Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bosh gets cheers, boos, win in Toronto

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What you missed while seeing The King’s Speech

The Cavaliers stunning win over the Lakers was our Game of the Night…

Heat 103, Raptors 95: Chris Bosh blew kisses to the crowd and got a mixed reaction of boos and cheers. What that tells us is Toronto is not Cleveland.

The Heat worked hard to get Bosh the ball where he could score (he finished with 25 points) but that made them look disjointed at times. So did the Raptors zone defense. But the Heat still scored at a rate the Raptors could not match. Andrea Bargnani was the pick-and-pop king on his way to 38 points on 26 shots, and DeMar DeRozan slashed his to 24 more points. The rest of the Raptors combined to shoot 29.3 percent and that did not get it done.

Magic 101, Wizards 76: The Magic turned John Wall into a scorer — he had 27 points on 17 shots. But he had just one assist. He was not facilitating and the Wizards shot 34.9 percent on the night. Meanwhile Dwight Howard had 32 points on just 15 shots and he was hitting his free throws. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee were overmatched.

Celtics 94, Nets 80: Paul Pierce was making up for his one-point game against the Heat — he had 10 in the first quarter. The Nets were not going to roll over though, this game was tied at the half and after three. Then midway through the fourth quarter Boston went on a 16-0 run that coincided with Pierce’s return to the game and he has seven points during it (he was just attacking the rim). The other key in this one: The Nets got 15 free throws to the Celtics 39. That wasn’t the refs, that was Boston attacking on offense and playing good defense.

There are some nights you really see the potential of what Brook Lopez could be.

Knicks 102, Hawks 90: This was a pretty big beat down — New York had a double-digit lead the entire fourth quarter. The Hawks did not stop the Knicks in transition well and gave them open looks in the half court which the Knicks knocked down

Pistons 115, Pacers 109 (OT): For the second night in a row the Pacers got off to a slow start — this time down 11 after one quarter — and fought back only to lose. The Pistons led the entire second half until a Darren Collison layup with 15 seconds left tied it up. In the overtime the Pistons got points from Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon were the leaders, while Danny Granger was the only Pacer to score.

Clippers 98, Timberwolves 90: The Clippers really miss the steady play Eric Gordon gives them at the two. So when his replacement Randy Foye hit 6-of-14 shots for 21 points the Clippers are back in business. The Clippers dominated the second half and Blake Griffin had 15 points during that time.

Mavericks 116, Kings 100: Dallas’ depth was on display Wednesday — five guys off the Dallas bench scored in double figures. The most interesting of those was Roddy Beaubois, who had 13 in his season debut.

Sixers 114, Rocket 105: The Sixers were spreading it around — four guys with more than 16 points, seven in double digits. Andre Iguodala was big part of that, finishing with 10 assists and a triple double. The Rockets had their guys — Kyle Lowry torched Jrue Holliday for 36 points on 18 shots, Luis Scola added 26. But the Sixers were the better team in this one.

Nuggets 94, Bucks 87: Nets/Knicks fans, this was a very Carmelo Anthony night this is what you’re getting — he had 38 points but it took 30 shots to get there. He got 12 boards as well. It was good if not an efficient or pretty win for a Nuggets team that may look very different the next time they suit up for a game.

Warriors 107, Jazz 100: Golden State had 26 wins last season, they got to 26 with this victory. That is progress.

With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back it was going to be about energy levels late. Monta Ellis is a closer and had 11 of his 35 in the fourth quarter. He helped spark a 10-2 fourth quarter run that pretty much decided this one.

The Jazz are 2-6 in February and need the All-Star break maybe more than any other team.

Trail Blazers 103, Hornets 96: As LaMarcus Aldridge goes, so go the Blazers. He had 13 first quarter points, they were up nine. He had 12 in the fourth quarter and behind a 17-5 run the Trail Blazers win it. Andre Miller had 10 in the final quarter also. Chris Paul with just 8 points and 5 assists.

Cavaliers were clutch all season, then again in it’s biggest moment

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The Cleveland Cavaliers had the point differential of a 43-39 team this season, just a couple of games above .500. Yet they finished the season 50-32, seven games better than their differential suggested — the highest variance in the NBA.

Why? Because LeBron James and the Cavaliers were clutch. In games that were within five points in the final five minutes this season, Cleveland was 30-15 with a +18.2 points per 100 net rating (second best in the NBA, behind Houston).

That has carried over to the playoffs, where the Cavaliers came into Game 7 Sunday night 6-1 in clutch games with an insane +36.2 per 100.

Game 7 was another clutch one — it was 76-72 Cleveland with five minutes to go — and once again the Cavaliers won, advancing to the NBA Finals. This is the fourth straight year for this team, and the eighth year in a row for LeBron to make it to the NBA’s biggest stage.

In the final five minutes of Game 7, LeBron had six points, while the Boston Celtics team had 7. When we say the Cavaliers are clutch, it all starts with LeBron (as do all things Cavaliers at this point).

“He craves those moments. He loves those moments,” Kyle Korver said after LeBron was clutch in the Cavaliers’ Game 6 win that set up Sunday’s showdown, but what he said applies now, too. “When the game’s on the line, when the season’s on the line, he’s been rising up. That’s what the great players do.”

LeBron accepts that challenge, and through the postseason he has had an impressive 58 true shooting percentage, with a ridiculous 44.3 percent usage rate. Bottom line, he has had to carry the Cavaliers in the clutch, and he has done so efficiently.

“I’m the leader of this team, and I’m going to give what I’ve got,” LeBron said. “My teammates, they respect that.”

It’s going to take more than clutch LeBron and friends to win in the Finals — both of the teams in the West are much tougher than anything the Cavaliers have seen so far. However, we know that LeBron is going to give everything he has left.

And if the game is close late, don’t bet against the Cavaliers.

 

 

 

Jayson Tatum throws down epic dunk on LeBron James (VIDEO)

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The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers held a barnburner of a Game 7 on Sunday, with Boston’s Jayson Tatum going head-to-head with LeBron James.

For his part, LeBron was everything we expected in a Game 7. The King played spectacularly, willing his Cavaliers squad to yet another NBA Finals appearance as Cleveland edged Boston.

But before things were sealed, and the game decided, Tatum got off a raucous dunk right in James’ eye that made many wonder if the torch was on the cusp of being passed.

The play came with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter with Tatum driving down the lane and LeBron moving over to help recover on defense. It would have been easy to anticipate another big LeBron playoff block, but Tatum continued his surprising season by dunking all over The King.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland won the game, 87-79, but Tatum’s dunk on the big stage is just one of many reasons why the Celtics are going to be a complete hassle next year when they’re back to being fully healthy.

LeBron James is the greatest player of all-time

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He’s done it again. LeBron James, the King in the East, played 48 minutes en route to his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance after beating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 at TD Garden on Sunday, 87-79.

Bow down to the greatest player of all-time.

Much has been made of LeBron’s place in history as his legacy has began to galvanize toward the end of his career. The conversation has raged on about LeBron vs. Michael Jordan, or Wilt Chamberlain, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Preference varies greatly between fans, while some still pick the centrist route and say there’s no simple way to compare across eras. There’s been mathematical attempts to rank the two, and even MJ’s old teammates have said LeBron is a more complete player.

On Sunday, James bounced yet another Eastern Conference Finals opponent, carrying his teammates on his shoulders and playing without All-Star Kevin Love. There was never a doubt for many watching Sunday’s matchup in Massachusetts. Before the final buzzer, LeBron had won 23 straight Eastern Conference playoff series. His determination was absolute, and the cards were always stacked against Boston even given their postseason record at home.

You could sort of just see it coming.

James was the motivating force in the first half for Cleveland, scoring 17 points while no other teammates tallied in double digits. The Cavaliers shot an abysmal 12 percent from beyond the arc, and the Celtics looked like they would be able to control the rest of the game as the crowd at home motivated them forward.

But Cleveland came roaring back in the second half, continuing to put on a defensive show, the kind we would not have expected of them during the regular season. Without Love, the Cavs had to make do with Jeff Green, who turned in a surprising performance. Green scored 19 points, shot 50 percent from the field, and grabbed eight rebounds.

In the face of a strengthening Cavaliers attack, the Celtics seems to retreat. Boston’s final offensive possessions in the fourth quarter were hectic, slow, and unsuccessful. While the Cavaliers tried their hardest during the final eight minutes to get Al Horford switched on to LeBron in isolation sets, the Celtics surprisingly mirrored the same offensive tactics. Instead of playing their regular offense, or running plays to get shooters free, or trying to attack the paint against James (who was in foul trouble) Boston resorted to trying to exploit any mismatches found through Cleveland’s switches.

The result was four field goals inside the 3-point line for LeBron in the fourth quarter, as much as the entire Celtics roster combined.

The play of the game came with 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers leading by nine. LeBron was out on the break, with Marcus Morris trailing behind him. Morris went to foul LeBron, making no obvious attempts on the ball as he grabbed onto the Cavaliers star’s shoulders. Even with all of his might, Morris couldn’t stop James from scoring while drawing the foul. It was indicative of the entire fourth quarter for the Celtics, who scraped, clutched and grabbed as much as they could but did not have an answer for LeBron.

So here we are, with LeBron having won another Game 7 out in the Eastern Conference as he heads to another Finals. He probably won’t match Jordan’s championship mark. But Jordan didn’t match Russell’s. Or Horry’s. Or Havlichek’s, either.

Instead, we have to rely on what we see in front of our eyes combined with their dominance, weighted for context. Sunday night’s performance should help push LeBron over Jordan, if he wasn’t there already. James is a more complete player, which has always been apparent, and now he’s survived every challenge that’s been thrown at him. Declaring James the best player of all-time did not come because of Sunday’s game. It’s been years in the making, throughout the entirety of his 15-year career. The win over Boston was just an indication of his place in history.

LeBron has gone nuclear with 40+ point performances. He was part of the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history against the Golden State Warriors. He beat the Indiana Pacers all by himself, in the playoffs, just this very season. James has had a career season at age 33, playing 48 minutes in the 100th game of the 2017-18 season. LeBron has willed his way to yet another NBA Finals, with perhaps his worst team since the 2006-07 squad that was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the season’s final series. To add to the accomplishment, LeBron pushed this Cavaliers squad past a stunningly good team in the Celtics, on the road, and without Love.

James is the greatest American sports story of our generation, and he’s the best player the NBA has ever seen. If you disagree, that’s OK. But after Sunday night, you’d be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

Watch Victor Oladipo drive the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 (VIDEO)

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Victor Oladipo is Indiana’s favorite son after the Indiana Pacers guard blasted through the competition during the 2017-18 NBA season.

Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and led the league with 2.4 steals per game. Oladipo’s 3-point shooting improved year-over-year, and his VORP skyrocketed in his new leadership role. Many feel the Pacers won the Paul George trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to Oladipo.

Thanks in part to his stellar play, Oladipo was invited to drive the pace car at the start of the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Turns out he was pretty good at it.

Via Twitter:

Oladipo is apparently going to be honored with the steering wheel from the pace car he drove. No doubt taking part in a classic local sporting event like the Indy 500 will help ingrain Oladipo into the sports fabric in Indianapolis even further.