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Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Celtics’ off night makes Bobcats look good

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while checking out what porn stars look like without makeup

Heat 98, Hawks 81: If Tuesday night was any indication, the Hawks should want to win enough games from here on out to avoid slipping to the eighth seed and getting the Heat in the first round. Miami’s win streak is up to 19 and our own Brett Pollakoff has the details.

Lakers 106, Magic 97: After the fans booed Dwight Howard, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn tried his own trick to trip up Howard — he went to hack-a-Howard and sent him to the line 39 times (tying the NBA record, also owned by Howard). But Dwight knocked down 25 and that fueled the Lakers win. We broke this game down in more detail, just follow this link.

Bobcats 100, Celtics 74: Wow, that was ugly for Boston. Paul Pierce was out for the night and the up and down Jeff Green started — and it was a down day. He was 4-of-11 shooting. Kevin Garnett looked tired and shot 2-for-10. This was the kind of game Boston needs Jason Terry to step up and he was invisible (and 2-of-5 shooting). And so it went, Avery Bradley was 4-of-11 from the field.

But let’s give the Bobcats some credit for snapping their 10-game losing streak. Gerald Henderson scored a career-high 35 points and the Bobcats pulled away with a 12-3 run to open the second half. I swear I even saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knock down a jumper — when his outside shot is falling you know it’s the Bobcat’s night.

Timberwolves 107, Spurs 83: It was the second night of a back-to-back so the Spurs rested both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard (plus Tony Parker is still out). Even so, San Antonio raced out to 14-4 lead and that grew to 21-10.

Then Ricky Rubio led the comeback — he drove the lane, broke down the Spurs defense, created open shots and Rubio finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. That would be his first career triple-double. Minnesota also played some aggressive defense, with 11 blocked shots and forcing 17 turnovers. It’s a bit of a fluke outcome, but the Timberwolves could use some breaks and good wins.

Grizzlies 102, Trail Blazers 97: Memphis got Zach Randolph back from the sprained ankle that kept him out the past four games, and he responded with 19 points and 10 rebounds. In some ways it was a classic Grizzlies win as Randolph and Marc Gasol combined to shoot 16-of-26, then when they sat Ed Davis came in and added 14 points. Memphis pounded Portland inside all game.

Grizzlies seemed to be in control but in the fourth quarter. Yet Portland run made a couple of runs to keep it close, including within five points inside the final two minutes. But Tayshaun Prince drove the lane and put up a jump hook. Then Mike Conley hit a driving layup (he had 12 points in the fourth quarter, including some key free throws) and it was just too much from Portland. As happens with the Blazers they got a good game from their starters — LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Damian Lillard added 27 points and seven assists — but their bench let them down.

Nets 108, Hornets 98: Brooklyn created a little space for itself in the second quarter with a 15-4 run, one fueled by Deron Williams and four Hornets turnover. Williams is getting healthy and starting to look like the guy thought of as one of the best point guards in the game, and he finished with 21 points and 13 assists. More than the numbers, he seemed to control the flow of the game.

Still, the Hornets fought back, led by Anthony Davis who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. It was a two-point game entering the fourth quarter, but the Nets opened the period on a 12-3 run and pulled away. Brooklyn got a lot of help from its big men — Brook Lopez had 26 points while Andray Blatche added 20 points.

Mavericks 115, Bucks 108: Milwaukee was making its push in the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run, then Vince Carter happened. The Mavericks veteran swingman had 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a trio of three-pointers that killed Milwaukee momentum. Carter finished with 23. Monta Ellis finished with 32, but he didn’t get a lot of help from Brandon Jennings (who was completely outplayed by Mike James).

For the Bucks, they are not in danger of falling out of the playoffs but they need to win games like this to get out of the eight seed (and the Heat in the first round). Dallas has won four in a row and is now within three games of the eight-seed Lakers. Still a huge hill to climb, but that dream is not dead.

Cavaliers 95, Wizards 90: The Wizards got off to a fast start — they raced out to an 11-0 lead and Cavaliers coach Byron Scott benched starters Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee, and Tyler Zeller just two minutes into the game. The message worked

While the Wizards went on to put up 33 points in the first quarter, they scored 57 total in the final three. Washington shot 38.2 percent in the final three quarters of the game, including 2-of-12 from three (Washington really misses Bradley Beal). For Cleveland, Dion Waiters led six guys in double figures with his 20. John Wall led the Wizards with 27 on 15 shots, plus had 14 assists.

Dikembe Mutombo and Bismack Biyombo squabble over finger-wagging rights

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 16: Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors wags his finger after blocking a shot against the Indiana Pacers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on April 16, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Bismack Biyombo has been doing the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag after blocks for years, and the Raptors center has said Mutombo gave him permission.

But with Biyombo breaking out and blocking shots during the playoffs, it has drawn more attention – and Mutombo’s ire.

Mutombo, via TMZ:

“I don’t know when did that conversation took place,” Mutombo said … “Him and I need to talk this summer.”

“He claim in the newspaper and everywhere he said I gave it to him. I said, Did I gave him? Was it family? Cosign? But you know what, he’s a young man, man, I let him enjoy the fame. He’s making me famous!”

“I will see him in the Congo this summer so him and I will talk back home with nobody around us.”

This is dumb.

1. Mutombo already approved of Biyombo finger-wagging. Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:

2. I’m sure Biyombo means nothing but to pay tribute to Mutombo and show up opponents – two noble goals. There is no good reason for Mutombo to be upset. He’s being honored.

Yet, this whole thing has Biyombo on edge. Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

Keep finger-wagging, Bismack. Mutombo will come around.

Report: Wizards to offer Bradley Beal five-year max contract on July 1

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal reacts after making a 3-point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-89. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Bradley Beal isn’t messing around when setting his value in free agency this summer.

I’m a max player.”

Apparently, the Wizards agree.

J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

Just as the Wizards did with John Wall, offering him a max deal early in the process of negotiation, they’ll do the same with Bradley Beal, a person with knowledge of the situation told CSNmidatlantic.com earlier this week.

This is a smart move.

Washington could let the market dictate Beal’s price, but with the salary cap skyrocketing, it’s bound to come in at a max salary anyway. By offering him a max deal on day one, the Wizards can get Beal on board with re-signing when the time is right.

Beal’s cap number will be $14,236,685 until signed or renounced. Once signed, his 2016-17 salary will become his cap number, and the max projects to be $21,579,000. So, Washington could spend the difference (projected to be  $7,342,315) then exceed the cap to re-sign Beal using his Bird rights.

Beal could get impatient and interrupt those plans, but why would he sign a max offer sheet elsewhere (projected to be worth about $92 million over four years) that the Wizards will surely match if he can just re-sign directly and get about $124 million over five years? Washington is trying to ensure he doesn’t find a reason.

Report: Warriors fretted during 2015 NBA Finals because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were out

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  (R-L) Kevin Love #0 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 28, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Some Cavaliers fans still want to put an asterisk on the Warriors’ 2015 championship, because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured during the Finals.

Apparently, Golden State had the complete opposite view.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Irving and Love have been the central players in Cleveland’s worst breakdowns. Opponents in the playoffs have scored 1.09 points per chance when they involve those two as the primary pick-and-roll defenders in a play that leads directly to a shot attempt, drawn foul or turnover, per SportVU data provided to ESPN.com. That would have ranked last by a mile among 119 two-man combos that defended at least 250 pick-and-rolls in the regular season, per that SportVU data set.

Zoom out to include any trip that features a pick-and-roll targeting Irving and Love at any time, and the number gets worse: a hideous 1.207 points allowed per possession, stingier than only one of those 119 duos — the Jrue Holiday/Ryan Anderson pairing in New Orleans.

Opponents know this stuff. They are putting Irving and Love into twice as many pick-and-rolls each game as they averaged in the regular-season, a massive jump out of proportion to the slight uptick in minutes the two are playing together. These are the sort of numbers that had members of the Golden State Warriors’ coaching staff quietly fretting when both Love and Irving missed last year’s NBA Finals, forcing the Cavs to play superior defenders in their place.

This is how the Warriors operate. They’re arrogant. They reportedly believed they’d sign Kevin Durant. Owner Joe Lacob told The New York Times: “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things. We’re going to be a handful for the rest of the N.B.A. to deal with for a long time.”

So, I believe Golden State thought Irving and Love – two stars – getting hurt lowered its odds of winning. That doesn’t make the Warriors right, but there is a logic to this thought process.

If the Cavs would’ve had their top talent – including Irving and Love – on the floor, I don’t think they could’ve played the grind-it-out style that better matched up with Golden State. Giving more prominent roles to Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova and running all the offense through LeBron James made the game rougher and slower, and the Warriors struggled in that style.

That’s why I don’t accept this thought process: “Cleveland pushed the Warriors to six games without Irving and Love. Imagine what the Cavs would’ve done with those two.” It’s not that simple. The Cavaliers couldn’t have played the same way with Irving and Love, and the freer-paced alternative would’ve played into Golden State’s hands.

I believe the Warriors would’ve won that series regardless of Irving’s and Love’s injuries. Many disagree. We’ll never know.

But I do get a kick out of the idea that Cleveland fans and Golden State coaches were similarly – though for very differently reasons – distraught about Irving’s and Love’s injures.

Report: Raptors (update: probably wouldn’t have) fired Dwane Casey if they lost in first round

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 23:  Dwane Casey the head coach of the Toronto Raptors disagrees with an offical's call in the game against the Indiana Pacers during game four of the 2016 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 23, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   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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Update: Lowe clarified in an update to his piece:

Toronto might have been one gaffe by Pacers coach Frank Vogel in Game 5 away from bowing out in the first round again, a crusher that would have raised questions about Casey’s job security — even with Toronto holding a 2016-17 option they were leaning toward picking up regardless of the Pacers series, sources say.

These types of mixed signals show why you shouldn’t always take general managers at their word when they give coaches votes of confidence.

 

Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri on Dwane Casey before the playoffs, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

If we don’t go past the first round, what’s going to happen? Coach Casey deserves to be the coach. He deserves to be our coach in the future.

Casey was coming off an impressive regular season. Toronto won a franchise-record 56 games, and Casey finished fifth in Coach of the Year voting.

But would the Raptors really keep him if they lost in the first round as the higher seed for the third straight year?

I know what Ujiri said. But it’s one thing to like Casey as a coach – I do – and another to watch another first-round upset unfold in front of your eyes. The experience of seeing four losses to the Pacers can change someone’s mind – and reportedly would’ve changed Ujiri’s.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Toronto might have been one gaffe by Pacers coach Frank Vogel in Game 5 away from bowing out in the first round again, a crusher that would have cost Casey his job, per several league sources.

Of course, the Raptors beat Indiana in seven games, slipped past the Heat in seven games and have beaten the Cavaliers twice in the Eastern Conference finals. That ought to preserve Casey’s job, even if Toronto is eliminated in Game 6 tonight.

The Raptors are at the point where they need a quality playoff coach. For the better part of three straight postseasons, Casey didn’t look like one. He still hasn’t come close to answering all the questions about him, but he has created enough doubt about his postseason proficiency.

Casey has done quality work transforming the Raptors. Unless they’re more certain he can’t get the deeper in the playoffs, they should keep him and give him a chance to try.