Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where Boston got dominated along the front line

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What you missed while mourning Elizabeth Taylor…

Grizzlies 90, Celtics 87: This is why teams out west would like to avoid Memphis in the first round (even without Rudy Gay) — Memphis outscored Boston 52-26 in the paint. Memphis grabbed the offensive rebound on 25 percent of their missed shots. The vaunted Boston front line was out played. Certainly, Boston is without either of the O’Neals (both of whom should return in the next week) but don’t take anything away from Memphis, they played to their strengths and won. Plus, ex-Celtics Leon Powe (13 points) and Tony Allen (9) played key roles off the bench for the Griz.

Key playoff implications here. Memphis is now a full two games ahead of Houston for the 8 seed in the West, Boston has now fallen one game back of Chicago for best record in the East.

Sixers 105, Hawks 100: On the bright side, the Hawks played with more passion than they did 24 hours before when the Bulls whipped them. The Hawks put up 59 first half points to lead by 6. But on the second night of a back they looked tired come the fourth quarter and with that their defense got worse (the Sixers shot 53 percent for the quarter) and the Hawks settled for jump shots that were not falling (they shot 36 percent for the quarter).

The win seems to lock the Sixers more into the six seed, however, they are now 2.5 games back of the Hawks for the five seed with just a couple weeks left.

Pacers 111, Bobcats 88: This was a huge win for the Pacers as it gives them a full three game lead over Charlotte and Milwaukee for the eight seed in the East. Charlotte seemed to be in control for the first 16 minutes or so of this game, then it was all Pacers. Danny Granger had 33 points on 19 shots and was a +28. Stephen Jackson tried for Charlotte but his hamstring is just not healed and he is not right.

Nets 98, Cavaliers 94: One of the more meaningless games of the night standings wise, one with some less-than-stellar execution, but one of the more entertaining endings. Brook Lopez tipped in his own miss with :04 left to send the game to overtime. An overtime where scoring was rampant — 28 total points were scored in five minutes. Jordan Farmar scored five points in OT, all from the free throw line.

Heat 100, Pistons 94: Detroit was up 27-21 after one quarter shooting 60 percent while the Heat started 2-10 from outside the paint. Detroit held that lead until the start of the fourth quarter, when Miami went on a 15-0 run that changed the game. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and James Jones off the bench led that charge. Not going to read much into the Heat beating another below .500 team, but it still counts as a win.

Thunder 106, Jazz: 94: Kind of a veteran, professional win for the Thunder. They shot better (54.5 percent on the night) and their superior bench changed the game with a 15-6 run late in the third that helped the Thunder pull away.

Kings 97, Bucks 90: Marcus Thornton really likes having a green light again and put up 27 points. Beno Udrih added 25. Carlos Delfino was hot and dropped 30 for the Bucks, but it wasn’t enough. We’re sure a win over the Bucks really made the Kings fans forget all that relocation talk.

Magic 111, Knicks 99: After giving up 59 points in the first half (and being down 4 at the break) credit the Magic for falling back on their strengths in the second half. For one, they tightened their defense and held the Knicks to 31.8 percent shooting for the half. (Although the Knicks certainly helped out there — they seem to tighten up in the stretch.) Orlando also keep feeding Dwight Howard the ball because the Knicks have no answer for a big man like that, and Howard finished with 33. The Magic also grabbed the offensive rebound on one-third of their missed shots on the night, they owned the glass.

Rockets 131, Warriors 112: Chuck Hayes had a triple-double. No, I’m not making that up, check the box score for yourself. This is something you’ll tell the grandkids about.

Up tempo game with lots of good shooting, but the key was the Rockets were attacking and drawing fouls, too — Houston got to the line 35 times and had 27 points from there compared to just 18 chances and 11 points for the Warriors. Also, the Rockets hit 12-26 threes, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc for Courtney Lee.

Suns 114, Raptors 106: Coming into the second game of a back-to-back where the Suns played to triple overtime the night before, Phoenix’s depth mattered here — they got 63 points from their bench in this win.

Nuggets 115, Spurs 112: Just how hot is Denver? Two of the better, more unselfish teams in the league were putting on a show (although Denver ran a lot of iso early for some reason). The Spurs led most of the way until an 11-0 run by Denver in the fourth gave them the lead for good. Al Harrington’s 9 points in the fourth quarter, all on threes, were key for Denver. That would be a bench player — Denver got 65 points off the bench from J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Harrington (who had 25 of those).

Clippers 127, Warriors 119 (2OT): Blake Griffin had his first triple-double in this one, and we don’t care that it took him an extra 10 minutes of game time to do it. On the other side, fellow dunk contestant JaVale McGee had a good night with 22 points on 14 shots, 13 rebounds and a massive block on Blake Griffin. McGee also got faked into about the third row by Eric Gordon at the end of the first overtime, then Gordon drained the three that sent it to an extra frame.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

Associated Press
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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.