Baseline to Baseline recaps: Orlando with another bad outing

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What you missed while realizing that Homeland Security is monitoring your tweets….

Clippers 112, Thunder 100: There was a lot more to this than just Blake Griffin dunking on Kendrick Perkins, which is why it was our game of the night.

Sixers 74, Magic 69: The Magic were just terrible shooting the ball in this game — had it not been for Ryan Anderson’s shooting barrage once the game was decided Orlando would not have gotten all the way up to 33 percent shooting as a team. Hedo Turkoglu was 1-of-9, J.J. Redick 3-of-13. Dwight Howard had 17 points but needed 17 shots to get there. This performance comes after last week’s 56-point game.

There are effort and desire issues in Orlando, and Howard can’t lead them out of it.

Bulls 98, Wizards 88: Derrick Rose was frustrated after missing key free throws last outing so he took it out on Washington. He had 13 points and three assists in the first quarter, then tacked on 15 points in the third. Rose finished was 35. The Bulls pulled away at the start of the third to get up by 21 and the game was over. John Wall had 20 for Washington, but they were outgunned.

Heat 109, Hornets 95: New Orleans led for most of the first half — they shot 70 percent for the first 18 minutes and led by 12 at times. Dwyane Wade late in the second quarter and LeBron James in the third had some stretches to change that. Miami cranked up the defense and ran past New Orleans, as they should have.

Spurs 83, Grizzlies 72: The score makes it seem closer than it was, San Antonio was in control of this game the whole way. It was a very balanced attack, with a lot of guys scoring but no one guy over 15 points (that was Matt Bonner, draining threes). Tony Parker had a dozen assists. Memphis, they are really starting to miss Zach Randolph.

Bucks 103, Pistons 82: Stephen Jackson was a healthy scratch and with him out the Bucks had one of their best offensive nights of the season — the ball moved, things seemed more crisp, there were no random heat check shots. Brandon Jennings put up 11 of his 21 in the third quarter to make sure it never got close. The Pistons are not good and shot 38.6 percent as a team. Milwaukee needed a laugher, and they were in control of this one from the start.

Timberwolves 120, Rockets 108: Minnesota had maybe its best offensive performance of the season — 122.4 points per 100 possessions pace (and there were 98 possessions in this one. Kevin Love had 29 points, Ricky Rubio 18 points and 11 dimes, and the Wolves shot 58.2 percent as a team. The Rockets defense had a bad game, but this is a defense that has question marks a lot more nights than you would think. Minnesota does too, but the last two games they have gone heavy zone to cover that up.

Mavericks 122, Suns 99: Fear Delonte West — 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, as he had his best game of the season easily. Vince Carter had 21 points on 13 shots and seemed to find the Way Back machine. Dallas just was dominant on offense. For Phoenix, no Steve Nash, he is still out with a bruised thigh, and that’s tough because the Phoenix offense isn’t very good even with him. They are counting on Marcin Gortat (17 points) and Jared Dudley (15) to carry them, but those guys should be role players on a good team.

Jazz 93, Trail Blazers 89: Portland was up 11 and in control of this game midway through the third quarter (Utah decided to single cover LaMarcus Aldridge in the third and he had 14 in the quarter). Then a 10-0 Utah run changed the dynamic. Utah got the win, maybe their best one of the year. Portland should just feel sick. This was a physical game and Utah wore down Portland. Paul Millsap had 19 to lead a balanced Jazz attack.
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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.