Morning shootaround — June 9


VIDEO: What should we expect in Game 3 of The Finals?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Celtics’ interest in Love fading | Cleveland fans ready for these Finals games | How Cavs kept Splash Bros. under wraps

No. 1: Report: Celtics’ interest in Love fading — Since last summer, there have been talks that the Boston Celtics were interested in acquiring Kevin Love in some form or fashion. Although they ultimately lost out on acquiring Love via a trade last summer, the embers of that chatter were stoked anew after the Celtics’ first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Love, of course, can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent and Boston is flush with cash to spend. But according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics may not be as into Love as they used to be:

Last offseason we told you a Kevin Love-to-the-Celtics trade was a non-starter because the Timberwolves simply didn’t want what the C’s were offering. And Flip Saunders proved wise in waiting, extracting top overall pick Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland for his patience.

This year, even though Love’s path to Boston could seemingly be more clear — all he has to do is opt out of the final year of his contract, not wait out a trade — things have gotten significantly more problematic from a Celtics point of view.

According to all sources, Danny Ainge still has affection for Love, but it’s not nearly the borderline obsession that it was last summer.

The major difference is that last year Ainge was doing everything he could to avoid the deeper rebuild that came when he didn’t get Love and was fated to trade away Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. (And as it turned out, the Celtics president of basketball operations was in many ways fortunate to be able to find palatable deals for those two.)

The idea last year was to try to pair Love with Rondo, giving the Celtics two All-Stars, a solid base around which to build, and presenting Rondo with a reason to stay when he reached free agency this summer. So, as we noted even before the Timberwolves got their deal, no Love meant no Rondo.

Had Ainge been able to whet the Minnesota president’s appetite and acquired Love, the Celts would have worked harder to fill in gaps with capable veterans, which would have meant a higher Eastern Conference seed and a longer stay at the postseason party than just four games.

That the C’s got to the playoffs anyway is to their everlasting credit — and Ainge’s chagrin. But their late-season roster reshuffle may actually have them further from contention.

Isaiah Thomas is an extremely nice addition, as is Jae Crowder. And Marcus Smart is young, improving and very much a gamer. But there is not an assists machine (Rondo) and explosive if maddeningly inconsistent wing scorer (Green) to put with Love.

And from all indications, Love is not seen as a foundational player upon whom to build. Further, sources say his knee issues are bound to have an impact on his basketball longevity and effectiveness.

“I think he wants to be in a good situation,” said one league exec from outside this area. “But I also think he’s concerned about his health, so he wants to get a good long-term contract. I still think he stays in Cleveland.”

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No. 2: Cleveland ready, hopeful as Finals come to town — For five long seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers trudged through loss after loss in a seemingly perpetual state of rebuilding. But when LeBron James decided to return to his hometown team last summer, everything changed for the better in Ohio — eventually. Early fits and starts in 2014-15 gave way to a dominant Cavs team that is in The Finals as the city that readies for its first Finals since 2007.  Our Ian Thomsen got a lay of the land in Cleveland and how fans are trying to be optimistic about a championship (despite all the ways the city’s other teams have let them down over the years):

They’ve gone 10-3 in the playoffs since All-Star power forward Kevin Love suffered a separated left shoulder in Game 4 of the first round. And on Sunday, they upset the top-seeded Warriors in spite of the season-ending knee injury of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Can this depleted team of role players rally around James to win Cleveland’s first championship since 1964 — against the deeper, healthier and altogether more elegant Golden State Warriors of MVP Stephen Curry, no less?

What will it mean if the Cavaliers are able to prevail? How will their long-suffering fans react to a championship delivered by this same prodigal son who walked out on them on live TV? It is a lot to process as Game 3 of the NBA Finalscomes to Cleveland on Tuesday (9 ET, ABC).

“There is a provincial nature to this, because everybody that’s here in Cleveland pretty much is from here,” said David Griffin, who has been general manager of the Cavaliers for 13 months. “It is not a transient city. This is a generational sports town.”

“The way we are winning right now fits the city,” Griffin said. “It fits to who we are. This is a very, very gritty, tough, substantive place. So it is absolutely more joyful to watch us exert our will on someone defensively here than it would be almost anywhere else in the country.”

“I really didn’t give a damn if he came back or not,” said John Klein, the longest-serving fan of the Cavaliers. “Frankly, I’d had enough of him. I was hoping we could win without him.”

Klein, 85, has been a ticket holder of the Cavaliers for all 45 of their seasons. He was not a young man when the NBA expanded to Cleveland in 1970 and he and his wife decided to invest in season tickets with friends. In those days they sat in the front row. Over the years, as the team has moved into ever larger buildings, he has been moved back to the third row. It is hard to marry his memories of those early physically-rough games with the athletic high-flying style of play today.

“The words were there: I’m coming back because it’s home, I want to bring a championship to Cleveland and all this stuff,” Klein said. “But I think now he’s convinced me. I think that he is sincere. I don’t think he’ll go anywhere from here, do you? I think this is it. I think he’s happy here, his home is here. And he’s happy that the general manager got him players.”

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No. 3: How Cavs kept Splash Bros. under wraps— Save for a sizzling stretch in the second quarter by Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors’ guard combo of he and Stephen Curry were mostly quiet in Game 2. So how were the Cleveland Cavaliers able to contain and frustrate what is perhaps the NBA’s top backcourt? Our John Schuhmann digs in and reveals some of the secrets:

It may be time to declare that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense is, indeed, very good.

The Cavs became the lowest-ranked defense (20th in the regular season) to make The Finals since the league started counting turnovers in 1977. Yes, they were improved after making a pair of trades in early January. But they still didn’t reach the level (top 10) achieved by 34 of the 37 last NBA champs.

There was marked improvement in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but still some doubts, considering the level of competition.

And those lingering doubts were erased in the Cavs’ 95-93, overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2, the first Finals win in franchise history. The Warriors, who ranked second in offensive efficiency in the regular season, scored 93 points on 106 possessions, a rate of less than 90 per 100.

Stephen Curry had what was basically the worst shooting performance of his career. Klay Thompson had a strong start, but shot 5-for-15 after halftime. And nobody else could pick up the slack for the Western Conference champs.

The Warriors shot 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) from 3-point range, their fourth worst mark in 99 games this season. But just as important as the shots they missed from the outside were the shots they didn’t get on the inside.

Only 20 of the Warriors’ 83 shots on Sunday came from the restricted area, down from 31 (of 88) in Game 1.

Against any offense, one of the guards’ biggest responsibilities is fighting through screens. Against the Warriors, it obviously becomes more important.

The Cavs’ guards do not want to go under screens set for Curry and Thompson, because that will give the Splash Brothers space to shoot. But if they get caught up in screens, Cleveland’s bigs must commit to the ball and the defense will be compromised.

So Matthew Dellavedova (the primary defender on Curry) and Iman Shumpert (Thompson) have been charged with locking onto their guy, trailing him around the screen, and getting back in front of him as quickly as possible, so that the helping big can recover back to the paint.

From top to bottom, the Cavs did a great job of keeping the Warriors’ offense in check in Game 2. They communicated on screens and switched assignments when they needed to without losing track of anybody. Plus, the bigs were there to help and recover when a guard got caught in a screen.

But the help needed only to be brief most of the time, because the guards fought through screens and got back in front of their man. They took away Curry’s and Thompson’s space, suppressed the Warriors’ ball movement and contested shots. And because they didn’t need much help, the Cleveland bigs were able to recover back and protect the rim.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Important question: Can Michael Jordan palm a pumpkin?Was LaMarcus Aldridge seen visiting in Boston? … Former Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers center Kyrylo Fesenko has agreed to a one-year contract with Lokomotiv Kuban of the VTB League … The Milwaukee Bucks will reportedly match any offer free agent swingman Khris Middleton gets … Will the Dallas Mavericks be able to keep budding forward Al-Farouq Aminu? … Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is going to tune up his shooting stroke with the help of with Dirk Nowitzki‘s shooting coach

7 Comments

  1. CAVS says:

    Why bother about “Celtics’ interest in Love fading” when “Love has no interest in Celtics”?

  2. JW says:

    Kevin is not going anywhere and especially to a Boston team that messed up his opportunity to be in his first Finals I don’t blame him if he totally despises all things Celtics! He will be with the team he was supposed to go to the finals with this year .and make a run at it next year.

  3. TopTheTopOrBroke says:

    Go Cavs. Big Shout-outs to D.wade looking good there even better w/ the support for the former teammate and life-time friends Dont forget the Rings home next time #Miami’#Cavs.

  4. BIG-GAME-JAMES-23 says:

    Cleveland will game 3 and 4 at home. Cleveland will win by double digits tonight. JR is due for a 20+ point game.

  5. Dave in WV says:

    Kerr’s coaching ability will now be put to the real test. Adjustments are crucial throughout the course of a seven game series. It’s on Kerr to make those adjustments to get Curry, and the rest of the offense where they need to be.If the Cavs continue to hold the Warriors under the century mark, Golden State could be in real trouble.

  6. Josh says:

    Love to Boston. Yeah right…

  7. Josh says:

    hahaha