George Hill, Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Crazy endings all across the league

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while you were getting your last Whopper Jr. — and I mean last Whopper Jr….

Nuggets 102, Pacers 101: It was the last game of a six-game road trip for the Pacers against an up-tempo Nuggets squad, and Indy was down 13 in the fourth quarter. Most teams roll over at this point, start thinking about sleeping in their own beds and a nice home-cooked meal. But credit the Pacers with showing fight — they went on to a 13-0 run and made this a game at the end.

And it was the very end that was interesting. Tied 101-101 both teams made a defensive play to keep it that way — Paul George blocked a Danilo Gallinari fade away, then at the other end Andre Iguodala stripped Paul George of the ball in an isolation set — and the result was Denver had one last chance with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. We’ve seen it before, the attempt at a from out of bounds alley-oop lob to the rim.

Except Paul George got called for a foul trying to defend Iguodala on the play. There was contact — George clearly backs into an airborne Iguodala — but that foul is never called. Never. It was this time. The Pacers and coach Frank Vogel blew a gasket, but the call stood and Iguodala got two free throws. He hit the first, intentionally missed the second and that was the ballgame. It’s a loss that is going to stick with the Pacers for a while.

Grizzlies 103, 76ers 100: Memphis is a defensive team but they didn’t look like it for 45 minutes on Monday — but they were when it mattered. With three minutes left in the game it was 100-97 Sixers and they got there behind Evan Turner, who pretty much got any open look he wanted on his way to 27 points. Thaddeus Young added 23 points for the Sixers.

But the Sixers wouldn’t score again in the final three minutes. A Zach Randolph tip in made it a one point game, then Rudy Gay grabbed the offensive rebound off Jerryd Bayless miss, slid into the lane and hit a little five footer to give Memphis the lead. Then with the Sixers looking to tie, Marc Gasol — he of the 27 points on the night — blocked a Nick Young corner three attempt to secure the win.

Bulls 93, Bobcats 85: Charlotte made Chicago put in some work here. The Bobcats were down nine at the half but fought back to tie it at 55-55 with less than four minutes to go in the third. That’s when the Bulls went on a 13-0 run that extended into the start of the fourth quarter and that was your ballgame. The Bulls got Luol Deng back, the All-Star forward returning after missing five games with a hamstring, and he had a dozen points. Deng bumped Jimmy Butler out of the starting lineup and he responded with 19 points off the bench to lead all Bulls scorers. Joakim Noah had an awesome line for the Bulls: 13 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocks.

Nets 97, Magic 77: Late in the first quarter Brooklyn started a 23-5 run that extended into the start of the second, and it took control of the game there and never looked back. They led by 26 and this was never in doubt. The Magic did get the lead down to seven at the end of the third quarter, then the Nets opened the fourth on a 9-0 run. Deron Williams had 20 points and 9 assists.

Rockets 125, Jazz 80: This is the worst home loss in Utah Jazz history. It was like the two teams were playing at different speeds, with the Rockets taking control in the second quarter with a 17-4 run — sparked by three three-pointers by Carlos Delfino — and pouring it on from there. On the night, the Rockets had 26 fast break points to the Jazz 2. James Harden had 25 to lead the Rockets, who got to rest their starters for the fourth and empty out the bench.

Warriors 114, Raptors 102: This was a fun game – up tempo, back and forth with plenty of lead changes, until the Warriors went on a 14-2 run in the fourth to take a comfortable lead. Toronto tried to claw back in late, but Klay Thompson had a steal from Jose Calderon and Harrison Barnes had a dunk that shut the door on any comeback. Warriors All-Star David Lee’s put up 21 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. The shock of the night was Aaron Gray with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Raptors, he was fantastic for a night.

This was Andrew Bogut’s first game back from off-season ankle surgery and he looked good — 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in 25 minutes. The scary part for Warriors fans is Stephen Curry rolled his surgically-repaired right ankle in the third quarter and did not return. It was called a mild sprain but we will watch to see.

Kings 96, Wizards 94: This ended up being a very entertaining game, but with everything on the line Isaiah Thomas had 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, including a floater with one second left, to give the Kings a road win. If the Wizards want to express frustration for this one, don’t blame Garrett Temple for not keeping up with Thomas on the last play, blame the 20 turnovers (which the Kings converted to 23 points). That was the ballgame. Emeka Okafor had a big night with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

Report: Raptors to begin contract extension talks with coach Dwane Casey

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors looks on from the sideline in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Entering the season, Dwane Casey’s seat was a little warm. He was not hired by the GM now in charge, and last season the Raptors had taken a step back, especially defensively.

After Toronto just ended the greatest season in franchise history — 56 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals — Casey’s job is safe. In fact, the Raptors want to make sure he sticks around a while longer, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

The Raptors and coach Dwane Casey are expected to soon begin talks on a contract extension, league sources said Friday night after Toronto’s season ended with a 113-87 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Casey has one season left on his current contract at the Raptors’ option for $4 million next season.

Both sides want to get a deal done, which usually means things happen quickly.

This is a smart move by the Raptors, clearly Casey connects with this team and knows how to get the most out of them, and he adapted well in the playoffs looking for rosters and lineups that worked. He’s the right coach for this team.

Pelicans’ rookie guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has died at age 23

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 04:  Bryce Dejean-Jones #31 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Smoothie King Center on February 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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This is a sad and stunning development.

Bryce Dejean-Jones, the rookie guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, has died, the Dallas, Texas, County Coroner has confirmed to NBC Sports. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune broke the news.

Dejean-Jones was just 23.

“It is with deep sadness that the Pelicans Organization acknowledges the sudden passing of Bryce Dejean-Jones,” the Pelicans’ organization said in a statement. “We are devastated at the loss of this young man’s life who had such a promising future ahead of him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family during this difficult time.”

The coroner’s office would not give a cause of death, but Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had the tragic detail.

The account of him being shot has been confirmed by multiple sources, including the Dallas Police Department, which released an incident report to the Dallas Morning News. Here is that report:

“On May 28, 2016, at approximately 3:20 a.m., Dallas officers responded to the 2500 block of Bennett Avenue regarding a shooting. Upon arrival officers found one individual had been shot. The resident of the apartment reported that an individual had kicked open the front door and entered his apartment. The resident, who was asleep in the bedroom, heard the individual enter and retrieved a handgun. He stated he called out to the individual, but was not answered. As the individual kicked the bedroom door, the resident fired his gun. The individual left the apartment and collapsed in the breezeway. The individual was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. This offense is documented on case number 127685-2016 and Dallas Police Homicide is conducting an investigation.”

As someone who spent years as a crime and police reporter, let’s just say come at these initial police reports of incidents — and what people tell the police — with a critical eye.

Understandably, players who knew Dejean-Jones are greiving.

Dejean-Jones was undrafted out of Iowa State, he was picked up on a 10-day contract by New Orleans this season, but the rash of injuries the Pelicans suffered pushed him into a starting role for 11 games. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game, and to his credit did shoot 37.5 percent from three. On Feb. 19 he took a hard fall and fractured his wrist, which eventually required surgery and ended his season. He was a guy known for attitude problems at the start of his college career at USC the UNLV, but had seemed to mature and his game had as well. He looked like someone who could stick as a reserve guard in the NBA.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

LeBron James first player to reach six straight finals in 50 years

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It speaks to an incredible level of talent — talent that was honed in countless hours in the gym.

It speaks to an amazing durability.

It speaks to leadership.

LeBron James has a long resume of accomplishments — two titles, four MVPs, and he hasn’t missed an All-Star Game or an All-NBA team for a decade — but he reached one of his more impressive milestones in leading the Cavaliers past the Raptors to the NBA Finals on Friday night.

LeBron has reached six straight NBA Finals.

He’s the first player to do so in 50 years.

The last guys to do this were Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy and other members of the 1950s-60s Celtics dynasty. Nobody since has done it — not Magic, Bird, Jordan, Wilt or the rest.

Yes, it helps cement LeBron’s legacy as one of the all-time greats, but more than that it’s something we need to step back and appreciate. These were all LeBron-led teams — he has been the leader on and off the court, setting the tone. That requires incredible talent and skill on the court, plus knowing how to make those guys better not just drag them along on your coat tails. It also takes incredible physical durability. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

“There’s only one LeBron James,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after his team was eliminated by James and company. “He makes a difference on whatever team he plays on.”

I can feel the typing in the comment section already: “But he’s 2-4 in the Finals, Jordan was 6-0” or “But he’s done it in a weak East” or “He keeps just jumping teams to where he has the most help.” It’s all just sad. Because LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age he faces a volume of criticism that past stars did not. It’s not that LeBron hasn’t brought some criticism on himself, but there is a need to tear him down that the mythologized Jordan never dealt with. We savored Jordan at the time; LeBron has never gotten that. Jordan took 13 NBA teams to the playoffs, six made the Finals; LeBron has taken 11 and seven are in the Finals. The thing is, it’s difficult to compare across eras in the NBA:

All of this is not to say LeBron’s record is better than Jordan’s, you and your buddies can debate that while sitting on bar stools until last call, but LeBron has been on an epic run through the peak of his career the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re a fan of the game, you should appreciate that, not try to tear it down (as if Jordan’s legacy somehow needs protecting).

What LeBron has done is a stunning accomplishment. If you’re in the same sentence with the legendary Russell Celtics teams, you’re doing something right.

Warriors/Thunder Game 6: Four things to watch as Oklahoma City tries to close out series

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors react in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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For the Thunder, it is a chance for validation and an opportunity to get the ring Kevin Durant (and Russell Westbrook, and the rest of them) crave. For the Warriors, it is their biggest test of the last two seasons. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, here are four things to watch.

1) Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson need to play better for the Thunder. After a couple of series where Waiters suddenly has been reborn as a quality NBA player who is the third playmaker the Thunder need, and after Andre Roberson dropped a career playoff high of 17 points the game before, both were MIA in Game 5. Roberson was 2-of-5 shooting and had as many points as fouls (six). Waiters didn’t hit a shot all night. This was tied to the Thunder returning to the bad habits of too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant taking on the world and OKC not enough ball movement in the halfcourt. The Scott Brooks Thunder of the past few seasons showed up in Game 5, if the Thunder fall back to those bad habits again, they will lose again.

I expect the Thunder to treat this like their Game 7 and play much better. They will have a real sense of urgency; their defense will again be energized. The question becomes can the Warriors match it?

2) Can Andrew Bogut keep the Thunder from scoring in the paint?
In Game 5, the Thunder were 8-of-18 shooting in the restricted area, and 7-of-19 in the rest of the paint. That’s not going to get it done. A lot of that was the impact Bogut had in the paint — plus he got help, the Warriors switched pick-and-rolls more, they packed the paint more and took away driving lanes. It all worked, in part because Bogut and Draymond Green played with much better energy than in previous games. Steve Kerr said he didn’t play Bogut as many minutes in the first four games due to foul trouble, he has to trust the veteran to play through fouls in this game. The Warriors have simply been better with him on the court this series and they need close to 30 minutes from him this game.

Tied to Bogut’s play…

3) Golden State defense needs to show up on the road. As noted above, the Warriors went back to a more traditional defense in Game 5 — they started guarding Roberson (rather than having a big “guard” and ignore him to protect the paint), they switched, they stayed home in the paint, and they just trusted each other and played their system better. It was a marked improvement. However, they did it at home — now they need to do it on the road, where Green, in particular, has been more prone to mistakes and frustration.

One key here worth emphasizing is the Warriors got back to switching most pick-and-rolls — that’s what they did all season, that’s part of why the “death lineup” is so successful defensively, yet in this series they increasingly went away from it (in part because of how they guarded Roberson). Switching is part of who the Warriors are, and while it will create some mismatches teams don’t want to stray too far from their core identity.

4) Stephen Curry needs to be MVP level Curry. Draymond Green needs to be his All-NBA self.
I’m not saying the same thing about Durant and Westbrook because I have no doubt they will show up with urgency in their games Saturday night. However, Curry and Draymond have been shadows of themselves in the two previous games in Oklahoma City, and if that happens again only one team is flying back to the Bay Area postgame.

Curry finished his drives a little better in Game 5, and at moments he blew by bigs switched onto him off of picks, something we have seen far less of this series than during the season. Green played well defensively in Game 5, he hit the boards hard, but he made some head-scratching offensive decisions. If the Warriors are going to force a Game 7, those two guys have to be elite in this game. The Warriors best players must lead. It’s that simple.