Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs get top seed, Heat slip back

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What you missed while barking at a police dog….

Bucks 90, Heat 85: No Dwyane Wade in this one due to his thigh bruise, and the Heat are now 3-2 when he sits. It didn’t help that Chris Bosh floated around the perimeter this game (except during the Heat’s one fourth quarter run, not so coincidentally) and LeBron’s shot was not sharp (10-of-22). The Bucks offense was better for a night with some nice ball movement. Where has that been all season?

Magic 111, Charlotte 102 (OT): If it hadn’t been for a 19-4 fourth-quarter run sparked by the Magic bench, they would have joined the ranks of the upset tonight. Orlando started the overtime on a 9-0 run and that was it. Not a good defensive effort from either team here. Charlotte is out of the playoff hunt now; the Pacers are the eight seed.

Knicks 97, Sixers 92: Big win for the Knicks as this moves them back into the six spot in the East (meaning likely Miami in the first round, if the Knicks can hold on). Carmelo Anthony had 31 in this game, which is what he has averaged on the Knicks five-game winning streak.

Warriors 95, Lakers 87: Two consecutive Lakers losses to non-playoff teams — that means time to panic in Los Angeles. (Not really, but some fans will.) The Lakers put up a sad offensive rating of 94.6, they were not moving without the ball, and Lakers not named Bryant or Gasol shot just 34.8 percent (Bryant and Gasol shot 54.8 percent together). The Lakers turned the ball over 17 times and the Warriors had 18 rebounds. Golden State also got a combined 68 points out of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee.

Spurs 124, Kings 92: This win clinched the top seed in the West for the Spurs — and they did it with offense. Which is fitting as that is how they got the top seed. This game was close at the half but the Spurs shot 61 percent in the second half, and George Hill’s 12 third quarter points helped that along. Expect the Spurs to start cutting back the minutes of their stars now (if not have them sit entire games).

Nuggets 104, Mavericks 96: Tuesday, J.R. Smith sat on the bench during the key moments of a close game, and Denver lost. Wednesday he played and took over the end of this game. He had two threes and a driving layup as part of a late 10-0 Nugget run to seal the win. There was also a Sean Marion sighting — 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting plus 10 boards.

Pacers 136, Wizards 112: Blistering pace — 106 possessions — and it felt like the 1980s again. Well, the 1980s games where nobody played no defense, anyway. The Wizards transition… no, really all of their defense was weak. The Pacers shot 59.5 percent, got out to a 14 point lead after one quarter and ran away and hid.

Pistons 116, Nets 109: This game was not televised, anywhere, so we’re not convinced it actually happened. The whole “if a tree fell in the forest…” thing. (Why no television? The YES Network chose to show the Yankee game, and Fox Sports went with the Twins.)

Cavaliers 104, Raptors 96: With this move Cleveland moves half a game ahead of Minnesota for the worst record in the NBA. Cleveland is out of the cellar and has won two straight. Which leads to the question: What are they doing? If ever you were going to tank for the lottery, this might have been the time. Whatever.

Our own John Krolic had the best line about this game at his Cavs blog, saying the Raptors are “peacefully protesting defense.” Yet, somehow there are reports that coach Jay Triano may be safe at the end of the season. This is two years in a row with the worst defense in the NBA, folks.

Hornets 101, Rockets 93: This loss does not mathematically remove the Rockets from playoff consideration, but for all practical purposes it does. Kyle Lowry has been awesome lately, really fantastic, but Chris Paul reminded him what the best point guard in the game can look like. Big night for the Hornets’ backup point guard Jarrett Jack off the bench, too.

Suns 108, Timberwolves 98: Largely a battle of the benches since neither team is playoff bound. Phoenix has the better one.

Thunder 112, Clippers 108: The Clippers will not just roll over and die, they shot 50.6 percent and hit 6-13 threes (although some of that was due to lackadaisical defense from the Thunder). That meant the Thunder never quite put the Clippers away (the largest lead was 12) but they also never trailed in the second half, and the game never felt in doubt. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were a combined 19-for-45.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.

Stephon Marbury is parting ways with Beijing Ducks after three titles

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Stephon Marbury is big in China — he has his own statue and a play in his honor.

In six seasons he led the Beijing Ducks to three titles, but eventually rebuilding hits every team and it is coming to Beijing. Which means that while Marbury wants to stay in China beyond this season he is essentially a free agent. Here are the details, via shanghaiist.com (this has been confirmed by other sources).

The 40-year-old former NBA All-Star had a contract with Beijing for the next season that included an unusual clause allowing the team to decide if Marbury — known to fans as “Old Ma” — would return as a player or as an assistant coach. Marbury has said that after his playing days are over, he wants to coach in China; however, he still feels he could play for one more year.

But, after missing the playoffs this past season, Beijing is looking to rebuild and didn’t want their aging superstar clogging up a precious foreign player roster spot. The Ducks announced at a press conference on Saturday that after being unable to negotiate a deal, they were going to terminate Marbury’s contract.

Marbury put out a letter to fans on Weibo — a Chinese social media site — that Shanghaiist excerpted.

Second, we did not make the playoffs in the past season, as a player who always want to win and work hard to prepare myself for winning, it’s very hard to accept the way the season ended. Though I am 40 years already, I still work very hard to keep my body right, I can still play at a very high level, I am sure all the fans could tell from last season I’m still capable of playing. I was still able to lead the team to compete, even with an injured leg. I pulled my hamstring at the beginning of the season and I still played and put everything on the court because that’s who I am. I want to play, I love to compete, I [pursue] winning all the time, l love basketball because it’s my life, I still have a lot in the tank that [makes] me really want to play for another year. I want to dedicate this last year of my career in the best way possible on the court for the CBA, then I’ll retire and work as a coach to help the basketball here for the rest of my life.

Marbury had a 13-year NBA career (and was a two-time All-Star) but things got a little messy for him around the end of his career in the Association. Then he found a second life in China. A lot of Western players struggle to adjust to a very different culture and environment in China — not to mention a different style of basketball — so the league has a high drop out of Western players

However, Marbury has thrived. He’s found a second home.

I have to imagine a lot of teams would leap to get a draw like him on their team for a season.