Baseline to Baseline recaps: Cleveland played better against the Heat. That counts for something.

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What you missed while wondering if snails can glow in the dark

Amar’e Stoudemire being .02 late and the Celtics winning in MSG is our game of the night.

Heat 101, Cavaliers 95: It was the first meeting with the Heat that seemed to throw Cleveland into a funk. This game against the Heat seemed to break them out of it as it was their best performance in weeks. It was close but Dwyane Wade went off for 17 in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers countered with… well, the guy they used to counter with is playing next to Wade. The Heat remain hot — 10 in a row now — and they get the Knicks on Friday.

Lakers 109, Pacers 94: This was a blowout early, the Lakers played one of their more complete games and that overwhelmed a Pacers team where the rotations are apparently done by lottery. By the way, Lakers fans are all over the “2-0 with Bynum” thing but until the Heat on Christmas the only teams on the schedule are teams the Lakers should beat easily (well, maybe not the Bucks, who are figuring things out).

Bulls 110, Raptors 93: If Joakim Noah was going to have one game to play before his thumb surgery, tearing apart the sad interior defense of the Raptors is the perfect choice. He got a double-double in 26 minutes with one hand. This was a laugher.

Sixers 105, Clippers 91: This was close for a half, then the Clippers shot 32 percent in the third quarter and 29 percent in the fourth. It was a combination of poor Clipper play by their young guards Bledsoe and Gordon and some improving Sixers defense.

Hornets 94, Kings 91: This one has to hurt the Kings more than most (and they have plenty of experience losing this season) — Sacramento had a 23 point lead after a 9-2 run to open the third quarter. But Marcus Thornton sparked the comeback, which was fueled by 10 second half Kings turnovers. Paul Westphal is giving DeMarcus Cousins some key minutes and he looked better but was part of the turnover problem.

Thunder 117, Rockets 105: The Thunder were knocking down everything, shooting 57.7 percent overall and hitting 7 of 11 from three. Plus they hit 28 of 29 free throws (they remain on pace to set a record high team free throw percentage for a single season). The Rockets played well, particularly Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, but they couldn’t keep pace.

Grizzlies 113, Bobcats 80: We have an O.J. Mayo sighting — he hit 10 of 15 (3 of 6 from beyond the arc) off the bench to score 24. That kind of bench production makes the Grizzlies hard to beat.

Spurs 92, Bucks 90: Manu Ginobili. The man is cold blooded. The Spurs led by as much as 18 but the Bucks battled back in all the way to being tied, then Manu happened at the buzzer. The Spurs had the last possession and ran pure isolation for Manu, he drove left, got to the elbow, traveled and hit a step back two as the red light went on. Cold hearted. (Side note, Tim Duncan with seven blocks in this one.)

Suns 128, Timberwolves 122: Blistering fast pace in this one — 104 possessions. That made it entertaining if a bit sloppy at times. Steve Nash finished with 19 assists — when he is setting up people for easy buckets you can’t beat the Suns.

Mavericks 103, Trail Blazers 98: Dirk Nowitzki can just be amazing — he had 12 in the fourth and took over the game late as the Blazers fought back. He shut the door. Just amazing to watch. However, Lamarcus Aldridge put up 35 on the Mavericks and once again exposed their interior defense. A bad trend for Mavs fans.

Bam Adebayo: “I played like s***… I’ll put that game on me.”

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The Miami Heat were one half of basketball away from the NBA Finals when a desperate Boston team cranked up its defensive intensity, started attacking the rim, and started playing at a level Miami didn’t match. The Celtics dominated the final 24 minutes of Game 5, forcing a Game 6 and keeping the Heat out of the Finals for now.

Bam Adebayo took the blame for the Heat loss. Via Manny Navarro of The Athletic.

“I played like s***. Bottom line: I can’t. I’ll put that game on me. It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made… I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”

Game 5 was not Adebayo’s best outing: 13 points, eight rebounds, and Boston did a better job with its scheme pulling him away from the basket to defend smaller players on the perimeter, opening up the paint. Adebayo and the Heat as a whole struggled to slow the Celtics’ pick-and-roll actions, and Boston has figured out how to play against Miami’s zone (so the Heat have gone away from it).

“It’s not (Adebayo’s fault). It’s on everybody,” Jimmy Butler said after the game. “He does so much for us that it can feel like that at times but it’s definitely not on him. It’s on us as a whole. We all understand that because nobody was playing the way that we are supposed to play; the way that we have to play in order for us to win, nobody. And for him to say that, I respect it. I love him for it. But he can’t do it by himself. We’ve got to be there with him.”

Bam Adebayo was wearing a sleeve over his left arm, where he aggravated a wrist injury at the end of Game 4. Both Adebayo and coach Erik Spoelstra said that was nothing and not what led to his off night.

Miami needs a lot of things to go differently in Game 6: It needs to start hitting its threes again (19.4% from beyond the arc in Game 5, and below 30% from deep in each of the last three games). Miami has to take care of the ball and it has to get back in transition defense — Boston ran right past the Heat in the second half and got a lot of easy transition buckets. Mostly, however, it comes back to Miami shooters hitting more of their threes — the Heat halfcourt offense needs that.

The Game 5 loss was not on Adebayo. But he can be part of the solution.

Backs against the wall, Celtics play dominant half to beat Heat, force Game 6

Boston Miami
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For Boston, it was the worst of halves, it was the best of halves. It was a half of foolishness, it was a half of wisdom. It was a half of tight play, it was a half of free-flowing offense. It was a half of despair, it was a half of renewed hope.

With its season on the line down 3-1, Boston came out tight in the first half of Game 5, with guys trying to do everything themselves, showing no patience, no ball movement, players gunning from three, and nobody in green was defending well. Boston shot 5-of-20 in the first quarter, and while things settled down Boston was lucky to be only down seven at the half.

Then a different Boston team came out in the second half — a team that was defending with intent, pushing the pace, and watching their best player, Jayson Tatum, attack to the tune of 17 third quarter points. At the end of the third, Brad Stevens told his team, “with all sincerity, that’s the first time I’ve seen Celtics basketball in the past few games” (via the ESPN mic’d up segment of the broadcast).

The Celtics pulled away in the fourth to win 121-108. The Heat still lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 coming on Sunday.

“We did not compete hard enough defensively and we paid the price for that,” Erik Spoelstra said of his Heat team.

“I thought we played with great tenacity defensively, and I think our offense followed suit,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the second-half turnaround.

That defense included much more ball pressure out high on Miami and it worked. The Heat shot 19.4% from three, that’s the third straight game under 30% from three for the Heat, but Tyler Herro wasn’t able to bail them out this time around.

For Boston, Tatum finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, and his third quarter helped save the Boston season.

Boston needs that Tatum from the opening tip on Sunday, not after 24 minutes (as we have seen the last couple of games). Boston is a good team but it needs Tatum to play at an All-NBA level to look like a contender.

Jaylen Brown added 28 points for the Celtics, while Daniel Theis proved an important role with 15 points and 13 rebounds plus some critical defensive plays down the stretch.

Miami may have led at the half, but when Boston started playing better out of desperation the Heat had no answers.

“No one was playing the way we’re supposed to play, the way we have to play for us to win,” Butler said.

Miami got 23 points from Goran Dragic and 20 from Duncan Robinson, who was a big part of Miami’s strong first half.

Miami was up 3-1, and they have seen how little that lead has meant in the bubble.

“I don’t think those series have anything to do with this. Our guys are well aware,” Spoelstra said. “We have great respect for Boston. We’re not expecting it to be easy. You have to earn it.”

Kings keeping Luke Walton, plan to play faster next season

Kings coach Luke Walton
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Kings coach Luke Walton works for a general manager who didn’t hire him and an owner who has shown frustration with him.

But Walton will keep his job.

New Sacramento general Monte McNair, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Luke is going to be our coach next year, I’m really excited to work with him and I think we’re aligned in our vision and we’re going to start implementing it,” McNair said.

“This team showed some flashes last year,” McNair said. “I think De’Aaron is certainly a great young talent and I think his speed ability offensively to create really is going to be a huge catalyst for how coach Walton and I envision this team being up-tempo, creating the space to shoot threes and attack the rim.”

Walton has had four losing seasons in four years as a head coach between the Lakers and Kings. But this is how it works out for him.

A distressing aspect of Walton’s first season in Sacramento: The Kings played far slower than they did the previous season under Dave Joerger, who successfully implemented a fastbreak-heavy attack that particularly suited De'Aaron Fox.

Walton can coach that way. His Lakers teams typically played quickly. But Sacramento too often stagnated last season.

The Kings are still building around Fox. It’s on Walton to figure out how to maximize the point guard. For now.

Anthony Davis listed as questionable for Game 5 with sprained ankle

Anthony Davis
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When Anthony Davis has been on the court in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers have outscored the Nuggets by 9.4 points per 100 possessions. When he sits, the Lakers are -21.3 (stats via NBA.com).

Why that stat matters: Anthony Davis is officially questionable for Game 5 after spraining his ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4.

“[My] Ankle feels fine. Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don’t want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play,” Davis said postgame Thursday. “Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”

Players also are the worst judges of their returns from injuries. This is the playoffs, the Lakers need him on the court, and Davis wants to play. However, ankles are very easy to re-injure once the ligament is stretched, and the issue can become chronic. If Davis missing one game helps the ankle heal to the point it doesn’t linger into the NBA Finals the Lakers have to consider that option.

That said, expect Davis to play.

Davis has been the best Laker throughout the Western Conference Finals. He is averaging 32.3 points a game while shooting 55.3% from the floor, and as noted above the Lakers are dramatically better with him on the court.

The Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and can advance to the NBA Finals with a win Saturday night in Game 5.