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Baseline to Baseline recaps: Atlanta makes a playoff statement to Orlando

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What you missed while eating out of your Death Star cookie jar

Orlando knocking off the Suns was our Game of the Night.

Hawks 85, Magic 82: This was a preview of a first round playoff matchup in the east (Orlando is locked in at the four seed, Atlanta the five). These two teams met in the playoffs last year and the Magic just abused the Hawks and swept them in four games. Atlanta has sent a message — it will not be so easy this time.

Jason Collins held Dwight Howard to 4-of-13 shooting, providing the big defensive stopper in the paint the Hawks have needed. (Al Horford is a four forced to play the five the last few years.) Collins got Howard in foul trouble. Howard still had 17 points and 13 rebounds — you can’t stop the man — but he was not dominant. Collins was kryptonite to Dwight’s Superman.

Atlanta led most of the second half, but a late 8-0 run (fueled by Howard’s six straight points and capped by a Jameer Nelson layup) tied the game at 82-82 with 1:10 left. But then Joe Johnson hit a big one, a running 8 footer, Nelson missed a couple shots on the other end, Turkoglu missed a desperation three at the buzzer and the Hawks get the win.

Atlanta wet 3-1 against the Magic this season. There will be now blowout sweep in the playoffs this time.

Knicks 120, Nets 116: That is what Carmelo Anthony can get you. The Nets were up 10 at the half because the Knicks couldn’t be bothered to play defense and were getting out worked in pretty much every aspect of the game. Then ‘Melo put up 20 in the third and we had a ballgame. Talent still wins out in this league most nights and the Knicks have more of it — ‘Melo, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups combined for 95 points. (Depth? What depth? It’s all in Denver.) The other key: New Jersey had 16 turnovers, New York 5.

Sixers 104, Rockets 98: Interesting game between two teams that are making a playoff push. With the game on the line the Rockets went cold, shooting 1-for-9 in a stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Sixers pulled away and picked up another quality win. This is a good team and one that will push one of the East’s big three in the first round.

Kyle Lowry is just playing amazing basketball. Don’t know what he’s been eating, but I want some. He had 19 points in this one.

Bucks 104, Raptors 98: In a matchup of the league’s second worst offense (Bucks) and worst defense (Raptors) we saw that the Bucks can score if you don’t guard them. Brandon Jennings hit 8-of-18 shots for 25 points and added seven assists to lead Milwaukee.

Bobcats 98, Cavaliers 97: Cleveland carried its momentum over from the night before. The Bobcats are desperate for wins to stay in the playoff chase. That led to an entertaining game. Not well played, but entertaining.

With the game tied late, Charlotte Boris Diaw drew a foul from Ryan Hollins (borderline call at best) and hit one of two free throws to get the Bobcats the lead. The Cavs had time but Ramon Sessions dribbled into a no-mans land then picked up his dribble and had to call a timeout. Off the inbounds play Anthony Parker had room but took time and Dominic McGuire made the aggressive play leaving his man to come out of nowhere and get the block to save the game.

Pacers 111, Pistons 101: Indiana took control of this game in the second quarter and then started the third on a 17-5 run that had them up 25. Rodney Stuckey led a fourth quarter charge with 14 points in the quarter but it was not near enough. Indiana needed the win to stay one game up on Charlotte for the eight seed in the East.

Heat 123, Wizards 107: The Wizards have played the Heat tough in every game this season (the three Heat wins over the Wizards before this game were by less than 10 points). But after a John Wall got ejected the Wizards were just overmatched. Jordan Crawford dropped 39 but there just wasn’t enough. Miami’s big three combined for 94 points.

Bulls 108, Timberwolves 91: No Joakim Noah but it didn’t matter, the Bulls defense was there and it held Minnesota to 19 first quarter points. Chicago was up 11 after one and pulled away from there. The Wolves scored at just a 98.9 points per 100 possessions pace. Derrick Rose had 23, Carlos Boozer 24 for Chicago.

Grizzlies 110, Warriors 91: Memphis was going to dominate the paint in this matchup, the Warriors were going to have to dominate the perimeter to have a chance. They shot just 6-of-21 from three. Game over.

Hornets 95, Trail Blazers 91: This should have felt like a playoff game, with big seeding questions for both teams, but both teams looked flat for stretches. Problem for Portland was one of those stretches was the start of the fourth quarter when the Hornets went on a 16-4 run to take a lead they never gave up. Willie Green had 10 in the fourth quarter for the Hornets.

Nuggets 104, Kings 90: Tyreke Evans had 22 points and looked like his old self, but Denver was the better team. The Nuggets got to the line 16 more times than the Kings, were better on the offensive glass and just played better team basketball.

Mavericks 106, Clippers 100: The Clippers made a couple of late runs to make this closer than it should have been, but J.J. Barea had 16 points in the fourth quarter and helped Dallas get the win.

Playoff Preview: Five question to answer in Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, left, looks to pass as Toronto Raptors' Corey Joseph (6) and Bismack Biyombo defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The last of the four second round — or, conference semi-finals if you prefer — will tip off Tuesday with two teams that had to go seven games in the first round. That means mentally tired players who had little time to prep for Game 1 — expect some sloppy play at points. Here are five things to watch that could decide the series.

1) With a series win that led to a sigh of relief throughout Canada, will the Raptors play more free and loose? Toronto was tight in its first round series, and it was obvious to everyone. Never was that more evident than the final seven minutes of Game 7, when the Raptors had a 16-point lead and got conservative with a time-killing “prevent offense” that almost squandered the entire lead and the game. Toronto hung on thanks to some slashing Kyle Lowry layups and some Pacers turnovers, but you could see how the pressure got to this team.

If the Raptors play anywhere near that tight in the next round, they are toast. Miami showed in the first round they have guys who know how to close out games — Dwyane Wade leads that charge, but those guys are up and down the roster. Miami will not wilt late in games; we don’t know if that is true of Toronto.

2) Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will have more room to operate, what will they do with it? After having Paul George (on DeRozan) and George Hill (on Lowry) draped all over them last series, the slower Heat defenders in the starting lineup will mean more room for the Raptors guards to operate. Wade, Goran Dragic, and Joe Johnson are not great defenders, the question is can the Raptors take advantage of that extra space? DeRozan will attack as he did in Game 7 against the Pacers, but he needs to be more efficient (he needed 32 shots to get 30 points in that final game). Lowry hasn’t been his All-Star level self for the last month of the season, whether due to a bad elbow (which has been drained) or something else we don’t know about. Whatever the reason, Toronto needs All-Star Lowry to win this series — and Miami did a good job making Kemba Walker work for his shots and be inefficient last round.

Two things to watch from Miami. First, how quickly will coach Erik Spoelstra go to Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson off the bench — those rookies are the best perimeter defenders the Heat have (along with Luol Deng, who will get time on DeRozan). Spoelstra will lean on them heavily in this series. Probably more and more each game. The second thing to watch is rim protection, which leads us to….

3) Can Hassan Whiteside stay out of foul trouble and on the floor protecting the rim? Lowry isn’t afraid to shoot the three and will make teams pay that give him space beyond the arc, but the core of his game is to drive and create. DeMar DeRozan avoids the three like he tries to avoid eating too much poutine in season — he wants to drive and attack. That is what the entire Raptors offense is based around.

Which is why Hassan Whiteside and his shot blocking is crucial to Miami’s chances this round — if Lowry and DeRozan drive and get shots erased or altered by Whiteside, an essential part of the Toronto attack becomes far less efficient. The challenge for Whiteside will be staying out of foul trouble — not only can DeRozan draw fouls with the best of them, but also the Raptors will post up Jonas Valanciunas and have him go at Whiteside, looking to tack on some fouls. If Whiteside can stay on the court it is a huge boost for Miami.

4) Conversely, how is Toronto going to protect the paint? Miami’s season took off after the All-Star break when Spoelstra’s hand was forced by the Chris Bosh injury and he went small with Luol Deng at the four. The result was an aggressive, attacking Heat team that gets a lot of points in the paint off drives (and in transition). When Charlotte was able to slow the pace and protect the paint with a big lineup that forced Miami to shoot jumpers, Miami struggled. Valanciunas gives the Raptors quality offense and a big body inside, but he’s not a rim protector. Miami is going to attack and the Raptors need to limit the Heat’s efficiency.

One way to do that may be more Bismack Biyombo off the bench.

5) How are Raptors going to defend Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic? The match-ups for Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey are not ideal. Expect Lowry to matchup on Dragic for much of the series, which may not go well for Miami defensively. But the bigger challenge is DeRozan needs to guard Wade, Johnson, or Deng (who had a strong offensive first round) — Miami can attack wherever he plays. Toronto’s guards also are smaller and we could see a lot of Heat post ups this series.

Prediction: Miami in six. This is not a prediction I feel strongly about, I’d say it’s about 60 percent this and 40 percent Toronto in seven — the Raptors have a real chance in this series. But I think the matcheups favor Miami slightly, Miami was the better team after the All-Star break with a better defense, and the Heat are the team I trust to close out tight games.

Your daily Kings coaching search update: Add Jeff Hornacek, Corliss Williamson to the list

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 18:  Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the Phoenix Suns reacts on the bench during the second half of the NBA game against the Chicago Bulls at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 18, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Bulls defeated the Suns 103-97. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Give Vlade Divac and the Kings credit for this: They said they were going to cast a wide net and interview a lot of people for their head coaching position, and he is doing just that.

Two more names popped up as guys who will get interviews — former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, and Corliss Williamson.

Hornacek and Williamson join Mark Jackson, Luke Walton, Nate McMillan, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodson, Sam Mitchell, Kevin McHale, Patrick Ewing, and David Blatt as guys that the Kings have at least reached out to, if not outright interviewed.

Who is the frontrunner? We’ll see when the second round of interviews start. Someday. Divac and the Kings are in no rush, and know they need to nail this hire.

Portland’s coach Terry Stotts has no contract after this season, but that will change soon

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 17: Head coach Terry Stotts of the Portland Trail Blazers follows the action against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Portland’s Terry Stotts came in second in the Coach of the Year voting after taking a Portland team expected to be in the bottom of the West to the second round of the playoffs (where they currently are facing Golden State). He’s earned a raise.

Which he will get. But once the Trail Blazers’ season ends Stotts will be a man without a contract, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today. Just don’t expect that situation to last long.

Speaking of paydays, Portland coach Terry Stotts should be due for one in the not-so-distant future. Yet Stotts, the former head coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee who came to the Blazers in 2012 after four years as a Dallas Mavericks assistant, has a team option on his contract for next season that has yet to be picked up. What’s more, according to a person with knowledge of his situation, he has yet to discuss a possible extension with Blazers management.

The person expressed optimism that a deal will eventually get done, but one never truly knows until it happens. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of that process.

As other reports have noted, just don’t expect this to last long.  For one thing, Trail Blazer players love him. Portland’s GM Neil Olshey is one of the smartest in the business, and it would be a pretty stupid move to let Stotts go, Olshey just doesn’t like to talk contracts during the season. Once it ends (likely to Golden State in the next couple weeks) a new deal will get worked out.

Stotts made $3 million this season, which was pretty close to average when he signed his deal but low now. Expect him to get a deal at around $5 million a year and maybe for five years — he has earned that security. And that raise.

Kyrie Irving had sensational block on Dennis Schroder (VIDEO)

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At this point the game was pretty much decided, the Cavaliers were up 11 with :50 to go, but the Hawks were not giving up. Not point guard Dennis Schroder,  who tried to use his speed to get a quick two with a layup.

Kyrie Irving shut him down.

Irving had 21 points on the night and hit some threes that the Cavaliers needed. He had a strong game.

And we may see more of this matchup, as Schroder scored 27 points and was the best Hawk player on the night, earning more run in Game 2.