Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the living game-winning shot

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What you missed while realizing you figured out who is going to win the Darwin Award this year….

Sixers 103, Celtics 71: This battle for the top spot in the Atlantic division — and the four seed at least in the playoffs, allowing a team to avoid Miami and Chicago in the first round — was our game of the night. Although it wasn’t much of a game.

Wizards 106, Lakers 101: Lakers fans aren’t just reaching for the panic button, they are pounding it.

Los Angeles was in control of this one, coming out with renewed energy after an ugly loss in Detroit Tuesday. They pulled away in the second quarter with everyone contributing — Steve Blake the shooter came in and got 6 assists and no turnovers. Oh, that Kobe Bryant guy was pretty good, too, he had 14 in the first quarter and 20 for the half. Early in third the Lakers were up 21 and cruising.

But a 22-4 third quarter run changed everything. It was one sparked not by the Wizards stars (John Wall was awful, as Mike Prada at SBN noted, length bothers him and the Lakers are nothing if not long). No it was Nick Young and guys like Shelvin Mack, Trevor Booker and even Kevin Seraphin who dominated the Lakers bench. Mike Brown tried to ride Kobe Bryant but was 1-for-10 in the fourth quarter. Kobe had 30 points for the game but was 9-of-31 shooting to get there. In an age-old story Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 38 points on 12-of-18 shooting but the Lakers didn’t feed them enough, especially when things got tight.

From this, we bring you the funniest play of the night:

Bulls 106, Bucks 104: This game was pretty close the entire way, with Ersan Ilyasova keeping the Bucks within arms reach thanks to his 32, plus Drew Gooden had 16 in the first quarter and finished with 27. But really, all we need to do is show you the last two of Derrick Rose’s 30.

Nets 101, Clippers 100: Yes, the Nets won this on Jordan Farmar’s three in the final seconds, but they deserved this win — New Jersey led most of the way. If the Clippers won this they would have stolen it behind a great hustling effort from Blake Griffin (28 points, 17 rebounds, the Nets had nobody who could contain him). The Clippers defensive rotations were poor all night long so it’s fitting nobody rotated out on Farmar for the game winner. The Clippers are still learning how to be an elite team, about bringing effort every night on the road. Deron Williams had 21, MarShon Brooks 19.

Heat 89, Hawks 86: With the game on the line in a close, playoff-style game Wednesday night Dwyane Wade passed — twice to Udonis Haslem and once to Chris Bosh, all in the final 1:10. They each hit their shots and the Heat got the win. All of which is to say that the Heat are what they are — not a team of guys playing hero ball, rather a team of guys trying to make smart basketball plays. It gets them a lot of wins. Joe Johnson was out for the Hawks with his knee still bothering him.

Timberwolves 106, Trail Blazers 94: Minnesota’s win combined with a Houston loss moves Minny into the eighth playoff spot in the West. Making the postseason would be a huge accomplishment. Portland lived by Raymond Felton and the jumper in the first half and died by it when they shot 35 percent in the third quarter. Kevin Love had 29, Luke Ridnour took advantage of unimpressive Blazers perimeter defense for 22.

Raptors 116, Rockets 98: Houston falls out of the eighth spot in the West with the loss. This was a schedule makers loss — the Rockets just faded in the fourth quarter on the second night of a road back-to-back. Toronto went on a 25-5 run in the fourth to seal the win.

Jazz 99, Bobcats 93: You didn’t really expect a winning streak for Charlotte, did you? Utah took control of this game in the third and only a too-late 8-0 run by Charlotte made it look close. Al Jefferson had 31 for Utah; Corey Maggette had 25 for Charlotte.

Thunder 115, Suns 104: Another day, another come-from-behind win for Oklahoma City. Thanks to a dozen first quarter points from Marcin Gorat the Suns took control early and led by as many as 16 in the third. But midway through that quarter the Thunder went on a 16-4 run, and we had a ballgame. In the fourth it was what you expect from the Thunder — Kevin Durant with 12, Russell Westbrook with 9 and James Harden finished with 8.

Spurs 118, Knicks 115: The Spurs are Tony Parker’s team right now, he had 32 points and is playing the best of the San Antonio big three — the Spurs are following his lead. He is playing with incredible confidence. On the flip side, the Knicks are no longer Jeremy Lin’s team — they are Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire’s — and it shows in his game (Lin had 20 points, but 8 came in garbage time at the end). No Tyson Chandler so the Spurs owned the paint all night, Tim Duncan had 17. Anthony had 27 for the Knicks but was his black hole self, stopping the ball on offense all night long.

Cavaliers 100, Nuggets 98: Kyrie Irving, ladies and gentlemen. He had 10 of the Cavaliers final 12 points and seemed to get into the lane with ease all night long. It was not exactly Denver’s finest defensive performance of the year. Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo could not stay in front of him all night long. Antawn Jamison dropped 33 on Denver also. I’m guessing George Karl swore a lot after this one.

Grizzlies 110, Warriors 92: Good play inside beats good play outside. Not that Memphis doesn’t have some perimeter players — Rudy Gay had 10 in the fourth quarter and 26 overall to lead the Griz — but Marc Gasol is the kind of big man Golden State needs. Memphis took control of this game with an 11-0 run in the third and never looked back.

Kings 99, Hornets 98: Kings fans had been celebrating the new arena deal, not much on the court of late, they needed a win to pump up the crowd. They got one thanks to Isaiah Thomas’ defense.

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.