Denver Nuggets' Iguodala drives past Golden State Warriors' Curry during their NBA Western Conference quarter-final basketball playoff in Denver

Nuggets find their game, hold off the Warriors to take game 5

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The Nuggets finally looked like themselves this series, and not a moment too soon. By beating the Warriors 107-100, the Nuggets not only staved off elimination, but grabbed some momentum in the process.

Nearly every Nugget win this season saw the same trends develop and this game was no different. Denver scored 50 points in the paint, forced 17 Warrior turnovers (which they turned into 19 points), and worked the offensive glass to grab 15 offensive rebounds (which they turned into 20 points). When Denver can control these three aspects of the game, they become almost unbeatable as the Warriors found out.

The star of the game was Andre Iguodala who put up a LeBron type line, stuffing the stat sheet with a team high 25 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing 7 assists. Iguodala was all over the floor, flashing his versatility by playing a lot of point forward and creating shots for himself and his teammates off the dribble. And when he wasn’t handling the ball, he was working masterfully off it, finding space in the post and punishing the smaller defenders Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson tried to hide on him all night.

Outside of Iguodala, it was a real team effort from Denver who got several strong contributions up and down their roster. Six players scored in double-digits, with Wilson Chandler’s 19 points via some very good outside shooting helping to create spacing for Ty Lawson (who also scored 19) to create off the dribble and attack the interior of the Warriors’ defense.

But while the Nuggets on the floor clearly picked up their respective games to pick up this win, a lot of credit has to go to head George Karl for pushing the right buttons and making some effective adjustments. Karl switched up his starting lineup, going to JaVale McGee at Center to play next to Kenneth Faried in the front court. McGee’s activity in defending the paint allowed the Denver’s wing defenders to pressure the ball and shoot the gap into passing lanes and create turnovers.

Karl also went away from the Lawson and Andre Miller backcourt — at least early in the game — playing Corey Brewer at shooting guard for extended minutes while also matching up Kosta Koufos against Carl Landry for the majority of his minutes. These shifts kept much more size on the floor and kept the Warriors flustered on offense as they always seemed to run into a bigger, longer defender than they have all series.

In contrast to Karl, Warriors’ head man Mark Jackson made some decisions that he’d likely take back if given another opportunity. For long stretches he tried to hide Curry defensively on Iguodala, but as mentioned that went poorly. He also closed the game with Draymond Green and Festus Ezili rather than playing Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry. Bogut’s absence was particularly glaring as the team missed his defensive presence and work on the glass.

Not to bury Jackson as he did ride out the stretch with the guys who were able to make a push and cut into the Nuggets’ lead to make it a game in the 4th quarter.

After starting so slowly due to some solid defense and some physical play, Curry scored 7 of his 15 points in the final period while also handing out 2 of his 8 assists. Along with Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson were key in pulling the Warriors back to within 5 points with only 4:15 left to play, hitting some big baskets while the Nuggets looked more than ready to give up the lead entirely.

But that was as close as the Warriors got. Down the stretch a big three by Chandler and a dunk by Iguodala off an airballed jumper ended up sealing Golden State’s fate.

With the series heading back to Oakland, it remains to be seen if Denver has actually figured things out to the point that they can still pull out the series. But, even if it was just for one night, the Nuggets finally resembled the team they were from the regular season; the team that was favored to win this series.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.