Pacers' West shoots the basketball defended by Bulls' Boozer during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Indianapolis

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pacers, Bulls get together for shootout

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while building a nuclear fusion reactor in your garage like any normal teenager….

Pacers 111, Bulls 101: If you were expecting a defense struggle between two of the top three defenses in the Association… well, sorry. There wasn’t a lot of defense and fur the Bulls, if they are not defending they are going to struggle because they can’t score with teams. Not even the Pacers. With Joakim Noah out the Bulls had matchup problems and didn’t have the size to defend David West, who finished with 29. Paul George added 23 and hit the dagger for the Pacers while George Hill was hot to start (7-of-7) and had 22 on the night. Marco Belinelli led the Bulls with 24.

Thunder 112, Mavericks 91: This was an old-school beat down. After a tight first 9 minutes or so the Thunder went on a 7-0 run when their bench first entered the game and then it was on. In the second quarter the Thunder went on a 27-8 run right about when Russell Westbrook came back into the contest, he had 11 of his 24 in the second quarter. Eventually the Thunder led by as many as 33 in the second half and it was never close. Kevin Durant had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The only even remote bright spot for Dallas was the return of Dirk Nowitzki, but he shot just 3-of-11 on the night.

Knicks 99, Pistons 85: It turns out Kyle Singler and Rodney Stuckey cannot really guard Carmelo Anthony effectively. Who knew? ‘Melo had 27, the Knicks took charge with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter and they never looked back as they cruised to their fifth straight win. Amar’e Stoudemire had 20 points and J.R. Smith added 16. Jose Calderon made his Pistons debut and had 15 points, but this wasn’t Detroit’s night.

Heat 99, Bobcats 94: It was LeBron James’ world, everyone else was just living in it — he had 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting and he took every single one of his shots in the paint. He simply bullied his way into the paint all night and Charlotte could not stop him. LeBron added 8 assists and 8 rebounds on a night where he played just about as well as a person could. Chris Bosh added 23.

Charlotte actually led this game by a point inside 8 minutes left, led by Ramon Sessions (18) and Ben Gordon (16) who had good games off the bench. But the Heat went on an 8-0 run to retake the lead for good. And on a night like this you knew LeBron was not going to let the Heat lose.

Wizards 98, Clippers 90: With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin out injured the Clippers lost again, — their seventh loss in nine games. The Clippers fall to 1-3 on their big road trip and are coming back to the pack in the West (where Memphis, Golden State and Denver are). We will see how the team responds to some adversity now.

Wizards got off to 19-6 lead to open the game and held that lead until the third quarter when the Clippers made a 17-2 run to retake the lead. That’s when Martell Webster made his presence felt, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the quarter as the Wizards retook the lead. The Wizards sealed the game with an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter fueled by Clippers turnovers. Nene and Garrett Temple added 15 points a piece. Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 28.

Sixers 78, Magic 61: What did you expect? The Magic were without Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo and of course Glen Davis. They probably asked Jacque Vaughn to suit up. The Sixers raced out to a 22-6 lead and while the game was ugly the rest of the way the Sixers never gave up the lead. Spencer Hawes had 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Nick Young added 15 points for Philly.

Trail Blazers 100, Timberwolves 98: If you watched most of this game you wouldn’t recognize the final score — it certainly wasn’t a pretty game but the Trail Blazers were in control of it. Minnesota scored just 38 first half points and was a total mess while LaMarcus Aldridge looked every bit the All-Star with 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Then came the final minutes, when Minnesota went on a 14-2 run and almost stole the game. They got it down to one point but Aldridge hit a key bucket to make it three with 27 seconds left. Of course, Aldridge missed the free throws that would have iced the game with 6.7 seconds left, giving the Timberwolves one last shot at it. They went to Dante Cunningham, who had the hot hand with 23 points on the night, but he came up just short. And Portland escapes with the win.

Jazz 98, Kings 91 (OT): Apparently Utah wants to show it can host a Super Bowl t0o — they had some lighting issues at the start of the game. Once they got going it looked like Utah would pull away with this in the second quarter but Sacramento closed the first half with a 9-0 run and we had a game. In the overtime Randy Foye had 6 of his 20 points and Paul Millsap 4 of his 14 to secure the win. The Kings could really have used DeMarcus Cousins late in this one but he got ejected just before the half. The real key for Utah in this was the 41 points they got from the bench, led by Alec Burks with 14 and Derrick Favors with 13.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.