Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Where it was like Miami’s dream come true

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What you missed while trying to find the most inappropriate Halloween costume ever for your child….

Heat 96, Magic 70: Before the season Doc Rivers said how good Miami ended up being would depend on how well they defend. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they would score, but could they defend as a team?

They’re starting to figure it out. With each game their defense has been better and better until they just shut down Orlando, particularly in the second half, and cruised to the win.

There were two sides to Miami making this a blowout. Part of it was their defense — they were very active and aggressive contesting jumpers, and they were physical with the Magic inside. The pressure led the Magic to shoot a lot of contested two-pointers, the least efficient shot in basketball.

But Orlando deserves some blame here too. They were just bad at getting the shots they wanted, and even when they did they missed them. This is a team that lives and dies by the three, tonight they died. They were 4 of 24 from deep for the game. That could have something to do with tired legs on a back-to-back.

What did work was getting Dwight Howard the ball with his back to the basket and letting him work on the overmatched Heat centers. He had 19 first half points that way. He finished with 19. The Heat adjusted and dared someone else to beat them.

Magic players not named Howard shot 27 percent for the game. Magic starters outside Howard were 4-for-30. Orlando was 7-for-36 in the second half. I could go on, but why?

Vince Carter is supposed to be the guy who creates shots besides Howard, but he went down grabbing his tailbone after a collision and fall in the second quarter, and he did not return.

The man is as fragile and hurts more than the heart of a teenage girl.

Miami came out focused, went on a 14-0 run to start the second half and that was basically all she wrote. They got some turnovers in that stretch and if you do that to the Heat you will pay — there is no more fearsome team in transition than the Heat.

It was a game that — despite being decided and fairly dull the last 18 minutes — had a playoff feel to it. Credit the normally laid-back Heat crowd, they were into it. We’ll see if the Heat can keep up this kind of defense and the fans that kind of intensity through a long season.

Celtics 105, Knicks 101: The book on Rajon Rondo is to make him a shooter. The Knicks let him drop 24 dimes. Those are Bob Cousey numbers. It was really vintage Rondo, one of his prettiest games, and he finished with a triple double (10 points and 10 rebounds, too).

Credit the Knicks for hustle and hanging around, but this is a tough matchup for them because of Boston’s length. The Celtics dominated in the paint — they took 41 shots at the rim compared to 20 for the Knicks — and controlled the boards, and that ended up being the difference. If Knicks fans want, they can chalk this up as a moral victory. They played well.

Nets 106, Kings 100: This is one of the things you fear with the new technical foul enforcement — the second quarter of this game ground to a standstill with foul calls and techs. It was a parade of free throws. Fun times.

Kings were up 8 with three minutes left when Nets went on 13-0 run, with Jordan Farmar and Devin Harris hitting key threes. The key to the run was the Nets stopped turning the ball over — they shot the ball better and got to the line more all night long, but the 26 turnovers cut them off at the knees. Until it mattered.

The Kings got Samuel Dalembert back but he looked like a guy in his first game back from injury (he didn’t score and looked a step slow).

Hawks 104, 76ers 101: Not a lot of defense played in this one, but the Sixers seemed more willing to settle for long two pointers and that helped the Hawks. The bad news for the Hawks: Mike Bibby 33 minutes, Jeff Teague 11. But Atlanta is 2-0, so no complaining tonight.

Raptors 101, Cavaliers 81: Toronto just came out more aggressive in this one, really taking the ball into the lane. Jarret Jack was aggressive but Bargnani and Kleiza were the beneficiaries, they shot 6-of-12 combined in the first half. Kleiza finished with 19. Meanwhile the Cavs shot 4-of-17 in the second quarter, and that pretty much summed it up.

Pacers 104, Bobcats 101: Charlotte got two good looks at tying this in the final 10 seconds. DJ Augustin got a clean look but his feet were planted oddly so it was kind of a twisting shot that missed. But an offensive rebound gave them one last chance with 3.5 seconds left.

And the Bobcats got the look they wanted thanks to terrible Pacer defense. Stephen Jackson came free off a Boris Diaw moving screen that James Posey fought over the top of. Jack got an inbound pass nearly straight away at the three, gave an up fake and Posey went flying by so Jack got to set his feet. Nobody else ran out, the Bobcats had spread their four along the baseline and everyone stayed with their man and collapsed to get the rebound, even though Charlotte needed a three. But Jackson missed. May not have been justice, but that’s how it went down.

Hornets 101, Nuggets 95: In the second quarter the Nuggets offense stagnated, that led to a few turnovers and the Hornets got some transition baskets, and they were up 9 at the break. Denver battled back to have a fourth quarter lead behind Carmelo Anthony’s 24 on 10-of-17 shooting. But it was Denver that collapsed, and a 13-2 run won it for the Hornets.

Thunder 105, Pistons 104: Jeff Green — he of the no contract extension — is the hero in this one with a game-winner with 2.5 seconds left. The Thunder lived at the line in this one — 44 free throw attempts. They got that because they attacked the rim. No moral victories but the Pistons played well.

Timberwolves 96, Bucks 85: Kevin Love got to play the key moments of the game, he posted a double-double and he Wolves won. That could be coincidence, but Kurt Rambis should play him more to find out.

Grizzlies 91, Mavericks 90: How to lose a game in the fourth quarter — turn the ball over nine times. That’s what Dallas did, nine turnovers in the final 12 minutes. Not a terribly aesthetically pleasing game as both teams settled for a lot of jump shots.

Lakers 114, Suns 106: Phoenix went with what worked last time these two met — the Suns were in their 2-3 zone from the start. At first the Lakers did what they did in the Western Conference Finals — worked the ball around the perimeter then settled for a jumper. Gasol who? Attack the zone inside out what?

Eventually the Lakers remembered what they had done to the Suns in that series, got the ball inside first, shot a little better, got a few more rebounds and just adjusted their game to the team before them. Same result as last playoffs.

Warriors 109, Clippers 91: The Clippers defense, or lack of it, tells the story — Golden State shot 53.1 percent on the night and 58 percent from three, the Clippers shot 38.6 percent overall and 27.8 percent from three. And all those Clipper misses were not really about the Warriors defense, either.

Raptors troll Bucks after closing in Game 6 with RapsIn6.com website (VIDEO)

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Despite a disastrous fourth quarter performance, the Toronto Raptors closed the series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. The Raptors came away from Game 6 with a 92-89 victory and a chance to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round.

Meanwhile, the rivalry between the Raptors and the Bucks appears to be alive and well, as the Raptors pushed a video on social media after the game ended that was pointed toward the Bucks.

In it, the Raptors mascot registers a domain name for the team at RapsIn6.com, then proceeds to sip tea in the style of the famous Kermit meme.

In case you are out of the loop, this is a reference to Brandon Jennings saying Milwaukee would beat the Miami Heat in six games back in 2013.

Meanwhile, game ops at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee played the theme song from the children’s TV show “Barney” during Raptors player introductions.

Nothing really happens if you go to RapsIn6.com. There’s nothing on the website save for the video the Raptors posted to social media, which you can watch above.

Toronto has their core together and presumably will for a little while. The Bucks are a growing young team. I’m cool with them duking it out in the postseason for years to come.

Bucks storm back at home, Raptors hang on for 92-89 win, advance to second round

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Nothing can be easy for the Raptors.

They were cruising, up 25 in the third quarter, whipping the ball around on offense, hitting threes, making sharp rotations on defense, and generally overwhelming a Bucks team that did not look ready for the moment.

Then everything changed. The Raptors offense went ice cold, and the ball movement stopped, and the Bucks were getting big plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and — out of nowhere — Jason Terry. Across the third-and-fourth quarters the Bucks went on a 34-7 run, hitting 5-of-7 from three, one of those a Terry three to put the Bucks up 80-78.

The Raptors then responded like a veteran team, going on a 9-0 run led by DeMar DeRozan, who was the best Toronto player in the series. The Bucks had their chances, but shot 6-of-14 on free throws in the fourth, and Milwaukee started to look tired like the comeback had taken too much out of them. They made the mental mistakes of a young team learning hard lessons.

Toronto hung on for a 92-89 win, and they take the series 4-2.

The Raptors will open their conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.

The star of the night for Toronto was clearly DeRozan, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Beyond that, he was quick with the recognition of double-teams and was moving the ball, plus had a key defensive play late. However, his biggest moment was this dunk.

The Bucks came out with some desperation early. Antetokounmpo had 14 in the first quarter and got his team off to a good start, but the Raptors settled down, got the ball inside, kicked out for threes, and led by 28-24 at the half.

Milwaukee fell into playing a lot of isolation basketball, while the Raptors were moving the ball and finding the mismatches. The result was a 13-point second quarter from the Bucks (who shot just 3-of-17 from outside the paint in the first half and 1-of-9 from three), and a 51-38 Raptors lead at the half. DeRozan had 16 at the break.

The second half saw the Raptors seem to pull away, going up 25 at one point and being in total control.

Then the Bucks made it interesting. It started with a 15-3 run at the end of the third, which carried over to the fourth quarter and soon the lead was in single digits. The key was some ball movement for the Bucks, some made threes, great play from Antetokounmpo.

However, the larger issue was the Raptors just came apart on offense. From the 6 minute mark of the third quarter through the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were 4-of-16 shooting total, 2-of-8 from three, and that was led by DeRozan suddenly going 1-of-6. The Raptors let them back in the game.

What veteran teams know how to do — and what the Bucks are still learning — is how to bounce back from those stretches. Kyle Lowry made some solid plays, DeRozan dunked, the Raptors got some stops, and they found a way to hang on for the win.

DeRozan and Lowry — 13 points — were the only Raptors to finish in double figures.

Antetokounmpo had 34 for the Bucks and carried his team for long stretches. Khris Middleton added 19, and Matthew Dellavedova had a dozen off the bench.

 

Serge Ibaka, Giannis Antetokounmpo trade massive blocks during Raptors-Bucks (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a long dude. So is Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. The two faced off in Game 6 at the Bradley Center on Thursday night, so it makes sense the two wound up using one of their most impressive physical assets against each other.

Let the battle of length begin!

Via Twitter:

That’s Ibaka blocking the Milwaukee Bucks star on an attempt at the rim, on a dunk no less. That was impressive, no doubt, but just a minute later, it was Antetokounpmo coming through with a big time block on DeMar DeRozan:

But DeRozan got his revenge later in the fourth quarter, throwing down a dunk over the Bucks defense that was perhaps the finger in the wall needed to stop the leak that was Toronto’s disastrous final period.

DeRozan and the Raptors got the last laugh, winning the closeout game on the road, 92-89. Toronto will go on to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi finals.

Should the Trail Blazers go after Pacers star Paul George? CJ McCollum says yes

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The Portland Trail Blazers need to do something drastic this offseason. Fans in Oregon should be expecting something big with a roster of players prime for the trade market and three first round picks in GM Neil Olshey’s pocket for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Who should Portland go after? That is a tough question to answer.

The Blazers are not exactly a huge free agent destination, although the city is changing its reputation toward NBA players in recent years with the help of star players Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who have fully embraced Oregon’s largest city.

McCollum, in fact, has his own opinion on who the Blazers should go after this summer: Indiana Pacers star Paul George.

Via Twitter:

George, who is under contract for 2017-18 but has a player option for 2018-19, has been rumored to desire playing in Los Angeles. In any case, fans around the league are looking at George as a potential trade candidate.

He would certainly do well on the Blazers, who had a disappointing 41-41 season in 2016-17. After a surprising effort last year, the Trail Blazers were slotted to expand upon their finish in 2016. But a sluggish start from Damian Lillard mixed with one of the worst defensive rosters in the NBA found them battling for the No. 8 seed come the end of the season. Even still, a miraculous stretch of good play after the All-Star Game was what it took for the Blazers to beat out the likes of Denver, Dallas, and Sacramento for the final playoff spot.

We know now that the Blazers were swept by the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, and up here in the Northwest it only solidified the fact Portland needs to get better on the wing.

Last season, Al-Farouq Aminu showed he could shoot a league average percentage from 3-point range, which helped relieve some pressure off Lillard and CJ McCollum. But Aminu regressed to shooting 33 percent from deep in 2017, and although Maurice Harkless did an excellent job as a young starter he’s not yet the kind of dynamic offensive player the Blazers need to be a Top 4 team in the West.

Aminu projects for Portland better as a 4, and with Jusuf Nurkic now anchoring the center position, the goal for Portland will be to strengthen the wing and flesh out the bench.

George would be an excellent get, but the Blazers would need to have the salaries match in any trade with Indiana. Allen Crabbe seems the most likely option, given his RFA match for Portland was a clear move to retain an asset. Evan Turner occupied a lot of guard minutes for Portland, and it seems the Blazers aim to keep him.

Meanwhile, you have other players like Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis who still have some value and could help Portland’s cap situation or work as part of a trade with Indiana.

Having watched Portland closely the past six seasons or so, and seeing how parts of this roster has developed, it would make the most sense to add a third star to this team. Turner hamstrings the bench unit with his gargantuan $17 million salary next season, so building out the bench unit under him still won’t put the Blazers in a position to compete with the top teams in the West without another star.

I think the clearest way to capitalize on the prime part of the careers for Lillard and McCollum is to grab another star right now. George might be out of reach — and he reportedly wants to play in LA anyway — but I think the Blazers should think big this offseason. Whether that means trading for George or doing something else bold remains to be seen.