Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Sixers are legit

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What you missed while rock climbing with your 2-year-old strapped to your back

Sixers 98, Bulls 82: The 76ers are legit. That fast start wasn’t the soft schedule, they are a quality squad.

Good ball movement will beat even the best defense, and that’s what the story was here. They have balance — five guys with 14 points or more, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young each had 19 — and you can’t defend it. They have a versatility, which let’s them select the matchup they want then pick-and-roll it all night. They don’t turn the ball over (but Chicago did). Philly controlled this game most of the way and the Bulls rested their starters the fourth quarter (Chicago was without Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton). Derrick Rose had 18, C.J. Watson had 20 off the bench.

Bucks 105, Heat 97: Miami scored 40 points in the first quarter — LeBron James had 23 alone (he finished with 40) — and the team shot 82 percent. Miami was up 16 points after 12 minutes. And the rout was on.

Except nobody told the Bucks. The Heat played their worst ball of the season in the final 36 minutes, particularly on the defensive end (although the turnovers were almost as bad). The Bucks to their credit didn’t just roll over. Milwaukee started the second half on a 13-2 run to make it close, then they started the fourth quarter on a 22-3 run to take a 17-point lead. Brandon Jennings had 20 points in the second half and had a monster game.

The Bucks made that entire run with Stephen Jackson on the bench, he only played in the first quarter (and got worn out by a hot LeBron). The Bucks now have beaten Miami twice this season.

Magic, 109, Wizards 103: After four straight losses Magic will take the win, even if they let the team with the worst offense in the NBA put up 103 on them. The Magic’s defense was bad (except on John Wall who hit just 1-of-12 shots but did have 10 assists). Their offense was good enough to counter it — Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson each had 23, J.J. Redick had 21.

Celtics 100, Raptors 64: If you type “what does a rout look like?” into Google, videos of this game should come up. Boston took over with a 16-1 run in the first quarter, Kevin Garnett played just 5 minutes in the second half.

Nets 99, Pistons 96: The Nets had the best player on the floor by far in Deron Williams, he had 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. In a game like this — a bucket of slop — having the best player gets you the win.

Pacers 109, Timberwolves 99: The first half saw a display of what you can call good defense or bad shooting, depending on if you’re a glass half full guy or not. The second half was the Danny Granger show, as he had 27 of his 36 points after the break — plus a little dustup with Kevin love — to lead the Pacers to the win.

Thunder 95, Mavericks 86: The Thunder had their best defensive game of the season — Serge Ibaka le the way with 10 blocks and the OKC defense held the Mavericks to 35.7 percent shooting on the night. That was the story. Russell Westbrook had 12 of his 33 in the fourth quarter.

Suns 120, Hornets 103: Steve Nash returned after missing several games with a thigh injury and exploded for 30 points and 10 assists to lead Phoenix to a win.

Spurs 99, Rockets 91: Houston led by as many as 19 and seemed in control until an 11-0 run made it close midway through the third. San Antonio closed the game on a 12-2 run to get the win. Tim Duncan had 16 third quarter points to lead that charge and Tony Parker had 11 in the second half as well (they were the only Spurs in double figures for the game). The Spurs spread the floor with shooters in the second half and with them knocking down shots the Rockets could not keep up.

Trail Blazers 112, Bobcats 68: Man, the Bobcats are terrible. Just awful. It’s really hard to describe.

Clippers 107, Jazz 105: The Clippers have beaten Denver in Denver, Oklahoma City, and now Utah in Utah within a week. They are legit and getting better each game. The Clips executed better down the stretch, thanks in large part to Chris Paul, who had 12 of his 34 in the fourth quarter and was masterful. Blake Griffin had 31 points, 14 boards and three blocks. Al Jefferson had 27 for the Jazz, who got a good amount of points but could not stop the Clipper offense, which is a juggernaut.

LeBron James, Cavaliers advance past Celtics to meet Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals

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Let’s line it up and run it again. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are going to meet in the 2017 NBA Finals after LeBron James and the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Thursday, 135-102.

It wasn’t much of a contest from the outset as Cleveland looked determined to put away their opponent. The Cavaliers played strong, shot well from 3-point range, and forced the Celtics into 18 turnovers over the course of the game.

The Cavaliers set a franchise playoff record in the first half, scoring 75 points in the first two periods. LeBron had 20 before the third quarter started, putting him just inches away from passing Michael Jordan to top the list for most points scored in NBA playoff history.

That moment came in the third quarter, with James dropping in a sweet 3-pointer from the left side of the arc to push him past Jordan. LeBron finished the game with 35 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range will adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Kyrie Irving was another bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points to go along with seven assists. Kevin Love added 15 points, and Deron Williams had a rejuvenation off the bench with 14.

For Boston, yet another game without Isaiah Thomas forced their offense into stagnation. Avery Bradley — who had a considerable series in an effort that should not be overlooked — scored 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Gerald Green was Boston’s second-leading scorer in a bench role, adding 14 points.

Now we get to wait until June 1, when what seemed an inevitability way back in training camp has indeed come to pass. The Warriors get their shot at redemption after the worst breakdown in NBA playoff history, and the Cavaliers get a chance to solidify themselves over their peers and galvanize LeBron’s position as the best player of a generation.

The Finals don’t start for anther week. We’ll all be champing at the bit to see if Cleveland really does have what it takes to guard the Warriors offense. Likewise, a top defensive team in Golden State will need to prepare themselves for the LeBron that showed up against the Celtics in Game 1 and 2.

LeBron James passes Michael Jordan for most NBA career playoff points

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LeBron James is now above Michael Jordan in one very important, objective area. On Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, LeBron passed Michael Jordan for the most playoff points scored in NBA history.

James’ historic moment came in the third quarter of Game 5, with the Cavaliers up by double-digits.

LeBron passed Jordan with a 3-pointer that came from the left side of the arc.

Via Twitter:

The Cavaliers look poised to meet the Golden State Warriors yet again in the NBA Finals.

Cavaliers set franchise record, score 75 points in first half vs. Celtics (VIDEO)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers looked ready to put the Boston Celtics away in the first half of Game 5 on Thursday night. With LeBron James just inches away from becoming the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, the No. 2 seed exploded on the Celtics in Boston.

The result of the first two periods was James scoring 20 points, Kyrie Irving adding 11, and Kevin Love dropping 12 points.

Oh, and the Cavaliers set a franchise record for points scored in the first half of playoff game.

Via Twitter:

The play may or may not have been a goaltend by Al Horford, but officials saw it that way and gave Cleveland the points just seconds before the half ended.

Rumor: After spurning Celtics, Lonzo Ball is considering working out for 76ers

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UCLA guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be a Top 2 pick in June’s 2017 NBA Draft, but he won’t be working out for the Boston Celtics. If Danny Ainge wants to select Ball No. 1 overall, he will have to do so without seeing him up close and 1-on-1.

But if the Philadelphia 76ers (owners of the No. 3 pick) want to see Ball … well that could be arranged. Maybe.

According to a report from ESPN, Ball’s camp is considering a workout with the Sixers if they can get more information about the team situation.

Via ESPN:

A final decision will be made once Ball’s agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN.

That dialogue is expected within the coming weeks. Most expect Ball to be off the board after the first two selections.

Of course, the situation in Philadelphia for Ball is excellent. The thing they need is backcourt help, which is why a move up for Markelle Fultz might make sense for them. That or drafting one of the two if either fall to No. 3. The Sixers have also been linked to Kyle Lowry, who is a free agent this summer. The Sixers have talked for a year about using Ben Simmons as their point guard, so they’ll need some amalgam to get a working situation put together.

In short, Philadelphia’s plan is to:

  • Sign / draft a guard
  • Win a lot of games

Where Ball doesn’t fit into that is a mystery, even if the 76ers end up grabbing another guard.

If you can’t read between the lines — or read the giant sign LaVar Ball might as well be holding up behind his son everywhere he goes — this seems mostly like a hilariously transparent way to add pressure on the Los Angeles Lakers to select Ball at No. 2.

Will this strategy work? No. Is this necessary? Probably not! Magic Johnson already said he thinks Ball is the player that most resembles him in this draft, an equally transparent signal.

The Lakers are going to select Ball at No. 2. Or they won’t.

If they don’t it will be for reasons outside what Ball’s camp can influence, the potential for workouts with the team directly below them (but not the team above them) in the draft notwithstanding. He certainly won’t slide beyond No. 3. But the combination of both not working out for the Celtics and offering the idea that Ball might work out for the Sixers is extremely clumsy — and unnecessary — media work.

And to think we have a whole career of this to go. Strap in! I’m here for it if you are.