Marc Gasol, Kevin Durant

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Night of wild finishes all over NBA map

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while reading the oral history of Ace of Bass’ one hit….

Heat 98, Cavaliers 95: Crazy game. I mean certifiable, off its meds kind of game. Starting with a 40-minute delay at the start to fix a coolant leak in the scoreboard that was dripping fluid on the court. Then the Cavaliers were hot and went up 27 points. Then the Heat came back behind LeBron James’ triple double. Then… oh, just read our recap. Too much for this space. Just know Miami has 24 wins in a row now.

Grizzlies 90, Thunder 89 (OT): Marc Gasol became the hero when he tipped in Zach Randolph’s miss with 0.8 seconds left, but this game seemed set several times to have a different hero.

Kevin Durant scored 15 of his 32 points in the third quarter, making the game competitive after Oklahoma City fell behind by double digits. Kevin Martin made a 3-pointer with 1:25 left in regulation, snapping a 1-for-30 skid by Thunder 3-point shooters and giving Oklahoma City a game-best six-point lead. Jerryd Bayless scored seven points in the final 11 seconds of regulation, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left.

But in the end, Gasol fittingly closed a game in which both teams shot below 36 percent by handling a missed shot better than anyone else on the floor.
—Dan Feldman

Rockets 100, Jazz 97: This game was huge for the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture — the Rockets are now the seven seed and a full three games up on the nine seed Jazz (the Lakers split the difference, 1.5 back of the Rockets and 1.5 up on the Jazz). The Rockets didn’t secure a playoff spot with win, but it helps. A lot.

The Rockets were out to an early lead in this one, getting their buckets in transition and doing pretty much whatever they wanted. James Harden was getting to the free throw line all night — 17 of his 29 points came at the stripe. Jeremy Lin had 24 points on 13 shots. The Rockets were up as many as 26, and while the Jazz made it a little more interesting in the fourth quarter behind 14 points from Gordon Hayward (he finished with 27) the game never really felt in doubt.

Spurs 104, Warriors 93: Tim Duncan does not age. Well, that or he’s a Terminator. One or the other. He had 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to be at the heart of the Spurs win. San Antonio took the lead with a 19-2 run in the second quarter (one sparked mostly by their bench) and held it the rest of the way. The Warriors made a fourth quarter comeback behind the efforts of Stephen Curry (24 points) and it was his free throws that cut it to a four point game with 3:30 left. But then the Spurs answered with a 12-3 run, with Duncan scoring 6 of the points and picking up an assist on a Manu Ginobili three.

With the win the Spurs are 2.5 games clear of Oklahoma City for best record in the West. With the loss Golden State, the six seed, is tied in the loss column with the seven seed Rockets.

Nets 113, Mavericks 96: When one team has two players who outperform everyone else on the other team by a wide margin, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’re going to win the game. And, in this contest, that was the case for Nets.

Deron Williams scored 31 points and handed out 6 assists in this one, absolutely torching his hometown Mavs in the process. Not to be outdone, however, Brook Lopez was even better that than, scoring 38 points while grabbing 11 rebounds in his demolition of the Mavericks’ frontline. Neither Net could be close to slowed down, much less stopped and it was on the backs of these two that the Nets were able to shoot 50.6% from the floor and get pretty much everything they wanted on offense all night.

And while the Mavericks did their best to keep up, they simply didn’t have enough. Dirk Nowitzki was hot all night, hitting 8 of his 10 shots to score 16 points. Chris Kaman also had a solid night offensively in scoring 14 points on 7-12 shooting. And while the Mavs were able to shoot 50% as a team, the difference was that they lacked the explosiveness that the Nets brought to this game and couldn’t overcome that with multiple complementary performances to Dirk and Kaman or by defending well enough where they wouldn’t need those bigger offensive nights.
—Darius Soriano

Knicks 106, Magic 94: It didn’t take long into Carmelo Anthony’s return for everyone to notice he was moving much better (after having his knee drained). Or for him to make a difference — Anthony had 7 first quarter points to help spark an early 19-4 run that gave the Knicks a lead they never relinquished. The Magic made some pushes and kept close at times (it was 51-46 Knicks at the half) but they could never close the gap all the way. J.R. Smith helped with that, scoring 22 points off the bench, and efficiently on just 16 shots.

Mike Woodson did not easy Anthony back into the game, he played nearly 33 minutes. But the Knicks needed him to hold off the feisty Magic.

Clippers 101, 76ers 72: Running, gunning Lob City was back in full force as the Clippers just controlled this game from the second quarter on and had no problems cruising to a win. It was tied after one quarter, but the Clippers opened the second quarter on an 11-1 run, and that was it. Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals — and he sat most of the fourth quarter.

Hawks 98, Bucks 90: Atlanta won this game in the third quarter, when it held Milwaukee to 31.6 percent shooting and outscored them 29-16 behind 12 points in the quarter from Jeff Teague (who finished with 27 points and 11 assists). Al Horford had a big night of 26 points and 15 rebounds.

The Hawks remain the five seed in the East, two games back of the four-seed Nets (and home court in the first round) but also just one game up on six seed Chicago. The Bucks are the eight seed and while there is no chance of the 76ers catching them from behind they don’t look like they can catch seven seed Boston, either.

Hornets 87, Celtics 86: Anthony Davis may have only had 9 points and 8 rebounds, but his last second tip-in was the difference in this game, propelling the Hornets to the victory while leaving the Celtics struggling to figure out how it all went bad.

But, if the Celtics are looking for answers, they need only look at how much more physical the Hornets were than them in this game. The Hornets out-rebounded the Celtics 45-28, including an 11 to 4 edge on the offensive end. The Hornets also looked to attack the paint most of the night, taking over half of their shots in the restricted area and earning 26 foul shots in the process. Ryan Anderson was especially assertive in getting to the line, making 9 of his 11 attempts to help him score his team high 21 points. Eric Gordon (18 points) and Greivis Vasquez (13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) were also very good in staying aggressive against a stingy Celtic defense.

On Boston’s side, it was Paul Pierce’s 28 points on only 9-17 shooting and Kevin Garnett’s 20 points on 9-16 shooting that kept them in the game while the rest of their team struggled to put together consistent offense. During a key stretch from late in the 3rd to the middle of the 4th quarter, the Celtics only scored 8 points which essentially allowed the Hornets to stay close enough to steal this game at the end.
—Darius Soriano

Wizards 88, Suns 79: John Wall (19 points and eight assists) bested Goran Dragic (18 points and 11 assists) in a matchup of good point guards on bad teams thanks to a little help from the Phoenix. The Wizards broke open a one-point game with a 15-0 second-quarter run, but the Suns’ shots during that run came from 17, 14, 26, 20, 17 and 23 feet — low-value distances.
Washington’s first win in Phoenix since 2006 gives the Wizards their fourth season sweep of a Western Conference team, adding to a hodge-podge group that already included the Nuggets, Hornets and Trail Blazers.
—Dan Feldman

Bobcats 107, Raptors 101: I watched maybe 10 minutes of this and it felt like two teams showing up to collect their paychecks as they play out the string. Not much else to report. Rudy Gay had 25 points and was in move with his jump shot. The Bobcats bench won the game, outscoring the Raptors bench 54-13.

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.