Baseline to Baseline recaps: Playoff impacts everywhere you look

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What you missed while getting drunk on peanut butter and jelly flavored vodka….

Heat 98, Thunder 93: Don’t read too much into “statements” before the playoffs start, but the Heat made one in one of our games of the night.

Lakers 113, Clippers 108: The Clippers had the big highlights, but the Lakers will take the win and likely the Pacific Division (and third seed) in our other game of the night.

Spurs 87, Celtics 86: Two veteran playoff teams put kept the Garden fans entertained in a close one… but when did Avery Bradley (19 points) become the best Celtic? For that matter, you could say Danny Green was the best Spur on the night (he had 14 and played good defense on Rajon Rondo). Stephen Jackson came off the bench for a good night for the Spurs. Be careful about saying this was a statement game of any kind — Boston scored 38 points in the second half, the Spurs 28 and both shot under 40 percent. This wasn’t pretty.

Mavericks 95, Grizzlies 85: Dallas used a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead and get the win, a run sparked by Shawn Marion’s dozen in the final frame. Dirk Nowitzki had 23, Jason Terry changed the tone of the game with his 15 and energy off the bench. O.J. Mayo had 17 to lead the Grizzlies.

Raptors 99, Sixers 78: Philadelphia is just falling apart. The Sixers scored 15 points in the third quarter and 7 in the fourth, allowing Toronto to pull away behind Andrea Bargnani (24 on the night). Philly looked good in the first half (58 percent shooting) but a different team came out of the locker room for the second half. Which is starting to sound like the Sixers season.

Pacers 109, Wizards 96: Washington fell behind big early, fought back in the second and stayed close =until a 16-6 third quarter run by the Pacers broke the game open and from there the rout was on. Darren Collison had 17 points and 11 dimes, Danny Granger had 20 points. The Wizards traded Nick Young in part to get Jordan Crawford more run and he is responding, he had 28 in the loss.

Suns 107, Jazz 105: Utah went on a late 16-6 run in the fourth quarter to make this a close game and tied it on an Al Jefferson bucket, but Steve Nash hit the game winning bucket by splitting the defenders and hitting a 15-footer. With the win the Suns move to within a game Denver for the last playoff spot in the West and are now half a game ahead of the Jazz. Seven Suns scored in double figures. Paul Millsap had 25 for the Jazz.

Hawks 120, Bobcats 93: The Hawks shot 57 percent as a team. Good on them, but most of the reason for that falls on what the Bobcats call “defense.” This was over by halftime. Josh Smith had 24.

Hornets 94, Nuggets 92: Eric Gordon was back and he had 15 including the game-winning free throws after drawing the foul. They missed him so. The Hornets led pretty much the entire second half. If the Nuggets fall out of the playoffs by a game or so, they can look back to this one.

Warriors 97, Timberwolves 94: After the game Kevin Love said the Timberwolves deserved every boo they got. I say if you are booing the Timberwolves at home your perspective on what this team is right now is way, way out of line. Enjoy the improvement and support them. Love had 29, the Warriors took a night off from tanking behind David Lee’s 31.

Trail Blazers 101, Nets 88: LaMarcus Aldridge is better than Kris Humphries and dropped 24. Portland used a 16-1 run in the fourth quarter to take back the lead and pull away.

Bucks 107, Cavaliers 98: Milwaukee went on a 12-0 run in the first quarter to take the lead and never looked back. Monta Ellis dropped 30 and the Cavs had no answer for him.

Bucks’ Khris Middleton, dealing with illness, misses practice

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) — Bucks wing Khris Middleton missed practice with an illness that has been bothering the Bucks’ second-leading scorer (14.7 points) all week.

Middleton was 3 of 8 for eight points in 35 minutes in the 118-93 Game 5 loss in Toronto that gave the Raptors a 3-2 series lead. Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said he didn’t think the illness was a factor, and that Middleton had good looks and played well defensively. He expected Middleton to start on Thursday and said he wasn’t pondering any lineup changes for Game 6.

The Bucks got a day off from practice then returned to practice Wednesday after a brief break from what has been an increasingly rugged series.

After getting blown out in Game 3 by the Bucks, the Raptors won the next two games in part by being more physical and slowing down Milwaukee.

Sometimes, a young team needs to learn from failure to get better.

Kidd hopes his players build on the lessons learned from a stinker of a Game 5 in their opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors. They need to regroup quickly to avoid elimination when the Raptors and Bucks meet Thursday night at the Bradley Center.

“Yeah, I hope so,” Kidd said when asked about whether his players learned from the blowout loss. “Today, I thought guys were focused, understanding what we have to do. It’s not hard, but for us the process of being able to be consistent is the one thing that we struggle with.”

Workaholic forward Giannis Antetokounmpo might have been the only player who didn’t want a breather.

“I don’t know, for me, I didn’t need an off-day. But for sure some guys played a lot of minutes, their bodies are sore,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think for some guys it’s good to get some rest so we can bring more energy tomorrow.”

For all of his athleticism, the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo lacks playoff experience when compared to the postseason-tested Raptors.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton are playing in their second career playoff series after the Bucks lost in six games to top-seeded Chicago in 2015. Antetokounmpo’s role has changed now that he’s the focal point of the offense, so he faces more defensive scrutiny.

The team surrounding Antetokounmpo and Middleton has been almost completely made over since then, with injured forward Jabari Parker and center John Henson the only other holdovers. Henson has only played three minutes against Toronto.

Two other starters, guard Malcolm Brogdon and center Thon Maker, are rookies. Even center Greg Monroe, a seven-year veteran who provides scoring punch off the bench, is making his playoff debut. Fourth-year players Tony Snell (Bulls) and Matthew Dellavedova (Cavaliers) joined the Bucks this season, brought to Milwaukee in part because of their postseason experience.

In contrast, the Raptors have been through about every conceivable playoff situation after losing to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Led by one of the best backcourts in the game in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Toronto is no stranger to adversity.

“You definitely see that experience come into play and we just understand the moment probably a little bit more than them. That’s not to take away (anything) from them,” DeRozan said. “They are a great team, a young team and this is definitely going to be an experience they will learn from and carry over but for now it’s something we have to keep in mind and understand the moment of going into every single game … to try and close this thing out.”

Milwaukee’s transition game is off track with 31 turnovers over the last two contests.

“That’s the physicality part, because it’s the playoffs, because it’s more intense. You get away with slaps, holds, grabs and that’s a trick of the trade,” said Jason Terry, a 17-year veteran who is averaging about 10 minutes a game off the bench for the Bucks this series.

“If you haven’t (been) through that, you don’t know it until you face it,” Terry said. “I think for us being a young team, now that we’ve seen it four or five games consecutively, hopefully now we can adjust.”

NOTES:

 

Jimmy Butler hits contested deep buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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Shooting buzzer-beaters is especially difficult because the defender knows your deadline to release the shot. The threat of a pump fake, drive to another location or pass disappears as the seconds tick down.

On the other hand, Jimmy Butler is very good.

Wizards’ interior defense, transition buckets earns them 103-98 win, 3-2 series lead over Hawks

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It’s one of the core tenets of the NBA analytics movement that aligns well with old-school thinking — get your buckets from the places it’s easiest to score. The ones where teams shoot the highest percentage, where they are most efficient. Basically, shoot close to the basket or corner threes.

Feeling comfortable back home, Washington took those shots away from Atlanta Wednesday night — the Hawks shot 43.6 percent inside eight feet of the rim, were just 18-of-41 in the paint (43.9 percent) and were 0-of-6 on corner threes.

Combine that with 27 points from Bradley Beal, 20 points and 14 assists for John Wall, and some transition baskets (20 fast break points) and you get a 103-98 win for the Wizards. Washington now has a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 in Atlanta Friday night (if necessary, Game 7 would be Sunday).

Washington always seemed to be the better team in this one, but they could never get a comfortable lead — when Washington would get up double digits, the Hawks would close the gap again and hang around.

A lot of credit for that goes to point guard Dennis Schroder, who had 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and was 5-of-6 from three, to lead the Hawks. As it has been all series, the Wizards game plan with Schroder was to go under every pick and dare him to beat them with his jumper — and he almost did. Schroder also had 11 assists on the game.

While he played well and Paul Millsap was his usual impressive self inside (21 points, although on 8-of-19 shooting), the Hawks wings were a mess. Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to shoot 13-of-41 (31.7 percent) and they were 3-of-18 from three (Hardaway had all the makes).

Meanwhile, Beal had one of his best games of the playoffs, and he deserves some credit for the struggles of the Hawks’ wings.

“I think (Beal) is one of the best two-way players in the league,” Brooks said. “He’s not going to tell anyone he’s a great defender, but his coaching staff, his teammates know he locks up defensively.”

Washington also got some help from Otto Porter (17 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic off the bench with 14 points. Both of them made some clutch shots.

Scott Brooks threw some new wrinkles at the Hawks that worked for stretches — using Wall to double Millsap at times, or going for a stretch with Markieff Morris at the five. Morris still had foul trouble despite the help, the veteran Millsap knows how to get calls. Still, the tweaks worked well enough to get Washington some buckets, and the win.

The question becomes will the Wizards be able to do that on the road — the home team has won every game this series. If the Hawks’ wings feel more comfortable and hit some shots, if Atlanta can get some more easy points inside Friday night, we will be watching Game 7 of this series on Sunday.

No. 1 pick in WNBA draft LAUNCHES shirt deep into stands at Spurs-Grizzlies game (video)

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If the Cleveland Browns are still considering a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft tomorrow, maybe they ought to take Kelsey Plum.

Plum, the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, will play for the San Antonio Stars. First, she went to San Antonio for last night’s Spurs-Grizzlies Game 5 and showed off her arm by launching a shirt far into the crowd.

And she’s witty: