Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nuggets, Warriors win thrillers

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while being thankful you don’t live next door to the guy with 478 birds

Clippers 92, Spurs 87: The temptation is to say it’s too early to say the Clippers are legit contenders. And it is, but they have now beaten the Heat, Spurs, Lakers and Grizzlies.  If they keep defending like this they are contenders. Chris Paul and friends won again Monday and D.J. Foster broke it down for us.

Nuggets 97, Grizzlies 92: Here’s the two stats you need to know out of this game — Denver grabbed the offensive rebound on 50 percent of their missed shots on the night; The Grizzlies turned the ball over on 18.8 percent of their possessions.

Here’s why it mattered: With one minute left in the game Memphis led 92-91 but here is what happened on the final possessions. First Marc Gasol picks up an offensive foul trying to back down and draw a foul on Danilo Gallinari (that’s a turnover). On the other end Denver’s Ty Lawson drives the lane, draws the defense, dishes to Andre Miller who misses a reverse layup, but JaVale McGee gets the offensive rebound for Denver and puts it in (Denver by one on an offensive rebound).

Memphis gets the ball back and is going for the win with a Rudy Gay isolation, but Andre Iguodala cuts him off and shuts him down, and Gay in trying to pass out of it turns the ball over. At the other end Lawson drives again, this time he kicks out to Gallinari at the arc and he drains the three. Denver by 4. Memphis has 12 seconds but they need a quick bucket, instead after a timeout Jerryd Bayless turns it over. Ballgame (save for the meaningless free throws). Turnovers and offensive rebounds killed the Grizzlies. That and Denver ending the game on 8-0 run.

Warriors 105, Mavericks 101 (OT): This game was another thriller. It got to overtime because with the game on the line tied in the final seconds of regulation the Dallas play call was a Vince Carter isolation from the top of the key. Apparently Rick Carlisle thought it was 2001, back when that was a good call.

The Mavs paid a price for that thanks to Stephen Curry, who scored the final eight points of regulation for Golden State, then had six more in overtime. Curry also had 9 assists on the night, the last of those to David Lee with 32 seconds left in overtime to give the Warriors the lead for good.

Bobcats 102, Bucks 98: Charlotte started the fourth quarter 0-for-9 shooting and this looked over, but they followed it 16-4 run and we had a game down the stretch. Charlotte took the lead with 1:38 left when Kemba Walker drove drew the foul and calmly sank two free throws. The Bucks had their chances the answer but couldn’t. First Monta Ellis (31 points on the night) drove the lane but missed the little floater. Walker gave the Bucks new life by missing an ugly leaner. Next time down Ellis comes off a Samuel Dalembert pick and had both defenders go with him and try to trap, so Ellis passes back to a wide open Dalembert who then proceeds to miss a wide-open 15 footer (there was a reason they doubled Ellis and left Dalembert open).

Still the Bucks got one more shot, when Ellis got a wide open look at the three to take the lead with :08 seconds left. That came because the Bobcats’ Byron Mullens didn’t show out on the pick and roll, Jeffery Taylor went under it, and that left Ellis wide open. Sessions hits a couple free throws and it’s all over but the shouting. Sessions had 23 on the night.

Hawks 81, Magic 73: This was a close game for a half but after a 17-2 third quarter run by Atlanta it was pretty much over. The Hawks win despite shooting 38.2 percent as a team. Atlanta could get away with that because just one Orlando player scored in double digits (Glen Davis with 11). Al Horford had 15 to lead Atlanta.

Pacers 96, Wizards 89: Somebody had to win this one. The Pacers had a 20-point lead in the third quarter then gave all but four of it back by the start of the fourth quarter because, well, they’re this year’s Pacers. They go through scoring droughts, but they still defend (Washington shot 35.2 percent for the game and averaged just 92 points per 100 possessions). They also had David West, who had 30 points including three big buckets down the stretch that kept the Pacers ahead.

Jazz 102, Rockets 91: The Jazz took control with a 13-0 run to start the second quarter and never looked back at a shorthanded Rockets team. James Harden tried to play through the flu but didn’t come out for the second half. Not that it would have mattered, the Jazz are just a different, more comfortable team at home — their ball movement is better, they had 30 assists on their 37 made baskets. Al Jefferson led Utah with 14 points and 16 boards.

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: