Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s the Deron Williams show

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What you missed while suing your college because your dorm roommate had too much sex

Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT): Rajon Rondo dominated Jeremy Lin, put up a monster line — 18 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds — and got the Celtics a big win in one of our games of the day.

Lakers 93, Heat, 83: You knew Kobe Bryant would have a big game. The other keys were the Lakers bigs and Metta World Peace having big days too in our other game of the day.

Nets 104, Bobcats 101: Deron Williams was a force of nature — 57 points, 21-of-21 from the free throw line. And that was still barely enough to get the Nets a win against the worst team in the league. Which tells you all you need to know about the Nets.

The Bobcats chose to single cover Williams coming off the pick-and-roll. Why? Because you really need to fear all those other guys on the Nets roster? Brook Lopez is good but you take the ball out Williams’ hands.

Bulls 96, Sixers 91: This was a hard-fought, close game until in the first half of the fourth quarter Derrick Rose and Luol Deng sparked a 15-2 run and suddenly the Bulls started to pull away. You would think that was it, and most teams would roll over. Not the 76ers. They fought back with a 10-1 run of their own and made this a game late — they trapped Rose and dared any other Bull to beat them. C.J. Watson tried with 7 in the fourth quarter. But down the stretch Rose still got a key bucket (a 15-foot leaner baseline) and finished with 35. And the win.

Suns 96, Kings 88: Our man Brett Pollakoff was at this game and sends along this report:

The Suns won their third straight game coming out of the All-Star break, but for the third straight game, it took overcoming a double-digit deficit to do so. It’s the first time since 2002 that’s happened in Phoenix, and that wasn’t the only milestone the Suns were able to reach against the woeful Sacramento Kings.

It was also the third straight game the Suns held their opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field, something the team hasn’t done since 2008. Phoenix obviously hasn’t been known for its defense, but the players have seemed to figure out that it’s the only way to win with the way the roster is currently constructed.

After a slow start, the Suns held the Kings to 20, 19, and 17 points in each quarter following the first, and ended up ahead in the rebound column for the third straight game, as well. Channing Frye continued his horrific shooting with a 3-of-12 outing, after going just 2-for-18 on Friday while checking the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. That’s 5-for-30 in the last two games for the advanced stats crowd out there, but Frye did grab 10 boards and was active inside defensively, which is more important to what this Phoenix team is trying to do anyway. The usually affable Frye clearly isn’t pleased with his lack of offense, as evidenced by the fact that he’s bounced from the locker room two games in a row without speaking to reporters.

Marcin Gortat continues to put up big numbers in this system, and finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Nash was average by his standards, leading Phoenix in scoring with 19 while dishing out just seven assists. Shannon Brown provided a nice spark off the bench, hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth which pushed a three-point lead up to nine, and ultimately provided enough separation for the Suns to improve their record to 17-20 on the season.

Raptors 83, Warriors 75: Golden State had a nine-point lead at the break, then scored just 11 points on 23 percent shooting in the third quarter, then 17 points on 33 percent shooting in the fourth. That all added up to a season-low 75 points and a loss. Toronto got 25 out of DeMar DeRozan and 18 from Leandro Barbosa.

Clippers 105, Rockets 103 (OT): It looked like the Rockets were going to win this until the Clippers ended the overtime on a 5-0 run. This is the third loss in a row for the Rockets and has to sting a little, especially for Kevin Martin who was ice cold down the stretch (he hit just one of his last nine shots). Houston did a good job keeping Blake Griffin in check (mostly that was Luis Scola) but the Clippers had the best player on the floor in Chris Paul who had 28.

Nuggets 99, Spurs 94: The key to this game was Denver was able to control the pace — they play at the fastest pace in the league, the Spurs like it slow and Denver won that battle of wills. They got a lot of those transition points in the first half and were able to hold off the Spurs late for the win. It was a fun point guard battle, Tony Parker had 25 and Ty Lawson had 22.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.