LeBron James, Dwight Howard

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bosh looks good in Heat victory

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What you missed while thinking a new study proves your children are brilliant….

Heat 91, Magic 81: Everybody talks about the big man the Heat could use. We often underestimate Chris Bosh — he had 23 points on 13 shots. Dwyane Wade owned the fourth quarter with 14 of his 31 coming then, when the Heat went on a 14-4 run to take control. The Heat, who have been hit and miss of late, remind us that when they are focused they are very good.

Orlando shot 9-25 from three, a respectable 36 percent. That’s good enough for most teams, but when the Heat focused their defense on shutting down Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 boards still) the Magic have to make them pay. They didn’t. Hard to see how they could four games out of seven when it matters.

Jazz 103, Lakers 99: Kobe Bryant shot 3-20 and the Lakers had 24 turnovers — they were lucky to be that close. Utah got some expected big games — Paul Millsap with 24 points — but some unexpected ones such as Enes Kanter with 17 points on 7 shots and Alec Burks who had 13 of his 17 in the fourth quarter and was fantastic down the stretch. The Jazz play hard — you don’t or have a bad night and they will beat you.

Note to the Lakers: When Andrew Bynum is 12-of-14 for 33 points feed him the ball earlier more often. The guy got deep position against an undersized Jazz lineup all night. Give him the rock. You could have won this game that way.

Thunder 111, Trail Blazers 95: Everybody looks good against the Blazers lately, and likely will after Portland’s trade deadline moves, but there was fantastic execution from Oklahoma City in this one. We’ll see if they can build on it. Russell Westbrook had 28, Kevin Durant 26 and for Portland Jamal Crawford had 23.

Grizzlies 97, Wizards 92: The key to this game is the Grizzlies perimeter defenders are aggressive at trying to create turnovers, while the Wizards are very good at turning the ball over. Credit Washington for hanging close — John Wall had 25 — but you just had the feeling this was Memphis’ game. Rudy Gay had 27, good to see Zach Randolph with 13 as he works his way back.

Atlanta 103, Cavaliers 87: The Cavaliers had no way to defend Joe Johnson — he’s too big and strong for their two guard defenders, too quick for guys the right size. He was hot early finished with 28 points on 16 shots and the Hawks controlled this one from the first quarter on.

Clippers 87, Pistons 83 (OT): These teams had to go into OT to get the score into the 80s. So, not the most entertaining game ever. But in the clutch, where the Clippers have been inconsistent, Chris Paul took charge and that’s a good sign. Also in key moments, Pistons center Greg Monroe went right at Blake Griffin and they had to take Griffin out of the game for a stretch. Monroe finished with 23 points on 11 shots.

Suns 99, Rockets 86: Phoenix is just half a game back of the Rockets for the last playoff spot in the West. More on this game tomorrow, but the Suns got a monster 25 points from Michael Redd off the bench.

Kings 115, Timberwolves 99: Minnesota was turning the ball over (21 times) and it just seemed their communication was off. Credit the Kings for taking advantage of it. Marcus Thornton had 24 to lead the Kings, Kevin Love 21 for the Wolves.

 

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.