Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Saturday while you were remembering there is no spoon, nor floating kitty

Hawks 86, Magic 84: Best. Finish. Ever. Of The Season. Words are inadequate. Seriously. Just watch the video.

This felt like a second round playoff matchup because both teams played very good defense. Atlanta got a signature win, a confidence booster. Orlando can say they lost because of two things: 1) Box out on the weak side, just box out; 2) Defend the three point line, Atlanta shot 53.8 percent from there.

Man, this little taste made me hungry — the playoffs can’t get here soon enough.

Jazz 113 Raptors 87: It’s going to be a rough couple of years, Toronto.

Kyle Korver is a huge swing vote for the Jazz. When he plays well, like he di tonight, there’s just a lot of trouble in stopping the Jazz offense. And that’s if you’re a good defense and not the affront to nature that the Raptors defense is.

The Jazz were all over the passing lanes and if you disrupt the Raptors, they fall over and go to sleep. Meanwhile, Deron Williams always, always initiates, and had himself 16 assists. The Jazz look like a lock for homecourt in the first round.

Celtics 113 Nuggets 99: Write this one down. Pay attention to it and come back to it later. Because the Celtics looked as fearsome in the second quarter of this game as they did in the first part of this season. Tough, determined, focused, and nigh on unstoppable.

Denver on the other hand just looked pedestrian. Some teams go from terrible to awesome, from sharp to dull. The Nuggets just fade into mediocrity so comfortably, it makes me uncomfortable.

Pierce is the go-go-gadget-engine, and that is the truth.

Nets 93 Kings 79: A double digit win for the Nets? It can’t be!

There was no Tyreke Evans. There was a Devin Harris. That ended, well, not as you’d expect, but somewhere in there.

Sixers 101 Bucks 86: How odd.

The Sixers can defend. They don’t care to more often than not. And they’re not usually aware of what they should be doing, but the Bucks didn’t really disguise anything. And the Bucks couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Couldn’t hit a ban door with spray paint. Couldn’t shoot a lick and the Sixers got their offense going inside out. Still very weird.

Thunder 122 Rockets 84: This baby was close, but then something weird happened in the second quarter and it just ballooned. The Rockets were trying to grab soap in a bath, that was their offense, and they just couldn’t grip it. Mostly because the Thunder was locked in. And when Jeff Green is spreading the floor and driving, it’s a tough matcuhup. Even for Luis Scola.

Lakers 92 Spurs 83: Ron Artest blew this open. You can say Odom, but that was in the gameplan, in the flow, in the script. It was Artest, changing the script on both sides, that made this thing happen. Meanwhile, the Lakers adjusted to Greg Hill by respecting him and concentrating on him.

And when they do that, your night is over.

Bobcats 108, Timberwolves 95: You knew the Timberwolves were in trouble at the half –Al Jefferson was 7 of 10, but rest of team shot 33 percent. And they were down 10 to a good Charlotte team that would figure out how to slow Jefferson.

Stephen Jackson 17 in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 37. As a whole the Bobcats shot well, 53.6%. The win moves Charlotte into the sixth spot in the East, by the way.

Pacers 99, Wizards 82: Lottery be damned! That is four wins in a row for the Pacers. And 13 losses in a row for the Wizards.

Washington is just a terrible offensive team right now. It’s hard to watch. They had plenty of chances, plenty of really good looks and shots at the rim, and they shot 36.5 percent. And after all the drama last night, Andray Blatche got the start and scored a team-best 21 on 8 of 17 from the floor. But Danny Granger was the best player on the floor, he had 31 and seemed to be everywhere.

Cavaliers 105, Hornets 92: Cleveland is better than New Orleans. What? You want more detail? Cleveland is a lot better than New Orleans, Aside that, both Chris Paul and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are adjusting to playing again and neither was impressive. There wasn’t much to see here.

Warriors 128, Grizzlies 110: Memphis got sucked in to playing the Warriors game at the Warriors pace in the first half. That is a cardinal sin — letting the other team dictate the game to you. There were 60 first-half possessions (league average is 46) and at that pace Golden State put up 78 points. Memphis played a nice second half (45 possessions, 50 Warriors points) but at that point the damage was done and they couldn’t come close to making up the deficit.
 

How do you like “The Process” now? Sixers eliminate Heat, advance to second round

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It felt inevitable.

Not “The Process” from the start. There were some severe downs before the ups.

Not this first playoff series against Miami from the start, because it felt even… until Game 3 when Joel Embiid returned in his mask and tipped the scales.

No, it was Game 5’s result felt inevitable as it unfolded. Not because Philadelphia won the previous game in Miami and could close it out at home. Not because the Sixers have the two biggest talents in the series in Ben Simmons and Embiid.

Rather, Game 5 felt inevitable because the Sixers got better looks all night long. They got them with ball movement, with player movement that created mismatches or clean jumpers. It was tied 46-46 at the half because Philadelphia just missing its good looks while the Heat were struggling with hands in their face all night. Philadelphia shot 38.1 percent in the first half overall and were 2-of-12 from three.

In the third quarter, it all changed.

Philadelphia went on an early 9-0 run, shot 50 percent as a team for the quarter, all while continuing to play defense and get stops. The Sixers won the third 34-20 and held on through Miami rallies in the fourth to take the game comfortably, 104-91.

With the win, Philadelphia wins the series 4-1 and advances to the second round, where they will face either Boston or Milwaukee (Boston leads the series 3-2).

They did it behind 27 from J.J. Redick, who knocked down five threes. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. However, it was the defense that held the Miami to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 16-of-31 from three within eight feet of the basket that won the game for Philly.

This young Sixers team learned lessons in this first round, and maybe the biggest was how to adapt the physicality of the playoffs, and keeping your cool while things don’t go your way.

“I thought we withstood the physicality of the Heat,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a great organization. They came to mean it, we knew they wouldn’t go away easily, and we had to have that physical element to match.”

They matched that physicality, but what they had was talent that could step up.

They also savored the moment. Midway through the fourth, up comfortably and still knocking down shots, the young Sixers were reveling in the deafening crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was reveling in success after years of struggling through the process — the players and fans wanted to start that party midway through the fourth.

However, Heat have no chill and no quit in them, they went on a 10-0 in the fourth quarter, not-so-coincidentally after Sixers fans started chanting, “We want Boston!”

But when it mattered the Heat couldn’t get stops — the Sixers talent showed through. Redick hit threes. Embiid owned the paint. Simmons did a little bit of everything.

It was a moment of revelry in Philadelphia. One years in the making — and maybe the first in many years of future celebrations on that court.

Sixers players douse Brett Brown, present him with bell after closing Heat (VIDEO)

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The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on. Let’s just try to process that for a moment.

After beating the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 104-91, this iteration of the Sixers experienced their first playoff series win together. It was also the first series win for coach Brett Brown as the man in charge of an NBA team.

As such, players gathered in the locker room after the win to hear Brown speak about the win, and about how the team had more to give and to learn as they moved forward together in the playoffs.

When Brown concluded his speech, he tried to hand off the victory bell to JJ Redick. As soon as Redick received it, he bestowed the honor of the bell right back upon Brown.

That’s when teammates showered Brown with whatever they had nearby, and Brown rung the bell.

Man, what a moment.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.