Baseline to Baseline recaps: LeBron beats Cleveland. Yawn.

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What you missed while learning to play a-ha on the accordion….

Heat 107, Cavaliers 91: As has been their pattern, this is another game where the Heat played down to the level of the competition. At least for three quarters — in the fourth the Heat cranked up the defense and that was enough to pull away and get a comfortable win.

The Heat’s offense was clicking all night as both Dwyane Wade (26 points) and LeBron James (24) were attacking and getting in the lane (it seemed like dunking practice for LeBron). But give the Cavaliers some credit — Kyrie Irving was the fourth best player on the court and Anderson Varejao may have been the fifth (Udonis Haslem had a good night as well). Antawn Jamison had 25 for Cleveland.

Timberwolves 86, Kings 84: Minnesota has a winning record. Let that sink in for a moment.

No Kevin Love for the Timberwolves (two game suspension for using Luis Scola as a doormat), but Nikola Pekovic started and filled in pretty well, knocking down 9-of-12 shots for 23 points, 10 rebounds, and a couple blocks. Sacamento kept it close because it was Jimmer time late, Fredette had 13 fourth quarter points. He and Isaiah Thomas pushed the pace and helped make this a game again — so why does Keith Smart take them out and put Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton back in for the final minute?

Tied 82-82 with a minute left, Ricky Rubio drove the lane and four defenders were in the paint watching him, which meant nobody was out with Derrick Williams at the three point line, he got the pass and drained it. But the Kings had their chance at the end. Rubio needs to develop a floater, because late he drove again (a little too early in the clock) with a chance to seal it but missed an awkward pull up. The Kings grabbed the miss and pushed it in transition, and in a scramble the ball came out to Donte Green, who got a good look at the game winning three, but clanked it off the rim. If the Kings ever have a good first quarter (they were down 15) they may win a game.

Pacers 104, Jazz 99: Indiana got this win thanks to a fantastic fourth quarter by Danny Granger, who had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final period and finished the game with 25 points. It took a late 8-0 run for the Pacers to secure the win at all. Credit to the Jazz for even making a game of this — the Pacers had gone on a 14-2 run early in the third quarter and were up 21, but the Jazz would not just roll over. Utah went on a 25-4 run (sparked in part by Josh Howard and C.J. Miles off the Jazz bench), Indy shot 0-for-10 during it, and we had a tie game in the fourth. Paul Millsap was playing like a beast again and had 18. But the Pacers finally responded with nice ball movement and a Darren Collison three and they took the lead for good. Another great game for Roy Hibbert, who finished with 17 and 10. This is four road losses in a row for the Jazz, who are becoming one of those home/road Jekyll/Hyde teams.

Suns 107, Bucks 105: There was a moment early in the second quarter when Michael Redd came in, drained 5-of-6 for a quick 10 points, that must have been like a flashback to the people in Milwaukee. This was not a game with a lot of defense played by either side, the result was six Suns in double figures scoring (Marcin Gortat led the way with 21) and on the other side Drew Gooden had 25 (on 21 shots). But in the end, the best player on the floor — Steve Nash — hit the game winner and dominated Brandon Jennings on the night.

Celtics 94, Bobcats 84: It was Paul Pierce’s night — he passed Larry Bird on Boston’s all-time scoring list, had 15 points (but needed 18 shots to get there), 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Late in the first half the Celtics were forcing the ball to him to get him to the record and against a better team it might have hurt them, but this is the worst team in the league they faced. Charlotte, to their credit, hung pretty close for three quarters but an 11-0 Celtics run early in the fourth put this one away. Kevin Garnett had 22 points, Rajon Rondo had 14 assists and zero turnovers. Derrick Brown was 10-for-10 shooting for Charlotte, but they just lack players who can impact the game.

Thunder 119, Warriors 116: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. The losing team in this game had an offensive rating of 117.2 in what was a fast-paced game with 99 possessions. Monta Ellis put up a blistering 48 points (on 29 shots), while on the other side Kevin Durant had 33 — do you think he meant to bank in the game winner? — and Russell Westbrook 31 (but nine turnovers). This came down to who make the plays at the end — Durant hit his game winner and blocked a Brandon Rush shot, while Ellis just could not knock down his good look. Some nights that’s the difference.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.

Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia cleared to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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These playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when Zaza Pachulia is on the court as opposed to on the bench. That’s a bit misleading, the reason for the gaudy number is he rounds out the dominant starting lineup, which has outscored teams by 32.6 points per 100 this postseason (that is actually better than the legendary “death lineup” in these playoffs). Pachulia is just the first big in the rotation with four All-Star, powerhouse players, but he fills his role well.

Pachulia was slowed by a sore right heel against the Spurs but is 100 percent and ready to go for the Finals when they tip-off Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Here are the details via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Zaza Pachulia, the only injured Warrior rotation player late in the Spurs series, has participated in all parts of all three practices, without restriction on that sore right heel. He is on track to start Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday.

“We’ve done running, had scrimmages and he’s done everything,” Mike Brown said.

He will have a crucial role on the glass against the Cavaliers. Cleveland brings two dominant rebounders to the party with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (plus that LeBron James guy can get some boards), the Warriors will use Pachulia to counter. Before you roll your eyes, he had 13 boards in the second meeting of these teams in the regular season, a blowout Golden State win.

He’s the first big in a rotation of them the Warriors will throw at Cleveland — JaVale McGee may get a little time, but expect a lot of small-ball lineups from the Warriors. If Pachulia can give Golden State a solid 18 minutes a night where he is strong on the glass and helps protect the rim, it will be huge for them.

Pachulia is going to get his shot, he’ll be healthy and ready to go.