Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Friday while you were installing  your cat elevator

Bucks 95 Jazz 87: Terrific game start to finish. Milwaukee crowd (one of the best in the league) was into it, players were buckled in, tight finish.

Brandon Jennings was terrific for three quarters, then got a little too into it. He first had a bad foul on a reach in against Deron Williams, then rushed a layup he had blocked with time left on the clock which would have ended up giving the Jazz final shot, it was so early in the clock.

Luckily, as shakey as Jennings was late, Ersan Ilyasova was brilliant. On top of the game winning putback, he had 14 points and 8 rebounds, and a series of defensively brilliant plays.

Carlos Boozer was blocked on the last attempt, then got ejected due to no foul call. Because that’s his bag, baby.

Andrei Kirilenko strained a calf, which was huge. Carlos Delfino was being absolutely dominated by AK before the injury, and it was a game changer.

John Salmons has this Bucks team at another level. I realize how bizarre that sounds.

Lakers 102 Suns 96: The Lakers’ defense is freaking long. And against some teams, it’s a problem. Against some other teams, it’s a serious problem. Against the Suns, it’s a huge problem.

Pau Gasol got worked over for about 45 minutes of the game, then facescraped Lou Amundson, didn’t get a flagrant called, then drained a turnaround jumper.

Kobe Bryant had 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists, which is brilliant. But he also had 7 turnovers. The turnovers have been weird since he got back from injury. He’s having trouble passing out of double-teams he usually annihilates. Weird. Of course, he still hit several huge shots, because, well, he’s Kobe Bryant.

Grant Hill is insanely fast for as old as he is.

Ron Artest nailed a pull-up jumper off a crossover. That actually happened.

Bobcats 106 Clippers 98: Gerald Wallace sprained his ankle in the first half, which is the only relevant news from this game. The Clippers were without Eric Gordon, and any real reason to try. Yes, that’s right, we’ve entered that magical time of the year. The temperatures rise, the bluebirds begin to do it, your allergies go bezerk, and the Clips start mailing it in worse than usual.

In the approximate seven minute stretch it took Charlotte to break this one open, D.J. Augustin was quite good. Only 3-7 in 12 minutes, but there were some signs of life there, for a guy having a terrible season. Too bad he’s about to have Larry Hughes supplant him on the depth chart.

Cavs 100 Sixers 95: The Sixers were really competitive in this game, in part because Antawn Jamison sat it out, even with LeBron coming back. They owned the glass, which is an Achilles heel for the Cavs, an area they’re strong in but if you best them it causes big problems.

The big highlight of this game? James drops an alley-oop after catching the ball nearly behind the basket. You had to be there.

Boston 122 Pacers 103:
This was competitive for about seven minutes. Then the Celtics bench came in, and in a move that may signal the end of the world, ran the show, and the Pacers out of the building.

The Celtics bench outscored Indiana’s 54-38. Nate Robinson was especially dy-no-mite, slicing up the Pacers’ lazy perimeter defense. The big play of this game was Glen Davis’ man-up block on Josh McRoberts’ dunk attempt. It was one where you felt so bad for Josh, you couldn’t look at it. But you also couldn’t stop looking at it. Painful.

Rondo’s right to left floater might as well be his finishing move. It’s unstoppable at this point.

Heat 108 Bulls 95: Okay, so there are two things evident from one simple fact. Jannero Pargo was a huge part of this game for the Bulls. He started, was forcing the issue in his Pargo-way, and he racked up 20 points on 17 shots. Which is not awesome.

Fact one: Without Derrick Rose out and with Jannero Pargo being a big part of the Bulls’ offense, there was almost no chance for them to win.

Fact two: With Derrick Rose out and with Jannero Pargo being a big part of the Bulls’ offense, there was no reason this game should have been as close as it was. Chicago had an 18 point third quarter, and that was it, but otherwise, the Bulls kind of hung.

Jermaine O’Neal was the difference maker, and he made life miserable for Kirk Hinrich, blowing him up twice when he went to the hole.

Can we throw out the Heat and the Bulls from the playoffs and put the Grizzlies in? Much more entertaining.

San Antonio 103 Timberwolves 85: The Nets are not tanking. The Kings are not tanking. The Sixer are not tanking. The Wolves? The Wolves may be tanking. Love didn’t play with a legit injury, but this team has turned into the post office. Manu Ginobili had a fantastic game despite not scoring with 7 assists that I couldn’t really notice because of the gigantic bald spot on his head.

Matt Bonner outscored Jonny Flynn. Renew your season tickets now, Wolves fans!

Pistons 101 Wizards 87: Will Bynum is the Pistons’ MVP this season. That’s not saying much, but he was incredible tonight with 20 assists. He ran the Wizards ragged. Let me put it in context. Will Bynum had 20 assists. The Wizards, as a team, had 23. Yeesh.

Ben Gordon had a nice bounceback game with 17 points. He only needs to score another 7,000 points to make up the rest of the worth of his contract this season.

Nuggets 102 Hornets 95: In fourth grade I did a magic show for show and tell with some stuff I got from a magic shop in Memphis. In the middle of the disappearing egg in the hat trick, I put the hat down for the finish, and you could hear the egg inside the hat clack against the desk. It was really embarrassing and ruined the appeal of magic to me forever.

The Hornets are hearing the plastic egg clack against the desk.

Chauncey Billups had 21 points on 14 shots, with 17 assists and four steals in the win. Three Nuggets had double doubles.

Grizzlies 119 Knicks 112: The Grizzlies barely tried for the entire second half and still won comfortably. That’s how much they killed the Knicks in the first half.

Mike Conley shot 50% from the field and had six assist. He’s playing the best ball of the season. If he’d played like this the first four months of the season, maybe Grizzlies fans like myself wouldn’t spontaneously have crying fits whenever a Tyreke Evans highlight package came on. Maybe.

DeMarre Carroll’s haircut is weird. The Knicks are not good. The end.

Thunder 104 Nets 102:
Looks closer than it was. The Thunder led by 12 at the break, and turned the jets off. Durant scored 30. Again. Most times in one season by one player in franchise history. Yes, the whole Sonics history. He’s kind of a big deal.

Devin Harris is back from the dead, which is kind of nice. 19 points and 8 assists for the point guard. He sliced and diced against a pretty good Thunder defense.

Trail Blazers 110, Kings 94: Cut off the head and the body will die. Words of wisdom. That’s what the Trail Blazers did — they focused on taking Tyreke Evans out of the game with their defense. When Evans gets into the lane, nobody is stopping him, but long defenders like Nicholas Batum can keep Evans on the perimeter more than he likes. It worked, the soon-to-be rookie of the year had just 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting.

Meanwhile, the head of the Blazers offense — Brandon Roy — thrived: 28 points on 10 of 13 shooting. Pretty much every Blazer had a good night. This one was over early and people who switched out to watch some college hoops are forgiven. Unless it was Pac-10 hoops, which is even more unwatchable.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.