VIDEO: The Fast Break: Jan. 30
NEWS OF THE MORNING
Cavs take down Spurs | Rockets rip refs | Barnes bails out champs | McCollum carves niche
No. 1: Lue, Cavs take another step forward — It’s been barely a week and only five games, but Tyronn Lue has the Cavaliers playing with more zip and zest, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. The team is now 4-1 since Lue took over as head coach for David Blatt and was humming on all cylinders in taking apart the contending Spurs on Saturday night:
“I don’t put a lot of emphasis on it,” Lue said. “I just want to make sure our style of basketball is what we want to play. I know it’s a big game because it’s the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s only one game for us. If we take care of our business and do what we’re supposed to do, we don’t have to beat this team until June.”
Skeptics will say this was a classic case of an underpromise and overdeliver by Lue. If you set expectations low, you can control the threshold for what is deemed a success.
However, after watching the Cavs completely handle the Spurs 117-103 while playing a get-it-and-go brand of basketball that Lue introduced the team to when he took over a week ago, it’s easy to see the merit in Lue’s point.
If the Cavaliers can beat a great team such as the Spurs, albeit without Tim Duncan, just a week into playing this way and can look like the best version of themselves while doing so, how good can they look in four or five months, when the games really matter?
There was a lot to like about this game, starting with the offensive balance among LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who all topped the 20-point plateau for the second consecutive game.
“I think our team responded well, playing fast, getting easy shots, Kyrie and LeBron attacking early, and then Kevin in the low post and making jump shots, so I thought tonight was a picture-perfect way of how we want to play,” Lue said. “The guys came out and executed it.”
No. 2: Bickerstaff rips into referees — After two consecutive nights of watching Dwight Howard take beatings under the basket and two straight games of seeing his big man ejected, Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff held back nothing in claiming Dwight Howard is the victim of bad officiating and dirty play. Our Fran Blinebury has the fiery words:
“It’s not fair the way referees officiate Dwight,” Bickerstaff said. “You go back and look at the clip; they initiate contact with him. They grab him. They hold him. Dwight gets punished more than anybody in the league. The referees have to be held accountable. They want to keep the game clean, the referees have to do their job. They can’t over and over again have the same situation.
“At some point in time if you want to protect the league’s players on a night in, night out basis, this crew is no exception. They allow people to hit him, they allow people to grab his neck. They allow people to grab his arms, hold his shoulders. He’s going to get hurt. The reason why he has the back problems, the knee problems, is because people jump on his back, people hold on his shoulders. These referees need to be held accountable for letting people attack Dwight and [be] dirty.
“They [Wizards] are not clean with the way they play. Cheap is one thing. Grabbing somebody’s arms. Grabbing somebody’s shoulders, that’s not clean basketball and it’s not just tonight. If the referees did their job in the first place, it would not have escalated to these situations. And we lose Dwight twice in a row now in crucial situations.”
VIDEO: Warriors win in Philly
No. 3: Warriors survive Sixers scare — Even the defending champions don’t have the right attitude for every minute of every game. That was apparent when the Warriors built a 24-point lead and then began to carelessly play around in the second half against the lowly Sixers until Harrison Barnes bailed them out in the end. Draymond Green admitted that his style in particular was nearly costly to Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:
“We started turning the ball over due to my selfish unselfishness, and it was all downhill from there,” said Green, who committed four of his seven turnovers in the third.
Asked about hunting assists, he said, “Could you tell? It looked bad. It felt bad.”
The Warriors blew a 24-point lead and committed 23 turnovers, giving the 76ers life in the second half before they fell to 7-41. Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 19 turnovers, with Curry matching Green’s seven and Thompson committing five.
“If the gods delivered what should have happened, we probably should have lost because that’s what happens when you mess around with the game and the ball,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“This is the NBA. Everybody has talent. The beauty of our game is in the execution. It’s in sharing the ball, making the simple play and letting things happen. And I thought, in the third quarter, our starting group came out, didn’t focus and tried to do everything on their own.”
Kerr tried to make a point, taking Green out first with 5:47 left in the third and the rest of the starters out all at once shortly afterward.
They might have been rested for the remainder of the game with the Warriors leading by 22 points at the time and having to play Sunday against the New York Knicks.
But with the Warriors’ second unit missing a resting Andre Iguodala and an injured Festus Ezeli, the 76ers went on an 11-2 run to start the fourth and cut the lead to 93-83.
“There was a bad taste in our mouth while we got pulled out, and that was kind of a weird situation for the rest of the game,” Curry said of Kerr’s decision. “Obviously, we forced his hand with the way we were playing.”
No. 4: McCollum has found his sweet spot — While the analytics gang keeps pushing to turn the entire NBA into a long-range 3-point shooting gallery, the Blazers’ C.J. McCollum has carved out his spot as throwback scorer by going to the mid-range game. McCollum tells Mike Richman of The Oregonian that it’s just something that feels natural:
“It’s been a part of my game for life. It’s tougher to finish in the lane so you’ve got to find different areas to score efficiently and the mid-range contested shot is a shot a lot of teams will live with,” McCollum says. “And it’s a shot I’m willing to live with as well just because I’ve gotten so many shots at it and I’m comfortable with it.”
McCollum is shooting 46.6 percent on mid-range shots season, according to NBA.com. He’s attempted the 12th most mid-range shots in the league and has the highest field goal percentage of anyone in the NBA who has taken at least 250 such shots. He’s shooting better than noted mid-range gunners Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and, yes, even LaMarcus Aldridge.
Narrowing the scope on his mid-range attempts, McCollum is shooting 48.8 percent on jumpers from 15-19 feet, according to NBA.com. Only Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka is shooting a higher percentage (50.1) from that range among players who have attempted at least 150 of those long two-pointers.
Part of what makes McCollum from the mid-range is that he’s one of the better three-point shooters in the league. He’s shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the three-point line and ranks among the top ten in the league three-point attempts. Mid-range shots have not eaten into his long-range attempts, instead they’re complementing his offensive arsenal. As more and more defenses key on limiting three-point attempts, McCollum has found his sweet spot on floor, a combination of his ability to create his own shot and defenses willingness to give up contested two-pointers.
“The way the league is is they’re going to try to take away threes and rim,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I don’t know if his mid-range efficiency sets up the other things per se. It complements the other things.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Even a wardrobe malfunction couldn’t slow down LeBron James … Steph Curry takes the Warriors Greatest Show on Earth into famous Madison Square Garden … DeMarcus Cousins sprained an ankle in Kings fourth consecutive loss…The NBA has banned mid-court TV cameras for safety reasons … Brother of Wizards’ coach Randy Wittman dies unexpectedly … Danny and Joey Crawford top the list in NBA referees survey … Mavs owner Mark Cuban plans to own League of Legends literally and figuratively … Chandler Parsons hopes to keep right on sizzling … The Celtics have reportedly inquired about Al Horford and Jeff Teague … First jump-shooter Kenny Sailors dies at 95.