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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.

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.

Damian Lillard gets tested by Warriors, looks for rebound

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) First it was a chest cold, then it was a fourth-quarter dry spell. The start of Damian Lillard‘s playoff series against the Golden State Warriors has been rough.

And as Lillard goes, often the rest of the Trail Blazers follow.

Portland is down 2-0 in its Western Conference semifinal series against the defending NBA champions. And it certainly won’t get much easier when the series shifts north Saturday – even though presumptive league MVP Stephen Curry is unlikely to return from a knee injury.

But Lillard and his team have a history of stepping up after getting knocked down. In fact, that’s been the theme of their whole season.

“I know the kind of guys I’m running with. Besides that, we’ve answered the call all season long. We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away. We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different,” he said.

Lillard, who averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists during the regular season, scored 25 points in the Blazers’ 110-99 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night, including 17 points in the third quarter. But the Warriors held him scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) in the crucial final period when they came from behind to win, outscoring Portland 34-12. Portland only scored six points over the last 5:21.

With a day off on Wednesday, Lillard let the loss digest.

“After the game I was pretty frustrated by not being able to finish that game. Yesterday I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t even gonna watch the playoff game until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of 3s. So I wanted to see for myself, but I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball after that game.”

In the series opener, Lillard started cold but eventually scored 30 points in a 118-106 loss. The Oakland native admitted later to battling a cold afterward. On Thursday, he said he was healthy.

Lillard made a playoff splash in 2014 when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Rockets sent the Blazers into the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But he was the lone starter left with the Blazers this season after the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Some expected the Blazers to only win about two dozen games.

Lillard tends to rise when he’s the underdog, however. Led by Lillard and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, a first-year starter, the Blazers overcame a 2-10 stretch in November to wind up the fifth seed in the West.

A two-time All-Star, Lillard was snubbed this year. How did he respond? By dropping 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over – wait for it – the Golden State Warriors. Lillard shot over Curry at will in that Feb. 19 victory, one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.

Knowing the Blazers are capable will be key Saturday night.

“We’ll have bounce. We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the opening round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Having energy, having bounce, at the Moda Center, with our crowd? That’s the least of our concerns.”

Lillard also struggled in the opening two games against the Clippers in the first round. Portland came back to win the next four to win the series, but the Clippers were hurt when their top two scorers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were knocked out with injuries.

The Warriors also get credit for Lillard’s struggles after making defensive adjustments on both Lillard and McCollum, particularly the play of Festus Ezeli.

“They are so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond (Green), those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Lillard said the Blazers would learn from it.

“It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth,” he said. “The entire season has been growth for us.”

Erik Spoelstra calls Frank Vogel’s firing “disturbing”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  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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One thing that’s a constant in the NBA: coaches always stick up for each other. That’s what happened on Thursday, when Pacers president Larry Bird announced that he was letting Frank Vogel go. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached against Vogel in three memorable playoff series during the big three era, was unhappy to hear the news of Vogel’s fate and lamented the state of coaching, which has very little job security.

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I think it’s really disturbing, actually. I’ve only been a head coach for eight years. So what am I, the second-longest-tenured?” Spoelstra asked, with Casey in his sixth season as Toronto coach and only Gregg Popovich, in his 20th season with the San Antonio Spurs, on the bench longer. “That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now and stability of organizations.”

Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle are the second longest-tenured coaches in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich. Already this offseason, there have been five coaching changes in addition to Vogel’s: Luke Walton replaced Byron Scott with the Lakers, Tom Thibodeau replaced Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves, Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman in Washington, and the Rockets and Kings jobs are still unfilled. The Knicks job could potentially turn over as well, if Phil Jackson opts not to bring back Kurt Rambis.

This is on top of five coaches who were fired during the season: Kevin McHale in Houston, Derek Fisher in New York, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Lionel Hollins in Brooklyn and David Blatt in Cleveland. That’s a third of the league since the 2015-16 season began. Spoelstra is right about the instability, but that’s part of the business.

Photos: Bucks unveil interior of new arena

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks runs down court during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Milwaukee Bucks are set to open their new arena in time for the start of the 2018-19 season, and now they’ve unveiled the first renderings of the inside of the building. They’re pretty nice.

Here’s the court:

There will also be several public bars out in the concourse:

It’s decidedly more modern than the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center, although that building is one of the most fun atmospheres in the league to watch a game in. Hopefully the new place can recapture that vibe.