Baseline to Baseline recaps: Rockets playoff hopes take punch to gut

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What you missed while reading the book “Cooking with Poo”….

Thunder 92, Bulls 78: The Oklahoma City Thunder have rolled over everybody lately (that’s going to be good for them in the power rankings Monday) and their athleticism overwhelmed the Chicago in our game of the day.

Celtics 91, Heat 72: Does Boston have one more title run in them? Are the Heat bored or are their flaws being exposed? Not sure the answers to that are black-and-white, but we had a lot of questions after our other game of the day.

Pacers 104, Rockets 102 (OT): This loss is a punch to the gut of a Rockets team trying to hold on to the last playoff spot in the West — GM Daryl Morey tweeted it was the most painful loss of the season for him. The Rockets were up 10 in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on and the end of the game itself was fun to watch with the teams trading jumpers. Danny Granger was on fire with 32 points including 6-of-8 from three.

Lakers 120, Warriors 112: This was an old-fashioned shootout right down to the two teams trading threes in the final minutes. It was entertaining. The Lakers got the win but they can’t walk away from this one feeling particularly good — like the Hornets they let a team they should throttle hang around and make it close late. This was a one-point game with seven minutes left until the Lakers went on a 9-0 run. On the bright side for the Lakers, they had efficient Kobe Bryant back and he dropped 40. That will get them some wins until they figure out how to play defense again. The Lakers also got a good performance out of Troy Murphy (not sure you want to depend on that nightly, Lakers fans). This is five straight losses for Golden State as they continue a quest to pick up more ping-pong balls.

Nuggets 104, Magic 101: No Dwight Howard for the Magic, who sat out with back spasms, and so this turned into the battle of the point guards — Ty Lawson had 25 and Jameer Nelson had 27. The big key for Orlando was that even without Howard they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds (Glen Davis had 9), but it was not enough as the Nuggets balanced attack was back.

Trail Blazers 119, Timberwolves 106: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love went at it, toe-to-toe — and at one point literally chest-to-chest. We’ll give the win to Aldridge because he had 26 points and 8 rebounds — and because his team won in large part due to his 10 points in the final frame. (Love had 26 points, nine rebounds). He got a boost from Raymond Felton who had 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Raptors 99, Wizards 92: Toronto got 18 points from Andrea Bargnani and better bench play which together. Washington has the excuse that Nene and Trevor Booker were out again. But really, this game was about ping-pong balls.

Suns 92, Hornets 75: If the Suns are going to make the playoffs they need to win these games. Phoenix took control of this one with an 18-4 run in the third and never looked back. Steve Nash had just 4 points but dropped 14 dimes. Jared Dudley had 21 for Phoenix; Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith each had 14 for New Orleans.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.