Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dramatic finishes all over on Monday

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wondering what made Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia think that hat was a good choice at the inauguration….

Bulls 95, Lakers 83: Chicago is what Los Angeles is not — passionate, committed to the system, hustlers on every play and defenders. So, these are the results you get. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Nets 88, Knicks 85: Since P.J. Carlesimo took over the Nets they have been winning games with a killer offense (best in the NBA the past 10 games) — but not Monday. Their win over the Knicks was about defense and grinding it out.

The Nets ground it out when Deron Williams and Joe Johnson had to go to the bench in the first half with foul trouble. They ground it out by outworking the Knicks on the offensive glass. This was not a high scoring game but they defended and stayed close. And ultimately they did it because Joe Johnson had 10 points in the fourth quarter, the last one of those a game-winning pull-up jumper. The Nets win brings them within one game of the Knicks in the Atlantic Division.

Pacers 82, Grizzlies 81: When the two best defenses in the NBA clash you had to expect low scoring, but this game had plenty of drama. No team ever led by double digits. Memphis was behind the entire fourth quarter but went on a 7-0 run capped off by a Mike Conley three that gave them the lead 79-78. But then Paul George (who finished with 12) answered with a three of his own.

All that set up the final play. It was 82-81 Pacers and there were 1.4 seconds remaining as Memphis inbounded the ball. George was covering Rudy Gay and knows the scouting report he wants to go right. Memphis inbounds to Gay who is forced to dribble once because of the defense then lets fly a game winner — that left his hands too late. No bucket, Pacers win.

Warriors 106, Clippers 99: This was a fun one for fans. It felt like a budding rivalry game between two of the up-and-coming teams in the west and it featured plenty of scoring and stars making plays. The star that made the most plays when it mattered was Stephan Curry — he had 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, his six-of-8 from three for the game to spark the Warriors come-from-behind win. His three with 1:26 left, where he came off a screen to get a good look, turned out to be the dagger.

If the Clippers are looking for someone to blame, they can find the mirror and see their 12-of-22 from the free throw line. But late the Warriors just made plays, Jarrett Jack had 10 in the fourth. Blake Griffin had a huge 26 point, 13 rebound night.

Spurs 90, 76ers 85: Philly played well most of the game and led midway through the fourth quarter when the Spurs went on a 13-1 run to take a lead they would never give up. The run was just a matter of the Spurs being the Spurs and executing at a level the Sixers couldn’t match. Tim Duncan had 24 points and 17 rebounds and made some big plays down the stretch, Tony Parker added 20 for the victors. Evan Turner had 18 points and 12 boards for the Sixers.

Wizards 98 Trail Blazers 95: The visiting Wizards took the lead with a 13-2 run in the third quarter and looked like they might be able to hold on to that all the way to the end — until a late 5-0 Portland run capped off by a Wesley Matthews three. Damian Lillard took over in the fourth and had 12 of his 18.

Then Jordan Crawford happened — he had all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter topped off by the buzzer-beater game winner.

Hornets 114, Kings 105: New Orleans was in control of this game most of the way, having dominated the second quarter and leading 64-39 at the half. Sacramento tried to make a late push but never got closer than 7. Ryan Anderson had 27 to lead the Hornets. Whether it is the turmoil around the sale of the team or the 10 a.m. Pacific start time for the MLK Day matinee the Kings were just never into this one.

Rockets 100, Bobcats 94: The Bobcats led most of the way in this game but some Rockets runs in the final frame — 10-0 to start the fourth quarter and 7-0 to end the game — were the difference. James Harden was a big part of that, with 12 of his 29 points coming in the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker was on fire for the Bobcats finishing with 35 points.

Hawks 104, Timberwolves 96: Another tough loss for Minnesota as they led almost the entire game but in the fourth Atlanta woke from its slumber and scored 34 points on 80 percent shooting, took the lead on a 9-0 run and hung on to win. Jannero Pargo helped spark that run with 14 fourth quarter points, while Al Horford pitched in 7 of his 28 in the final frame.

LeBron James, Cavaliers advance past Celtics to meet Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals

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Let’s line it up and run it again. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are going to meet in the 2017 NBA Finals after LeBron James and the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Thursday, 135-102.

It wasn’t much of a contest from the outset as Cleveland looked determined to put away their opponent. The Cavaliers played strong, shot well from 3-point range, and forced the Celtics into 18 turnovers over the course of the game.

The Cavaliers set a franchise playoff record in the first half, scoring 75 points in the first two periods. LeBron had 20 before the third quarter started, putting him just inches away from passing Michael Jordan to top the list for most points scored in NBA playoff history.

That moment came in the third quarter, with James dropping in a sweet 3-pointer from the left side of the arc to push him past Jordan. LeBron finished the game with 35 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range will adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Kyrie Irving was another bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points to go along with seven assists. Kevin Love added 15 points, and Deron Williams had a rejuvenation off the bench with 14.

For Boston, yet another game without Isaiah Thomas forced their offense into stagnation. Avery Bradley — who had a considerable series in an effort that should not be overlooked — scored 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Gerald Green was Boston’s second-leading scorer in a bench role, adding 14 points.

Now we get to wait until June 1, when what seemed an inevitability way back in training camp has indeed come to pass. The Warriors get their shot at redemption after the worst breakdown in NBA playoff history, and the Cavaliers get a chance to solidify themselves over their peers and galvanize LeBron’s position as the best player of a generation.

The Finals don’t start for anther week. We’ll all be champing at the bit to see if Cleveland really does have what it takes to guard the Warriors offense. Likewise, a top defensive team in Golden State will need to prepare themselves for the LeBron that showed up against the Celtics in Game 1 and 2.

LeBron James passes Michael Jordan for most NBA career playoff points

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LeBron James is now above Michael Jordan in one very important, objective area. On Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, LeBron passed Michael Jordan for the most playoff points scored in NBA history.

James’ historic moment came in the third quarter of Game 5, with the Cavaliers up by double-digits.

LeBron passed Jordan with a 3-pointer that came from the left side of the arc.

Via Twitter:

The Cavaliers look poised to meet the Golden State Warriors yet again in the NBA Finals.

Cavaliers set franchise record, score 75 points in first half vs. Celtics (VIDEO)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers looked ready to put the Boston Celtics away in the first half of Game 5 on Thursday night. With LeBron James just inches away from becoming the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, the No. 2 seed exploded on the Celtics in Boston.

The result of the first two periods was James scoring 20 points, Kyrie Irving adding 11, and Kevin Love dropping 12 points.

Oh, and the Cavaliers set a franchise record for points scored in the first half of playoff game.

Via Twitter:

The play may or may not have been a goaltend by Al Horford, but officials saw it that way and gave Cleveland the points just seconds before the half ended.

Rumor: After spurning Celtics, Lonzo Ball is considering working out for 76ers

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UCLA guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be a Top 2 pick in June’s 2017 NBA Draft, but he won’t be working out for the Boston Celtics. If Danny Ainge wants to select Ball No. 1 overall, he will have to do so without seeing him up close and 1-on-1.

But if the Philadelphia 76ers (owners of the No. 3 pick) want to see Ball … well that could be arranged. Maybe.

According to a report from ESPN, Ball’s camp is considering a workout with the Sixers if they can get more information about the team situation.

Via ESPN:

A final decision will be made once Ball’s agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN.

That dialogue is expected within the coming weeks. Most expect Ball to be off the board after the first two selections.

Of course, the situation in Philadelphia for Ball is excellent. The thing they need is backcourt help, which is why a move up for Markelle Fultz might make sense for them. That or drafting one of the two if either fall to No. 3. The Sixers have also been linked to Kyle Lowry, who is a free agent this summer. The Sixers have talked for a year about using Ben Simmons as their point guard, so they’ll need some amalgam to get a working situation put together.

In short, Philadelphia’s plan is to:

  • Sign / draft a guard
  • Win a lot of games

Where Ball doesn’t fit into that is a mystery, even if the 76ers end up grabbing another guard.

If you can’t read between the lines — or read the giant sign LaVar Ball might as well be holding up behind his son everywhere he goes — this seems mostly like a hilariously transparent way to add pressure on the Los Angeles Lakers to select Ball at No. 2.

Will this strategy work? No. Is this necessary? Probably not! Magic Johnson already said he thinks Ball is the player that most resembles him in this draft, an equally transparent signal.

The Lakers are going to select Ball at No. 2. Or they won’t.

If they don’t it will be for reasons outside what Ball’s camp can influence, the potential for workouts with the team directly below them (but not the team above them) in the draft notwithstanding. He certainly won’t slide beyond No. 3. But the combination of both not working out for the Celtics and offering the idea that Ball might work out for the Sixers is extremely clumsy — and unnecessary — media work.

And to think we have a whole career of this to go. Strap in! I’m here for it if you are.