Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bulls beat Heat even without that Rose guy

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What you missed while waiting for Dwight Howard to change his mind again….

Bulls 106, Heat 102: This just shows the different mentalities of these two teams. No Derrick Rose, no Richard Hamilton and yet the Bulls just brought it with fantastic energy. They defended, guys like John Lucas III (24 points) and Jimmy Butler step in in their roles and the Bulls lead the whole way. Joakim Noah was everywhere.

Miami got good games from LeBron James (35 points on 25 shots) and Dwyane Wade (36 points on 26 shots) but after that nothing. They had two bench points for the entire first half. Chris Bosh had 12 points on 15 shots. Nobody else showed passion or brought it.

I’m not going to take much out of this game and apply it to the future Eastern Conference Finals between these two teams. But it does show a difference of mentality toward the regular season.

Knicks 121, Trail Blazers 79: I don’t want to rain on the Knicks parade, but this game really had nothing to do with Mike Woodson replacing Mike D’Antoni and everything to do with the Trail Blazers being this bad. They may have been the worst team in the NBA over the past two weeks, and they were on the second night of a back-to-back with trade rumors hanging over them. It was ugly. J.R. Smith had 23 to lead the Knicks.

We’ll be able to judge the Knicks better after some time for Woodson to put his stamp on this team. Just remember, when he coached the Hawks his offense was nicknamed “iso Joe” for how often they ran Joe Johnson isolations. Carmelo Anthony has to love that.

Spurs 122, Magic 111: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. San Antonio put up 63 points in the second half — Tony Parker had 16 in the fourth quarter alone — and the Spurs come from behind to win. Second night of a back-to-back for Orlando, and they may have been distracted by something.

Lakers 107, Hornets 101 (OT): Two overtime games in two nights — Kobe Bryant has played more than 100 minutes in them. But that didn’t slow him in the overtime when he had seven points then and 33 on the night. Andrew Bynum had 25 points, 18 boards. Gritty effort by the Hornets.

Pacers 111, Sixers 94: Philadelphia is a good defensive team. They were not this night. Indy shot 56.6 percent as a team and hit 7 of 17 from three (41.2 percent). Danny Granger led the way with 20 points on 13 shots.

Nets 98, Raptors 94: Do you really think anybody in the Nets organization is celebrating this win right now?

Bucks 115, Cavaliers 105: The Bucks had 38 assists on 46 baskets, they really had great ball movement and had six players in double figures scoring. We’ll see how that goes when Monta Ellis is in the lineup. The Bucks remain tied for eighth in the East with the Knicks but this win puts the two up on the Cavaliers, who are 10th.

Rockets 107, Bobcats 87: Houston led the whole way and this game went pretty much to form. Wonder what these rosters will look like 24 hours from now.

Pistons 124, Kings 112: In a game between two teams capable of mental nights off, the Pistons seemed more engaged. At least their stars did. Rodney Stuckey had 35 points, Greg Monroe had 32, 11 in the fourth quarter.

Clippers 96, Hawks 81: Atlanta did a pretty good job defensively of taking the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands and slowing Blake Griffin (at least for a half). Dare someone else to beat you. Like Mo Williams, who had 25 points. The Hawks on offense never seem to really go at the mismatches they have, they just take what they can get.

Celtics, 105 Warriors 103: Someone needs to explain to the Warriors about how to tank to improve your lottery odds — they played with great energy all night. Boston played up-tempo on the second night of a back-to-back and won. They got 24 from Kevin Garnett, who had 12 in the fourth quarter.

Suns 119, Jazz 111: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed this report: Utah put a 20-3 stretch together early that had them ahead by 13 points two minutes into the second quarter. The Suns then dropped a 34-13 run from the second quarter into the third, pushing Phoenix’s lead to eight.

Phoenix held a lead of seven heading into the fourth, and Utah came back to tie it at 91 before the Suns’ starting unit was able to regain control.

The Suns were able to shoot 56.4 percent from the field for the game, including a combined 9-of-16 from three-point range from Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Steve Nash was ridiculously efficient, finishing with 12 points on just four shots, while dishing out 16 assists. Marcin Gortat bounced back from his dismal effort against Minnesota with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting.

The Suns weren’t pleased with their defense, but were happy to get the win. They’re now tied with Utah in the standings with a record of 20-22, still three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race that’s currently shared by Houston and Dallas.

 

Warriors eliminate Spurs, advance to face Pelicans

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Kevin Durant drained a pull-up 3-pointer reminiscent of his signature NBA Finals shot in the final minute of the third quarter. The Spurs ended the quarter with a flurry and kept coming.

Durant made consecutive mid-range jumpers over Kyle Anderson midway through the fourth quarter. The Spurs called timeout, subbed  Rudy Gay for Anderson and kept coming.

Durant drove past Gay and dunked. The Spurs called another timeout and kept coming.

Each of those Durant shots seemed as if they could be the backbreaker. Credit San Antonio for continuing to play hard.

But without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs were just overmatched against the superstar small forward in the Warriors’ 4-1 first-round victory – which ended with Golden State’s 99-91 Game 5 win Tuesday.

The Warriors’ next opponent – the Pelicans, who open their second-round series Saturday – could soon learn the feeling.

New Orleans relies on E'Twaun Moore, Darius Miller and Solomon Hill at small forward – not the slate of stoppers that seems ready for Durant. Even on an off night (1-for-8 on 3-pointers, five turnovers), Durant scored 25 in Game 5. He’s a tough cover. But those three Pelicans – Moore (size), Miller (fundamentals) and Hill (speed) – each have major defensive liabilities Durant can exploit.

And Durant will have plenty of help.

Klay Thompson (24 points) appears headed back on track after a clunker in Game 4. Draymond Green (17 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists) looks locked in.

And, of course, Stephen Curry is poised to return sometime against the Pelicans.

The Warriors weren’t very impressive in the San Antonio series. Nor did they need to be. The Spurs were just overmatched, unable to summon nearly enough offense.

But Golden State showed enough focus and reminders of its talent to retain favored status even against better opponents – like New Orleans, which swept the Trail Blazers. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday lead a surging team.

The Spurs want to get back on that level, and that stars with solving the Leonard dilemma this summer.

Will they offer him a super-max extension? Would he take it? Will they trade him? Will he request a trade?

With questions like that facing San Antonio, by comparison, the Pelicans are stable at small forward.

How do you like “The Process” now? Sixers eliminate Heat, advance to second round

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It felt inevitable.

Not “The Process” from the start. There were some severe downs before the ups.

Not this first playoff series against Miami from the start, because it felt even… until Game 3 when Joel Embiid returned in his mask and tipped the scales.

No, it was Game 5’s result felt inevitable as it unfolded. Not because Philadelphia won the previous game in Miami and could close it out at home. Not because the Sixers have the two biggest talents in the series in Ben Simmons and Embiid.

Rather, Game 5 felt inevitable because the Sixers got better looks all night long. They got them with ball movement, with player movement that created mismatches or clean jumpers. It was tied 46-46 at the half because Philadelphia just missing its good looks while the Heat were struggling with hands in their face all night. Philadelphia shot 38.1 percent in the first half overall and were 2-of-12 from three.

In the third quarter, it all changed.

Philadelphia went on an early 9-0 run, shot 50 percent as a team for the quarter, all while continuing to play defense and get stops. The Sixers won the third 34-20 and held on through Miami rallies in the fourth to take the game comfortably, 104-91.

With the win, Philadelphia wins the series 4-1 and advances to the second round, where they will face either Boston or Milwaukee (Boston leads the series 3-2).

They did it behind 27 from J.J. Redick, who knocked down five threes. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. However, it was the defense that held the Miami to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 16-of-31 from three within eight feet of the basket that won the game for Philly.

This young Sixers team learned lessons in this first round, and maybe the biggest was how to adapt the physicality of the playoffs, and keeping your cool while things don’t go your way.

“I thought we withstood the physicality of the Heat,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a great organization. They came to mean it, we knew they wouldn’t go away easily, and we had to have that physical element to match.”

They matched that physicality, but what they had was talent that could step up.

They also savored the moment. Midway through the fourth, up comfortably and still knocking down shots, the young Sixers were reveling in the deafening crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was reveling in success after years of struggling through the process — the players and fans wanted to start that party midway through the fourth.

However, Heat have no chill and no quit in them, they went on a 10-0 in the fourth quarter, not-so-coincidentally after Sixers fans started chanting, “We want Boston!”

But when it mattered the Heat couldn’t get stops — the Sixers talent showed through. Redick hit threes. Embiid owned the paint. Simmons did a little bit of everything.

It was a moment of revelry in Philadelphia. One years in the making — and maybe the first in many years of future celebrations on that court.

Sixers players douse Brett Brown, present him with bell after closing Heat (VIDEO)

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The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on. Let’s just try to process that for a moment.

After beating the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 104-91, this iteration of the Sixers experienced their first playoff series win together. It was also the first series win for coach Brett Brown as the man in charge of an NBA team.

As such, players gathered in the locker room after the win to hear Brown speak about the win, and about how the team had more to give and to learn as they moved forward together in the playoffs.

When Brown concluded his speech, he tried to hand off the victory bell to JJ Redick. As soon as Redick received it, he bestowed the honor of the bell right back upon Brown.

That’s when teammates showered Brown with whatever they had nearby, and Brown rung the bell.

Man, what a moment.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.