Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Carmelo’s 40 points lead Knicks to 10th straight victory

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while choosing sides in the battle between Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi …

Knicks 95, Hawks 82: The Knicks extended their league-best winning streak to 10 games on Wednesday, thanks to a dominant offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game.

Anthony finished with 40 points after dropping 50 on Miami just the night before, making him the first Knicks player since Patrick Ewing in the 1989-90 season to score at least 40 points in consecutive games.

This game was actually tied with under 10 minutes to play, and Anthony largely did his damage in the first three periods. New York got 10 points each from J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton in the final period, and the Knicks finished the game on a 23-10 run to seal it.

Raptors 88, Wizards 78: John Wall was just OK in this one, and didn’t get much help on a night the Wizards managed to shoot just over 32 percent from the field for the game. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but after Washington led by 11 at the half, the Raptors locked down in the final two periods to hold the Wizards to just 28 points the rest of the way.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 25 points, and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and did it on just seven shots thanks to a 16-18 effort from the free throw line.

Bobcats 88, Sixers 83: A dismal 2-24 night shooting from Jrue Holiday doomed the Sixers in this one, but because they were playing the league-worst Bobcats, they still had a chance. Gerald Henderson put an end to all that, however, with a key steal and a breakaway dunk that extended his tam’s lead to three with under 30 seconds remaining.

Nets 113, Cavaliers 95: Games like this are why Byron Scott is on the hot seat in Cleveland, despite the injuries this season and the youth present on the Cavaliers roster. The Nets led by as many as 34 points, and Cleveland allowed both Jerry Stackhouse and Deron Williams to get loose for dunks in the same game.

Celtics 98, Pistons 93: Boston needed some big baskets down the stretch to hold off a late Pistons rally, who came back to within three after trailing earlier in the game by as many as 18 points. Jeff Green continued his strong play with 34 points and four blocked shots, and hit the key three-pointer with under a minute to play that helped seal the victory by extending his team’s lead to five.

Charlie Villanueva managed to get 17 shots up in under 24 minutes for the Pistons, and made just two.

Timberwolves 107, Bucks 98: Minnesota isn’t playing for anything but pride at this stage of the season, after injuries robbed the team of its playoff chances some time ago. But after beating the Bucks, the Timberwolves have won three of four, all against  playoff teams.

It was a 13-34 night of shooting combined from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, while Ricky Rubio finished with 19 points, 12 assists and eight steals, which helped to cancel out his eight turnovers. The Bucks are essentially locked into the eighth seed in the playoffs, but with eight games left in the regular season, they may want to focus a little bit considering that first round matchup with the Heat which looms in the distance.

Nuggets 113, Jazz 96: Utah had been playing better lately, but thy’re still a fringe team fighting to sneak into the playoffs. Denver, meanwhile, is on the fringe of the West’s elite tier, so the result of this one wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Denver shot better than 56 percent on Utah’s home floor, and saw seven of its players finish in double figures, led by 21 points on 10 shots from Danilo Gallinari.

The loss dropped the Jazz to ninth in the Western Conference standings, a half-game back of the Lakers.

Spurs 98, Magic 84: In a game without Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobili, and one where Tim Duncan played less than 14 minutes, the Spurs got a win on the strength of their team defense. San Antonio held  Orlando to under 39 percent shooting for the game, and got a team-high 20 points from Danny Green offensively on the way to the victory.

Rockets 112, Kings 102: Houston got a huge game from Chandler Parsons, who finished with 29 points on 12-18 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. The Kings shot just 39.1 percent for the game, “led” by a 3-16 effort from starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Grizzlies 94, Blazers 76: The Grizz are tough to beat if you can’t find a way to score, considering their defense ranks right near the top of the league in points per 100 possessions. Portland attempted to beat it by launching 29 three-point attempts, but they were able to make just four.

Mike Conley continued his strong play for Memphis, and out-dueled likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard by finishing with 20 points and five assists on 7-11 shooting.

Clippers 126, Suns 101: The Clippers needed to get right after losing three straight, all to playoff teams, and the Suns were more than happy to oblige. This one was over early, as L.A. jumped out to a 10-point lead by the time the first quarter was through.

Ryan Hollins provided some late-game fireworks for the fans who were still in the building, thanks to this idiotic play that saw him get ejected after appearing for all of nine minutes in garbage time.

Warriors 98, Hornets 88: New Orleans actually led this one by 11 early in the second quarter, before the Warriors woke up and finished the half on a 32-12 run to put this one in the win column. David Lee led the effort for Golden State with 23 points and 16 rebounds.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.