one.

The Hornets’ focus was largely the difference in this one. The Pacers got some points, had some opportunities, but when they need a stop, when they absolutely must get a stop, they have neither the personnel nor the system to get them.

Darren Collison may not win rookie of the year, but he’s going to warrant a few votes.

Heat 100 Grizzlies 87: If the Grizzlies had not started the game in the refrigerator. or not ended the game melting in the oven, they would have beaten a Dwyane-Wade-less Heat team. But an abysmal first half that saw the Grizzlies score only 31 points total dug them a hole they spent the rest of the game crawling out of, unable to kick the Heat off towards the end of regulation thanks to Michael Beasley. Then in the second overtime, Udonis Haslem took over, and that was that.

At one point in the 2nd overtime, Mike Conley simply lost his dribble, right into a steal, then fouled the stealer, racking up his fifth foul. It is largely representative of his career.

Ronnie Brewer strained his hamstring, limiting the Grizzlies’ pathetic depth even more.

Michael Beasley’s jumper is as pure as mountain snow.

Bulls 100 Wolves 84: The Wolves actually hung around in this one, actually leading at the break. But Kirk Hinrich may be slowly finding his shot (7-12, 2-2 from the arc), and that makes the Bulls a lot tougher to beat when combined with that defense.

Vinny Del Negro takes a lot of flack for his coaching, but defense is tough to coach in the NBA, and the Bulls just go out and do it. Without Joakim Noah, with Derrick Rose only getting to the stripe four times, the Bulls just lock down and made a bad offensive team play badly.

Bucks 91 Pistons 84:

Dribble-dribble-dribble.

Dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble.

Dribble-dribble-miss-rebound-dribble-dribble.

And that was 48 minutes of life the fans wish
they had back. The winning t
eam shot 38% from the floor. The Pistons just are discombobulated, all the time, both sides of the floor. They know what they want to run, they just don’t know how to do it.

Ersan Ilyasova needs more attention for the Bucks. 6-6 for 16 points and his ability to have the offense run through him is notable for a rookie. He’s like the anti-Ben Gordon. Efficient, underpaid, and fluid.

Suns 88 Hawks 80: I would have expected that total at the half.

The Hawks just didn’t have it. Not their usual effort defensively, not their usual efficiency offensively. The Suns were able to get easy buckets inside when they wanted and able to deny Atlanta the same. When that happens, the Hawks become pedestrian, human, mortal. Amaré Stoudemire, who still plays for the Suns, had 22 points and 8 boards.

Celtics 96 Blazers 76: A focused, angry, veteran team came in and punched a young, injured, uncertain team in the face. They did not get up.

KG was in full-on bully mode, getting into it with Andre Miller among others. The Celtics set up shop in the paint, charged rent, with interest, and had this thing wrapped up by the end of the 1st.

Jazz 100, Warriors 89: Simplest game of the night to explain — the more talented, more disciplined team won. The Jazz ran their flex offense, exploited the mismatches with Boozer (30 points) and Kirilenko (22 points), plus played smart defense and jumped obvious passing lanes. That was more than enough. The game wasn’t as close as the final score. 

Watch Stephen Curry drop 36 in Game 7 to knock off Thunder (VIDEO)

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If you watch the highlights, you will see plenty of Stephen Curry hitting threes — including the dagger late — to lead the Warriors to a 96-88 Game 7 win over the Thunder. He was masterful and finished with 36 points.

But it was more than just the threes.

Curry was attacking the bigs that switched on to him off the pick-and-roll far more this game, both by hitting threes over them — four of his seven threes came against bigs switched onto him, according to Synergy Sports — but also by blowing by those bigs and getting into the lane. Look at his shot chart from the night.

Curry Game 7 shotchart

When Curry is attacking and hitting threes, well, you get nights like this.

Kevin Durant entering free agency on sour note

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 30:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder hugs Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors after losing 96-88 in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The superstar free agent enters the offseason with three straight playoff losses, a once-promising season ended in devastating fashion.

Kevin Durant? Yes.

LeBron James in 2010? Also yes.

Will Durant follow LeBron’s lead and leave the team that drafted him?

Those Cavaliers didn’t beat the 67-15 Spurs. They didn’t push the 73-9 Warriors to a Game 7. They didn’t have Russell Westbrook.

And, of course, Durant isn’t LeBron.

But the Thunder must feel sick about letting this opportunity slip away – not just a trip to the Finals, but a chance to remind Durant of their virtues. Golden State – a leading suitor for Durant – undid so much of the progress Oklahoma City made in the postseason with this comeback from down 3-1, capped with a 96-88 win tonight.

“We just lost like 30 minutes ago,” Durant said. “So, I don’t have any thought about it.”

For much of the playoffs the Thunder did everything they could to convince Durant to stay. They carved up the Mavericks, overpowered the Spurs and outraced the Warriors through the Western Conference finals’ first four games. It seemed no team could offer Durant a better situation.

Now, it’s as tempting as ever to imagine Durant with Golden State.

Durant must weigh what joining the team that beat him would do to his image, but there’s no doubt that the Warriors are better than the Thunder. There can’t be after a 16-win difference in the regular season and these last three games. Oklahoma City might flip the script next season if Durant re-signs, but he must also assess how much better Golden State would be with him. At minimum, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson not guarding him anymore.

The Thunder didn’t do their part to send Durant into free agency on a high note, but he did all he could. Unlike LeBron in 2010, Durant didn’t shrink from the moment of his high-pressured closeout game with free agency looming. Durant scored 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting against those elite defenders, including a late personal 7-0 run that cut the deficit to four points.

Then, Stephen Curry scored six straight – drawing a foul on a 3-pointer and hitting a 3-pointer – to put the game out of reach. These Warriors are special. Durant has to see that.

Not that he’s focused on Golden State (or the Spurs, Celtics, Rockets or…). This loss is too raw.

“It hurts losing,” Durant said. “It hurts losing, especially being up three games to one.

“It sucks to lose. It sucks.”

How long will that feeling last, and how strongly will Durant associate it with Oklahoma City? The Thunder can offer more money, but one of their biggest selling points is their team success – and that seems like a distant memory. Right now, Oklahoma City is on a three-game losing streak that won’t be snapped before Durant signs somewhere.

Durant will weigh the prudent details, but his will be an emotional decision. Where does he feel most comfortable?

There’s plenty of time to decide. Free agency begins July 1, and he’ll surely want to meet with teams before finalizing a choice.

The Thunder have done him well for years, and they’d remain elite with him.

But they can’t feel good with this being Durant’s final image of their season – victorious Warrior after victorious Warrior hugging Durant and consoling him on Oklahoma City’s third straight failure.

Too much Stephen Curry, too many threes bury Thunder in Game 7, Warriors win 96-88, advance to Finals

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 30:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-88 in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 30, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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For seven games the athleticism and improved defense of the Oklahoma City Thunder smothered nearly everything Golden State tried to do inside the arc. The Thunder length and aggressiveness had them owning the paint and dominating the glass much of the series. Oklahoma City outplayed Golden State below the arc all series long.

But the Warriors owned the three ball.

“They beat us from the 3-point line the last two games, we beat them from everywhere else,” Kevin Durant said after Game 7.

After a rough shooting first half (again), the three balls started to fall for Golden State in the second half of Game 7 Monday — many of them contested, the Thunder defense remained stout. The Warriors opened the game 2-of-6 from three, then hit 12 of their next 24 — 10-of-20 in the second half — while the Thunder missed 13 straight at one point.

The Warriors made 10 more threes than the Thunder in Game 7 and — just as it was in Game 6 — that proved to be the difference. The Warriors came from down 3-1 to win Game 7 96-88 and take the series.

Golden State will host Cleveland in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

“I knew we were ready for the moment,” Stephen Curry said after the game. “I knew we were a mature basketball team that tried our best to not listen to the noise outside. Six or seven days ago when we were down 3-1 everybody thought the wheels were falling off and it was the end of our run, but not the locker room. The talk was positive, it was let’s figure this out, let’s go out and take it one game at a time, claw our way back into the series, and see what happens.”

It took the best run of games these Warriors have put together in two-plus seasons — a stretch that included a championship and 73 regular season wins — to get past OKC and back to the Finals. The Thunder’s improved defense and great scoring  forced the Warriors to find another gear.

But Golden State always had the three ball to bail them out. Look at their shot chart from Game 7.

Warriors Game 7 shot chart

Curry, who finished with 36 points and hit 7-of-12 from three, was the difference as he played like the MVP version of himself. That version had been held in check much of the series by the Thunder’s defense, and likely a lingering knee issue (although he would never admit that). All series long Curry had struggled to beat the Thunder bigs who switched onto him off picks, but not in Game 7 when he hit four threes over those bigs, and blew by them and into the lane a host of other times.

Kevin Durant was giving up the ball and finding teammates early in the game, trying to get others involved, but late in the fourth he put together a personal 7-0 run that made it a four-point game inside three minutes. Durant was a beast and finished with 27 points to lead the Thunder. Russell Westbrook added 19 points and 13 assists. They just didn’t have the threes to keep up with the Warriors.

Early on it in Game 7 felt like it might be the Thunder’s night. It was a disjointed start to the game (as often happens in Game 7s), which helped Steven Adams get a couple of buckets and had the Thunder trying to move the ball. Both teams had jitters and guys are trying to do a little too much, evidence by Curry starting 3-of-8 and Thompson 0-of-4. What OKC did was get six offensive boards in first quarter, which had then up 24-19.

In the second, Waiters came in and played a little out of control but proved to be a spark that had the Thunder pushing the lead up to 13. The Thunder also got solid play early from Enes Kanter, who had eight points and four rebounds in eight minutes. Meanwhile, the Warriors were missing their twos — started 6-of-20 inside the arc — but unlike Game 6 they were missing their threes as well. Play Thompson started 0-of-7.

Then Thompson hit three in a row from beyond the arc, the Warriors’ energy returned, and they went on 11-2 run to make it a game again. Thunder responded with 7-0 run of their own. Then Warriors have 7-0 run to get it to five. By the half, it was 48-42 Oklahoma City.

Golden State came out gunning from three to start the second half and behind a few Curry threes went on a 15-4 run and the Warriors were up 57-54. The Thunder hung around but got sucked into the wrong style of play and they missed 13 consecutive threes at one point. The threes were falling for the Warriors, the Thunder could not buy a bucket, it was a 29-12 third quarter for the Warriors and they were up 71-60. The Warriors felt in control.

But the Thunder played too hard and too well this series to go quietly into that good night. Durant made his push, they crashed the glass, they defended with heart and made plays down the stretch. Just not enough.

Because the Warriors threes kept falling no matter what.

Stephen Curry goes high off the glass at the buzzer just before the half

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Golden State hadn’t shot well all first half — 38.6 percent — and Stephen Curry was 4-of-10 with time running out in half.

Then Curry hit this high, high off the glass to end the half and bring Golden State within six at the break, 48-42.

Notice that Curry grabbed his knee after the shot. He was out for the start of the second half.