Baseline to Baseline recaps: No LeBron, no Wade, no problem

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What you missed while wondering what a crocodile would do with a lawn mower

Heat 116, Hawks 109 (3OT): No LeBron James or Dwyane Wade for Miami, yet the Heat were gritty (a little lucky) and get an unexpected win. This game was entertaining and dramatic, much more so than we expected going in. But can we be honest — the Hawks played terribly.

I like how Atlanta came out and stepped up the ball pressure to start, even in the back court. That was about the only thing I liked that they did. Jeff Teague should tear up the Heat point guards but he was unimpressive. Joe Johnson should have been the best wing player on the floor by a mile, but he was going half speed. Al Horford should have owned this game but he seemed a spectator. The Hawks best, most steady player was Ivan Johnson. Who, you ask? Exactly.

The game was dramatic, and once again Tracy McGrady was fantastic in the fourth quarter. But Chris Bosh sent the game to overtime with a three that is not really in his bag of tricks but it worked this time. Bosh finished with 33 points.

In the third overtime (and really much of the second half, it was Mario Chalmers who rode to the rescue for the Heat. This was a nice win for Miami. It’s the kind of game that makes you wonder if anything is different in Atlanta.

Trail Blazers 107, Lakers 97: The Portland Trail Blazers are the best team in the West right now.

They are atop the conference standings at 5-1 and this week have beaten both the Thunder and now Lakers. We’ve got questions about whether they can perform like this come playoff time, but as of early January they are playing better than anyone in the West.

In the first half the Lakers did what they wanted to on offense, getting the ball inside first as Andrew Bynum had 14 points on 7-7 shooting, plus Kobe Bryant had 17 points on 8-of-11. As a team, the Lakers shot 64 percent.

In the second half Portland stepped up their pressure — they played better defense and attacked the Lakers off missed shots. The Lakers started to settle for jump shots, hit just 32 percent of their shots for the half and Portland just ran. Gerald Wallace had 10 points in the third quarter alone while LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 28. Jamal Crawford created his own shots on the wing to the tune of 17 points and the Lakers wish they had somebody like that.

Spurs 93, Dallas 71: Sort of like the Heat, no Manu Ginobili and still no problem. This was the fourth game in five nights for an older Mavericks team and it showed, they looked old and tired. Dirk Nowitzki had just 6 points and got outplayed by Matt Boner (a team high 17 points), only two Mavs scored in double digits (Jason Terry and Delonte West) and as a team Dallas shot 1-of-19 from three. Both teams shot under 40 percent for the game, this one just wasn’t very pretty. But for a Spurs team without Manu Ginobili, this is a win they could use.

Kings 103, Bucks 100: Keith Smart is undefeated as Kings coach. The Bucks dominated the first half and were up 21 points in the third when things started to come apart. Marcus Thonton had 25 points in the second half for the Kings to lead the charge. Stephen Jackson had his chances for the Bucks, he wanted the ball and didn’t do much with it, finishing with 13. That includes a last a missed shot from the block to t The Bucks sure could have used Andrew Bogut back.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.