Baseline to Baseline recaps: Derrick Rose bests Deron Williams in the clutch

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What you missed while playing a sad, sad song for the end of Guitar Hero

Bulls 91, Jazz 86: At the end of this one Deron Williams and Derrick Rose were putting on a clinic. Two of the best pick and roll ball handlers in the league were slicing defenses with drives, dicing them up with passes to big men. It really was a thing of beauty.

But with the game on the line Rose made the key plays, including running down Williams in transition and making a steal from behind with under a minute to go. Rose was the best player on the floor and that’s why the Bulls won. That and the 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. And the three late key turnovers by the Jazz.

Paul Millsap had spent years as Carlos Boozer’s understudy, and he came out fired up for this one. He finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds. The Jazz did a good job on Boozer, holding him to 14 points on 6 of 16 shooting, and blocking five of his shots. What really hurt the Jazz (again) was depth — they got just five points off the bench all night, and four of those came from C.J. Miles early in the fourth.

But Jazz fans did get to boo Carlos Boozer, and they took full advantage of it.

Pistons 103, Cavaliers 94: There are so, so many ways to beat the Cavaliers. The Pistons went with the “our bench is so much better than yours” system and it worked — 61 bench points for Detroit. Thing is, the Pistons actually have a pretty good bench, they usually lose because of the starters.

Cleveland actually shot 51.4 percent on the night and hit 8 of 19 threes but the 17 turnovers by the Cavs and the 17 offensive rebounds for the Pistons were the difference. We are at 26 straight losses and counting.

Magic 99, Sixers 95: Philadelphia doesn’t have anyone who could stop Dwight Howard. Not a lot of teams do, but Howard made the Sixers pay a steeper price — 30 points, 17 boards. The Sixers tried fouling him — hack-a-Howard — but he hit 14-of-19 free throws. Lou Williams hit two threes in the final minute to make the Magic sweat it out.

Wizards 100, Bucks 85: The Wizards were home where they are over .500, and the Bucks offense still sucks. Washington had six players in double figures and really got solid play out of every key guy not named Rashard Lewis.

Spurs 111, Raptors 100: This game was pretty close for three quarters, then exactly what you expected to happen, happened — DeJuan Blair took over. What, you didn’t expect 16 fourth quarter points and a team-high 28 for the game out of Blair? What if we told you he was being covered by Andrea Bargnani, does it make more sense now? Aside that, basically the Spurs started to focus on defense in the fourth (the Raptors started 5 of 18 for the quarter) and that led to a 22-4 run that was the ballgame.

Nets 103, Hornets 100 (OT): Phil Jackson may try to take credit for this win — former Laker Sasha Vujacic had 25 points, while his former teammate Jordan Farmar was a game high +21 for the Nets. Chris Paul was not at his best (9 points, 11 assists and 7 turnovers) but David West had 32 points, 15 rebounds in the loss.

Pacers 104, Bobcats 103: Here’s why this win was key — if these two teams are tied at the end of the season the Pacers now have the tie-breaker (head-to-head). With the win the Pacers are the eight seed right now, one game up on the Bobcats. Roy Hibbert had 29 points (on 19 shots) because Eduardo Najera can’t guard hm. Indiana led most of the way but 13 points from Stephen Jackson in the fourth quarter led a comeback that made this one tight.

Clippers 116, Knicks 108: Tonight the part of Mr. Clutch will be played by Randy Foye. He had 17 in the fourth quarter to help the Clips hold on. Timofey Mozgov started for the Knicks, and ha 18 points (on 9 shots), six rebounds, and threw down a lot of dunks, as if to say “see me Blake Griffin, I can dunk, too.” Actually, the entire first half seemed like a dunkfest as nobody seemed to play much interior defense. Clippers also got good play out of Ryan Gomes. You read that right.

Mavericks 102, Kings 100: You are right to complain about the call Kings fans — there is no way DeMarcus Cousins (or Tyson Chandler) should have gotten technical for pushing hard to get a free throw rebound with 48 seconds left (it was Cousin’s second tech so he was gone, but the league should rescind). Those two had gone at it hard for a few plays but a ref has to understand the time in the game and let some things go. However that was not reason the Kings lost — the Mavericks executed better and got better looks in crunch time than the Kings. Jason Terry had 26 off the bench.

Warriors 116, Nuggets 114: Terrible end of game execution. Monta Ellis — who hit what turned out to be the game winning three before — tries another from the same spot as the shot clock runs out, he misses and with two timeouts Denver’s Ty Lawson gets the ball and runs up court. Carmelo Anthony trails him b a couple steps asking for the ball but is ignored. No timeout to set up a play, no Melo, the Nuggets end up going with an 18-foot, off-balance jumper by Nene. That predictably clangs off and the Warriors get the win. They executed better in crunch time.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.