Baseline to Baseline, where Portland persevered

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What happened Sunday night while you were formulating Tiger Woods jokes…

Blazers 91 Lakers 88: That was messed up. Seriously. Just messed up. The final two minutes of this game saw the Blazers with a five point lead only to see Derek Fisher get away with murder on an illegal moving screen as Kobe Bryant hit a shot from Long Beach, then a questionable offensive foul returned the ball to the Lakers. Kobe Bryant got an and-one, sank the free throw, and the Lakers led. Marcus Camby hit a huge putback to put the Blazers up one, then on the ensuing possession, Martell Webster apparently thought they had a foul to give. They did not. The result was Bryant at the line to hit game tying free throws like he’s done thousands of times.

Except he didn’t.

He missed both. Except Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and dished it to Derek Fisher, who pump faked and drew another foul on Andre Miller. Okay, Derek Fisher will take care of busine…

CLANG.

Derek goes one of two, and the Lakers tie the game. Then, then, THEN, Derek Fisher, notably clutch human being makes a terrible foul on Webster who parlays it into three shots at the line. The final Lakers possession? A Pau Gasol three pointer. Which is great, since he’s a 22% three point shooter in his career.

It was a bizarre game for most of it, with the Lakers looking strong early, then fading, and Brandon Roy going down to injury.

Marcus Camby played like a guy that can make a difference in the next month. Kobe Bryant played yet another in a series of terrible games.

Magic 98 Cavs 92: The Magic went down 16 in this one, then realized “Oh, they don’t have LeBron.” What’s odd is they stopped trying to create penetration and instead just creating opportunities on the perimeter. The Cavs had little invested, but Antawn Jamison continues to look like he’s fitting in, which is bad news for the rest of the East.

Bulls104 Raptors 88: Like we told you, this was the prototypical Raptors loss and Bulls win.

Jannero Pargo is still not good. But the Raptors’ defense is worse.

Heat 111 Knicks 98: If the Heat are going to do anything at all in the playoffs, it will be QRich who will help them, behind Wade, of course. Richardson makes huge plays and is in sync with Wade often.

Imagine the Knicks with a point guard.

Hornets 114 Wolves 86: The Wolves were annihilated inside and couldn’t defend anyone. When Julian Wright gets his season high? You know you’re playing the Wolves.

The Hornets really do have some good pieces going forward.

Suns 116 Rockets 106: Rockets surged. Took the lead. Then Nash did his thing.

He probed, drifted, and curled around screens to find three shooter after three shooter, and the Suns connected. And the Rockets effort was wasted again.

Amar’e Stoudemire is not someone you want to see for the next month.

Thunder 120 Warriors 117: The Thunder couldn’t close the deal, and Stephen Curry was too good. He hit huge shot after huge shot, and made all the right passes. The Thunder still worked their way into a position to tie, but Durant’s three came up short. The Thunder look to face the Lakers in round one if they can’t defeat Portland next.

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.