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Baseline to Baseline recaps: When good games are overshadowed by the ‘Melodrama

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What you missed while reading the story about Deadspin in GQ

Nets 103, Jazz 95: “Melo? We don’t need no stinkin’ Melo”

In what in some ways seemed like an anti-climactic game, was “Russian Culture” night in New Jersey. That motivated Andrei Kirilenko who came out fast. But once the game settled down this was all Nets for the most part. The Jazz defense let the Nets — the team 28th in the league in offensive efficiency — put up an impressive 117 point per 100 possessions. The Jazz still had some chances at the end but they missed some chippies and the Nets hit theirs. Seven guys for the Nets in double digits.

Magic 99, Sixers 98 (OT): No lead is safe with these Sixers. I mean, when they have it. Dwight Howard fouled out and got a technical with 28 seconds left, and the Sixers were up 5. And the Magic got it to overtime. The Sixers have blown more leads this season than I can count. Once in overtime the Sixers left Jameer Nelson wide open for a three. They fouled J.J. Redick for a four-point play. And they still almost won it — Andre Iguodala had a shot go about as far down as one can and rattle out with five seconds left, Evan Turner hustled and got the offensive board and put up a leaning floater that missed and the Magic escaped with one

Suns 106, Cavaliers 98: With Mo Williams out for a couple weeks, it was Ramon Sessions having to cover Steve Nash. We expected a blowout, but frankly the Suns played down to the level of the competition and got away with it. The Suns started cold in the first part of the fourth quarter and suddenly it was a four point game. But the Suns still had enough talent to win a game they would have lot to 28 other teams. Grant Hill had 27, making this his first back-to-back 25 point games since March 2005.

Vince Carter was ice cold, but he did have the best moment of the night — he was on the sidelines to inbound the ball, reached over and wiped off his hands on Byron Scott’s suit. Scott just laughed.

Celtics 86, Pistons 82: The Celtics had the same disease as the Suns — they played down to the competition. You would have thought they learned their lesson about that when they lost to the Pistons before, but no. Shaquille O’Neal sparked a 9-1 fourth quarter run that led the comeback. There just should not have had to be a comeback.

Bucks 100, Wizards 87: The Bucks offense showed up for this one — they actually got to 100 points and won the home fan free McDonald’s food. That would be three times this season. But getting to 100 points (108.7 points per 100 possessions pace, 8 points above their season average) without Brandon Jennings or John Salmons, and with Andrew Bogut scoring just 6, is a surprise.

Hornets 103, Grizzlies 102 (OT): Emeka Okafor had one assist in this game — a nifty bounce pass through traffic to Marcus Thornton for the game winning reverse layup. Thornton had 17 for the game, all in the fourth quarter and OT. Trevor Ariza, 2-12, must shoot less. The other key to this game, the Hornets defended the Memphis bigs without fouling — the Grizzlies shot just 15 free throws, the Hornets 28.

Rockets 104, Knicks 89: The Rockets controlled this game from the start and afterwards on twitter Rockets GM Daryl Morey explained why: The good defense of Chuck Hayes on Amare Stoudemire (who still had 25 on 11-of-21 shooting) allowed the other Rockets defenders to stay home on the Knicks shooters. The Knicks stayed 1-on-1 with Stoudemire all night, no doubles, no shooters left unguarded. Morey said that is the key to knocking off the Knicks, not to let the other guys beat you.

Mavericks 109, Lakers 100: The Lakers focused their defensive effort on slowing Dirk Nowitzki and all game left Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic open if they took jumpers. In the first half Pavlovic made them pay, in the second half Kidd came alive and the price got steep for LA. I’d say that was the Lakers strategy but really it was just bad rotations. Dallas had an offensive rating of 131 points per 100 possessions in this one.

In the third quarter the Lakers also started settling for jumpers, launching threes, missing and that fueled the Mavs running game. The Lakers can’t run with the Mavs.

Nuggets 112, Thunder 107: Carmelo Anthony had 35 and played like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Can’t imagine why. He took over in the fourth quarter and was the hot player. The crowd still booed him after the game, during the post-game interview. Durant was 1-of-9 shooting in the second half.

Blazers 94, Kings 90 (OT): This game would have fit in well with yesterday’s “sloppy but entertaining” theme. Look at it this way: With 2:30 left and the game tied 83-83 we got a missed Rudy Fernandez three; followed by a missed Omri Casspi three; then LaMarcus Aldridge missed a good-look jump hook in the lane; then Jason Thompson missed 18 footer; that was followed by a sloppy Andre Miller jump pass to Aldridge which ends up a turnover; then Tyreke Evans pushes the pace back the other way, gets into the lane, passes to Jason Thompson who has his a dunk blocked; so the Blazers try to run and Miller misses the layup.

With Marcus Camby out the Kings got into the paint for shots a lot, although not DeMarcus Cousins who played like a rookie.

Spurs 104, Raptors 95: The Spurs joined the list of teams — Celtics, Suns — that played down to the level of the competition and got away with it Wednesday. Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair saved them.

Warriors 110, Pacers 108: Monta Ellis is as deadly as anyone in the league if you want a game-winning clutch shot. Beautiful crossover, got to his spot near the elbow, great elevation over Brandon Rush, nothing by nylon. Pretty play to win it. Don’t want to leave out David Lee, who had a key end of game free throw and offensive rebound. Steph Curry had an impressive late layup, but his foul on a Darren Collison jumper that made it a three-point play and tied the game was almost a disaster. Ellis bailed him out.

Clippers 126, Wolves 111: Everyone seemed focused on the Kevin Love/Blake Griffin matchup, and it was pretty good. They both got theirs, Love had his millionth consecutive double-double, Griffin had 29 points and a spectacular dunk. What you really should take away from this — the Clippers have built a really nice core and have the much better team and future right now.

Report: Raptors to begin contract extension talks with coach Dwane Casey

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors looks on from the sideline in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers 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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Entering the season, Dwane Casey’s seat was a little warm. He was not hired by the GM now in charge, and last season the Raptors had taken a step back, especially defensively.

After Toronto just ended the greatest season in franchise history — 56 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals — Casey’s job is safe. In fact, the Raptors want to make sure he sticks around a while longer, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

The Raptors and coach Dwane Casey are expected to soon begin talks on a contract extension, league sources said Friday night after Toronto’s season ended with a 113-87 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Casey has one season left on his current contract at the Raptors’ option for $4 million next season.

Both sides want to get a deal done, which usually means things happen quickly.

This is a smart move by the Raptors, clearly Casey connects with this team and knows how to get the most out of them, and he adapted well in the playoffs looking for rosters and lineups that worked. He’s the right coach for this team.

Pelicans’ rookie guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has died at age 23

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 04:  Bryce Dejean-Jones #31 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Smoothie King Center on February 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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This is a sad and stunning development.

Bryce Dejean-Jones, the rookie guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, has died, the Dallas, Texas, County Coroner has confirmed to NBC Sports. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune broke the news.

Dejean-Jones was just 23.

“It is with deep sadness that the Pelicans Organization acknowledges the sudden passing of Bryce Dejean-Jones,” the Pelicans’ organization said in a statement. “We are devastated at the loss of this young man’s life who had such a promising future ahead of him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family during this difficult time.”

The coroner’s office would not give a cause of death, but Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had the tragic detail.

The account of him being shot has been confirmed by multiple sources, including the Dallas Police Department, which released an incident report to the Dallas Morning News. Here is that report:

“On May 28, 2016, at approximately 3:20 a.m., Dallas officers responded to the 2500 block of Bennett Avenue regarding a shooting. Upon arrival officers found one individual had been shot. The resident of the apartment reported that an individual had kicked open the front door and entered his apartment. The resident, who was asleep in the bedroom, heard the individual enter and retrieved a handgun. He stated he called out to the individual, but was not answered. As the individual kicked the bedroom door, the resident fired his gun. The individual left the apartment and collapsed in the breezeway. The individual was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. This offense is documented on case number 127685-2016 and Dallas Police Homicide is conducting an investigation.”

As someone who spent years as a crime and police reporter, let’s just say come at these initial police reports of incidents — and what people tell the police — with a critical eye.

Understandably, players who knew Dejean-Jones are greiving.

Dejean-Jones was undrafted out of Iowa State, he was picked up on a 10-day contract by New Orleans this season, but the rash of injuries the Pelicans suffered pushed him into a starting role for 11 games. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game, and to his credit did shoot 37.5 percent from three. On Feb. 19 he took a hard fall and fractured his wrist, which eventually required surgery and ended his season. He was a guy known for attitude problems at the start of his college career at USC the UNLV, but had seemed to mature and his game had as well. He looked like someone who could stick as a reserve guard in the NBA.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

LeBron James first player to reach six straight finals in 50 years

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It speaks to an incredible level of talent — talent that was honed in countless hours in the gym.

It speaks to an amazing durability.

It speaks to leadership.

LeBron James has a long resume of accomplishments — two titles, four MVPs, and he hasn’t missed an All-Star Game or an All-NBA team for a decade — but he reached one of his more impressive milestones in leading the Cavaliers past the Raptors to the NBA Finals on Friday night.

LeBron has reached six straight NBA Finals.

He’s the first player to do so in 50 years.

The last guys to do this were Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy and other members of the 1950s-60s Celtics dynasty. Nobody since has done it — not Magic, Bird, Jordan, Wilt or the rest.

Yes, it helps cement LeBron’s legacy as one of the all-time greats, but more than that it’s something we need to step back and appreciate. These were all LeBron-led teams — he has been the leader on and off the court, setting the tone. That requires incredible talent and skill on the court, plus knowing how to make those guys better not just drag them along on your coat tails. It also takes incredible physical durability. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

“There’s only one LeBron James,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after his team was eliminated by James and company. “He makes a difference on whatever team he plays on.”

I can feel the typing in the comment section already: “But he’s 2-4 in the Finals, Jordan was 6-0” or “But he’s done it in a weak East” or “He keeps just jumping teams to where he has the most help.” It’s all just sad. Because LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age he faces a volume of criticism that past stars did not. It’s not that LeBron hasn’t brought some criticism on himself, but there is a need to tear him down that the mythologized Jordan never dealt with. We savored Jordan at the time; LeBron has never gotten that. Jordan took 13 NBA teams to the playoffs, six made the Finals; LeBron has taken 11 and seven are in the Finals. The thing is, it’s difficult to compare across eras in the NBA:

All of this is not to say LeBron’s record is better than Jordan’s, you and your buddies can debate that while sitting on bar stools until last call, but LeBron has been on an epic run through the peak of his career the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re a fan of the game, you should appreciate that, not try to tear it down (as if Jordan’s legacy somehow needs protecting).

What LeBron has done is a stunning accomplishment. If you’re in the same sentence with the legendary Russell Celtics teams, you’re doing something right.

Warriors/Thunder Game 6: Four things to watch as Oklahoma City tries to close out series

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors react in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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For the Thunder, it is a chance for validation and an opportunity to get the ring Kevin Durant (and Russell Westbrook, and the rest of them) crave. For the Warriors, it is their biggest test of the last two seasons. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, here are four things to watch.

1) Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson need to play better for the Thunder. After a couple of series where Waiters suddenly has been reborn as a quality NBA player who is the third playmaker the Thunder need, and after Andre Roberson dropped a career playoff high of 17 points the game before, both were MIA in Game 5. Roberson was 2-of-5 shooting and had as many points as fouls (six). Waiters didn’t hit a shot all night. This was tied to the Thunder returning to the bad habits of too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant taking on the world and OKC not enough ball movement in the halfcourt. The Scott Brooks Thunder of the past few seasons showed up in Game 5, if the Thunder fall back to those bad habits again, they will lose again.

I expect the Thunder to treat this like their Game 7 and play much better. They will have a real sense of urgency; their defense will again be energized. The question becomes can the Warriors match it?

2) Can Andrew Bogut keep the Thunder from scoring in the paint?
In Game 5, the Thunder were 8-of-18 shooting in the restricted area, and 7-of-19 in the rest of the paint. That’s not going to get it done. A lot of that was the impact Bogut had in the paint — plus he got help, the Warriors switched pick-and-rolls more, they packed the paint more and took away driving lanes. It all worked, in part because Bogut and Draymond Green played with much better energy than in previous games. Steve Kerr said he didn’t play Bogut as many minutes in the first four games due to foul trouble, he has to trust the veteran to play through fouls in this game. The Warriors have simply been better with him on the court this series and they need close to 30 minutes from him this game.

Tied to Bogut’s play…

3) Golden State defense needs to show up on the road. As noted above, the Warriors went back to a more traditional defense in Game 5 — they started guarding Roberson (rather than having a big “guard” and ignore him to protect the paint), they switched, they stayed home in the paint, and they just trusted each other and played their system better. It was a marked improvement. However, they did it at home — now they need to do it on the road, where Green, in particular, has been more prone to mistakes and frustration.

One key here worth emphasizing is the Warriors got back to switching most pick-and-rolls — that’s what they did all season, that’s part of why the “death lineup” is so successful defensively, yet in this series they increasingly went away from it (in part because of how they guarded Roberson). Switching is part of who the Warriors are, and while it will create some mismatches teams don’t want to stray too far from their core identity.

4) Stephen Curry needs to be MVP level Curry. Draymond Green needs to be his All-NBA self.
I’m not saying the same thing about Durant and Westbrook because I have no doubt they will show up with urgency in their games Saturday night. However, Curry and Draymond have been shadows of themselves in the two previous games in Oklahoma City, and if that happens again only one team is flying back to the Bay Area postgame.

Curry finished his drives a little better in Game 5, and at moments he blew by bigs switched onto him off of picks, something we have seen far less of this series than during the season. Green played well defensively in Game 5, he hit the boards hard, but he made some head-scratching offensive decisions. If the Warriors are going to force a Game 7, those two guys have to be elite in this game. The Warriors best players must lead. It’s that simple.