Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Cavaliers’

For Irving, down time before Finals just what doctor ordered


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving from practice May 29

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Tough as the gap between the NBA’s conference championships and the Finals might be for fans and TV viewers, the first three of these eight days have been a tonic and a balm to Kyrie Irving‘s achy left knee.

That gives the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard a legitimate shot at being healthy when his team faces the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 next Thursday in Oakland.

“I’m participating in everything,” Irving said after the Cavaliers’ workout Friday. “We just had a light practice today. The next few days, we’ll definitely ramp it up, I assume. I’m in everything. So I’m ready to go.”

That’s a departure from the previous three rounds. Irving sprained his right foot early in the first round against Boston, which, as he continued to play on it, led to a compensating injury in his left knee. That tendinitis limited him against Chicago and caused him to skip Games 2 and 3 against Atlanta in the East finals.

The three-time All Star, 23, did at least travel with the Cavs to Atlanta to start the series, then took a side trip to Florida with Cleveland team physician Dr. Richard Parker to consult with noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. They came back with a tweaked treatment plan, which Irving credited for helping him play in the Game 4 clincher Tuesday. He scored 16 points in 22 minutes in the 30-point blowout.

Irving’s production hasn’t dropped off entirely, even though he has lacked his signature turbocharged quickness, along with the trust in his body. In 12 games, he has averaged 18.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and his player-efficiency rating of 20.3 is within his PER range of 20.1 to 21.5 through his first four NBA seasons.

But going through the “will he or won’t he?” uncertainty with the knee (the foot isn’t much of an issue anymore) took a mental toll on Irving. So did the layers of treatment, even as he was trying to properly prepare in case he did play.

“You know, being hurt sucks. Especially in a time like that,” Irving said. “So it was just a learning experience, to say the least. But it was a test of my will. I was very resilient in what I was doing. Hopefully going forward I don’t have any relapse.”

With Kevin Love (shoulder surgery) already out since the first round, the Cavaliers need Irving to bring as much of his “A” game as possible to prevent Golden State from loading up defensively on LeBron James. There would be a benefit for the whole Cleveland team if it didn’t have to sweat Irving’s status day to day through the Finals.

“More so for him, to be able to get out there and be comfortable,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “Not have to worry. ‘Am I going to hurt today? Is it gonna get worse if I play? Is it going to bother me from doing the things I normally do at both ends of the court?’ So I’m hoping, more than anything else, for him, that his feeling is such that he can get out there and play without worry. Without concern. Then he’ll be fine.”

It would mean the difference between playing self-consciously and even cautiously versus just playing. The latter can lead to dynamite results, with Irving so key to slowing Golden State’s momentum and breaking down its defense.

“Basketball for me is all based off instincts,” Irving said. “Going out there when you’re playing hurt, it’s a mental struggle and a mental game that you’re playing with yourself. You’re trying to convince yourself, like, ‘I can one-dribble pull-up or come off this screen…’ Your mind is thinking one thing and your body just won’t allow you to do it.

“Knowing when they’re in line, it’s the utmost confidence. For me it’s the biggest thing. Because my game is predicated on stopping and going, and being able to finish at the rim and make plays. … Now these practice days are vital for me in order to get my rhythm back.

“I’m in a good spot right now.”

Numbers preview: The Finals


VIDEO: The Starters preview The Finals

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers each made history in reaching The Finals.

Since the NBA starting counting turnovers in 1977, no team had made The Finals after leading the league in pace — like the Warriors did — or after ranking as low as 20th in defensive efficiency — like the Cavs did — in the regular season. That’s 37 years of trends that have been bucked, in two different ways.

These are special teams. Statistically, the Warriors are the best team we’ve seen since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, outscoring their opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions in the regular season. The Cavs, meanwhile, have fought through a myriad of changes (via trades and injuries) to get here, improving defensively along the way.

And the Cavs have been statistically better, both offensively and defensively, than the Warriors in the playoffs, even when you account for weaker competition. Cleveland has better marks in adjusted efficiency (taking their opponents’ regular season marks) on both ends of the floor.

This is also a matchup of the MVP and the world’s best player, the two guys who lead the league in postseason usage rate. Stephen Curry and LeBron James won’t be guarding each other and have very unique games, but some of their playoff advanced stats are very similar.

20150529_curry_james

Curry has been the more efficient scorer, while James has provided more for his team on defense and on the glass. Curry has the deeper supporting cast, but James has been here before.

When this series is done, he’ll either be 3-3 or 2-4 in The Finals, and either the Cavs will have their first championship or the Warriors will have their first one in 40 years.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more. (more…)

Blogtable: Your view on Matthew Dellavedova?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Can LeBron pass MJ? | Your view on Dellavedova | Recruiting target for Celtics?



VIDEOIs Matthew Dellavedova scrappy, dirty or somewhere in-between?

> Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova is: A) a dirty player; B) a scrappy player; C) somewhere in-between.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll take C. Dellavedova doesn’t go out intending to hurt opponents, but he does play recklessly in a way that can jeopardize other players’ well-being. His leg clamp on Taj Gibson‘s leg in the East semifinals showed Dellavedova is no innocent – he knows how to be sneaky and get under foes’ skin – and his repeated involvement in incidents and mishaps is no coincidence. That said, a lot of too-cool players in this league would be well-served if they brought as much energy and assertiveness to their games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Somewhere in between, though I would come down more on the dirty play side who is hiding behind LeBron’s skirt.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: A scrappy player. The pattern is troubling and has me leaning toward a dirty player, more than I would have imagined before. But I think dirty is about intent, and I don’t think Delly has been trying to hurt anyone. He has seemed more out of control, attaching himself to Al Horford like that, but not intentionally injuring opponents.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and call him scrappy, but his grace period is over with one more questionable collision with a player. I wonder: LeBron was so vociferous in his defense of Delly, but suppose it was LeBron and not Al Horford who got hit? Or LeBron and not Kyle Korver? Or LeBron and not Taj Gibson? What would LeBron say then?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Somewhere in between. He plays hard, values every possession, and makes the most of what he’s got. When you do that and you’re not as coordinated as the average NBA player, you’re going to get under the skin of your opponent.  He’s First Team All-Irritant.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Can I go with D, all of the above? Seriously, Delly doesn’t deserve the nefarious tag of being “dirty.” That’s a loaded statement and doesn’t mean the same thing it did in the NBA of old. That used to be a badge of honor. It has a totally different meaning in the can’t-touch-him defensive era that we live in now. All that said, there is a certain brand of justice for guys who play the way Dellavedova does, and it’s called a screen that loosens your Chiclets. You return fire for his “hustle” play with a pick that rattles his skull. And if LeBron James or anyone else wants to cry foul, remind them that whoever set the screen is just hustling and playing hard and doing whatever it takes, within the rules, to help his team win.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He isn’t dirty. Just about any retired NBA player over the age of 40 would tell you so: I’m betting that (1) they would respect him for seeking contact and diving for 50-50 balls, and (2) they would complain about a culture that condemns those plays as dirty.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I hesitate to call him “dirty,” because that means we aren’t judging his actions but his intent, and nobody out there can read his mind, no matter how much they yell on Twitter. So without tagging him as “dirty,” I will say this: When a network is able to put together a package of clips on any given topic — like, in this case, some questionable plays — there’s probably some meat on that bone. Dellavedova is the kind of guy you love to have on your team and hate to play against. And as long as he’s playing alongside LeBron James, he’s got at least one high-powered advocate making a case for him.

Blogtable: Can LeBron pass Jordan?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Can LeBron pass MJ? | Your view on Dellavedova | Recruiting target for Celtics?



VIDEOCan LeBron James one day surpass Michael Jordan as greatest of all time?

> A couple of LeBron James’ teammates believe “The King” might soon surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. Is this crazy talk, or do they have a legit argument?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Legit argument, or at least getting there. LeBron clearly is lacking in the championships category, and if Golden State (presumably the West’s rep) validates its remarkable season with a championship, he’ll be 2-4 in the Finals vs. Jordan’s 6-0. But that’s just one measure for Greatest Of All Time status. James’ combination of size, speed, power and finesse is unprecedented in NBA history, making him as unique in his way as Jordan was as the high-scoring, ultra-competitor. We need to let James wrap up his resume and then compare the two. A couple more rings for James and his continued climb up the stats lists will make this a perfect topic for barrooms and man caves.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s not crazy at all. If you’re measuring only by championships won, LeBron has a long way to go. But if your eyes are open, then the discussion is on. But only for second place. Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest player of all time and it’s not even close.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s not crazy talk, but it’s also not anything we need to worry about now. LeBron has to play at this level for at least a couple more years, and he has to win big, before the conversation gets real. That part is not fair in the debate, that teammates will help determine his place in history because the number of championships are part of the analysis. Jordan had Hall of Famers in his supporting cast — Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman — and an all-time great for a coach, Phil Jackson. No such luxury for James.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I can’t classify it as crazy talk or a legit argument. Only time will tell. He won’t have Jordan’s batting average in the NBA Finals (6-0 for MJ) but he’s still in his prime and, if he adds a few more titles, then let the conversation begin. But now? Too early. People are in such a rush to replace legends. And some of those people never saw those legends play.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I don’t know about “soon,” but I think it’s fair to have the discussion and everything depends on the lens through which you’re looking at them. LeBron isn’t close to Jordan’s six titles, but championships are won by teams, not individuals. And LeBron’s talent (size, athleticism, skill set) is obviously something we’ve never seen before.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m going to go ahead and forgive LeBron’s teammates for being too young to comprehend what we all saw of Michael Jordan in his prime (i.e. everything prior to his Washington Wizards days). For they know not of what they speak. This is absolutely crazy talk. And that’s not a knock on LeBron, just an ode to MJ and the Greatest Of All Time that he was, is and will always be. The bar is so unbelievably high, that it’s really unfair to keep trying to squeeze LeBron or anyone else into that mold. We tried it endlessly with Kobe Bryant, another all-time great player in his own right, to no avail. And I’m sure folks will continue to do it with LeBron. LeBron’s great in his own right and will have a rightful place on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore when the time comes. But passing up MJ as the greatest of all time … forget about it.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLeBron may already be the most talented player ever. But “the greatest of all time” is a title that must be earned by winning. Maybe LeBron will earn it. To say that LeBron is already within reach of someone who has won three times more championships? That is simply disrespectful to Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: LeBron is the greatest player of his generation, and probably the best player since Michael Jordan. But for LeBron to be considered the greatest of all-time, well, I’m just not sure that’s possible. In purely a basketball sense, those in James’ camp have an interesting argument, as LeBron is physically able to do things on the court Jordan could never do. But part of what made Jordan so special was that he was in large part solely responsible for globalizing basketball and the NBA, taking the NBA from being a minor league to making people around the world say, “I love this game.” Jordan also authored the blueprint for going from an athlete to being a business man and marketing mogul, something nobody else has done as well ever since.

Morning shootaround — May 27


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron seeking new Finals narrative | Did Shaq really threaten to kill Kobe? | Myers: Curry passed concussion protocol twice | Hawks have plenty to prove

No. 1: LeBron seeking new narrative with this Cavs team — The wait to return to the NBA Finals for the Cavaliers is over, and it seemed even longer than it was. LeBron James took the Cavs to the 2007 Finals, where they were swept by the Spurs and admittedly weren’t ready in any way to challenge for a championship. Then LeBron went to Miami three years later, won a pair of titles and left the Cavs in a rut. Have things changed much since then? Well, the Cavs will once again be the underdog in the Finals, as they were against the Spurs, but LeBron likes the latest version to offer a lot more resistance. Bud Shaw of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

LeBron James understandably jumped into Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ arms that night in 2007, then climbed atop the scorer’s table. Austin Carr wept. Strangers hugged in the concourse.

Mike Brown stood at center court on a night much like the one that unfolded Tuesday at the Q, saying of the matchup with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, “I’m in it to win it.”

This time, James was happy for sure, but also more subdued. David Blatt wasn’t nearly as bold as was Brown.

“We’re in Cleveland, nothing is easy here,” Blatt told TNT’s Ernie Johnson.

This time, though, the Cavs in it to win it is a narrative that might even be true.

They are 12-2 in the post season, winners of seven straight since James hit a corner buzzer beater in Game 4 against Chicago.

They swept a 60-win team in a series-clinching rout. They made the Hawks look like the Spurs made the Cavs look in 2007. As if they didn’t belong.

James was 22 when he vanquished the Pistons in a much tougher series. He’s 30 now. For five consecutive years, he’s treated the NBA Finals like a time share, showing up every June and twice putting up his feet as if he owned the place.

If it’s Golden State this time around, as we expect it will be, James isn’t going in early to visit wine country. This is happening sooner than he thought before the midseason makeover. But nothing about this is especially surprising.

Another title puts him halfway to Michael Jordan. More importantly — and I believe it is for him — a NBA title ends a half century drought in a city that once cursed him.

There are so many themes involved in what’s to come. Happy to be there isn’t one of them.

Good for James that he has a much better supporting cast, even without Kevin Love and with Kyrie Irving hobbled, though we suspect Irving will need to have two pretty good legs under him for the Cavs to win.

Against San Antonio, the Cavs scored 76, 92, 72 and 82 points. This Cavaliers’ team can score 10 different ways. (Eleven if it’s safe to now count the Tristan Thompson rebound, and stepback buzzer beater from 18 feet).


VIDEO: Go inside the huddle with the Cavs throughout their Game 4 win

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Marion slips from All-Star to role player in quest for second ring


VIDEO: Shawn Marion at Cavs shootaround

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Shawn Marion is going to retire whenever the Cleveland Cavaliers’ postseason comes to an end. There are wise guys who might say – based on his meager contributions to the Cavaliers in the regular season and the playoffs – that he already has.

But that’s part of the rare challenge Marion and maybe a handful of others like him have faced through the years.

The game’s legends seldom step down from their thrones, exiting with their status relatively intact when they can’t play up to their own standards. Role players typically carve out and hang onto those roles as long as someone will employ them. But Marion, 37, has gone from a big-shot, high-impact player to an end-of-the-bench type. From an All-Star who shaped games and seasons with his talent, to a teammate rooting for others and staying ready to help, however possible, when needed in scant shifts.

There’s a humbling there, an adjustment of one’s self image, that few welcome and fewer make.

“That’s what I die for, baby,” Marion said of the high times in his career, after the Cavaliers’ shootaround session Tuesday morning before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. “I’m a competitor and I live for that. So it’s tough. But at the same time, it doesn’t matter. It’s all for the team concept and that’s all that matters.” (more…)

Hawks refuse to give up on their system


VIDEO: The Cavs’ defense has helped them to a 3-0 series lead

CLEVELAND — The Atlanta Hawks are facing a sweep in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT), and it seems to have confirmed the doubts of those who didn’t believe in their regular season success.

The Hawks won 60 games (going 33-2 stretch at one point) and ranked in the top seven in both offensive and defensive efficiency with a system that stressed balance and cohesion. And here they are, down 0-3 to a team that’s relying heavily on the best player in the world.

Conclusion? Talent beats system, and the most important thing in postseason basketball is having a go-to guy.

The Hawks don’t want to hear that noise.

“You can’t judge three games over 82 games,” backup guard Shelvin Mack said Monday. “Our record speaks for itself. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get it done.”

They almost figured out a way on Sunday. Playing in Cleveland without Kyle Korver or Al Horford (for the second half), they withstood a historical performance from LeBron James and had opportunities to make this a 2-1 series.

“We know we can compete at a high level,” Hawks point guard Jeff Teague said. “We know we can beat this team.”

Teague had a good look to win the game in regulation. Mack had a wide-open corner 3-pointer to tie the game at the end of overtime. The NBA postseason isn’t nearly as random as its baseball counterpart, but there still can be a fine line between winning and losing each game.

The Hawks were on the wrong side of chance on Sunday, but came out believing that they have control over the outcome of these games.

“[In Game 3] we were more decisive,” forward Paul Millsap said. “We were attacking. If we’re open, we shoot it. Drive, pass it, just more decisiveness.”

Of course, with the notion that playing with more purpose gave them a chance to win in Game 3 comes the realization that doing the same in the two games at home could have made this a totally different series. But there’s no going back, and there’s probably no coming back either. No NBA team in history has ever come back from down 0-3 to win a best-of-seven series.

Still, the Hawks aren’t going to come out of this series with the belief that they need to do things differently. Injuries have taken a toll, and really, they only have to look back at The 2014 Finals to know that balance and cohesion can win championships.

“Every team has different ways to build and different ways to give themselves what they feel is their best chance,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said Monday. “There’s no doubt the way that we built the team with a lot of really good players, a lot of high-character guys, we feel like we can compete and play with anybody in the league. They’ve done it a different way, and it’s a great battle.”

If you’re taking the long view, a loss in the conference finals would be a step in the process. The Hawks have two key free agents — Millsap and DeMarre Carroll — this summer. But they have the ability to retain both, pick up where they left off, address the minor flaws that have been exposed in these playoffs, and keep doing what they’re doing.

“We feel like we can play that style of basketball throughout the course of the playoffs,” Millsap said. “Thus far we’ve been hanging on. We’ve still got another game to go out there and prove it.”

They’re not going to prove it one night. But Game 4 is another opportunity to show the world the value of the system.

“Obviously, someone’s going to win or lose,” Budenholzer said, “but this is the way we’re built. We believe in it. We think we can win at a high level, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Morning shootaround — May 26


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 4 of the Western Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron better than Jordan? | No additional discipline for Horford | Warriors breathe sigh of relief | Thomas ready to recruit for Celtics

No. 1: James’ teammates: LeBron closing in on Jordan as greatest ever — The long-standing, never-ending debate over which player in NBA lore — take your pick from any legend, mind you — is the greatest ever is one that will never die. In modern days, the argument seems to settle on who is better: LeBron James or Michael Jordan? Like any debate, the answer is subjective. But according to James’ teammates on the Cavs, LeBron may not be that far from passing Jordan. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

After willing his team to a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals at The Q on Sunday night with an exhilarating performance, a long soak in the cold tub followed.

It took his 12th career postseason triple-double of 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists to place the Atlanta Hawks on the brink of embarking on an extended vacation. He became the first player in playoff history to produce a stat line of at least 37 points, 18 boards and 13 dimes.

His greatness, his dominance can no longer be brushed to the side. There are those who believe his time has almost come.

Michael Jordan’s long-coveted slot as the supreme basketball player in the history of the game is in serious jeopardy of being dropped down a peg.

“The only thing that he’s missing is a couple more championships and then it’s a wrap,” Kendrick Perkins told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “Right now we have arguably the best player to ever play the game. I’m just saying man. I’m not taking anything away from Jordan, but all (James is) missing is titles. A couple of more titles and that’s it.”

Perkins has played with some of the greats in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He grew up watching Jordan play.

“That’s one hell of a debate. Honestly, in my opinion, if it’s not Jordan then it’s him,” J.R. Smith told NEOMG. “It used to be no question. It was a landslide. It was Jordan. Now, you have to consider my boy.”

“Just think about it, truthfully, if he wanted to, he could win the MVP every year,” Perkins said. “Think about that. He averaged 25 [points], 6 [rebounds] and 7 [assists]. That’s absurd, and people are like ‘he had a down year.’ That’s crazy talk. When it’s all said and done, he’ll probably be the best the game has seen.”


VIDEO: Relive LeBron James’ Game 3 triple-double vs. the Hawks

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Morning shootaround — May 25


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dirty Delly or just playing hard? | Steph has never been better | Cramps don’t stop LeBron this time | Rockets vow to get tougher

No. 1: Dirty Dellavedova or just playing hard? — Perspective is everything when you’re talking about the impact of Matthew Dellavedova in these playoffs for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In Chicago and Atlanta, where players from opposing teams have fallen victim to Delly’s hustle (or some would say dirty tricks), there is no debate. He’s up to no good. But in Cleveland, where he’s revered for being the hardest working man in the building every night, he’s become something of a cult hero. He added another chapter to his story when he got tangled up with Atlanta Hawks All-Star center Al Horford in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 overtime win, a game Horford was ejected for after elbowing Dellavadova. Our very own Steve Aschburner offers his perspective on “Delly” and the name (good and bad) that he’s made for himself in these playoffs:

The range of characterizations for what transpired was vast. It was a bad break for the Hawks. A foolhardy response by Horford. An expert but helpful-to-the-Cavs ruling by the referees (Dellavedova got a technical foul but stuck around to score 17 points and hit four of nine 3-point shots). Another instance of the Aussie guard’s high-energy, do-anything tactics that have a way of getting Down Under opponents’ skin.

That was the beef from some of the Hawks, a lot of TV viewers and across the Twittersphere — that this was no isolated incident but instead was the latest in a pattern of Dellavedova taking down or taking out key players for Cleveland’s rivals.

The recent run of plays that have left opponents worse off began with Game 5 of the East semifinal against Chicago. Pushed to the floor by Bulls forward Taj Gibson, Dellavedova — while face down — locked his legs onto one of Gibson’s legs. When the Chicago player kicked free, the kick was caught by the referees, the replays and an outraged Quicken Loans Arena crowd. Gibson was hit with a flagrant-2 and, with the Bulls already playing without big man Pau Gasol, ejected early in the fourth quarter from what became a two-point game in the final minutes.

On Friday, in Game 2 against Atlanta, Dellavedova dived for a loose ball and slammed into Hawks guard Kyle Korver‘s right leg. With both players grimacing from the collision, the Cavs guard rolled over, leaving Korver with a postseason-ending high-ankle sprain.

That led to Sunday’s play, with at least one of Horford’s teammates suggesting that their center retaliated in enough-is-enough fashion.

“Hey, man, you all do the math. Two plus two equals four, doesn’t it?” said Atlanta forward DeMarre Carroll. “Al just did what he thought was necessary to protect our team and make a stand. And he got thrown out.”

“Everybody understood we had to take a stand. We’re out there to play basketball. We’re out there to compete. But when we get to the sense of doing things unnecessary, that’s when you have the play you seen.”

Of Dellavedova, Carroll said: “I think he’s just a competitor, man. And sometimes, when you compete so hard, you can take it overboard. There’s got to be a fine line between competing or being crazy.

“I play hard myself. And I understand, sometimes you go tot do little things to get under people’s skin. But [nothing] crazy. I hope he takes a look at the film and sees, man, there’s a way to play hard but not to play crazy.”


VIDEO: Al Horford talks about being ejected from Game 3

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Irving questionable for Game 3 during injury-filled postseason


VIDEO: Blatt on Irving, Game 3

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hobbled point guard, worked on his shooting at the team’s morning shootaround but still was listed as questionable to play in Game 3 Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving missed the second game of the teams’ Eastern Conference finals series Friday and hasn’t been fully healthy since spraining his right foot early in the first round against Boston. Of course, teammate Kevin Love suffered his dislocated left shoulder in the finale against the Celtics, leading to postseason-ending surgery.

The Hawks got similar bad news Saturday when sharpshooter Kyle Korver was ruled out for however long Atlanta stays alive, his right high-ankle sprain from Game 2 requiring more recovery than the Hawks have time this spring. DeMarre Carroll, their primary defender against LeBron James, is trying to play on a badly sprained knee – “It’s a leg,” he said again Sunday when asked for an update – and another key perimeter defender, Thabo Sefolosha, has been out with a leg fracture since an incident with New York police last month.

Injuries have played a big enough role in these playoffs that the catch phrase “last team standing” might apply literally this year. Perhaps more than ever, the NBA championship could go not necessarily to the league’s best team but to the one least derailed by bad breaks. And sprains, strains and tears.

“Obviously, going into the postseason and going through the postseason, health is always the No. 1 thing,” Cavs star LeBron James said Sunday. “Luck comes into play a lot – you get lucky – and then [it’s] the team that’s playing at the highest level, that’s playing great basketball.”

Out West, Golden State has been playing without backup forward Marreese Speights (calf). Houston has done without guard Patrick Beverley (wrist) and forward Donatas Montiejunas (back), while center Dwight Howard has been touch-and-go daily after a knee sprain.

But the Cavaliers aren’t feeling any more sorry for the others – despite James’ back-pat gesture to Carroll when the Hawks guard was helped off late in Game 1 – than those rivals are for Cleveland. Even James has been playing through dings that have been noticeable on the court, including an ankle he rolled and a sore back he endured against Chicago.

Asked about setting an example in playing through pain for younger teammates such as Irving, James said: “I can’t speak on someone else’s injury. Everyone’s body is different. For me, if I felt like I was hurting the team, then I shouldn’t play. But if I felt like I could give something to the team, I wanted to be on the floor. Obviously I’m playing trough injuries right now, multiple injuries right now. I mean a lot to this team and I understand my presence, and if I can give something, I’m going to be out there.”

James added: “We haven’t been the healthiest. Had a little luck here and there. But we’ve been playing at a high level. So we’ve got like one-and-a-half out of the three.”

Kind of like having a sturdy James, the scaled-back contributions of Irving and no Love. One-and-a-half out of the three.