Deshawn Stevenson

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Time to fear Brook Lopez?

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What you missed while you were spilling beer on the German Chancellor….

Nets 93, Mavericks 92: Dallas, you did a terrible job of trying to impress Deron Williams and make him want to join your roster. Starting late in the third quarter the Mavericks went on an 0-13 shooting streak, they didn’t have a field goal in the fourth quarter until the 3:30 mark. Their sets on their final two possessions were unimpressive and sloppy. On the night they generally looked old and a step slow. A lot of teams would have beaten the Mavs handily, but this is the Nets so it took a couple late free throws from Brook Lopez to seal the win at the end.

Lopez had a monster night overall, finishing with 38 points. They are not a good team with Lopez back in the lineup, but the Nets are a much better one than they showed the first half of the season.

Timberwolves 109, Clippers 97: This was a game where you kept waiting for the Clippers to run away and hide from the Timberwolves. Blake Griffin was getting to the rim at will (he had 30 points) and Chris Paul could spin into the lane whenever he wanted (27 points). But the Timberwolves just hung around. They started double-teaming Griffin in the fourth quarter and that shut Griffin down. Then it was all the Minny bench — Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley each had 13 in the fourth quarter, 27 for the game, and it was the Timberwolves who pulled away for the win. With the game close late, the execution and ball movement of the Timberwolves was just vastly superior.

Celtics 86, Cavaliers 83: Credit due to Kyrie Irving, he got the best of Rajon Rondo — 24-0. That is right, Rondo had no points in this one, although he did have 11 dimes. It’s not a pretty win for the Celtics, but it snaps a five-game losing steak, so they will take it.

Pacers 102, Warriors 78: After just limping into the All-Star break, this looked like the Pacers we know. Indiana took control of this one with an 11-1 run right before then half. Then Danny Granger dropped 15 of his team-high 25 in the third and the Pacers pulled away.

Sixers 97, Pistons 68: Philly had lost five straight but looked rested and ready in this one. It was close for a quarter, then Thaddeus Young had 12 points in the third quarter helping the Sixers on an 11-0 run and that was the ball game. Six Philly players scored in double figures.

Bucks 119, Wizards 118: This was fun as it was up-tempo all night and that plays right into the wheelhouse of Brandon Jennings and John Wall, those two took turns getting into the lane at will. Wall looked like he had the game winner late but Jennings got into the lane and… missed. But Ersan Ilyasova was there for the game winning tip. Mike Dunleavy might have been the difference as he had 28 points on 17 shots off the bench.

Rockets 88, Raptors 85: Toronto fought their way back into this one, down 13 they made of game of it. But Kyle Lowry scored 7 of his 26 down in the fourth quarter for the win. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 17 but sat the entire fourth quarter — coach Dwane Casey said he wanted to ride the hot hand, but DeRozan was their hottest hand on the night. The Rockets are just solid.

Bulls 99, Hornets 95: This game was tied at 95-95 as the Hornets had come from 11 down to a real game of it. Then Derrick Rose happened — he hit a jumper with 19 seconds left to put the Bulls up two, then blocked a Jarrett Jack shot to tie it. A couple more Rose free throws gave him 32 points and the Bulls the win.

Kings 103, Jazz 96: Really entertaining game for the Sacramento fans, who were already pretty delirious about the new arena. Utah normally wins because Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are a formidable front line, but DeMarcus Cousins was the best big man in this game and finished with 22. When he plays like this you can see all the promise right there. Devin Harris had a great game and looked like the Harris of old with 18 points — is somebody being showcased for a trade?

Watch Stephen Curry’s late lockdown defense (video)

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Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant might not think much of Stephen Curry‘s defense – Durant gave a great and tremendously honest answer – but Curry was at his defensive best late in the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the Thunder last night.

Curry locked up Durant multiple times. Also included in that clip: Curry’s rebound in traffic, because rebounding is a key part of defense.

The Draymond Green kicking controversy continued through Game 5

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 26:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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We’ve shown you the video evidence beforeDraymond Green tries to sell calls by kicking. Despite the Flagrant 2 he picked up for one of those kicks that connected with Steven Adams‘ groin, he said he was never going to start playing “careful.”

He certainly didn’t in Game 5 — he got his foot up high not once but twice.

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As we said back when it happened, the league needs to come down harder on this next season — Green is far from the only player who does it, and the league can’t only call it a foul when it connects. The habit needs to be broken with all the players doing it.

Those kicks were not even the play were Green got a technical foul, his fifth of the playoffs (get to seven and you get an automatic one-game suspension).

Did Kevin Durant throw shade at Stephen Curry’s defense? Does Curry care?

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In the fourth quarter Thursday night, Stephen Curry came up big — on defense. He had a strip of a Kevin Durant shot as KD tried to bring the ball up for a shot, plus he had another steal. Curry is no lock down defender, but he made some plays.

After the game, Durant was asked if Curry is an underrated defender (video above). First, notice that Russell Westbrook laughs at the question — he hates giving opposing players compliments. Remember he said before the series Curry wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before. Durant stammered at first then tried to give a more diplomatic answer, but threw a little shade at Curry in the process.

“You know, he’s pretty good, but he doesn’t guard the best point guards. I think they do a good job of putting a couple guys on Russell, from Thompson to Iguodala, and Steph, they throw him in there sometimes. But he moves his feet pretty well, he’s good with his hands. But, you know, I like our matchup with him guarding Russ.”

As he should. I like the matchup of Westbrook vs. every other point guard in the league. Westbrook tore Curry up in Games 3 and 4.

Of course, Curry was asked about Durant’s comments when he came into the interview room, but he refused to take the bait.

“I got a great teammate that’s obviously a better defender on the perimeter. I like the challenge. I do my job the best I can”

He’s got a couple of teammates that are better defenders on the perimeter — Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Those guys are just busy with other players this series because the Thunder are deep and present a plethora of challenges.

This is all a tempest in a Conference Finals teapot. It wasn’t as big a deal as some in the media will try to make it out to be.

Curry is going to have to play defense and score better in Game 6 than his improved Game 5 play if the Warriors are coming back for one more game at Oracle Arena.

Tyronn Lue: ‘This is our Game 7’

TORONTO, ON - MAY 23:  Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 23, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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TORONTO (AP) To keep their season alive, the Toronto Raptors are counting on a home-court advantage that saved them before.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one win of their second straight NBA Finals on Wednesday night by routing Toronto 116-78 in Game 5, the fourth lopsided game in a series where both teams have struggled mightily on the road.

Paced by the resurgent Kevin Love with 25 points, and 23 apiece from James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs built a 43-point lead in the second half and demolished the Raptors. Toronto lost three games in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena by a combined 88 points.

Fortunately, the Raptors are back home in front of their own frenzied fans and will host Game 6 on Friday night in Air Canada Centre, where the Cavs are 0-4 this season and lost Games 3 and 4 in this series.

After going 32-9 at home during the regular season, Toronto is 8-2 on its floor in the playoffs, and pulled off a Game 7 wins over Indiana and Miami.

The Raptors need it to be home sweet home one more time.

“We’ve got to play the same way we played the two home games we’ve had so far,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said Thursday, a day after he was hounded by Cleveland’s guards and scored just 13 on 5 of 12 shooting. “That’s all we can do. Can’t worry about the road. We might not get a chance to go back on the road if we don’t play the right way tomorrow.”

Toronto was overmatched from the opening tap in Game 5, falling behind by 18 after one quarter, 31 at halftime and finishing with 18 turnovers, five by Lowry.

“They’re drastically bad when you’ve got LeBron coming at you,” Lowry said.

In an all-over-the-map postseason, an elimination game against Cleveland is about as drastically bad as things have been for the Raptors, who led 3-2 in each of the first two rounds. Even so, Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan didn’t seem too troubled after Thursday’s film session.

“I don’t know why we get so comfortable once we put ourselves in a tougher situation,” DeRozan said. “We’ve been doing it all year and we always bounce back. I think we just thrive off adversity.”

Cleveland’s home record was one win better than Toronto’s this season, and the Cavs are unbeaten in seven home playoff games since Game 6 of last year’s finals. While his team has struggled in Toronto, coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t want to have to put that streak on the line.

“We want to come in with the approach that this is our Game 7,” Lue said. “We’ve worked hard all season to get to this point, and we want to treat this next game as our Game 7.”

After Wednesday’s big win, Irving said the hostile atmosphere the Cavs encountered in Toronto made them “probably my first legitimate two road games that I’ve experienced in my playoff career.”

“Our communication, everything had to be a lot sharper,” Irving said of battling the noise in the North. “We took a lot that we had to learn from that game, including myself. Going into Game 6, I feel a little bit more prepared than I was going into Game 3 and 4 of knowing what to expect, what it’s going to be like.”

If there was any good news for the Raptors in Game 5, it was the return of center Jonas Valanciunas, out since May 7 with a sprained right ankle. Casey said Valanciunas, who scored nine points in 18 minutes Wednesday, could provide offensive versatility in Game 6.

“Getting the ball in the post will be a calming effect for us,” Casey said. “He’s got to be able to make it out of the double team, as the guards do. We looked at that today. He can quarterback out of the low post as well as score out of the low post, and it gives us a third option.”

Can home court advantage and a healthy Valanciunas prolong the deepest playoff run in Raptors history and help Toronto reach a third Game 7?

Casey hasn’t given up hope.

“We’ve been here before,” he said. “We’re here at home. We’ve played well here at home. We are playing against one of the best teams in the NBA right now. Our guys take solace from being at home, understanding we’ve been here before and we can bounce back from it. I have faith we will bounce back.”