Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where all good streaks must come to an end

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What you missed while… why weren’t you watching the Clippers beat the Heat? (That was our game of the night.)

Hornets 92, Magic 89 (OT): Orlando’s nine-game win streak ends because they shot just 39.1 percent in this one — not that they didn’t get good looks, they did. The shots just didn’t fall. That happens sometimes, you outplay the other team but can’t knock them down. The Magic have been hot shooting of late, so the off night shouldn’t come as a shock.

Pacers 102, Mavericks 89: Still no Dirk Nowitzki (that’s eight games missed), and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was desperate enough for an answer start Alexis Ajinca at the four. Turns out that wasn’t it (although it did move Shawn Marion to the three, where he will be starting for Caron Butler the rest of the season). The Mavs miss Dirk’s offense and ability to hit a contested two, but the real problem is they haven’t played well defensively lately. Paul George’s 16 off the bench were big for Indy.

Hawks 104, Raptors 101: The Hawks struggled the second half of this game with the Raptors zone defense. There are a couple basic ways to beat a zone – pound it inside or shoot over the top of it. With the game on the line, Mike Bibby went for the latter and hit the game-winning three. The Hawks were in it because Jamal Crawford hit 12-of-23 shots for 36 points.

In the irony file, Hawks center Etan Thomas didn’t travel with the Hawks to Toronto because he was snowed in at his Atlanta home.

Bobcats 96, Bulls 91: Charlotte’s starters raced out to a 17 point lead, but the second string came in and the depth of these two teams became clear. Well, that or the Bulls have developed a slow start pattern. Either way, this was tied up with six minutes to go and it looked like the Bulls had slowed the new, running Bobcats down (well, they did, just 89 possessions). But the Bobcats did a great job of hard doubles on Derrick Rose late, not letting him take over (same with Boozer). The Bobcats offense is unimpressive, but if Stephen Jackson is hitting hard, contested shots they will get points. Enough to win.

Celtics 119, Kings 95: Really fast pace in this one — 99 possessions — and it turns out the old guys can still run a little. Big difference in this one: Kings 2-13 from three, Celtics 12-20.

Grizzlies 107, Pistons 99: Detroit went with a new starting lineup tonight — Tracy McGrady, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Wilcox and Greg Monroe — and it worked pretty well, the two starting lineups played each other about even. The Grizzlies bench destroyed the Pistons bench. That’s your ball game.

Spurs 91, Bucks 84: What a shock — the Bucks lost because their offense stinks. The Spurs played well and all, but you can stop the Bucks offense and that leads to wins. Not sure there is much else to say here.

Thunder 118, Rockets 112: This game was about what you’d expect — the Rockets make the Thunder really work for it, but in the end Houston had no answer for Kevin Durant (30 points) and Russell Westbrook (23).

Suns 118, Nets 109 (OT): Credit the Nets for playing hard despite all the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, a lot of teams might have not brought the effort. Still, they had a 15-point lead early in the fourth and blew it. Steve Nash owned overtime, as he had 10 points and got most of those at the free throw line. Free throws in general were key for the Suns, who got to the line 20 more times than the Nets.

Lakers 115, Warriors 110: Along with Heat/Clippers, maybe the most entertaining game of the night. Monta Ellis had 38 points and was making plays that inspired Kobe Bryant to take over — and looking like vintage Kobe of five years ago — he hit shots and put up 39. It was quite a show those two put on, but Lamar Odom’s 16 fourth quarter points were key. The other key was the times — the spotty times, the Lakers were not consistent — they got the ball inside to whomever David Lee was guarding. The Lakers went right at him.

Jazz 131, Knicks 125: This is not the up-tempo game you normally expect the Jazz to play (96 possessions each team) but Utah shot 58.4 percent and hit 10 of 22 from three. They looked plenty comfortable as seven players got into double figures scoring.  For the Knicks, Shawne Williams hit seven threes in a half and finished with a game high 25 points.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.

Raptors’ ‘culture reset’ shines in Game 5 win over Wizards

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The Raptors promoted ball movement. They emphasized 3-point shooting. They empowered their reserves.

This was why.

Backups Delon Wright and C.J. Miles and starting center Jonas Valanciunas – who was benched in previous postseasons due to his old-fashioned style, but expanded his game beyond the arc this year – scored Toronto’s final 18 points in a 108-98 Game 5 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Stars DeMar DeRozan (0-for-4 from the field) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-1 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws) struggled down the stretch, as the Raptors burst open what had been a one-point lead.

Though DeRozan (32 points) and Lowry (17 points and 10 assists) were good overall, they succumbed late in previous playoff games. Toronto didn’t want that duo stuck with the burden of creating so much in a stagnate offense.

Hence, Masai Ujiri’s famous “culture reset.”

The results have been mixed so far against a tougher-than-average-eight-seed Washington. But at least the Raptors – up 3-2 entering Friday’s Game 6 in Washington – are on the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

Raptors honor victims of van attack before Game 5 (photos)

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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors honored the victims the deadly van attack Monday with a moment of silence Wednesday night before Game 5 of their playoff series against the Washington Wizards.

Players from both teams held up banners with the hashtag #TORONTOSTRONG as they stood on the court during the tribute and the national anthems that followed:

The Raptors, the Wizards and the NBA will make a donation to a fund for victims and those affected by the incident.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke about the attack after the Raptors practiced Tuesday.

“What we do doesn’t really matter sometimes,” Ujiri said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on that sidewalk.”

Guard Kyle Lowry said he was impressed by the actions of Const. Ken Lam, who earned international acclaim for peacefully arresting of suspect Alek Minassian.

“In America he would definitely have been shot up,” Lowry said. “He did an amazing job of making a judgment call. I think more people could learn from that.”

Coach Dwane Casey was struck by how close the carnage occurred to his own Toronto neighborhood,

“It’s not too far from up the street from where I live,” Casey said.

Casey and his coaches were in the midst of a meeting Monday afternoon when assistant Rex Kalamian’s phone buzzed with someone informing him of the tragedy. The coaches stopped their meeting and turned on a television to find out what had happened.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Casey said. “Just this weekend I was talking to people saying how safe Toronto is, how it’s a melting pot and you don’t have the same crime. Hopefully though, sport can offer a relief, some reprieve.”

Like Casey, Ujiri said he is proud of Toronto’s reputation as a safe, welcoming place.

“Everywhere I go, I brag about this city,” Ujiri said. “It’s the safest place in the world. It’s the best city in the world and it’s going to continue to be the best place and the best city in the world.”

Toronto police said the 10 people killed and 14 injured in the attack were “predominantly” women, but have declined so far to discuss a motive. The 25-year-old Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.