Baseline to Baseline, final night of the regular season

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What happened Wednesday while you were crying over the end of League Pass…


Magic 125 Sixers 111: The Sixers did their part, showing up to let the fans in Orlando have something to cheer against. Marreesse Speights needs to learn to play better defense, but he can score. 23 points for the young 22 year old, and if the Sixers are going to rebuild with a new coach, he’s got to be part of the plan. 
Howard did what Howard does, and dominated. The Magic followed suit. SVG commented post game that they’ve drilled bad teams in the second half of the season. 
No more gimmes. But the Magic look ready. 
Heat 94, Nets 86 (2OT): Best thing about this game?
It’s over. 
Let us never speak of it again. 
Bucks 106 Celtics 95: A gimme game, a no-point game, a useless game. And you’re still left asking “The Bucks put up 106 on the Celtics without Bogut? Wow.” And that says a lot about Milwaukee’s balance and about how many C’s missed this game. Perkins didn’t play, which meant…
The Dan Gadzuric show! Gadzey scored 14 and added 9 boards. If the Hawks were scouting this game, they wanted to focus in on Ilyasova, who played fantastic, and could be a matchup issue if his range is working. 
Bulls 98 Bobcats 89: The ‘Cats can zone out with the best of ’em, and the Bulls can plug in with the same. 
Joakim Noah looked healthy, folks. Really healthy. Best play of the night was Noah in transition, running point on the break (you read that right), picking up his dribble, leaving his feet, and dishing to a driving Gibson for the and-one lay-in. It was Deron Williams-esque. 
After Tyson Chandler went down, Bobcats couldn’t be bothered. The Cats were just happy to not have their season ending for once. Good for you, ‘Cats. Good on you, Bulls. 
Wizards 98 Pacers 97: Cedric Jackson, a D-Leaguer, hit the game winning shot with 1:31 to play for the Wizards in a meaningless comeback win for the Wizards over the Pacers. 
And that pretty much tells you about their seasons. 
No one, not even the Nets, is happier this season is over than the Wizards. 
Mavs 96 Spurs 89: The Spurs hung here. The Mavericks played their starters but were obviously tuned out, and once they got the lead, they just cultivated it enough to hang on. But the San Antonio bench showed a lot, even if both schemes were vanilla since they meet in four days for Game 1. 
DeJuan Blair had 27 and 23. Knees or no knees, those are some huge numbers. And he actually frustrated Dirk Nowitzki a bit. Something to keep an eye on. 

Thunder 114 Grizzles 105: Grizzlies checked out once Marc Gasol went out for the season a few weeks ago. And that should be noted because for as good as Z-Bo has been, Gasol is the heart of this squad. 
Meanwhile, the Thunder were tuning up sharp. Good ball rotations, good movement, good speed, good everything. They had the answers and they had the stroke. 
Rudy Gay is still as one-sided as he was at the beginning of last season .
Pistons 103 Wolves 98: Corey Brewer was brilliant, but Charlie Villanueva came through huge in the fourth. He forced the issue and created tons of baseline space. When that happened, the Wolves lost control. And they’re not a team that can get it back. 
Darko Milicic, the franchise savior, had six rebounds. 
Hornets 123 Rockets 115: The Rockets just ran out of steam. Much like their season. 
The Hornets looked good, and forced a lot of penetration. David West was lost in the failures of the Hornets this season, but he’s been tremendous in the second half of the season, and his 35 tonight was the type of dominance that the Hornets can win with next year. 

Suns 100 Jazz 86: Be afraid of this Suns team. The threes are there, sure. Nash, yeah. Amar’e, for sure. But there was defense out there tonight. Stifling, interrupting, bothering, frustrating defense. Don’t sleep on that. 
The Jazz without Carlos Boozer are frighteningly toothless, and couldn’t counter anything for the Suns defensively. 
Warriors 122 Blazers 116: Don Nelson dressed 8 players. Then three got hurt. Then one fouled out. The refs made him play an injured guy, before eventually letting him play the fouled out guy (Devean George) in exchange for a technical. 
And that’s the Dubs. 
Portland heads to postseason play with a dark cloud over them and Stephen Curry blasting them into pieces can’t make them feel any better.

Raptors 131, Knicks 113: Not a lot of defense in this one. And by not a lot we mean none. Made it fairly entertaining to watch. The difference here was simply that Toronto played like a team that wanted it and New York played like a team that wanted its season to end. They get their wish.

Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83: You could make really good team out of the guys who did not suit up for this one: LeBron James, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Shaquille O’Neal, Mike Bibby.

Without LeBron to create shots, the Cavaliers shooting percentage plummeted, particularly the 1 for 14 from three part. It was the kind of game where Jeff Teague takes over, he had 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Jeff Teague. It was that kind of game.

Clippers 107, Lakers 91: How seriously did the Lakers take this one?  Early in the third quarter, the Lakers had Adam Morrison trying to hang with Travis Outlaw. He can’t, by the way. But you probably already guessed that.

Steve Blake had the triple-double in this one — 23 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists. The Lakers bad defensive habits helped out, at one point Derek Fisher left Blake at the three-point arc to run down to the post and help Pau Gasol (covering DeAndre Jordan). Kick out and a buried three. Kept happening in variations all game long. But credit the Clippers for taking advantage.

Now, where is the lottery party again?

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.

Damian Lillard gets tested by Warriors, looks for rebound

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) First it was a chest cold, then it was a fourth-quarter dry spell. The start of Damian Lillard‘s playoff series against the Golden State Warriors has been rough.

And as Lillard goes, often the rest of the Trail Blazers follow.

Portland is down 2-0 in its Western Conference semifinal series against the defending NBA champions. And it certainly won’t get much easier when the series shifts north Saturday – even though presumptive league MVP Stephen Curry is unlikely to return from a knee injury.

But Lillard and his team have a history of stepping up after getting knocked down. In fact, that’s been the theme of their whole season.

“I know the kind of guys I’m running with. Besides that, we’ve answered the call all season long. We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away. We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different,” he said.

Lillard, who averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists during the regular season, scored 25 points in the Blazers’ 110-99 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night, including 17 points in the third quarter. But the Warriors held him scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) in the crucial final period when they came from behind to win, outscoring Portland 34-12. Portland only scored six points over the last 5:21.

With a day off on Wednesday, Lillard let the loss digest.

“After the game I was pretty frustrated by not being able to finish that game. Yesterday I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t even gonna watch the playoff game until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of 3s. So I wanted to see for myself, but I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball after that game.”

In the series opener, Lillard started cold but eventually scored 30 points in a 118-106 loss. The Oakland native admitted later to battling a cold afterward. On Thursday, he said he was healthy.

Lillard made a playoff splash in 2014 when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Rockets sent the Blazers into the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But he was the lone starter left with the Blazers this season after the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Some expected the Blazers to only win about two dozen games.

Lillard tends to rise when he’s the underdog, however. Led by Lillard and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, a first-year starter, the Blazers overcame a 2-10 stretch in November to wind up the fifth seed in the West.

A two-time All-Star, Lillard was snubbed this year. How did he respond? By dropping 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over – wait for it – the Golden State Warriors. Lillard shot over Curry at will in that Feb. 19 victory, one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.

Knowing the Blazers are capable will be key Saturday night.

“We’ll have bounce. We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the opening round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Having energy, having bounce, at the Moda Center, with our crowd? That’s the least of our concerns.”

Lillard also struggled in the opening two games against the Clippers in the first round. Portland came back to win the next four to win the series, but the Clippers were hurt when their top two scorers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were knocked out with injuries.

The Warriors also get credit for Lillard’s struggles after making defensive adjustments on both Lillard and McCollum, particularly the play of Festus Ezeli.

“They are so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond (Green), those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Lillard said the Blazers would learn from it.

“It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth,” he said. “The entire season has been growth for us.”

Erik Spoelstra calls Frank Vogel’s firing “disturbing”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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One thing that’s a constant in the NBA: coaches always stick up for each other. That’s what happened on Thursday, when Pacers president Larry Bird announced that he was letting Frank Vogel go. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached against Vogel in three memorable playoff series during the big three era, was unhappy to hear the news of Vogel’s fate and lamented the state of coaching, which has very little job security.

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I think it’s really disturbing, actually. I’ve only been a head coach for eight years. So what am I, the second-longest-tenured?” Spoelstra asked, with Casey in his sixth season as Toronto coach and only Gregg Popovich, in his 20th season with the San Antonio Spurs, on the bench longer. “That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now and stability of organizations.”

Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle are the second longest-tenured coaches in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich. Already this offseason, there have been five coaching changes in addition to Vogel’s: Luke Walton replaced Byron Scott with the Lakers, Tom Thibodeau replaced Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves, Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman in Washington, and the Rockets and Kings jobs are still unfilled. The Knicks job could potentially turn over as well, if Phil Jackson opts not to bring back Kurt Rambis.

This is on top of five coaches who were fired during the season: Kevin McHale in Houston, Derek Fisher in New York, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Lionel Hollins in Brooklyn and David Blatt in Cleveland. That’s a third of the league since the 2015-16 season began. Spoelstra is right about the instability, but that’s part of the business.

Photos: Bucks unveil interior of new arena

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks runs down court during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Milwaukee Bucks are set to open their new arena in time for the start of the 2018-19 season, and now they’ve unveiled the first renderings of the inside of the building. They’re pretty nice.

Here’s the court:

There will also be several public bars out in the concourse:

It’s decidedly more modern than the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center, although that building is one of the most fun atmospheres in the league to watch a game in. Hopefully the new place can recapture that vibe.