Oklahoma City Thunder guard Westbrook controls the inbound pass in front of Chicago Bulls defenders Belinelli and Gibson during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Thunder roll as Bulls need a Rose

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while pointing out to friends the historical inaccuracies of “Argo”

Lakers 103, Mavericks 99: The Lakers are starting to find their identity as a team… of course, some night’s that identity is Kobe Bryant. He dropped 38 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, had 12 rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers are in the playoff hunt and our Brett Pollakoff broke it down.

Thunder 102, Bulls 72: No doubt the Thunder are a very good team, a title contender, a team deep with talent. This game wasn’t about them. This is about how sad and pathetic the Bulls offense can be some nights — they shot 29.1 percent for the game. Or look at it this way, their shot totals by quarter: 6-of-30, 4-of-18, 7-of-20, 8-of-18. It was ugly. These are the games they miss Derrick Rose.

This was a rout from early on, when the Thunder went on a 19-5 run and never looked back. Russell Westbrook had 23, Kevin Durant had 29 and they could have played mahjong on the bench in the fourth quarter as they and all the Thunder starter’s watched as the benches were emptied.

Knicks 99, 76ers 93: So if you want some good news Philadelphia, Thaddeus Young is back and had a double-double (10 and 11). And Jrue Holiday looked every part the All-Star (30 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists). But right now the 76ers are crumbling and the Knicks are a playoff team trying to gear up for a run.

The Knicks needed a win after losing four in a row and got it with 29 from Carmelo Anthony and a season high 22 from Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks bench gave New York the lead with a 17-2 run to start the second quarter, and the Knicks never gave it up. They needed a win, now they need to build on it over the final months of the season.

Trail Blazers 92, Celtics 86: Boston is on a tough West Coast road trip and could use a win. And it looked like they could get one after a Kevin Garnett running hook tied the game a 86-86 with 1:46 to go.

But it wasn’t to be. Damian Lillard attacked off the pick-and-roll, the defensive rotation was late and he picked up and and-one. Then after some good defense taking away a Garnett drive and forcing a miss, then Wesley Matthews — who had an impressive 24 points on the night — knocked down the step back three that sealed it. Good win for a struggling Blazers team.

Heat 109, Cavaliers 105: Miami seemed to be in control after a 10-0 run in the first quarter and were cruising, up 18 at the half. The lead got to 22 at one point. But the Cavaliers opened the second half with some intent and opened it 42-21 and with a 15-2 run in the third quarter the Cavaliers took the lead.

Then Dwyane Wade happened. He had 15 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-10 shooting and you can count a couple of assists in there, too. Dion Waiters tried to answer, the gunner had 8 in the fourth quarter and 26 in the game. But it wasn’t enough.

Grizzlies 76, Nets 72: Seven wins in a row for the Grizzlies. This game shows why Memphis will be a tough out come the playoffs. First, they defend — Brooklyn shot 37.7 percent. Drive the lane and you will pay a price against them as they are physical and will defend the rim. On offense it was five guys in double figures, led by Zach Randolph with 16. They don’t need a lot of points and they get what they need with balance.

Spurs 97, Suns 87: How did you really think this was going to end? The Suns hung around for a quarter but the Spurs opened the second quarter on a 22-4 and that was it. The final score makes it seem closer than it was. The Spurs has six guys scoring in double figures. San Antonio did it without Tony Parker who was out, and they finish the annual rodeo trip 7-2.

Warriors 100, Timberwolves 99: Golden State didn’t play very well, may not have deserved it (22 turnovers), but they got a big game from their All-Star David Lee (22 points, 13 rebounds) and key late shots from Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry and it was enough. Well, that and a late miss by Luke Ridnour, who had a shot at the win but misses. It was really a big game for Carl Landry, too, who had 19 points and 9 rebounds.

There were a couple good performances for the Timberwolves — Derrick Williams had 23 and Ricky Rubio looked more like his old self with 13 points, 9 assists.

Hornets 110, Kings 95: This game was a lot closer than the score shows, the Hornets went on a 22-7 run in the fourth quarter to pull away. They did it with their bench — Ryan Anderson had 13 of his 17 in the fourth quarter, Roger Mason Jr. added 10 in the quarter. The Hornets won the bench battle 45-17.

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.

James scores 33, Cavaliers reach second straight NBA Finals

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TORONTO — LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It’s the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it’s his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

“I had to bring my game,” he said. “I had to be in attack mode from the beginning.”

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith had 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday’s Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered “Let’s go, Raptors! Let’s go, Raptors!” throughout most of the final three minutes.

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland’s nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

TIP INS

Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. … Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

Reports: P.J. Carlesimo to join Sixers staff as Brett Brown’s lead assistant

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 02:  Head coach P.J. Carlesimo of the Brooklyn Nets watches as his team take on the Chicago Bulls in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Nets defeated the Bulls 95-92. 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 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last season, when new president Jerry Colangelo started shaking things up in Philadelphia, he brought in Mike D’Antoni to be a lead assistant next to Brett Brown. This led to all kinds of speculation around the league that the Colangelos were trying to bring back the old Suns brain trust (especially when Jerry hired his son Bryan to be GM).

However, D’Antoni jumped ship to be the head coach of the Houston Rockets.

Enter, P.J. Carlesimo.

Carlesimo is a good fit, but that’s not going to quell the rumors that the Colangelos are not comfortable with Brown (despite giving him a contract extension). The Sixers need to give Brown a legitimate shot — he’s been like a contestant on Chopped the past few seasons, given a ridiculous basket of ingredients and told to turn Mango, octopus and graham crackers into a four-star meal. He’s gotten them to play defense (at times) and started to build a culture. He has earned the chance to show what he can do with a better lineup.

Which is what the Sixers will have next season.

Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic likes idea of two-bigs lineup with Nikola Jokic

DENVER, CO - APRIL 5:  Jusuf Nurkic #23 of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Pepsi Center on April 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 124-102. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Late last season, Nuggets coach Mike Malone tried something out of the box the way the NBA is trending — playing two young bigs together. Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic, the latter of whom finished in third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Small ball may be in vogue, but going big has worked pretty well these playoffs for Oklahoma City with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (and Serge Ibaka).

It didn’t work all that well for Denver — in just 92 minutes together the Nuggets were outscored by 7.1 points per 100 possessions, mostly because the offense was terrible.

But Nurkic wants to try it again next season, he told the Nuggets’ official Web site.

“I’m happy about the big lineup [with Nikola]. “Basketball has kind of changed. The NBA has gone smaller because of [the] Golden State [Warriors]. In the [Western Conference] semi-finals, look at [Oklahoma City’s Steven] Adams, [Enes] Kanter, and [Serge] Ibaka. They played all those guys and they see the difference. Me and Nikola have great communication because we played in the same league, we played against each other.”

He’s referring to their time in the Serbian league where the two played before going to the NBA.

While it could only be used situationally, expect Malone to experiment with this lineup more. There are some serious defensive questions (neither is exactly fleet of foot), and there could be spacing issues. But if the league moves one way, the smart teams and coaches think about counters.