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Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Pacers are playing some defense

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What you missed while watching Airplane one more time in honor of Leslie Nielsen (RIP):

Pacers 95, Lakers 92: Indiana plays very good defense — and if you can do that to the Lakers you can thrown them off their game. Often, the result of that is Kobe Bryant tries to take over, and Sunday night Kobe took 33 shots, every other Laker starter combined took 37. When the ratio is something like that, the Lakers are usually in trouble. That and the Lakers’ 38.6 percent shooting. Kobe had a good third quarter, the Lakers played pretty good defense down the stretch, but the Pacers out played them and earned this one.

Knicks 125, Pistons 116 (2OT): There was a time in the second quarter of this game when Tracy McGrady reminded you of his old self. They guy who just found a way to make shots. It was a nice, brief trip back to a time that will not be again (not consistently). But credit the Knicks for grinding out the win —with four guys playing 50 plus minutes.

Atlanta 96, Raptors, 78: Against the soft defense of the Raptors the Hawks offense looked really pretty, with the kind of movement you’d hope to see from them. There was real balance in the attack. But the Hawks defense is what won this one,

Spurs 109, Hornets 95: Versatility of rosters matters in the NBA. The Hornets dominated the first half of this game and were up 17 at the break when the Spurs went small in the second half — Richard Jefferson at the four, Tim Duncan at center. The Hornets could not adjust. The Hornets offense could not adapt to exploit the smaller lineup, in fact it was the opposite. They struggled on offense, and the Spurs got into that faster pace they like this year, and the result was a comfortable win.

Jazz 109, Clippers 97: The Jazz shot 58.6 percent in this one, they really controlled the flow of play and the Clippers hung around for a half in large part because of their offensive rebounding. But there is a gap between these two teams.

Nets 98, Trailblazers 96: The Trail Blazers had one of those “team only” talks after the game. Their issues may be deeper than just what words can fix.

The Nets hung around in this one because the Blazers lack depth in the front court right now — when Marcus Camby sat Brook Lopez started to do what he wanted. Kris Humphries did what he could to impress girlfriend Kim Kardashian courtside. That kept it close. At the end, Devin Harris was taking over.

Rockets 99, Thunder 98: Kevin Durant has now missed two game winning shots in a row. That’s not to say Durant has problems under pressure — he doesn’t — it’s a reminder that this is why you don’t want to be in close games. Why the best teams have more blowout wins. Close games mean too much luck is needed to win.

Also, the Rockets grabbed the offensive rebound on 39 percent of their missed shots in this one.

Nuggets 138, Suns 133: Denver missed Chauncey Billups — he has had 25 points and eight rebounds. He hit key free throws down the stretch. The free throws mattered as Denver got 28 more trips to the line, 20 more points there. That decided the game.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.