Nicolas Batum, Roger Mason Jr.

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Hornets comeback runs into Lillard

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while buying an ugly Christmas sweater

Lakers 111, 76ers 98: Two wins in a row for the Lakers, both on the road — in this sad season for them so far that counts as something to celebrate. For Philly, more of the up and down we have seen from them this season. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke it all down.

Trail Blazers 95, Hornets, 94: New Orleans got itself in trouble with turnovers — 11 in the first half that led to Portland jumping out to a big lead, one that reached 16 in the third quarter. J.J. Hickson helped push that lead with 11 of his 24 points coming in the third. But the Hornets made a run behind Ryan Anderson, who was a blistering 7-of-10 from three on his way to 26 points. Greivis Vasquez pitched in an impressive 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

The Hornets made it all the way back to tie the game at 92-92 on an Austin Rivers three with 42 seconds left in the game. Then Damian Lillard dropped a three and it was all over.

Nuggets 122, Kings, 97: Sometimes after a road trip teams will get home and just relax and that leads to a blowout. Maybe that’s what happened here. Or maybe the Nuggets are just a lot better than the Kings. Denver went on a 14-0 first quarter run to take control of this game and never looked back from there, this game never felt in doubt. Denver shot 54 percent on the night, Sacramento 34 percent. Active and aggressive JaVale McGee showed up and was active throwing down dunks all game, finishing with 19 points. Danilo Gallinari added 18 points, 10 in the first quarter.

Raptors 103, Rockets 96: The 1 ET start seemed to catch the Rockets napping as Houston started the game 1-7 shooting with three turnovers, and the quick lead was up to 12 in the first quarter. Then the Rockets woke up, went on a 17-4 and led before the end of the first quarter. We had a close game the rest of the way. Toronto got 17 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds from Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan had 19 and Ed Davis looked good (as did Alan Anderson). Buut for Raptors fans the thing that should make you optimistic is the Raptors defended well for a full game. Houston shot just 41 percent. The Raptors were a solid defensive team last season that has looked nothing like that this season, but this felt different, maybe a corner was turned.

James Harden had 28 but this is seven straight road losses for the Rockets.

Watch LeBron James drop 33 on Raptors in Game 6 win

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Friday night was a step forward in maturity for the Cleveland Cavaliers — given the chance to close out a conference finals on the road, in a place they had struggled, the team stepped up and did so convincingly.

They did it following the lead of LeBron James, who attack the basket from the start on his way to a team-high 33 points and 11 assists. LeBron set the tone and the rest of the Cavaliers followed.

Above you can see just how LeBron racked up those points. It’s an impressive display.

Report: In surprise to nobody, Bismack Biyombo will decline option, become free agent

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors reacts after being called for a foul against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. 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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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This is not only expected, but it’s also the move all of us would make. Unless you hate money.

Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo has a player option on his contract for next year, pick it up and he returns to the Raptors at $2.9 million. Or, he can decline the option and become a free agent, where he may make about $17 million a season. So what do you think he’s doing? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

Certainly, the Raptors can’t retain Biyombo’s services, it’s just going to be expensive to do so.

If $15 million (at least) seems a lot for a player who can only impact the defensive end of the floor because of poor hands and a limited offensive game, you would be correct. Welcome to the crazy cap-spike summer the NBA is about to experience. The market will be flooded with cash (at least 20 teams will be able to afford a max player) and players with a valuable skill hitting that market are going to get PAID. Biyombo can block shots and rebound like a beast, and in an increasingly small-ball NBA era those skills have value. Teams will live with having to play 4-on-5 on offense to have those skills on the roster.

The real question is which teams — the Lakers? — and how much of that cap space are they willing to give up for him? It’s going to be an interesting July.

Drake congratulated LeBron James in hallway after game

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Drake is a Toronto native and a huge Raptors’ fan. He’s officially the team’s “global ambassador,” although nobody knows what that actually means.

Drake is also tight with LeBron James.

As LeBron is running down the hall to get to the locker room and celebrate making a sixth straight trip to the Finals Drake stops him to congratulate him. And Drake is one of the handful of guys LeBron will stop and talk to.

Nothing wrong with this, either. Drake has walked a line the whole series — he’s a Raptors fan, he’s trolled LeBron and Kyrie Irving on social media after Toronto wins, but he’s close with Cleveland’s players and has been seen in the Cavaliers locker room plenty the past few seasons.

Some fan bases (we’re looking at you, Philly) would flip out over this kind of divided loyalty, but not Canadians who will just forgive and move on.

LeBron James leads Cavaliers back to Finals doing it his way

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LeBron James is the first NBA star of the social media age, and with that has come a volume of criticism that the greats before him — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan — never had to deal with.

Even these playoffs, there have been chattering voices knocking LeBron for how he worked more to set up teammates — particularly Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — more than seeking out his own shot. Some people have always wanted him to be more Jordan, when he was always more Magic. Or Oscar Robertson.

And this playoff he knew that he could carry his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals through a diluted East, but if he wanted a ring he was going to need those other players to be confident, ready, and believing in the team.

You could see that all come together for LeBron James in Game 6. He attacked early and set a tone, then got everyone involved on his way to 33 points and 11 assists in what became a 113-87 win sending Cleveland back to the NBA Finals.

“I just had to bring my game,” James said in his on-court postgame interview on ESPN. “I had to bring my game, I had to be in attack mode from the beginning, trust my shot, and once my shot start going I can get my teammates involved and they was able to carry me down the stretch.”

LeBron James was getting to the rim with those attacks, check out his shot chart:

LeBron shot chart

LeBron also keyed the fourth-quarter 22-7 run that put away the game.

“There is only one LeBron James, and he makes a difference on any team he plays on, and he’s proven that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “It’s six Finals (in a row for LeBron), to compare him to our team — and I love our players, I wouldn’t trade any of our players — but you put him on any team and he’s a difference maker.”

LeBron’s critics will not be silenced. The man has made six straight finals, a feat not accomplished by anyone since a few legendary Celtics of the 1950s-60s (Bill Russell’s teams). It speaks to LeBron’s focus, skill, durability, and ability to lead teams.

Critics will point to LeBron being 2-4 in the Finals. That misses the point — making it to six straight is an amazing accomplishment, and LeBron did it his way. Not trying to be MJ or Magic or Oscar, just being LeBron James.

We should savor watching this guy play while we still can.