NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: LeBron: Cavs need ‘better ingredients’ in Game 2— The Cleveland Cavaliers had a solid chance to win Game 1 of The Finals, what with Golden State’s star guard tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combining for 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting. But Cleveland missed its chance (in large part because of Golden State’s stellar bench play) and is in a 1-0 series hole. Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com has more on the loss and what Cavs star LeBron James expects from his team come Game 2:
“We will have a better game plan going into Game 2 for sure offensively,” James said, commenting on Cleveland’s 17 assists on 32 baskets and describing the so-so as a lack of continuous ball movement. “Sometimes your offense dictates your defense, and the fact that we had 17 turnovers and that led to 25 points is not a good ingredient for our offense for sure.”
But just a short while earlier, at that same podium in the bowels of the defending champs’ arena, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue took a decidedly different tone.
“We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing,” Lue said. “I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played.”
The star player is ripping the ingredients and the coach is OK with how the meal was cooked, even if it came out a little raw. If this were last season, we’d be talking about the obvious disconnect between James and David Blatt, about the Cavs’ floor general taking yet another swipe at his beleaguered coach.
This season, in these Finals, with James trusting the cool-under-pressure Lue, we’ll instead chalk this up to just two men choosing different ways to say everything will be better in Game 2. And they would know: Neither James nor Lue has ever won a Finals in which their teams won the first game.
Lue’s 2001 Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 to the 76ers before winning the next four (when the Lakers won the 2000 Finals, including Game 1, Lue was not active for any playoff games). Both of James’ titles with the Heat came after losng Game 1.
James, of course, is 2-4 all-time in the Finals, and he’s only won Game 1 once. In all that time, his teams have only gone down 2-0 in the Finals once, and that was when the Spurs swept the Cavs in 2007.
All of that is to say there is reason to suspect Cleveland will indeed have it together come Sunday, perhaps evening the series at one like it did last season.
Obviously, something has to be different when this series resumes in two days, or it’s going to be rather short. The bench scoring and defense, the turnovers, the short shots, the ball movement, sure. But what else?
James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were all productive if not efficient. James nearly had a triple double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists; Irving scored 26 and Love contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds. But none of them shot above 50 percent from the floor and they committed 11 turnovers between them.
Whichever changes James seeks, there was no panic either from him or Lue afterwards. Of course there wasn’t. As previously mentioned, they’ve been here before, plenty of times, and it was unrealistic to suspect that the Cavs could win this in a short series.
When it comes to track records, though, the Cavs have one with the Warriors that is troublesome. They’ve now dropped six in a row to Golden State, dating back to last year’s Finals.
“This is the same team who we had down 1-0 last year and they hit us twice,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Obviously last year in The Finals I think we won three in a row and kind of figured that out. And then this year, I mean, well, both games they didn’t even have the same coach that they have now. Not that I’m blaming anything on David Blatt, I don’t know their situation. But there’s been a lot of changes to this team. They’re not even really playing the same style of basketball they were before.
“They’re used to winning,” Green said. “They’re going to battle, they’re going to compete, and they’re super talented. So you can’t come out saying, oh, we beat them six in a row, we’re good. Absolutely not.”
No. 2: George wants to play in 2016 Olympics — Pacers star Paul George just completed a season in which he was named All-NBA third team, an NBA All-Star and got his Pacers back in the playoffs after a one-season absence. George had maintained throughout the season, though, that he was unsure about whether or not he’d play in the 2016 Olympics with Team USA. George’s feelings on that topic have apparently changed and disclosed as much to ESPN.com:
Paul George was unsure his body would allow him to vie for a spot on Team USA after the grind of the NBA season, but with the Summer Olympics two months away, he says he is going to give it “a shot.”
The 26-year-old Indiana Pacers All-Star guard/forward, who suffered a gruesome right leg injury in a Team USA scrimmage two years ago, explained his mindset in an interview with ESPN’s Cari Champion this week. The interview is scheduled to air Monday on the noon SportsCenter.
“I was just hesitant on the simple fact that, the past couple years has obviously been tough for me — just felt like I didn’t have enough time to myself, and time to recover, and you know, give my body a rest. I didn’t want to jump out of a season, jump right into the Olympics. But I think I kind of said that too prematurely.
“I didn’t give myself enough time to really think it through. I think since I’ve been off, my body’s telling me yes, my mind is telling me yes, people around me are telling me yes. So I feel good about it. And, you know … I want to give it a shot.”
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told NBA.com at the 2014 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement that he would keep a spot open on the team for George.
“We thought it’s the right thing to do. That’s it. … We didn’t give thought to all the detail,” he told NBA.com. “Just that when a guy goes down and all these things, the circumstances, his career passes before him, he’s out for a year, a year-plus, he’s not able to participate now with us — we wanted to throw that out and say, ‘We’re counting on you. You’ve got a spot in ’16.'”
George was one of 31 finalists named for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in January. Colangelo said in March that he planned to unveil the 12-man Olympic roster in late June.
No. 3: Warriors sound off on Dellavedova’s Game 1 foul — Late in the third quarter of Game 1 of The Finals, Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was headed upcourt with Golden State nursing a 71-68 lead. As he tried to start the offense, he took a foul from Matthew Dellavedova that looked like a swipe at the ball — but ended up upon further review as a swipe at Iguodala’s groin. Although the call wasn’t escalated beyond a common foul, it left a lasting mark on Iguodala and his teammates, writes Shams Charania of The Vertical:
The Splash Brothers had gone dry, LeBron James marched his franchise to a quarter from stealing victory inside Oracle Arena, so out of nowhere Andre Iguodala went full throttle. He attacked an angle toward the left wing, several feet from his opposition’s bench, where an old nemesis to his body delivered a cold clocking. Iguodala felt Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova’s presence in his tracks, and Dellavedova’s hand struck his groin.
Iguodala confronted the spirited Australian guard on Thursday night, with teammates separating them in the Golden State Warriors’ 104-89 win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The villain to the Warriors had returned, months after Dellavedova’s altercation with Iguodala on Christmas Day and robust matchup with Stephen Curry in the 2015 Finals. The pain was swift on Thursday, the lowest of low blows for Iguodala. Around these Warriors, the belief permeated: This level of physicality allows Dellavedova to survive on an NBA roster. From Kyle Korver to Al Horford to Taj Gibson last season and Iguodala in December, Dellavedova has created a history, a track record in incidentals.
“Delly needs to play like this to stay in the league,” former teammate Anderson Varejao told The Vertical. “If you ask me if Delly is a dirty player, I don’t think he is, but he has a way that he plays. He needs to do this for that team; play hard and tough. That is his way of helping Cleveland.”
Dellavedova is only in his second NBA year, a pending free agent whose value has trended upward all season. For any NBA team, he’s a high-end backup point guard, able to advance a franchise’s core principles in team chemistry and defense. For Cavaliers coach Ty Lue, Dellavedova has become a luxury behind Kyrie Irving.
Yet Dellavedova had struck again, infuriating the opponent and creating narrative and substance. This time, a nut shot with less than a minute left in the third quarter led to a Warriors’ 13-2 run, a 25-8 wave in total for their 20-point lead, and ultimately Golden State never needed Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson to supply anything in the fourth.
“We know what Dellavedova brings and that type of hit to the body is always possible,” Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa told The Vertical. “He needs to do that for his team. Dirty is a strong word for it, but we are aware of his style. We needed something to get ourselves going, to say we have to hit them back with our play.
“After Iggy got hit, we came back and told ourselves, ‘Lock in.’ So if that was the moment for us, then so be it.”
Finally, Iguodala’s teammates sensed his uneasiness on Thursday night as he walked into the huddle. “He smacked me in the [expletive],” teammates heard Iguodala say. “He smacked me.” So Iguodala drained a 3-pointer seconds later and smacked back verbally. He glanced toward Dellavedova and yelled, and had another jumper early in the fourth. The rout had commenced. When Iguodala placed his coat and hat on late Thursday, everyone probed him on Dellavedova.
“I respect a lot of guys’ hustles in this league,” Iguodala said. “We have got guys who have to get a little dirty and physical to make a life to feed their family. For me, it’s about keeping my composure.
“There are times for me to get fired up, and the situation that happened got me fired up.”
No. 4: Report: Hawks, Sixers talking Teague-for-Noel swap — In his two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, big man Nerlens Noel has delivered consistent play on defense. In his seven seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Jeff Teague has blossomed from end-of-the-rotation player to an All-Star in 2015 and remains one of the NBA’s more solid playmaking point guards. However, the Sixers lack in point guard play and the Hawks could use some better interior defense, leading to some trade talks between the teams about those players, writes Shams Charania of The Vertical:
Atlanta and Philadelphia are discussing a possible trade centered on Hawks guard Jeff Teague and 76ers center Nerlens Noel, league sources told The Vertical.
The sides have discussed the deal recently, but an agreement isn’t imminent, sources said.
For Philadelphia, there has been strong interest over the past year in acquiring a high-end starting point guard. The 76ers have the No. 1 overall pick in the June 23 NBA draft and will likely select Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, but have a glut of talent in the frontcourt, including Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and potentially Dario Saric.
In his seventh NBA season with the Hawks, Teague averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 79 games. Atlanta had discussed possible deals at the trade deadline to break up its core of Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap, but elected to keep the team intact. The Hawks reached the Eastern Conference semifinals. Teague, 27, was selected to the All-Star team in 2015.
Noel, an active athlete and shot-blocker at 6-foot-11, averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for Philadelphia this season. He was the No. 6 selection in the 2013 NBA draft by New Orleans and was acquired by the 76ers. Noel, 22, missed his rookie season with an ACL injury but remains an attractive, young talent on the 76ers’ roster.
Teague (unrestricted) and Noel (restricted) will reach free agency in 2017.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry posted an open letter to thank fans for the team’s fantastic season … NBA commissioner Adam Silver plans to do something about the ‘Hack-A’ strategy in the NBA … Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff will reportedly join David Fizdale’s coaching staff in Memphis …