Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat

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

3 Comments

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.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

1 Comment

With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
5 Comments

The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.