Baseline to Baseline recaps: Heat, Thunder cruise to victory

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking about NBA doppelgangers

Nuggets 112, Lakers 105: If you like fast paced games with plenty of scoring, a game not really encumbered with defense to slow all that down, than this one was for you. The Lakers defense was slightly worse than the Nuggets and that was the difference, something we broke down with our game of the night.

Thunder 104, Raptors 92: The simple takeaway from this game — Oklahoma City is a lot better than Toronto. Shocking, I know. The Raptors hung with the Thunder for the second quarter because Alan Anderson came in off the bench and went 7-of-8 shooting for 19 points in the quarter (and 27 for the game). Combine that with Amir Johnson going 4-of-4 in the quarter and you get 32 Raptors points. Needless to say, that’s not really sustainable.

Kevin Durant scoring a lot of points? That is sustainable. He finished with 22 points on 11 shots plus double-crossed DeMar DeRozan. Russell Westbrook finished with 23, Serge Ibaka had 19. The Thunder pulled away in the third quarter with a 16-2 run and never looked back. Westbrook had 12 points in the third.

Heat 99, Wizards 71: For 40 minutes, the Wizards played the Heat close. They deserve credit for that, they showed some fight. But Washington didn’t score in the final 7:07 of the game, the Heat went on a 21-0 run and the final result looks like a blowout doesn’t really reflect how most of the game was played. Ray Allen had 13 off the bench in the fourth quarter and 20 for the game. LeBron James led the Heat 24 points and seven assists. Kevin Seraphin led the Wizards with 14 points.

Grizzlies 92, Suns 81: This game wasn’t as much about the Grizzlies as it was about the Suns, and their inability to create offense. Phoenix finished with 81 points after scoring just 80 in its previous home game, a blowout loss at the hands of the Jazz.

P.J. Tucker led the team in scoring with 17 points, and Marcin Gortat crept into double digits late in the fourth quarter to finish with 12. The rotation went 10 deep, but all eight of the remaining who played couldn’t top double digits.

Phoenix shot just 39.2 percent from the field, and couldn’t get anything going against the Memphis defense.
—Brett Pollakoff

Charlotte 108, Pistons 101 (OT): Kemba Walker is just fun. He had the bucket, a floater in the lane (below) to send the game to overtime, plus had four points in the overtime to get his Bobcats their second win this week. What 18 game losing streak? Ben Gordon reminded the Pistons that he can put up points with 18.

The first half of this game was free flowing and high scoring, with the Pistons shooting better than 70 percent. It felt like Detroit would run away and hide, they were up 15, but the Bobcats closed the half on a 16-2 run and we had a game. One that Walker would finish off.

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.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.