Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while dreaming of a Bill & Ted sequel

Lakers 109, Raptors 107: Ball denial. If the game is on the line, if the Lakers have one last shot to win it, play ball denial. Double team immediately and hard. Get the ball out of his hands, even if it means someone else gets a better shot. Do not – DO NOT – let Kobe Bean Bryant shoot it.

As for the other 47 minutes, 51 seconds of the game: Andrew Bynum is like a microcosm of the Lakers. When he is challenged – like facing Chris Bosh — he rises up with a great performance (both bigs had 22 points but Bynum did it with 8 of 12 shooting to Bosh’s 7 of 18, and Bosh had just one more rebound). Bosh, however, did hit the game-tying three. Toronto had its stretches as well, often fueled by them running the pick-and-roll with some style. They are sort of like Orlando in that Toronto has the depth to space the floor with good shooters, including bigs, that open things up and then they run the pick-and-roll well and they become a very difficult cover.

Magic 113, Clippers 87: The Clippers fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” — but only slightly less well-known is this: Never get into a jump shooting contest with the Orlando Magic.

The Magic took away the Clippers penetration (it helped to have Eric Gordon out, and passive Baron Davis came off the bench for LA). So the Clippers had to settle for contested jump shots. The Clippers could not stop the Magic’s penetration, which led to drive and dish for open outside jumpers for Orlando. And there you have your blowout.

Rockets 96, Wizards 88: We got to see a little hot Argentine on Argentine action — Fabricio Oberto matched up on Luis Scola. And both played some of their most inspired ball in a long time — we actually saw a post move out of Oberto. Scola, however, is far more talented and finished with a game high 23 on 8 of 16 shooting.

Pacers 107, 76ers 96: Where the hell have these Pacers been hiding? The ones that move the ball. The ones where the players cut to the basket. The ones that make smart passes. The ones that normally assist on 55 percent of their baskets but did so for 76 percent in this game. Because, seriously, these Pacers were fun to watch. And I have not written that sentence once this season.

Bobcats 83, Heat 78: Good defense from both squads, but he Bobcats really turned it up after the break and allowed just 30 second half points. Wade got is 27 points for the game, but needed 26 shots to do it. Not that anybody shot well in this one.

Jazz 132, Bulls 107: Wow the Bulls defense has gone to hell without Noah. And the Jazz are the perfect team to exploit that. And they did – 132 points in just a 95-possession game. Nights like this have you thinking the Bulls are the team that will end up on the outside in the East.

Bucks 86, Celtics 84: When the Celtics beat the Wizards at the buzzer just two nights before, Mike Miller was wiped out by a Kevin Garnett screen and his man, Ray Allen, came free for a good look at a three pointer. Net and win for the Celtics. In the same situation down two with four seconds to go Tuesday, the Celtics this time run Paul Pierce off a KG screen, but the Bucks play it better and switch it so that suddenly all seven feet of Andrew Bogut comes out on Pierce and he has to put extra arc on his shot, it misses and the Bucks win. That is how you defend late in games, people.

Trail Blazers 88, Kings 81: That is why Portland went and got Marcus Camby at the trade deadline. He can change a game on defense and that is what he did late in this one, after the Kings had battled back to tie it. Overall the Blazers held the Kings to just a 92 points per 100 possessions pace, well off their season average. It wasn’t a pretty win, but they don’t all have to be. The Kings don’t make it easy, while a lot of lottery teams are rolling over right now, the Kings will fight you. Blazers fans should just happily take the win.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.