Baseline to Baseline, where the ghost of Ray Allen rode again

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What happened Sunday while you were singing ‘Sweet Caroline‘…

Celtics 117 Cavs 113: The Celtics’ offense in the first three quarters… wow! Rotation, penetration, and Ray Allen was in classic form. Their defense, doing what it’s supposed to, closing off angles and forcing the Cavs into a jump shooting team. Tremendous effort.

For three quarters.

Look, they held on. And we’ve already told you the downside of this game. But LeBron looked for most of this game like he was in a mental Easter egg hunt. Then he plugged in, and all of a sudden, that 20 point lead evaporated. They held on, but man. It just feels empty a bit.

J.J. Hickson has earned more time.

Spurs 100 Lakers 81: Kobe Bryant killed the Lakers.

I know.

I know.

I know.

This isn’t me saying he sucks. Or sux. Or whatever vernacular you prefer. I recognize, all haters to the left. I get that he’s still “the best closer in the game” or whatever. But take a look at this game, and you’ll see something bizarre.

What’s that? The Lakers bench scoring four points total? No, that’s not bizarre. That’s forseeable. We know this bench is bad. They’ve been bad all season, they’ll be bad all postseason, this is who they are. This is what happens when you have an All-Star or near All-Star at four of your five starting spots and one off the bench (when Bynum’s healthy). It comes with the territory.

No, it was Bryant, shooting poorly, playing badly, and not adjusting. Pau Gasol had 32 points on 20 shots. He could have used more touches. Lamar Odom shot 50% from the field, but only took 8 shots. Kobe? 24 shots for 22 points. That ain’t gonna get it done. The Lakers forced nothing, dictated nothing, and generally stood idly by while the Spurs did their thing, old school style.

They can care, they can not care, this was a game they should have won to send a message, at home, before the playoffs, and they were steamrolled.

Warriors 113 Raptors 112: Toronto can’t beat really good defenses or really good offenses. Everything in the middle, they do okay against.

Good thing they’re looking to go deep in the playoffs.

Chris Bosh missed a gimme. A laugher. A lay-in. A charity piece. The kind of shot you hit when warming up for a game of HORSE with your dad.

And in the middle of all this, Anthony Morrow really needs a chance with another squad. On Golden State? He’s just another no conscience chucker. But in Cleveland? He’d be a dagger machine. 5-7 from the arc and 10 boards. Solid.

Bosh had 42, 12, and 3 turnovers. Should have been 44.

Magic 107 Grizzlies 92: The scrum was nothing, not worth mentioning. You know who is worth mentioning? J.J. Redick. 15 points off the bench, and since Memphis’ bench is the worst in the league, the Magic won the game.

Great defender, great shooter, great ball handler. Redick’s going to get paid very soon.

Wizards 109 Nets 99: Back to back game against a team with a good stretch four? Yeah, NJ’s not winning that game, I don’t care how much they improved.

Shaun Livingston had 16 points, and played with energy and control. And if that doesn’t make you happy, you’re dead inside.

Pacers 133 Rockets 102: I remember when Houston played defense. That was when they were still in the playoffs.

A.J. Price continues to show he can play. And Josh McRoberts was beastin, filling in holes. The Rockets? Kevin Martin was terrible and no one played defense. That’s how you go home early in mid-April.

Thunder 116 Timberwolves 108: Thunder weren’t’ that good in this game.

Kevin Durant was.

Some nights, your star goes off and he gets the job done. That’s what happened.

Darko Milicic is a big loss for the Wolves. That pretty much sums up their season right there.

Knicks 113 Clippers 107: You know what drives you nuts about the Clippers? They do things badly and yet no one ever stops to say “Oh hey, we should do this more/better. They’re not shooting well from the arc? Shoot more!

Fail.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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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.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.