Baseline to Baseline recaps: Hope in Orlando… maybe

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What you missed while suddenly caring about what happens to Western Kentucky’s basketball team….

Magic 104, Heat 98 (OT): Let’s not read too much into one game. I know Dwight Howard is talking about wanting to stay and contend with this team, but I’m not on board with them as contenders yet.

That said, they were down 14 to the Heat and did not roll over. They fought back. We all know Howard is a beast — 25 points, 26 and he even hit some key free throws late. The question has always been who else could create shots and get points on the Magic. Well Jameer Nelson had 25 points and showed that when on he is a force. For a night they were good enough.

Chris Bosh had a quality 23, Dwyane Wade had 28.

Lakers 116, Grizzlies 111 (2OT): This would be a fun first round playoff series. All the other teams in the West playoffs would love to see it, too — please pit the two best front lines in the West against each other and let them beat each other up and not us.

The Grizzlies are still without one of their key front line guys in Zach Randolph, but Marreese Speights stepped up and had 25 points, many of those knocking down midrange jumpers. Which was more than we can say for O.J. Mayo, whose 7-for-25 (and 0-for-8 from three) really shot Memphis out of the second overtime.

But the best big on the court was Andrew Bynum — 37 points on 18 shots, plus 16 rebounds. The Lakers ran a great set with a wing pick-and-pop where Kobe Bryant was the ball handler and Pau Gasol did the pop. The Grizzlies would trap Kobe, he would slide the ball to Gasol who would take steps toward the basket, when the help defender would come off Bynum on the weak side Gasol would throw a lob and Bynum threw it down. The Grizzlies had no answer.

Rockets 104, Thunder 103: This felt like a lot of other Thunder games — it was close most of the way, then midway through the fourth quarter they pulled away. James Harden was orchestrating the offense (and had 9 points in the fourth) and a 16-2 run had the Thunder up 9 inside of three minutes left. Then a 13-4 run by the Rockets to end the game gave them the win. Oklahoma City normally plays its best defense late in games but the Rockets were getting to the rim and getting open looks from three. And hitting the shots. Meanwhile the Thunder went away from Harden and struggled to score.

In the middle of that run the Russell Westbook got frustrated with Goran Dragic and picked up a technical. One point. Lots for the Thunder to regret at the end of this one.

Nuggets 118, Hawks 117 (OT): The most entertaining game of the night. There was a real, back-and-forth, “anything you can do I can do better” feel to it. Of course, nobody is doing anything better than Gallinari’s three that we thought would be the game winner at the end of regulation, which was flat out ridiculous. But this game had a lot of highlights. Josh Smith’s jumper was falling and when that happens he cannot be stopped, he finished with 33 points, 13 boards and seven assists. I feel bad for Zaza Pachulia — that was a great play call to catch a Nuggets team that can fall asleep on defense at the end of the overtime, and he just missed the layup.

Raptors 96, Cavaliers 88: Toronto took control of this game in the second quarter (when the shot 72 percent) and never let it go, thanks to good games from Andrea Bargnani (19 points) and Jerryd Bayless (filling in for Jose Calderon).

Pacers 92, Trail Blazers 75: Oh, Portland, what has happened to you? Indiana is a good team with good big men, but Portland let them turn the paint into their own private playground at both ends of the court. And the Blazers had five — just 5 — assists all game. On top of it all, Marcus Camby left the game with a shoulder injury. Good win for the Pacers, but we had such hopes for Portland early in the season.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 98: This was the kind of win Dallas needed, where they simply overwhelmed and inferior and less disciplined team. They didn’t do it well — a 10-0 Washington run in the third and a 10-3 one in the fourth kept it close, but the Mavericks were in control. Dirk Nowitzki had 27 points, Jason Terry 24.

Warriors 115, Kings 89: Call it the Ewing Theory, a trade bump, whatever you want — earlier in the day Golden State shipped half their team (it seemed) away and they came out as the more motivated and cohesive team. David Lee and Nate Robinson each had 17 and Charles Jenkins had 9 of his 15 in the fourth quarter for Golden State. Six Warriors were in double digits, it was a real team effort from a team that was shaken up earlier in the day.

Despite injury scare, LeBron James will be ready to go in Game 7

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It was the kind of injury that has felled many players — think of Rudy Gobert this season. Twice. A player falls into the side of another player’s leg, putting a strain on the ligaments.

That’s what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Cleveland Friday night, Larry Nance Jr. falls back and LeBron James‘ knee bent in a way it should not.

“After the game, I didn’t know who got me,” LeBron said. “But after the game, Larry asked me if I was I OK, so I’m guessing he was the culprit of it. I just felt someone fall into my leg and my leg kind of went in. I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg. I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”

James scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with a couple of dagger threes to secure the win after that scare, but he didn’t seem to have the same lift after that and was seen favoring his leg walking out of the building.

Of course, LeBron will be good to go for Game 7 in Boston Sunday. If Friday night was any indication, he’s not going to be slowed by it at all.

“As soon as I leave here, I’ll start to prepare (for Game 7),” LeBron said from the podium postgame. “I’m going to get in the car and head back to Akron. As soon as I get home, I’ll start my treatment. I’ll do the same all day tomorrow from before we leave to go to Boston, and then once we get into Boston I’ll do that as well. Try to get as much sleep as I can with tonight and with tomorrow and even on Sunday before the game. That’s the best recovery that you can possibly get, is when you’re sleeping. It’ll be around-the-clock treatment, and we’ll see what happens.”

What’s going to happen is a dramatic Game 7 in the Garden, and we know that for Cleveland to have any chance LeBron has to be superhuman. Again.

Warriors facing elimination but undaunted entering Game 6

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HOUSTON (AP) — If the Golden State Warriors are worried as they head into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on the brink of elimination, they aren’t showing it.

“We have a chance to tie the series at home. That’s a pretty good position to be in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got to win two basketball games and we’ve done that an awful lot, so we’re very confident.”

The defending champions trail Houston 3-2 in the best-of-seven series after consecutive wins by the Rockets, capped by Thursday night’s 98-94 victory. Now the series shifts to Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors have lost just one time in their last 17 playoff games.

Stephen Curry said the Warriors are encouraged despite falling behind in the series because they believe both games could have gone their way and that a few simple corrections will get them back on track.

“We have an opportunity to re-establish ourselves at home, get a big win, keep ourselves alive, and then roll the dice into Game 7,” Curry said. “Not all is lost.”

Houston’s big win in Game 5 was tempered by a hamstring injury to star Chris Paul which will keep him out of Saturday’s game. It’s a major blow for a team which is looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.

The Rockets believe they can absorb this loss and don’t seem daunted by the setback, noting that they found ways to win in the regular season in many games where Paul sat out with injuries.

“I don’t have a doubt,” D’Antoni said. “They see the challenge … whether CP’s there or not, it’s a heck of a challenge, and they’re up to it. They’re looking forward to it.”

James Harden, who has struggled offensively in the last two games and went 0 for 11 on 3s in Game 5, rolled his eyes when asked if Paul’s injury puts more pressure on him.

“Pressure for what? It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals,” he said. “There is pressure on everybody.”

While that may be true, the onus is on Harden to step up and deliver an MVP-caliber performance if the Rockets hope to close out this series. Harden has had plenty of playoff disappointments in the last few years and embraces the chance to get Houston back into the finals.

“It’s an opportunity that a lot of people never had and probably won’t ever have,” he said. “It’s our job to go out there and have fun with it and do the same thing we’ve been doing. We want to take advantage of it.”

While the Rockets will be down a starter, the Warriors could get one back if Andre Iguodala can return on Saturday. The Warriors have missed the defensive presence of Iguodala who has missed the last two games with a bruised left knee.

Iguodala is listed on the injury report as questionable for Game 6 and Kerr said he didn’t have an update on his condition on Friday. But he did address what it would mean to Golden State if he’s healthy enough to go on Saturday.

“He’s a great player,” Kerr said. “He’s one of our keys, and we’ve missed him the last two games. But we can’t count on it. Injuries happen, and you’ve just got to play with whoever’s out there. So we’re hoping he’s back, and we’ll see what happens.”

Iguodala’s absence has been magnified in this series that has morphed into a defensive slugfest instead of the high-scoring shootout that most expected when it began. The Rockets take great pride in the fact that they’ve limited Golden State to less than 100 points in the last two games and think continuing to play great defense is the only way they’ll advance.

“It’s something we talked about building up all year,” Houston’s P.J. Tucker said. “To see our defense now be as good as it is, we still think it could be a lot better. We watched film, and honestly … we didn’t play great defense last night. Everybody will talk about how good a defense we played, but we really don’t feel like that. So just keep working and trying to get better.”

Kerr said the experience of his team, which is trying to reach the finals for the fourth straight year, will be valuable as the Warriors try and climb out of this hole and force Game 7. He referenced the conference finals in 2016 when they fell behind Oklahoma City 3-1 before winning the next three to take the series.

“We’ve been here before,” Kerr said. “We’ve faced elimination on the road before – this team has – a few years ago. We faced series deficits before. We’ve won all of those series. Our guys have the ultimate confidence that we can get it done this time, too.”

PBT Extra: Pressure falls on James Harden, Rockets’ bench with Chris Paul out

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Chris Paul is out for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with a strained hamstring, and that almost certainly will sideline him for Game 7 as well.

That changes the feel of this series.

The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.

It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.