John Wall

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: One streak continues, another dies

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while being jealous of the guy with the best job in journalism….

Heat 108, Magic 94: This felt like a lot of the Heat’s recent wins — start slow, crank up defensive pressure, follow LeBron James to a win. That formula worked again against Orlando (but may not against Chicago, New Orleans or San Antonio later this week). We’ve got the details on this game for you, if you like reading about patterns.

Hornets 110, Nuggets 86: It was just an off night for the Nuggets. No energy, not great defense, shots were not falling (Denver shot just 42 percent in the paint) and they didn’t have Ty Lawson healthy to lift them out of the rut. Credit New Orleans for playing their game — they controlled the boards, the tempo and knocked down threes. We broke this game down in more detail as well.

Wizards 107, Grizzlies 94: John Wall went off for a career-high 47 points to go with eight assists and seven rebounds. Washington hasn’t always backed up its franchise player’s better games – the Wizards were 0-3 in Wall’s three highest scoring games before Tuesday – but Emeka Okafor (21 points and nine rebounds) and crew came through to help beat a quality team.

The Grizzlies, 3-4 in their last seven games, have returned to earth after winning 14 of 15. (Remember when a run like that seemed like a big deal?) But there’s little shame in losing to the Wizards, who’ve beaten five of the six teams – Heat, Thunder, Clippers and Nuggets – with a better record than Memphis.
—Dan Feldman

Warriors 109, Lakers 103: This game was nowhere near as close as the score would indicate. Golden State pounced on a Lakers team that seemed multiple steps slow all night long, and had them doubled up at 28-14 in the game’s first 11 minutes. The Warriors used hot shooting and exploited a lack of team defense from L.A. to score seemingly at will for most of the contest.

The lead was 23 by halftime, and reached 25 in the third quarter before a late fourth quarter Lakers rally fell short. L.A. never threatened despite the reasonable final margin.

There were too many shots from Kobe Bryant, who finished with 36 points on 11-27 shooting (and 2-10 from three-point distance). Pau Gasol was ineffective in just 23 minutes of action with seven points and eight rebounds, and Metta World Peace sat out the second half with a strained left knee.

That’s three straight losses for the Lakers, who remain a game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Mavericks are just a game and a half back, and have been playing much better as of late, so the playoff position that the Lakers first found themselves in a couple of weeks back is anything but guaranteed at this point.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pacers 100, Hawks 94: No five-man lineup has outscored opponents by more this season than Indiana’s George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. But the Pacers were out of luck, out of luck, out of luck with Hill (groin), Stephenson (hip) and West (back) injured. Indiana had been outscored by 44 points without any of those three in 555 minutes entering Tuesday.

Somehow, a lineup of D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson, Sam Young, Jeff Pendergraph and Hibbert – the Pacers’ version of March madness – outscored the Hawks 16-5 during a six-minute stretch of the second quarter, and Indiana never trailed again.

Led by Josh Smith (20 points, four assists, four steals and two blocks), the Hawks cut the Pacers’ lead to 94-90 with less than a minute left. But Gerald Green answered with a 3-pointer on his way to 17 second-half points.
—Dan Feldman

Jazz 107, Sixers 91: Utah snapped a four-game losing streak by jumping on Philadelphia early and not letting up all night long. It was 10-0 to start the game thanks to a run that included a couple of threes from Gordon Hayward, and the Jazz closed the half on a 13-2 run that saw them lead by 16 at the break. The Sixers were unable to get closer than 12 the rest of the way.<

Philadelphia shot just 38.6 percent from the field for the game, while Utah’s offensive attack was balanced with seven players finishing in double figures scoring.

With this win, the Jazz remain just a game back of the Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, despite winning just four of their last 16 games.
—Brett Pollakoff

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 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.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.

Damian Lillard gets tested by Warriors, looks for rebound

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) First it was a chest cold, then it was a fourth-quarter dry spell. The start of Damian Lillard‘s playoff series against the Golden State Warriors has been rough.

And as Lillard goes, often the rest of the Trail Blazers follow.

Portland is down 2-0 in its Western Conference semifinal series against the defending NBA champions. And it certainly won’t get much easier when the series shifts north Saturday – even though presumptive league MVP Stephen Curry is unlikely to return from a knee injury.

But Lillard and his team have a history of stepping up after getting knocked down. In fact, that’s been the theme of their whole season.

“I know the kind of guys I’m running with. Besides that, we’ve answered the call all season long. We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away. We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different,” he said.

Lillard, who averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists during the regular season, scored 25 points in the Blazers’ 110-99 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night, including 17 points in the third quarter. But the Warriors held him scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) in the crucial final period when they came from behind to win, outscoring Portland 34-12. Portland only scored six points over the last 5:21.

With a day off on Wednesday, Lillard let the loss digest.

“After the game I was pretty frustrated by not being able to finish that game. Yesterday I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t even gonna watch the playoff game until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of 3s. So I wanted to see for myself, but I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball after that game.”

In the series opener, Lillard started cold but eventually scored 30 points in a 118-106 loss. The Oakland native admitted later to battling a cold afterward. On Thursday, he said he was healthy.

Lillard made a playoff splash in 2014 when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Rockets sent the Blazers into the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But he was the lone starter left with the Blazers this season after the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Some expected the Blazers to only win about two dozen games.

Lillard tends to rise when he’s the underdog, however. Led by Lillard and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, a first-year starter, the Blazers overcame a 2-10 stretch in November to wind up the fifth seed in the West.

A two-time All-Star, Lillard was snubbed this year. How did he respond? By dropping 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over – wait for it – the Golden State Warriors. Lillard shot over Curry at will in that Feb. 19 victory, one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.

Knowing the Blazers are capable will be key Saturday night.

“We’ll have bounce. We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the opening round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Having energy, having bounce, at the Moda Center, with our crowd? That’s the least of our concerns.”

Lillard also struggled in the opening two games against the Clippers in the first round. Portland came back to win the next four to win the series, but the Clippers were hurt when their top two scorers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were knocked out with injuries.

The Warriors also get credit for Lillard’s struggles after making defensive adjustments on both Lillard and McCollum, particularly the play of Festus Ezeli.

“They are so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond (Green), those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Lillard said the Blazers would learn from it.

“It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth,” he said. “The entire season has been growth for us.”

Erik Spoelstra calls Frank Vogel’s firing “disturbing”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2013 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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One thing that’s a constant in the NBA: coaches always stick up for each other. That’s what happened on Thursday, when Pacers president Larry Bird announced that he was letting Frank Vogel go. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached against Vogel in three memorable playoff series during the big three era, was unhappy to hear the news of Vogel’s fate and lamented the state of coaching, which has very little job security.

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I think it’s really disturbing, actually. I’ve only been a head coach for eight years. So what am I, the second-longest-tenured?” Spoelstra asked, with Casey in his sixth season as Toronto coach and only Gregg Popovich, in his 20th season with the San Antonio Spurs, on the bench longer. “That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now and stability of organizations.”

Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle are the second longest-tenured coaches in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich. Already this offseason, there have been five coaching changes in addition to Vogel’s: Luke Walton replaced Byron Scott with the Lakers, Tom Thibodeau replaced Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves, Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman in Washington, and the Rockets and Kings jobs are still unfilled. The Knicks job could potentially turn over as well, if Phil Jackson opts not to bring back Kurt Rambis.

This is on top of five coaches who were fired during the season: Kevin McHale in Houston, Derek Fisher in New York, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Lionel Hollins in Brooklyn and David Blatt in Cleveland. That’s a third of the league since the 2015-16 season began. Spoelstra is right about the instability, but that’s part of the business.

Photos: Bucks unveil interior of new arena

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks runs down court during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Milwaukee Bucks are set to open their new arena in time for the start of the 2018-19 season, and now they’ve unveiled the first renderings of the inside of the building. They’re pretty nice.

Here’s the court:

There will also be several public bars out in the concourse:

It’s decidedly more modern than the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center, although that building is one of the most fun atmospheres in the league to watch a game in. Hopefully the new place can recapture that vibe.