Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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James_dunk.jpgOur game recaps from Thursday, or what you missed while trying to figure out who are the worst parents on LOST

Cavaliers 108, Celtics 88: Yes Celtics fans, that was as bad as you think. Not the game itself, although that wasn’t good for you. But because this game was a vision of your eventual playoff demise.

In the first half, the Cavaliers (whose front office has been obsessed with adding size and will get more when Big Z returns) tried to match up with the long front line of Boston. Didn’t work. The Celtics gave the Cavs trouble with penetration — Rondo got into the lane at will. He hit shots at the rim (or high banks off the backboard), and when Cleveland finally started to collapse on him Rondo set up teammates. The Celtics ran and got easy buckets.

Cleveland made its run after Shaq went out and Mike Brown was forced to go small, with an Atlanta Hawks like lineup. Something the Celtics struggled with all season. Plus Brown was forced to play JJ Hickson again, something he never should have stopped doing. Basically, Shaq’s sprained thumb forced Brown to be a smart coach. On accident.

Small, athletic bigs are hard for Boston to deal with. Cleveland moved better on defense and started trapping Rondo to take the ball out his hands. The result: Boston went 9 of 41 from the floor in the second half. The small lineup also allowed the Cavaliers to run, something else they should do more of, and they got those easy buckets.

Cleveland is one of only a handful of teams that had the roster depth and versatility to win that game. But what they did in it was provide the blueprint for the rest of the league on how to beat the Celtics come April and May.

Bucks 112, Pacers 110: The Bucks are hot and showed why they are looking like a playoff team — they controlled the tempo, they got offensive boards (30 percent of their missed shots), and they were hitting their jumpers (well, except Brandon Jennings, again). They deserved the win, it wasn’t really in doubt.

The Pacers almost stole the win anyway. Down 14 with 5:30 remaining in the game, Indiana got on fire from three, as they do. Brandon Rush hit one, Troy Murphy a couple, even T.J. Ford (who did his the old-fashioned way with the foul). But the Bucks hit their free throws (even Jennings) at the end and held on.

Nuggets 127, Warriors 112: Denver is the far superior team with the superior athletes, when they cared even a little they ran away with it. They jumped out early, were up 19, got bored and gave most of it back, got focused again and won going away. Not much else to it, but it was entertaining. JR Smith draining the three, stealing the inbounds pass then dribbling to the arc and hitting another three. Billups doing whatever he wanted on the way to 37. And it’s just fun to watch Steph Curry play. And Ronny Turiaf dunk. Fun show if not that competitive. 

Sixers Jabari Parker upgraded to “probable,” will decide after warm ups

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.

PBT Podcast: NBA first round playoff series breakdowns

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LeBron James‘ Cavaliers looks to be in a battle royal in the first round — and they could lose to Victor Oladipo‘s Pacers.

Miami’s defense and versatility is challenging the Sixers and shaking the faith of all those that just jumped on the bandwagon.

Utah stole a game in Oklahoma City showing great grit and resolve, not to mention a lot of Donovan Mitchell.

Anthony Davis has done everything but walk on water for the Pelicans.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been filled with fascinating storylines — and we are just two games into each series. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all eight first-round series in this podcast, starting in the East and the tight races there, then move into the West. There’s even some “who wants to pay Jabari Parker this summer?” talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

James Dolan says Knicks must build around ‘great’ Kristaps Porzingis, offers fair rebuke of meddling charges

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Phil Jackson received a standing ovation in his first game at Madison Square Garden as Knicks president. Don’t forget how excited New York was for Jackson, who coached the Bulls and Lakers to 11 championships and played for the Knicks’ last title team. He was welcomed as a potential savior.

The common refrain: Jackson would have a chance to succeed if Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t meddle.

Immediately, Dolan said he would cede control to Jackson “willingly and gratefully.” Dolan later pledged to honor Jackson’s full five-year contract.

But fans turned on Jackson as he did an awful job and the Knicks struggled. Dolan opted into the final two years of Jackson’s contract, anyway, as he said he would all along. Fans got angrier. When Jackson publicly flaunted Kristaps Porzingis trade talks, outrage reached a fever pitch. Finally, Dolan stepped in to fire Jackson.

Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“A great player in hockey is the difference, but a great player in basketball is the team.

“And I think we have a great player in Porzingis. We just have to build around him.”

“Everybody who wants to talk about the Knicks wants to ask me about Phil Jackson,” Dolan said, smiling and shaking his head. “The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him.

“Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere. But that’s OK. I just think that Phil underestimated the job.”

Dolan makes a salient point about how people perceive his involvement. The problem isn’t that Dolan meddles. It’s that he makes poor decisions.

Hiring Jackson – an out-of-touch former coach with no front-office experience – was a poor decision. I’m not enthused about Steve Mills as Jackson’s replacement, either, though we’ll see how that plays out.

Building around Porzingis is a better decision. He’s an extremely talented 22-year-old.

But it’s hardly a foolproof plan. Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL. Dolan said Porzingis could return in December – or miss next season entirely.

Either way, the Knicks must surround Porzingis with better teammates. Dolan will and should be a part of that process. Whether he’ll positively affect it is another matter.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.