Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Heat are running and cruising

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What you missed while listening to Johnny Depp read Keith Richards autobiography…

Our game of the night is a reminder that the Spurs are still the Spurs, click for details.

Heat 123, Suns 96: The Heat came out and wanted to make sure Chris Bosh felt loved and wanted — he had the first eight points (on 4 of 4 shooting) and they went to him exclusively for a bit. They kept going there because it worked, he finished with 35 on 12-17 (plus he got to the line 11 times).

This was close for a quarter until the Heat settled in for a fast-paced game then really just took over at both ends — the Suns scored only two field goals in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. The Heat got up big and never looked back. There were 97 possessions in this game, six faster than a normal Heat contest, but with their athleticism and finishers they need to play up-tempo like this more. They are not, should not be a D’Antoni style team, but they should be playing a lot faster than they are (which was 22nd in the league before Thursday). This game was the proof of that.

Hornets 99, Mavericks 97: Mavs raced out to 12-2 lead but you knew the Hornets would battle back, that this one would be close and it would come down to execution at the end.

With the game on the line the Hornets ran the same play three times in a row — a wing pick-and-pop with Chris Paul and David West that the Mavericks had no answer for. Go read the NBA Playbook breakdown. The Hornets executed with the game on the line and they get

Raptors 94, Sixers 86: With 25 seconds left and down six, the Sixers missed a shot and the Raptors got the rebound. Instantly Philly coach Doug Collins started yelling “foul, foul” hoping to extend the game, but his team moved at half speed and seemed disinterested. At best. It took 12 seconds before someone committed the requested foul. And that tells you pretty much all you need to know about where the Sixers are right now.

Nice 2-2 road trip for the Raptors.

Lakers 103, Pistons 90: Kobe was hot, the Lakers jumped out to an early lead and cruised…yada, yada, yada. Best tweet of the night comes to us courtesy Dave McMenimen of of ESPNLA:

A 12-yr old girl sitting behind Lakers bench just screamed: “The triangle offense failed in ’04, Phil! You’ll always have to live w/ that!”

Thunder 116, Rockets 99: Oklahoma City’s most complete game start-to-finish in weeks — combined with a struggling opponent — made this one the easy win the Thunder have needed after some tough ones lately.

Celtics 114, Wizards 83: This was close for a while as the Wizards made contested shots and played with the energy that the Celtics are greeted with every night. But the Wizards play poor defense, and you’re not going to stay hot forever against the Celtics, they make you work too hard to get your shots. The blowout was inevitable, if a bit delayed in this one.

Timberwolves 113, Clippers 111: Michael Beasley had 33 points on 14-23 shooting, including the game winner with 2.3 left. Beasley has been big lately but count me among the still skeptical — he his 6 of 10 long twos in this game. He has been doing that for games now, don’t expect him to keep hitting from range like that.

Clippers have now lost to the Pistons, Nets and Wolves in a row.

Jazz 98, Nets 88: Turns out the Jazz can win a game they never trail in during the final 35 minutes.

Knicks 113, Kings 106: It was Glee night at ARCO arena. The Kings deserved to lose for karma reasons alone.

It’s all about having shooters on the floor in the Mike D’Antoni system. In the first quarter, the Knicks are 5-23 overall and 0-6 from three and they are down 27-14. Second quarter they start
9-12, 4-for-4 from three and they outscore Kings 40-22. The Suns were good when they had five shooters on the floor at a time, the Knicks are not there yet.

As for the Kings, you can tell Paul Westphal is looking different rotations (new starting lineup tonight) trying to find combos that work. But the formula is eluding him.

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.