Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lakers keep it simple and win. Finally.

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while thinking that a 14-year-old is a whole lot better at golf than you….

Lakers 108, Pistons 79: The Lakers had a 23-5 run in the second half of the first quarter, and that was pretty much it for this game. This looked like the Lakers we all expected this season.

What happened? Well, a lot of things, all interconnected. The Lakers really simplified what they did on offense. They pushed the ball at nearly every opportunity and tried to get easy baskets in transition. And while they only scored 11 fast break points, the speed at which they got up court allowed them to get into their offense faster and take advantage of a porous Piston defense.

Once in the half court, the Lakers really did a good job at focusing on getting their big men involved, as evidenced by their 56 points in the paint. Pau Gasol started the game as the offensive focal point scoring 8 first quarter points. Dwight Howard was a presence all game long carving out space on the block and finished with 28 points on only 14 shots. The work they did down low also created tons of room on the perimeter for the Lakers’ wings to take advantage. It’s no coincidence that Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Steve Blake were all able to shoot so well from distance (combined 8-14 from three) as they got countless spot up chances simply due to ball movement and the play of the big men drawing defensive attention.

Defensively the Lakers were also much improved. They moved on a string more than in another game this season, helping each other when the ball penetrated and then recovering back to shooters when the ball got kicked out. Howard was also tracking the ball from the back line better than he has, allowing him to block 3 shots and contest several others.

For Pistons fans… um… there was a Jonas Jerebko sighting, he led the team with 18. Aside that, burn the tape.

Before Lakers fans start to go “The Lakers have arrived, count the ringzzzzz,” remember this was one game and it was against the Pistons (who stink). But for a team that looked to be losing some confidence this is a positive step. They looked together, for longer stretches, on both sides of the ball and that is what they need to do to win games.
—Darius Soriano

Knicks 100, 76ers 84: Two impressive games in a row for the Knicks, and coincidentally Carmelo Anthony is plying the four. Or, not so coincidentally. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke this game down for PBT.

Hawks 105, Thunder 95: The good news for the Thunder is Kevin Martin showed up gunning — 29 points including 6-of-8 from three. The bad news was he hit the last of those three pointers with 4 minutes to go in the game (a shot that got the Thunder within two) and the Thunder didn’t get him a shot the rest of the way. The Thunder went away from the hottest hand in the building. The Thunder shot 35.3 percent in the fourth

The ugly news for the Thunder was their defense, which gave up 57 points in the second half. The Hawks, without Josh Smith, completely out worked the Thunder inside all night. Al Horford had 23 points and 12 boards, Lou Williams added 19 for the Hawks off the bench. The Hawks have guys who can shoot and they found space to do it Sunday.

Durant has the ball in his hands a lot more this season, playing more point forward, and he is trying to set guys up more. He’s getting assists but has not scored more than 25 in a game this season. He’s the best scorer on the planet, he needs to shoot the rock.

Raptors 105, Timberwolves 96: Some teams just have another teams number — this is 9 straight Raptors wins at home over Minnesota, 15 of the last 16 meetings total. This time it might have been the 24 Timberwolves turnovers, but this was close until the start of the fourth quarter when a 13-6 Raptors run and they never looked back. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had 22 for the Raptors (Lowry has been impressive so far this season). Andrei Kirilenko’s 17 points led the Timberwolves.

Magic 115, Suns 94: Dwight who? The Magic are 2-0.

Phoenix led most of the first half and was up by 11 midway through the third quarter, then Orlando went 37-9 run over and that was it. The Suns lived (and built their lead) by the jumper and died by it when it stopped falling. Nice win for a Magic team without Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu — J.J. Redick had 24 (non in the third quarter during the run, however), Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo each had 22.

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.