Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Friday, or what you missed while filling out your Oscars pool

Bobcats 98, Lakers 83: The Lakers are not playing well right now, they are playing without confidence in the offensive system. That said, they are not playing as poorly as Lakers fans think they are.

Before we get too far into that, lets give the Bobcats some credit. This is a good defensive team that saves some of its best efforts for the Lakers. Larry Brown breaks out that 2004 Finals defense that pushes the triangle out higher on the floor, and the Lakers just can’t adjust. On offense, Charlotte ran the pick-and-roll well and hit their midrange jumpers consistently. This was a quality win.

This was always a trap game for the Lakers — second game of a back-to-back with everyone talking about the Orlando rematch on Sunday. But right now the Lakers look like a team killing time until the playoffs. And these Lakers are just not good enough to win doing that. They need to be engaged in the game — or for at least part of the game, as they were against Denver. The Lakers are in a funk — they are lazy taking care of the ball, their bigs are missing shots and every night different players seem to take the night off.

This, however, does not mean they are not title contenders, that they are not going to turn it on. There are 19 games left until a first round playoff matchup where they will be the heavy favorites. Kobe ad Phil Jackson have been down this road before, they can get a team functioning and focused. But it has to happen pretty soon.

Cavaliers 99, Pistons 92: The only important thing out of this game is that Rodney Stuckey is okay.

The incident may have had an impact on the outcome. The Pistons had been up on a rather lazy and unfocused Cavaliers team, by 21 at one point in the first half, nine at halftime and six at the time of Stuckey’s collapse. Pistons players admitted they were the ones not focused after that. LeBron James dropped 40.

Thunder 104, Clippers 87: Here is all you need to know about Kevin Durant: I was at this game, sitting next to two advanced scouts, and at least four different times Durant would make a play — slashing to the hoop or a jumper with a man in his face — and these scouts just shook their heads in disbelief. Twice once scout turned to the other and said, “How the hell are you supposed to defend that?” When you are wowing the oft-jaded advanced scouts, you are good.

This was really about the Thunder getting focused on defense and the Clippers having no good offensive answer for that.

Celtics 96, Sixers 86: There were some great games tonight. This was not one of them. Two teams played uninspired perimeter defense, and the big difference was that the Celtics have better outside shooters than the Sixers. Well, except for Paul “1-9” Pierce. But KG is 5 of 7 from the outside. Bottom line, ugly wins are still wins.

Raptors 102, Knicks 96: Here’s one of the things you have to like about David Lee — he still cares. The Raptors were without an ill Chris Bosh and they still scored 62 of their points in the paint. When the New York media called Lee on it after the game (as if it was all his fault, he’s a 6’9″ center), he took responsibility. Nobody else on that team still seems to be taking responsibility.

Bucks 102, Wizards 74: These two play a home-and-home and the Bucks win them both by a combined 44 points. The Wizards fans were booing, and Flip Saunders should have joined in as his charges had just 10 assists all game. We’ve all seen his offense at other stops, it’s not about isolation. (Although part of the reason for the 10 assists is that somebody has to hit the shot off the pass for their to be an assist, and the Wizards shot a woeful 37.8%.) Bogut with a double-double, he has been the second best center in the East the last few weeks.

Hawks 127, Warriors 122: If Mike Bibby could have played his entire career against the Warriors he might have been talked about like MJ — he torched his favorite opponent again, this time for 23 on 8 of 10, with seven three pointers. Al Horford had 25 and a big game inside for Atlanta because every decent center has a big game inside against the Warriors. At least Steph Curry is still fun to watch for Golden State, they’d kill to have that in New York right now.

Magic 97, Nets 87: The Magic acted like they cared for a quarter, and jumped out to 32-18 lead (Matt Barnes had 14 of those), then started thinking about the Lakers showdown Sunday and coasted. Against the Nets that’s still enough to get them a win.

Mavericks 108, Kings 100: Brendan Haywood hurt his back on the opening tip (it had been bothering him some before) and played just seven minutes. Rick Carlisle joined him in the locker room after getting tossed arguing for Dirk to get some calls. Doesn’t matter when you are as hot as Dallas. Key stat: The Mavericks won the turnover battle handily, giving it up eight time but having 10 steals and forcing the Kings into 17 turnovers.

Nuggets 122, Pacers 114: Denver is banged up and did not play very well. Fortunately for them, they played the Pacers.

Spurs 102, Hornets 91: Darren Collison continues to be the man — 32 points on 14 of 19 shooting.  But the Spurs played a very good and balanced  offensive game — seven players in double figures — and they get the win because they are the better team.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.