VIDEO: Highlights from Monday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: LeBron: Cavs aren’t ready for postseason — LeBron James has made the playoffs in 11 straight seasons and counting and his Cleveland Cavaliers have the Eastern Conference’s best record and its No. 1 seed. On paper, all those things sound like a team that’s ready for the postseason and, in the eyes of Clevelanders, another run to The Finals. Yet after last night’s home loss to the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies, James doesn’t see his team ready for the big stage at all, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:
The Cavs had all their top rotation players available, were coming off a day off, were playing at Quicken Loans Arena (where they had built a 27-5 record) and were riding a three-game win streak. They hosted a Grizzlies team that was missing four starters — including Mike Conley (left foot soreness), Zach Randolph (rest) and Marc Gasol (right foot surgery) — and had just eight players in uniform as it played on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Even so, it was Cleveland that looked like the underdog from the start.
“I can sit up here and say that we’re a team that’s ready to start the playoffs tomorrow, but we’re not,” LeBron James said after the Cavs trailed by as many as 14 before losing at the buzzer when Kyrie Irving missed a potential game-tying 3. “We’re still learning. We still have things that happen on the court that just, that shouldn’t happen.”
Chief among those mistakes was the Cavs’ coughing up a season-high 25 turnovers, which led to 30 points by the Grizzlies.
“We gave up a lot of pick-sixes,” James said. “In NFL terms, that means it’s straight to the house. To have 25 turnovers for 30 points — I don’t care who you’re playing, it could be my son’s little league team — you’re going to lose when you give up that many turnovers just from carelessness.”
Kevin Love was pragmatic afterward.
“We just could have done a better job of respecting the game,” Love said. “A team like that, they were going to come out and swing for the fences, and they did. That was a real bad loss for us. … Turnovers were terrible. That was what I mean, respecting the game.”
Irving, whose season-high seven turnovers marred the 27 points (14 in the fourth), five assists and four steals he registered, also pointed to the lineup change as contributing to the result.
“I just think for us, as a maturing, young team, we just have to come out and play everybody the same way,” he said. “For me, last day-and-a-half I spend watching film on Mike Conley, and then damn near before tipoff I find out he’s not playing and Z-Bo is not playing, and our shootaround was dedicated to stopping these two guys, and then we come in and the whole thing changes. We just have to get better as a team preparing for anybody that is out there on the floor — myself included.”
Coach Tyronn Lue warned reporters before the game that his team could be vulnerable, despite its apparent advantage.
“It’s always dangerous because we tend to let our guards down,” Lue said. “It’s going to be my job tonight to make sure that we don’t do that. We’ve done that a few times this year, and every time their star and key guys sit out, we tend to take a step backward and kind of relax a little bit. These guys coming off the bench or these guys proving that they need minutes or want minutes, they play hard, and we got to be able to accept the challenge.”
VIDEO: LeBron James had concerns about the Cavs after Monday’s loss
After letting garbage time become crunch time, the Golden State Warriors closed out the Orlando Magic 119-113 for their NBA-record 45th consecutive regular-season home victory. This achievement brings a bifurcated response: There’s an acknowledgement of the incredible accomplishment, then a nod to the issues it’s overshadowing.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr summarized Golden State’s recent run with, “Steph is bailing us out an awful lot.” Monday night was illustrative of that issue, plus a reminder that there are worse bailout plans. As Golden State trundled along sans Andre Iguodala and with an ailing Draymond Green, Curry was a brilliant bulwark against failure. He scored 41 points, claimed 13 boards and hit seven 3-pointers, one of which was his 300th of the season.
Since the All-Star break, Golden State has needed spectacular Curry performances to pull out wins. Thankfully for the Warriors, “spectacular” is his default mode, especially of late. During this stretch, Curry has averaged 35.7 points in 34.9 minutes on 69.7 percent shooting — numbers that shouldn’t be possible.
If Curry weren’t trending impossible, the Warriors would look vulnerable. Though the Warriors have an 8-2 record since the break, they’re grinding out these wins with a lukewarm +1.4 point differential. Even worse: They got blown out by the Lakers of Los Angeles.
Kerr cites defensive slippage as a major issue. After his “Steph is bailing us out an awful lot” comment, Kerr continued: “But we can’t count on that. We can’t rely on that. We need to get back to being the best defensive team in the league, which we were a year ago, which we’re not right now anywhere close to.”
Festus Ezeli‘s absence might account for some of this, but there’s likely another explanation: Unlike last year, this Golden State knows it can win without maximum effort. This iteration might be more inclined to pace themselves in a regular-season game.
There’s also the turnover issue, a pet peeve of Kerr’s. “Some are going to happen,” Kerr said of his team’s 24 giveaways on Tuesday night. “But I could rattle off 10, easy, that were just inexcusable. That’s kind of our weakness, is that sometimes the game comes too easy for our guys and they just think they can do anything; and we’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of skill, and what we have to get back to is just simple, simple, simple, and that’s good enough. The simple leads to the spectacular.”
VIDEO: Steve Kerr talks after Warriors’ 45th straight home win
No. 3: Anthony ready to play recruiter for Knicks — As the season winds down, it’s looking less and less like the New York Knicks have any realistic shot of staying in the Eastern Conference playoff race. That being said, the Knicks can look to this summer and the free-agent market for possible upgrades to a squad that continues to lack postseason power. Superstar forward Carmelo Anthony isn’t going to take the summer off when it comes time to woo big names, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post, and may already have eyes for Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo:
Carmelo Anthony didn’t sound like a player ready to ask for a trade, but one eager to recruit free agents this summer and convince point guard Rajon Rondo that this system will work for him.
“Put me at the head of the table and let’s go to work,’’ Anthony said about summer free-agent meetings. “Put me in the board room.’’
Last summer, when the Knicks didn’t land a big fish despite $30 million of cap room, Anthony was excluded from free-agent meetings. This time, after another losing season, he plans to be there.
“Phil had it [last year],” Anthony quipped. “This summer is going to be interesting. I don’t have a choice. If we want this team to be better, we want to add pieces. I don’t have a choice but to go out there and do my job and try to get people to come here so they can see it from my perspective rather than everybody else’s perspective, seeing it from a player’s perspective.”
Anthony still made phone calls to players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Knicks canceled their meeting when they realized they were all but out of the hunt.
“I did a lot of talking to guys seeing how they felt about the situation and being in this system,” Anthony said. “There were a lot of people very, very interested.”
Anthony admitted to being “worried” about the losing, and roster/coaching instability doesn’t help.
“You need to have something to look forward to year in and year out, not always changing everything when something goes bad,” Anthony said. “The rest of the league sees that. Guys see that, players see that, agents see that. Sometimes it makes it a hard sell, but for the most part, as players, our sources are other players.”
VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony on his return to Denver and more
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: David West says his time with the San Antonio Spurs so far this season has been ‘everything’ to him … Speaking of the Spurs, coach Gregg Popovich (family medical emergency) will miss one more game … Dorrell Wright is hoping to latch on to a contender after playing this season in China … Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell refutes talk star swingman Andrew Wiggins is avoiding the weight room … How did Ty Lawson look in his season debut with the Indiana Pacers? … Last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers might have been painful for the Dallas Mavericks’ front office to watch … Houston Rockets rookie Sam Dekker pulled a great Twitter prank on teammate Dwight Howard …