Skip to main content

Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Love’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry not himself during Finals | Kevin Love on being Westbrook’s college teammate | Giannis now cornerstone of Bucks

No. 1: Curry not himself during Finals – Anyone who saw Stephen Curry during the regular season, when he won his second straight MVP (and did so unanimously), and during the last month of the playoffs knew that he wasn’t 100 percent. That’s not to offer an excuse — remember, the Cavs didn’t have Kyrie Irving for all but one game during the 2015 Finals — but it was the sad reality for the Warriors and their franchise guard. Curry says he still hasn’t gotten over Game 7, and discussed that and more with Sam Amick of USA Today:

From here until the end of his Hall of Fame-bound career, the piece of film that likely will haunt him most is the NBA Finals Game 7 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Say what you will about all of the factors that weren’t in their favor — Curry’s right knee injury that slowed him until the end, the Andrew Bogut absence in the last two games because of a knee injury, the Draymond Green suspension in Game 5 that led to a series-turning loss — the championship was theirs for the taking again.

The fact that Curry missed 13 of 19 shots, including 10 of 14 from three-point range, when it mattered most only made the offseason worse. He finished with 17 points, two assists and four turnovers in the finale.

“I still haven’t gotten over Game 7,” Curry told USA TODAY Sports during a break in the shoot. “That’s something that will stay with me pretty much forever, for good and bad reasons. Obviously you hated the feeling, but it’s also a motivator to come back even stronger and try not to have that feeling again.

“I’m at that point now where I can try to fuel any kind of terrible nightmares or thoughts about Game 7 into motivation for how I’m going to prepare myself for this year.”

And therein lies the saving grace for Curry and the new-look Warriors: they’ll be the cause of night terrors for the rest of the NBA soon enough.

If there were a cure for this kind of hoops hangover, the arrival of Kevin Durant should have been it. Less than two weeks after the Game 7 loss, not long after Curry and a band of other Warriors players, coaches and executives recruited the former Oklahoma City Thunder star in a Hamptons mansion, the Warriors got the word that the biggest fish in the free agency was coming their way. But Curry’s recovery was far too complicated for that to be the quick fix.

Those first few days were the roughest of them all, he admits, especially for someone who has always taken such pride in not letting his work life affect him at home. The Cavs had made history at Oracle Arena, becoming the first team in league history to recover from a 3-1 Finals deficit to win it all while winning two of the final three games on the road. LeBron James, who many believed had lost his unofficial title as the game’s best player to Curry before he re-seized that status, had celebrated in their halls as if he owned the place.

Even the smiles of Curry’s two young daughters, Riley and Ryan, and the support of his wife, Ayesha, couldn’t soothe that initial sting. Ditto for the golf outings with President Obama, the late-night talk-show appearances and the annual trip to China with Under Armour that were to come.

“Starting with that night (of Game 7), it kind of was like a surreal feeling at home, kind of like, ‘What just happened?’ because we were so confident we could get it done,” Curry said. “Human nature kind of took in, where I was a little down — kind of naturally. But I was able to kind of just get away, go on vacation with the family (in Hawaii), get in front of the next generation at a couple (basketball) camps, still be around the game but not be depressed at all and understand we’re playing for the Finals and hopefully get another chance at it next year.”

In a way, it’s apropos that the Warriors lost the what-if way. A year before, it was the Cavs who were left with questions regarding injuries: What if Kyrie Irving hadn’t broken his kneecap in Game 1, or if Kevin Love’s dislocated shoulder hadn’t ended his season in the first round against the Boston Celtics? This time, it was the Warriors’ turn to wonder what might have been.

Brandon Payne, Curry’s personal trainer who is based in his hometown of Charlotte but trains with him in the San Francisco Bay Area, had a front-row seat.

“The first day I saw him after (Game 7), we both just had a moment of, ‘Well that really sucked,’ ” Payne said. “But after that, we haven’t really talked about it. We just moved forward.

“It’s one of those things where we know it happened, right? We don’t have to (watch the tape). We know what happened, and we have a pretty good handle on why it happened. We’ll just focus on getting him ready for 82 games (next season).”

But not before Curry would rest in a way that spoke volumes about his health.

***

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Sept. 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cavs excited for Love’s season | Gallinari says he passed on trade last season | Noah’s father: Joakim pumped to play for Knicks

No. 1: Cavs looking forward to Love’s upcoming season — The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t exactly gotten the All-Star version of power forward Kevin Love since they traded for him two seasons ago. But, Love hasn’t exactly been awful either, averaging 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds while sinking 302 3-pointers while playing a crucial role in Cleveland’s 2015-16 championship run. As the Cavs prep for their training camp in a few weeks, Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto reports the team is looking forward to Love being fully healthy and continues to refute trade talk:

The Cavs are very excited about Love this season. They talk about him “being in the best place” mentally and physically since being traded to the Cavs in 2014. Once again, he spent much of the off-season at the U.S. Olympic ski training facility in Park City, Utah. The Cavs like how Love dropped 15 pounds last summer and added flexibility — and I hear Love is in excellent shape right now.

But just as important, Love endured a very rough NBA Finals. He made a key defensive stop on Stephen Curry in the final minute of Game 7 over Golden State, finishing with nine points and a team-high 14 rebounds. In his 30 minutes on the court, the Cavs out-scored Golden State by 19 points. That was the best plus/minus mark of any Cavalier in Game 7.

He gave up his scoring to concentrate on rebounding, defense and doing what was needed to help win a title.

As someone close to the situation told me, “Kevin learned about what it takes to win. He really matured last season.”

Love evolved from the 26-point scorer and lazy defender on a Minnesota team that never had a winning record or made the playoffs in six seasons. He turns 28 on Wednesday. He is in the prime of his career and feeling very comfortable with his spot on the team.

Once again, there are some silly trade rumors. I’ve been told since the middle of last season the Cavs have no intention of trading Love. And the same is true after the title.

Had the Cavs collapsed in the playoffs, certainly a trade of Love or almost anyone not named LeBron James would have been possible. But the goal for General Manager David Griffin has been to “bring back the band,” as he’s called it several times.

Love is not going anywhere as the training camp looms late in September.

***

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Sept. 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Ujiri focuses on building African basketball | Holiday to miss time to care for wife and child | Riley says Shaq was most important Miami move | Curry watches Game 7 for fuel | Reasons to be excited about Love

No. 1: Ujiri focuses on building African basketball — Masai Ujiri earned Executive of the Year honors for the job he did in Denver and has guided the Toronto Raptors to three straight years of setting a new franchise record for wins. For that, he earned a contract extension this week. But Ujiri’s basketball work on the continent of Africa will ultimately be more impactful. And it’s the job of growing the game back where he came from that brings out the perfectionist in Ujiri, as Bruce Arthur writes in the Toronto Star

When the film was shown the first time, during that Arctic all-star weekend, it felt like the entire NBA was in town. Masai Ujiri was the headliner, glad-handing and chatting with the other luminaries of his professional world like the confident politician he can be but, underneath it all, his stomach was leaping and jittering. Afterwards, he shook hands and embraced friends and accepted compliments, seeming at ease. But he was still shaking inside.

“Honestly, I’m not nervous about anything I do with the Raptors,” Ujiri says from Angola, where he is the camp director for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp, after nearly a month spent running his own camps for his charity, Giants of Africa.

“I’m nervous about everything I do with Africa. You almost want it to go good all the time, and you don’t want to disappoint.”

The general manager of the Toronto Raptors cares deeply about his day job. But he feels he has more control in the NBA. He has also spoken about how if he is the only African-born general manager in NBA history, then he will have failed in some way, and about how much responsibility he feels to the kids who remind him of himself. Ujiri has just finished his annual charity tour, which has been running for 13 years now. When the Hubert Davis-directed documentary was shot last year, Giants of Africa ran basketball camps in four countries. This year they started in Senegal, then went on to Ghana, his native Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Botswana. They helped build a court in Rwanda. It was a good trip.

***

(more…)

Blogtable: Will Warriors, Cavs meet in 2017 Finals?

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: Level of concern for Team USA? | Will Warriors, Cavs meet in 2017 Finals? |
Who will have biggest impact on Knicks?


> Never in NBA history have the same two teams played each other in the Finals three years in a row. I know it’s only August, but are we destined for a historic Cavs-Warriors rematch next June?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I can’t see myself picking anything other than Cleveland-Golden State when we do season predictions in October. No team in the Eastern Conference closed the gap on the Cavaliers, and the Warriors’ biggest obstacle will be themselves. Fitting in Kevin Durant’s offense game, notably his “touches,” won’t be simple without sacrifice by others. Klay Thompson in particular might wind up texting and calling Russell Westbrook a bit seeking ways to cope. And let’s remember, Father Time catches up with all NBA players but Crazy Uncle Injury picks and chooses those he torments – if Steph Curry, Durant or Draymond Green comes up lame for any length of time, the West could split wide open. Well, for San Antonio and the Clippers, anyway.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Yes. And it will be spectacular.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: No, and I say that only because history is against it. On the surface, those two are the Goliaths of their respective conferences and therefore it would make most sense if they’re the last teams standing. Still, I suspect LeBron James‘ 6-year run to The Finals will be snapped. I just can’t answer by whom, and how. Just a silly hunch that somebody else in the East — Toronto or maybe Boston — will sneak through.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s very difficult to imagine any other scenario. The Warriors took the best player off the roster of team that almost kept them from making The Finals last season. The Cavs, meanwhile, cruised through the Eastern Conference playoffs and no team behind them made enough changes this summer to be much of a threat.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: No one had won 73 games in a season before the Warriors pulled it off last season, so I’m choosing to believe that we’ll see a bit more history made in June of 2017. While I think an upset of either team along the way makes for an infinitely more interesting postseason, I’m just not sure I can identify the team that’s supposed to pull that upset off. The whole parity idea is lost on me. I want to see the best of the best battle it out for the title every year. If it happens to be the Warriors and Cavaliers for a third straight season, I’m fine with Round 3.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Cleveland will be there. I’m not so sure about the Warriors, who will need to go through some adjustment pains along the way. Can they figure it out in one season? We saw how the San Antonio Spurs were more talented last year with LaMarcus Aldridge and yet not as effective, in part because of changes to their style and a weakening of their bench. Golden State is going to win championships, that is a given, but Durant is not some plug-and-play component that can be added automatically. The guess here is that the Warriors are going to learn how to win multiple championships by way of losing in the Western playoffs next spring.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: It may feel that way, but if we’ve learned anything from watching the NBA over the years it’s that expectations rarely manage to match reality. The Cavs and Warriors certainly seem like runaway favorites to end up in the Finals, and if I had to pick I’d probably go with them just to be safe. That said, there’s a little nagging part of me wondering about the Warriors. It’s not that I don’t think Kevin Durant won’t be helpful, it’s that I wonder if losing Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa and assistant coach Luke Walton won’t completely be outweighed by the addition of Durant (and David West and Zaza Pachulia). The last two seasons, the Warriors built something of a dynasty with a lot of moving parts. This season, the parts have changed and I don’t think the Warriors will just waltz back to The Finals.

Report: LeBron agrees to three-year, $100M deal with Cavs

What do you give the player who has everything? Well, money is always welcome.

And if anything, LeBron James certainly has that, and more, now that his contract extension with the Cavaliers is official and historic.

He has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal worth $100 million and $33 million of that will make him the highest paid in the NBA next season. The numbers are come courtesy of Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, who has details on the deal:

LeBron James has agreed to a three-year, $100 million contract with the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, agent Rich Paul told ESPN.

The salary in the first year of the deal will be $31 million, making James the highest-paid player in the NBA for the first time in his career. The salary for the 2017-18 season will top $33 million, making him the highest-paid player in a single season in league history, topping the $33 million Michael Jordan earned with the Chicago Bulls in the 1997-98 season.

A source told ESPN that James has a player option for the third year.

James will sign the deal next week when he returns for his annual LeBron James Family Foundation charity event.

Over the past two years, James had accepted one-year contracts from the Cavs with player options. After considering his choices, James opted for a longer deal with the Cavs this summer.

LeBron is the last free agent of significance to sign this summer because, well, what was the rush? He was destined to get as much as possible from the Cavaliers, and so it was just a matter of how many years he wanted.

He could’ve elected to keep signing one-year contracts, or contracts with early escape clauses, which would’ve allowed him to keep getting big increases, since the salary cap is expected to rise yearly. There was some risk in doing that, namely injuries. However, LeBron is one of a select group of professional athletes whose off-court earnings dwarf his NBA salary, and therefore he didn’t need the financial security of a long-term deal. He could play the rising market, rather than lock himself into multiple years.

Whether LeBron’s salary next season makes him the highest-paid in NBA history isn’t clear. Jordan made $33.1 million in his final season with the Bulls. If LeBron’s salary is consistent and without yearly raises, then he’ll fetch $33.3 million in each of the next three seasons. In any event, he and Jordan are in exclusive company.

While LeBron may hold that “title” for the moment, keep in mind that the salary cap will take another leap next summer, when Steph Curry’s deal expires. Curry is expected to join the $30 million-a-season club then, and most likely with the Warriors.

The Cavaliers still have unfinished business. LeBron wants the club to re-sign J.R. Smith, and negotiations are ongoing. The Cavs have now tied up their top three players — LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving — with multi-year deals. They are all but guaranteed to have the highest payroll in the NBA next season.

Morning shootaround — July 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Iguodala says OKC should have won title | Lakers’ Nance Jr. injures handConley builds a legacy in Memphis

No. 1: Iguodala says Thunder should have won 2016 title — It will likely be a long time before any NBA fan forgets the epic seven-game series the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder waged in the Western Conference finals. From the storylines to the impact the Warriors’ rally to win the series had on both franchises, this playoff matchup will live on in NBA lore for years. One of the key performers in that series, Golden State forward Andre Iguodala, had some praise for the Thunder after the Warriors’ loss in The Finals has settled. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more on what Iguodala told Power 105.1 radio in New York:

More than a week later, Kevin Durant‘s stunning departure still stings Thunder fans for a variety of reasons. Andre Iguodala just added another one.

Appearing on a recent New York City radio show, Iguodala told the hosts that the Thunder, not the 73-win Warriors or NBA champion Cavaliers, was the best team in the playoffs and should’ve won the title.

Quite infamously, OKC blew a 3-1 series lead and a double-digit second half cushion in Game 6, melting away its title hopes to the same Warriors who snagged away the face of the franchise a month later.

“Now that we got KD, I can say it: They were the best team last year in the league in the playoffs,” Iguodala said. “They were better than us. They were better than Cleveland. They were the best team in the playoffs. They should’ve won a championship.”

Why didn’t they?

“I mean, we just hawked them down,” Iguodala said. “But they were better than us. They played us better than anyone. They played us better than Cleveland. Some of the stuff they was doing, it’s like…oh, man. We gotta play perfect.”

***

(more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 7

OAKLAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers made history, becoming the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals to win a championship. It’s Cleveland’s first major-sports championship in 52 years, and it came against the best regular season team in the history of the league.

LeBron James led the way with a triple-double and Kyrie Irving hit the biggest shot of the Cavs’ 93-89 victory in Game 7. But one stat stood out as the Cavs’ became just the fourth team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road.

The stat

9 – Shots the Warriors missed to close Game 7.

The context

20160619_basicsThe Warriors had the third best offense of the last 30 years (and the best in the last 11), scoring 8.6 points per 100 possessions more than the league average in the regular season. But with their historic season on the line, they came up empty, shooting 0-for-9 from the field and going scoreless on their final eight possessions. The first team to make 1,000 3s in a season missed their last seven.

Klay Thompson tied the game at 89 on a drive with 4:39 to go in the fourth quarter. But after that, the Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket, with Stephen Curry shooting 0-for-4 down the stretch, and James blocking Andre Iguodala‘s fast-break layup on what was the game’s second-biggest play.

And who came up with another big defensive stop? None other than Kevin Love, the noted defensive liability who defended Curry one-on-one for several seconds after Irving’s 3-pointer and forced the MVP into a tough 3 from the top of the key.

The Cavs were not a great defensive team this season. They ranked 10th in defensive efficiency and are the first team since the 2005-06 Miami Heat to win a championship after ranking that low. But they got the stops they needed with the season on the line. Golden State shot just 17-for-42 from inside the 3-point line on Sunday and scored just 97.3 points per 100 possessions over the last three games of the Finals.

That was their worst, three-game offensive stretch of the entire season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Finals Live Blog — Game 7

OAKLAND — Respect the game.

Respect the moment.

Respect the opponent.

But have no fear.

There isn’t much more to say before what is the ultimate game in this sport, the Game 7 showdown in The Finals between two championship-caliber teams who have circled and stalked each other over the course of the past 12 months.

The reigning champion Golden State Warriors, led by their two-time and unanimous (this season) MVP Stephen Curry against the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by four-time MVP and two-time champion LeBron James, playing for all the marbles on the final day of this NBA season is the ideal way to finish any NBA season.

This has only happened 18 times in the storied history of this league and the home team has the historical edge, owning a robust 15-3 record in said games, including six straight triumphs. The 19th playing of a Finals Game 7 brings us a player attempting to establish himself as one of the top two or three players to ever play the game in James, and another, in Curry, who is seeking to justify his place in that same conversation among the top current players in the game.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Kyrie Irving and Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love and plenty of others will play their roles in this epic, winner-take-all saga. All eyes early on, however, will be on the battle inside the battle between Steph and LeBron.

Whose will is greater?

Whose nerves survive the moment?

Whose supporting cast comes to the rescue first?

We find out in the next 48 minutes (and possibly more) of action. The world is watching, from right here in the Bay Area and back to LeBron’s beloved Cleveland and northeast Ohio and beyond.

We can sort out the impact on the winner and loser later, whose legacy gets the boost and whose takes the hit. Right now, it’s about this one game, just one game for the right to be called champion.

It’s all on the line tonight, here at Oracle Arena, a championship for the taking … HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!!

***

He’s ready!

***

You know he’s ready …

***

Stephen Curry, pre-game.

A photo posted by John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) on

***

Dwayne Wade in the building. He’s handled his business in a Game 7 before …

***

This game is a kind of a big deal here in Oakland and the Bay Area.

***

They are cranked up back in Cleveland, too. Trying to end that title drought.

***

As I mentioned, there have been some memorable Game 7s before this one …

***

Akron’s got your back LeBron!

***

Hmmmm …

***

It is a “young man’s game.”

***

***

Time to get it in. Got your popcorn ready?

***

A great Game 7 is all anyone’s asking for. In a strange series marked by blowouts, give us one down to the wire.

***

***

***

Prime Time’s fearless prediction …

***

By Any Means Necessary approach from Steve Kerr tonight.

***

 

***

***

It’s early, relax peoples.

***

Yes he does!

***

***

***

LeBron turned the one over, too!

***

***

***

Sorry, need one more look.

***

His handle is wicked, too.

***

Kevin Love came to play!

***

Things change …

***

Rebounding remains the most glaring issue for the Warriors.

***

END OF FIRST QUARTER CAVALIERS 23, WARRIORS 22

***

***

Ask and you shall receive #giveusoneclosegame

***

He’s #CLEAN

***

Steph going to the cup for the hoop and the foul.

***

Draymond is 5-for-7 from the floor, a perfect 3-for-3 from deep and has 13 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

***

***

***

Dave is down with the Warriors!

***

LeBron is just waiting on this one every time.

***

Great players make great plays non-stop in a wild Game 7 environment. #ShowUpShowOut

***

***

***

Steph picks up his third foul just before halftime on a questionable one …

***

***

***

***

HALFTIME WARRIORS 49, CAVALIERS 42

The Global Game!

***

***

***

Another look at Steph’s third foul … ?

***

Warriors lead vanishes in mere minutes. JR cooking. Kyrie cooking. And Barnes and Ezeli continue to struggle on both ends.

***

***

***

Steph on both ends, Warriors back up 59-54 … we seem to be getting that great game we’ve been looking for.

***

***

***

***

Warriors bigs are struggling something terrible, on both ends.

***

Kyrie taking control. Cavs put together a wicked 11-0 run to take a 65-59 lead. Warriors turning it over, missing shots and getting caught up in the moment?

***

***

***

It could wild in Cleveland tonight …

***

And then the Warriors tied the game on a Livingston dunk. We’re back to even at 71 with 1:56 to play in the third.

(Draymond sank three free throws and then hit a three before that.)

***

END OF THIRD QUARTER WARRIORS 76, CAVALIERS 75 … Game 7 living up to the hype and then some.

***

The Internet wins tonight no matter what, due to things like this …

***

***

***

***

Back-to-back buckets from the Splash Brothers. Warriors take the lead 85-83 with 6:16 to play.

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

***

***

***

***

***

***

We’re tied at 89 with 2:50 to play … CRAZY!

***

***

***

LeBron with the eraser of a potential go-ahead layup from Iguodala. UNREAL!

***

***

Kyrie with the dagger from 3 with 53 seconds to play, Cavs up 92-89 and have the ball after a Steph heave that bounces wide.

***

LeBron makes the second of two free throws and Cleveland is 10.6 seconds away from ending the title drought. It’s officially his city if they finish this off.

CAVALIERS 93, WARRIORS 89 … from 3-1 down to dethrone the champs. LeBron finally lives his dream and brings a title to The Land!

The Warriors cannot finish their dream season. The title they thought was theirs was not.

***

***

***

***

We did it, Cleveland. #NBAChampions | #OneForTheLand

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

***

***

 

Morning shootaround — June 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron on the verge of a dream realized | Curry understands stakes are high | Role players could play huge role in Game 7 | Kerr wants Warriors to embrace the moment

No. 1: LeBron on the verge of a dream realized After two weeks of games, tonight it’s finally time for the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals. And for the Cleveland Cavaliers there’s plenty on the line, as they try to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a title. It would also be the first championship for the city of Cleveland in over 50 years. As our own Shaun Powell writes, those hopes and dreams are at the mercy tonight (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC) of LeBron James, who hopes to author history with the Cavs

LeBron returned to Cleveland two summers ago to create a new image for a sobbing city with a sports inferiority complex, and that can only be secured with a championship. That’s heavy. That’s a burden. How many more times will he get this close?

And he’s one win away.

“I don’t think people imagined it this way, the route we’ve taken,” he said.

He was the teenaged basketball messiah from Akron drafted No. 1 by the sad-sack Cavs and therefore planted a seed of hope. That initial tour of duty in Cleveland resulted in one championship appearance, where the Cavs were rudely swept by the Spurs, to be followed shortly afterward by a nasty defection to Miami. After living out his mid-life crisis with the Heat, winning two rings, LeBron returned two summers ago to a hero’s welcome only because Cleveland was just as miserable as when he left, maybe more.

The Cavs last season were simply unlucky, harpooned by injuries and therefore ran out of gas last summer against the Warriors. LeBron was the most important player on the floor, then and now, especially the last two games, both 41-point masterpieces, forcing a winner-take-all Game 7.

His averages in this series: 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 2.7 steals, 2.5 blocks in 41.2 minutes of heavy labor. He’s away from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his All-Star teammates in Miami who relieved him of all the leadership responsibilities and pressure, and blessed only with Kyrie Irving, which magnifies what he has already accomplished. Win or lose in Game 7, LeBron should be a strong favorite if not a lock for MVP — Jerry West is the only MVP winner on a losing Finals team — and he managed a wisecrack about that.

“The last time I answered a question about MVP, it didn’t go so well for me,” he said, “so I’m not going to do it.”

Why should he? His play speaks loudly and boastfully. If you combine this series with last summer’s, nobody has more points, rebounds, assists or blocks than LeBron. He shot only 40 percent last summer, mostly because he wore down from the load without Irving and Kevin Love, but is far more efficient now. Besides, his defense and especially shot-blocking has been brilliant if barely noticed from the outside; when the subject came up Sunday, he took the opportunity to mention his pet peeve: “I’ve been highly upset that I haven’t won Defensive Player of the Year.”

***

(more…)

Cavs-Warriors: The numbers so far

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will play the 19th Game 7 in the history of The Finals on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC). Either the Warriors will repeat as champions and cap off their 73-win season the right way, or the Cavs will win their first ever title and Cleveland’s first major-sports championship in 52 years.

The Cavs seemingly have momentum, but the Warriors will be playing on their home floor, where they’re 50-4 this season. The home team has won 15 of the previous 18 Game 7s in The Finals. But those 18 series have little to do with this one, in which LeBron James has proven why he’s still the best player in the world.

Before Game 7, here are some numbers to know regarding what has already gone down in this series…

Death of the Death Lineup

The Warriors’ lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green has been generally destructive for opponents over the last two seasons. It looked unbeatable until Games 3 and 4 of the conference finals in Oklahoma City, when it was outscored, 65-24, in just 19 minutes.

It recovered after that and was a plus-14 in 30 minutes through Game 5 of The Finals. But in Game 6, with Andrew Bogut lost to a knee injury, the Death Lineup started the game and was outscored, 27-9, in 11 minutes.

20160618_death_lineup

Now, with the season on the line, the Death Lineup looks vulnerable. Iguodala is dealing with back pain and Barnes has missed his last 14 shots. The Cavs will continue to pay extra attention to Curry and Thompson and force the other guys to beat them.

Replacing Barnes with Shaun Livingston allows the Warriors to play similarly small and versatile, but hurts their spacing. And Livingston hasn’t shot well of late, either.

Make or miss

All six games have been decided by at least 11 points, so both teams have much better numbers on both ends of the floor in the games they’ve won than in the games they’ve lost. But if you look closer at the four factors of efficiency, the biggest difference has been in the Cavs’ shooting.

The difference has been both in the paint (61.0 percent in wins, 47.8 percent in losses) and from 3-point range (42.1 percent, 26.1 percent). And the difference has been with each of the three guys – James, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith – that have shot the most for the Cavs.

20160618_cavs_shooting

According to SportVU, the Cavs have shot 17-for-41 (41 percent) on contested jumpers in their three wins and 6-for-39 (15 percent) on contested jumpers in their three losses.

Love or no Love

The Cavs’ two most-used lineups in the series both include James, Irving, Smith and Tristan Thompson. That group is a plus-8 in 68 minutes with Kevin Love and a plus-38 in 58 minutes with Richard Jefferson.

Love has shot 2-for-8 in the last two games and is the only Cleveland starter with a negative plus-minus in the series. He’s a minus-12 in 58 minutes with the Warriors playing without a center and is a plus-4 in 70 minutes in which Golden State has played one of its centers.

Foul trouble was a factor in Love playing less than 12 minutes in Game 6, but his minutes may be limited in Game 7 no matter how many fouls he picks up.

Early offense

The Cavs have flipped the script on the Warriors, outscoring them 97-59 on fast break points, including a mark of 47-19 over the last two games. Both teams have always been lethal in transition, but the Warriors have typically been the team that gets more opportunities early in the shot clock.

Even in the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Cavs got less than 11 percent of their (initial-clock) shots in the first six seconds, according to SportVU. But in The Finals, they’ve taken more than 15 percent of their shots in the first six seconds.

20160618_cle_shot_clock

The Warriors, meanwhile, haven’t been able to get early looks nearly as much as they did in the regular season. And when they have, they haven’t shot nearly as well.

20160618_gsw_shot_clock

First-quarter Cavs

The Cavs haven’t only been better early in the shot clock. They’ve been better early in games. They’ve been outscored by 19 points in the second quarter, two points in the third quarter, and 10 points in the fourth quarter in this series. But they’re a plus-31 in the first quarter.

It’s been both their best offensive and best defensive quarter of the series. And the defense has been particularly strong, allowing the Warriors to score just 95.2 points per 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes.

Of the Warriors’ starters, Thompson has struggled the most in the first quarter, having shot 6-for-25 (3-for-15 from 3-point range). He’s also struggled (2-for-12, 1-for-8) in the fourth, but is 15-for-27 from 3-point range in the second and third quarters.

The trivia

  • This is the 126th Game 7 in NBA history. The home team is 101-24 (0.808) and has won the last seven (including four already in these playoffs).
  • Only 42 of 107 Game 7s in previous rounds have been decided by six points or less, but 10 of the 18 Finals Game 7s have been. The last seven Finals Game 7s have been decided by single digits.
  • James is 3-2 in Game 7s, having gone 0-2 in his first stint with the Cavs and 3-0 with the Miami Heat. The home team has won all five Game 7s he’s been involved in, including his only Finals Game 7 in 2013.
  • Neither the Cavs (in their 46th season) nor the Warriors (in their 70th) have ever played in a Finals Game 7. The Cavs are 2-2 in playoff Game 7s and the home team has won all four Game 7s they’ve been involved in. The Warriors are 4-4 (3-1 at home) in Game 7s.

Advertisement