Posts Tagged ‘Tyronn Lue’

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kevin Garnett returns…to coach? | DeRozan still motivated | Joe Johnson looking to contribute in Utah | Nets embrace holistic approach to health

No. 1: Kevin Garnett returns…to coach? Just days after announcing his retirement from the NBA, Kevin Garnett resurfaced yesterday at Los Angeles Clippers training camp to impart some of his considerable wisdom, accumulated over his two-decade NBA career. According to Clippers coach Doc Rivers, Garnett’s talents apparently extend to the teaching realm

Garnett was asked by Clippers Coach Doc Rivers to come to practice to work with big men Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and rookies Brice Johnson and Diamond Stone.

But as it turned out, all of the Clippers were interested in learning from one of the NBA’s all-time greats at the practice in the Bren Events Center on UC Irvine’s campus.

“K.G. was phenomenal today,” Rivers said. “This morning, before practice, he had a teaching clinic that you would pay a lot of money to see. It was great. It was great for Blake and D.J., and the young guys as well. It’s great to have him around. He’s a great teacher. … He’ll be really good for us.”

Over the 21 seasons Garnett played in the NBA before retiring last week from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 6-foot-11 power forward was known for his intense nature, his defense-minded approach, his team-oriented ways and a persona of toughness.

Garnett and Clippers forward Paul Pierce were teammates for six seasons in Boston, winning the NBA title in 2008 with Rivers. Paul Pierce was happy to see his old friend.

“He’s been a major inspiration in this league for a long time,” Pierce said. “A lot of guys look up to him. He has so much to share, and it’s good to see him come here and share some of the things with some of our guys, especially D.J. and Blake. He’s working with them right now. All that helps.”

Garnett’s impressive resume meant all of the Clippers listened when he spoke.

He was the 2004 league most valuable player, the defensive player of the year in 2008, a 15-time All-Star and nine-time All-NBA player.

Jamal Crawford called Garnett one of his “10 favorite players” and said it was “unbelievable” to have the future Hall of Famer at practice.

“That’s one of the best players to ever play the game,” Crawford said. “So every second you’re around a guy like that you’re listening to every single thing that he says. You’re a sponge. You’re like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s Kevin Garnett.’ No matter what, they’ve watched him playing growing up. They’ve seen the highlights.

“He’s one of the best to ever play basketball. He just has a certain aura about him once he walks in that there is a certain respect that he demands. For him to be here and to give them that kind of knowledge, it speaks volumes about him as well.”

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No. 2: DeRozan still motivated Toronto swingman DeMar DeRozan signed a long-term contract extension earlier this summer, a validation of all the work he’s put in thus far in his career. But according to DeRozan, he’s not ready to accept that the work is finished. If anything, he’s still finding motivation to keep improving, as he told TSN Sports…

“Honestly, I don’t think about the contract for motivation or anything like that,” said the Raptors’ guard. “My motivation is knowing what it feels like losing in the playoffs, being two games away from making it to the Finals, knowing how hard we worked to get there, being able to try to be better so we can see that moment again and prevail.”

“Just using all the motivations on a daily [basis] to be there. It’s not about the contract, it’s about everything we do to compete on the court.”

As those that have followed his eight-year NBA career know, DeRozan has never lacked for motivation. Unlike many professional athletes, who claim to avoid or just ignore criticism from fans and the media, DeRozan gets a kick out of reading what’s written about him. He reads it. He listens to it. He remembers it.

Certainly, there hasn’t been a shortage of opinion when it comes to his game and, as a result, most people – fans and pundits alike – are split on his value.
His latest perceived slight came from a familiar source: SI.com’s recent NBA player rankings, which have DeRozan slotted 46th going into the new season. After sharing his disapproval of the ranking on Twitter earlier this month, he doubled down when it came up after practice on Thursday.

“It’s always going to be extra motivation,” said DeRozan following the morning session on his team’s third day of training camp at Fortius Sport & Health in Burnaby, BC. “And it’s things like that that you can use to add fuel to the fire, but at this point I’m so self-motivated that don’t do nothing but make me laugh at it. Whoever came up with that is stupid in my opinion.”

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No. 3: Joe Johnson looking to contribute in Utah As he’s become one of the NBA’s most reliable stars, Joe Johnson has started every NBA game he’s played over the last dozen years. But this season in Utah, it looks likely that Johnson may come off the bench, which he says is fine with him as long as it is what’s best for the team. As the Deseret News reports, Johnson believes he can have an impact in more ways than just playing…

“I’m not coming here trying to be a star or starter,” Johnson said. “Me and coach Quin Snyder have talked from time to time through texts or phone calls. He understands where I’m at and I understand what he wants from me as a player and that’s to help these young guys such as Rodney (Hood) and Gordon. I’m here to tell them about some of the things I’ve been through and help them out with their experiences.”

Johnson has played for five other NBA teams, most recently the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat last season. He was acquired in July as a free agent to a reported two-year, $22-million contract by the Jazz, who wanted some scoring punch as well as a veteran leader, something they got in Johnson.

“The fit is a really good one,” said Snyder. “What he brings is a confidence and experience and as much as anything, maturity. This is a player who has started every game for the past 10 years. He knows that the situation here could be different, but that wasn’t a deterrent to him coming here.

“Everything I heard about him has been positive. He knows how much I respect him. I think he looked at this team and said, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity for me to have an impact and help build something.’ That’s satisfying. Credit him, the guy’s got no ego.”

One thing the Jazz like most about Johnson on the floor is his versatility. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, Johnson normally plays small forward but with his shooting ability, he can play the off-guard spot and the Jazz say they can even use him as a power forward when they want to go smaller.

“Joe’s a guy who gives us a bigger wing capable of scoring in the post and is capable of playing the four position,” Snyder said. “The thing that gets lost about him, is he can play a lot of different ways. He’s an excellent passer, he takes pride in his defense.”

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No. 4: Brooklyn Nets embrace holistic approach to health As part of the new Sean Marks/Kenny Atkinson regime in Brooklyn, the organization is embracing a holistic approach to player health, looking at everything from sleep patterns to diet. It’s just another step in looking for any edge possible, although as Brook Lopez notes, he dearly misses his Slurpees

“I’ve never seen an organization care for their players holistically, from a 24/7 standpoint, versus when we’re on the court or when we’re practicing or at the arena,’’ Jeremy Lin said. “It’s all-encompassing … like the way you sleep or little stuff like how you set up your bedroom and how it impacts your sleep.

“All of that impacts your performance as an athlete. … They’re really trying to do things right, to establish culture not just from when you step on the floor.”

Establishing that culture — especially on a team that won just 21 games last season — means improving not just strength, but agility and mobility, and monitoring everything from sleep patterns to diet.

“The No. 1 thing is buy-in. That’s the biggest thing in the NBA, [if] you get them to buy in, and the performance team has gotten buy-in,’’ Atkinson said. “The players enjoy being in the weight room. … Out here on the court [working on] agility, mobility. That’s part of building the total program.

“It’s such an athletic league, and we feel like it’s a big part of what we do. I was joking with one of the coaches, the performance team is going to move us out of our offices pretty soon.”

That team includes director of player performance Zach Weatherford, who spent the past two years as human performance manager at the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command; strength and conditioning coach Dan Meehan, who had done the same for the North Melbourne Football Club in Australia; athletic trainer/physical therapist Lloyd Beckett; and director of physical therapy Aisling Toolan.

It’s an eclectic mix, but one that has gotten rave reviews.

“I look at the positive feedback I’ve gotten from the players, and just the fact [they’re] consistently coming in on their own and we’re seeing changes in guys’ bodies,’’ general manager Sean Marks said. “They’ve either slimmed down, toned up, whatever. They’re buying into the processes.”

From the slimmed-down like Lopez and Sean Kilpatrick to the toned-up like Chris McCullough, the changes are apparent.

“It’s just changing the way my body moves. We’re looking for any way we can improve,’’ Brook Lopez said. “It’s all across the board, preventing future injury, stamina, diet as well. We have specialized people all across the board, and we’re already reaping the benefits.”

In the case of Lopez, the benefit is he’s seven pounds lighter and clearly leaner, and has better mobility as a result of a better diet.

“I don’t like to talk about it, it’s so sad,’’ Lopez said ruefully. “My Achilles’ heel when it comes to my diet are Slurpees, Icees, like Sonic Route 44 slushes with the Nerds or popping candy inside. That had to take a backseat.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tyronn Lue has a standing invite for Kevin Garnett to join his coaching staff in Cleveland … A rule change will now allow teams to access data directly from the bench … There’s a “better vibe” in Chicago this season, according to Doug McDermottCameron Payne suffered a broken footMike Dunleavy loves being with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season … The Rockets have signed P.J. Hairston to a non-guaranteed deal …

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry confident he’ll remain a Warrior | Hornets looking for a revitalized Hibbert | Parker hopes to create change | Jazz looking to pick up the pace

No. 1: Curry confident he’ll remain a Warrior — Now that one offseason is over, the questions about the next one will begin. And apparently, it’s Stephen Curry‘s turn to answer them. So, on the first day of practice, Curry was asked about his “impending” free agency, which is only nine months away. ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss has the story…

Stephen Curry indicated Tuesday he’ll likely re-sign with the Golden State Warriors after this season.

“Yes. Yes,” Curry replied to questions whether he’s optimistic about returning to the Warriors. Next offseason will be the two-time reigning NBA MVP’s first time as an unrestricted free agent.

Curry re-signing would be in contrast to decisions made by the other two most recent MVPs, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, who both went elsewhere after their rookie extensions expired. Durant decided to join Curry with the Warriors, while James jumped from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat, only to return to Cleveland in 2014 after four seasons in Miami.

Asked if he’ll consult with Durant on contract matters this season, Curry said, “Maybe, but I’m not going to let it distract me at all.”

“I want to be back here. I like playing here, and that’s it,” he said.

As far as this season goes, you know that Curry will use the end of last season as motivation, as Michael Lee writes for Yahoo

Curry never used any excuses for his poor performance on the game’s biggest stage, never sought sympathy for his struggles – even as the Finals version of Curry rarely, if ever, came close to resembling that euphoric, fun-time version of Curry that challenged our definitions of heat checks and deep range before that unfortunate slip on a sweaty court in Houston derailed a dream season.

As he drifted into an offseason filled with the disappointment from surrendering to James an NBA title and his brief hold on the title of the game’s best player, Curry said he wouldn’t allow himself to wallow in the what-coulda-beens related to being at full strength. The Golden State Warriors lost. He lost. And that was enough to keep him motivated and focused on trying to avoid duplicating those feelings next June.

“That was the situation,” Curry said Tuesday about playing with knee and ankle injuries last postseason. “There are certain situations that everybody has to deal with and whoever is at the end … there is no need for any other storylines. I hated that I was asked about it that much, because at the end of the day, I was on the floor playing. If we would’ve won, the situation would’ve been different. Obviously, the question would’ve been a little different: ‘How did you overcome such a catastrophic injury and win a championship?'”

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No. 2: Hornets looking for a revitalized Hibbert — Roy Hibbert was the anchor of a defense that ranked No. 1 in the league for two straight seasons, making “rim protection” a permanent part of the NBA lexicon. But, looking to get better offensively, the Indiana Pacers decided to move on last year and Hibbert fell off the map in one season in L.A. In fact, he was the center on three of the league’s four worst lineups that played at least 100 minutes last season. Now Hibbert is in Charlotte, looking to resurrect his career, as Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer writes…

The Hornets got Hibbert for less than a third of what he was paid last season — he’s on a one-year, $5-million deal. He and Cody Zeller will mostly man the center position for the Hornets, with Zeller likely starting but Hibbert playing significant minutes. Hibbert will give Charlotte something the Hornets have lacked since they let Bismack Biyombo walk in 2015 — an imposing presence at the rim on defense.

But does that even still matter in today’s NBA? The Hornets obviously think it does.

Said Ewing, a Basketball Hall of Famer who was one of the best big men to ever play the game: “One of the first things I told Roy when we signed him was ‘Look, no more negative things about how the game has changed.’ Forget that. Forget it!”

Ewing smiled.

“I may not have used those exact words, though,” he said, leaving no doubt some of his initial speech to Hibbert wasn’t suitable for a family newspaper.

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No. 3: Parker hopes to create change — Jabari Parker is only 21 years old and doesn’t have the kind of profile that Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James have. But Parker isn’t going to take a backseat in regard to having his voice heard about race and inequality issues in his home city of Chicago and across the United States. Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke to Parker about his efforts to make a difference …

While at times he can be reticent to talk to the media in basketball settings, Parker said Monday at Bucks media day that speaking out this summer wasn’t a challenge. It’s something he said he’s done at some level since high school and feels strongly about continuing now that he has a larger platform as a professional athlete.

“It’s been easy as me being a pro trying to create change, trying to help my neighbor, trying to help my community because honestly if I don’t stand up for something I know nobody else will,” said Parker, whom the Bucks drafted in 2014 out of Duke with the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA. “It’s part of my responsibility to come back and create awareness and create change.”

Parker took action this summer to back up his words. On Aug. 26, he hosted Pickup for Peace at Quest MultiSport in Chicago, an event featuring some Chicago AAU teams as well as a pickup game with Parker and other notable basketball players from Chicago, including Shawn Marion and Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley.

He called that event the most rewarding thing he did over the summer.

“That can make a lot of difference,” Parker said. “(It’s) three hours away from the streets. I just wanted to do my role, do what I know to do and that’s to play basketball and that’s what I’m going to do for a long time.”

Though the decision to add his voice to the discussion was a simple one, Parker noted he has received backlash for sharing his views. He’s heard criticism, especially on social media, from people saying he should stick to playing basketball and stay out of the social and political discussion. That’s something he won’t do.

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No. 4: Jazz looking to pick up the pace — The Utah Jazz led the league with 3.79 passes per possession last season, but that was in part because their possessions took so long. The Jazz ranked last in pace and only 35 percent of their shots came in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock, the lowest rate in the league by a wide margin (the league average was 51 percent). League-wide, field goal percentage drops as the shot clock goes down, so the Jazz can improve an offense that ranked 17th last season just by getting more shots early in the clock. And that’s what Quin Snyder‘s plan is, as Tony Jones writes in the Salt Lake Tribune

Snyder would like to see his team play at a faster pace this season, especially with the added depth. Added pace means added possessions, which leads to added depth coming more into play, which Snyder hopes can lead to his team wearing the opposition down when it matters.

As such, much of the scrimmage portion of Tuesday’s morning practice was played with a 14 second shot clock, instead of the normal 24 second clock. That forced quicker tempo and reactions from his team. Snyder said he wants to run more initial pick-and-roll sets out of transition, and forcing his team to shoot the ball within 14 seconds was a way to get the players into that mindset.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tyronn Lue stole a page from Doc Rivers‘ coaching book during The Finals … Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak isn’t concerning himself with VP Jim Buss‘ timeline for contending for a titleIsaiah Thomas is sleeping more and eating McDonald’s lessMike Krzyzewski was at Wolves practiceFred Hoiberg says that there will be an open competition for the Bulls’ starting power forward spot … and there’s a similar situation at small forward with the Clippers.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

League, teams hoping to create social change | D’Antoni needs buy-in from Rockets | Lue’s hesitation was worth more than $25 million | Road back-to-backs most dangerous

No. 1: League, teams hoping to create social change — In the wake of more deaths of black men at the hands of police and protests in Charlotte, the NBA and the Player’s Association sent out a joint letter to players about plans to take action and promote social change. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan released a statement calling for peace in the city. And talking with the media on Thursday, Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers said that his team will put together a panel to discuss the issue. Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle has the story…

As police-involved fatal shootings of black men continue to rock the nation and spark protests in cities and on playing fields, Myers recognizes that Golden State has a unique platform to create positive change.

But before players and coaches can be part of the solution, they must understand the issues. Myers and head coach Steve Kerr recently brainstormed ways to raise awareness of social injustices. Among the ideas is a panel of civic leaders, a list of names for which already has begun.

“We need to practice to play basketball,” Myers said. “But if one day, Steve walked in and said to (our players), ‘We’re not practicing today. We’re actually gonna go meet with these four people.’ That’s much more important and the players, we feel, will carry that with them.”

“What’s happening out in society, that’s not good,” Myers said. “It’s much more important than dribbling the basketball and making shots. What we’re going to try to do as an organization is take some opportunities to try to have these conversations.”

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No. 2: D’Antoni needs buy-in from Rockets — After a successful, five-year run in Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni had less-than-mediocre results in New York (where he went 121-167) and L.A. (67-87). Now D’Antoni is in Houston and as it does in every other NBA gym at this time of year, optimism abounds. The key for the Rockets, according to D’Antoni, is getting the players to buy in and believe in the system. Bleacher Report‘s Maurice Bobb spoke to the coach and Rockets GM Daryl Morey about their hopes for the season …

D’Antoni says he doesn’t think too much about his time in L.A. and New York, but he’s certainly aware of the main issues that plagued those locker rooms.

“I could never get the guys from the beginning to buy into the way we want to play,” D’Antoni told Bleacher Report. “We never got everybody going into the same direction. That was my fault. It happened. That’s in the past. This is a new team. Guys want to play the way we all want to play.”

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is betting that a change of scenery is all D’Antoni needs to flourish again. To Morey, a career .650 winning percentage over five years in Phoenix speaks louder than the well-publicized flameouts in the NBA’s biggest markets.

“The players are improved under him, the teams have improved,” Morey told B/R. “After he’s left, the teams have done worse. We also have had a lot of success playing an uptempo, spread-floor style. Our players fit that, and having his level of experience and knowledge added to our personnel, which is already set up for his style of play, was a huge factor in us hiring him.”

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No. 3: Lue’s hesitation was worth more than $25 million — When the Cavs fired David Blatt with a 30-11 record in January, they didn’t want to just make Tyronn Lue an interim coach. They offered him a three-year contract. But Lue never signed it, and it wasn’t necessarily because he thought he could get more money if he won a championship. As Joe Vardon writes for Cleveland.com, Lue wanted to make sure the job was right for him. And his hesitation resulted in a much more lucrative deal after the Cavs won their first title…

Lue, 39, knew what he was getting into when he took over for David Blatt last January. He knew Blatt was fired (Lue was Blatt’s chief assistant) despite a 30-11 record and a trip to the 2015 Finals.

He knew of the heightened scrutiny and brighter lights that come with coaching a team led by James, whose every word is dissected by media and fans and who can set off a firestorm with a simple Tweet.

That’s why Lue, born in little Mexico, Missouri, never signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract he had verbally agreed to with the Cavs when they promoted him to take Blatt’s job.

It wasn’t so much that Lue was betting on himself, although the gamble paid off handsomely. He steered Cleveland to the largest comeback in Finals history to win the franchise’s first title, and thus earned an annual raise of more than $4 million.

Lue held off, he said, because “I wanted to make sure it was the “right fit.”

“Was I right for this job?” Lue said, rhetorically. “I hate being on TV, hate dealing with media on TV. All that stuff, I don’t like that. Being with LeBron, who draws all kinds of attention, I knew I was going to see myself on TV. I hate that. I like to fly under radar. I wanted to make sure the fit was right.”

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No. 4: Road back-to-backs most dangerous — ESPN‘s Tom Haberstroh has the numbers on the increased frequency of occasions where healthy players get a day off to rest, from 19 in 2012-13 to 146 last season. He also talks to professor Masaru Teramoto, who has done a study on injuries in the NBA…

In a study provided to ESPN.com that will be published publicly in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport later this month, Teramoto researched three seasons of NBA injury data, from 2012-13 through 2014-15, in an attempt to determine if certain aspects of the schedule — in particular, back-to-backs and travel — led to players getting injured in games.

What Teramoto found surprised him: Back-to-backs alone are not associated with greater instances of in-game injury, but back-to-backs that are played on the road are significant predictors of in-game injury, generating 3.5 times the injury rate as those played at home.

The problem? Two out of every three back-to-backs are on the road.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul Millsap has a knee issue that will keep him sidelined for the next few weeksThe Kings have questions at point guard … Grizzlies.com caught up with a few of the team’s key players to get an update on their recovery from last season’s injuriesDorell Wright is going to camp with the Clippers … and Jason Terry doesn’t think Klay Thompson is in James Harden‘s league.

Morning Shootaround — July 31

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cuban: Mavericks got “lucky” with free agent Plan B | Careful challenging Michael Jordan, even now | Waiting paid off for Lue, Cavaliers

No. 1: Cuban: Mavericks got “lucky” with free agent Plan B — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has never been one to hold his tongue in matters of business, basketball or politics. So when he talks about the Mavericks getting “lucky” with their free agent contingency plans this summer, he means what he says. The Dallas Morning News provides some highlights of Cuban’s recent discussion with ESPN Radio 103.3 in Dallas, where he discussed the departure of Chandler Parsons, the acquisition of Harrison Barnes and more:

Chuck Cooperstein: Unfortunately the Plan A [in free agency] didn’t work out the way you had in mind, didn’t work out the way you hoped it would. Even you knew that it was going to be an uphill struggle to make it work. Yet again, you’ve been able to sort of cobble something together that looks just a little bit more than interesting.

Mark Cuban: Yeah, you know I keep a whole trunk full of rabbits so I can put them in my hat. We got lucky. There’s not other way to say it. We knew we were long shots with both Hassan [Whiteside] and with Mike Conley. We knew Mike Conley wasn’t going to turn down the largest contract in NBA history. But we also know that it’s not just about the short-term, it’s the long-term. We wanted to introduce the Mavericks, our style and our organization to both of them because you never know when they’re going to be available in a trade. You never know next free agency. So many things can happen over a period of time in an NBA.

Look what happened with D-Will [Deron Williams]. I think our presentation to him from coach and Donnie [Nelson] in particular really set the groundwork for him understanding who we are. On one hand, we didn’t expect to get them to come to the Mavs, but we still think it served a function. From there Harrison [Barnes] reached out to me at 12:01 like, ‘Dude I want to come there. You’re my first pick, my only pick.’ I went back-and-forth with him like, ‘Yeah, we’d love you too but you’re a restricted free agent. Here’s our course of action. Here’s what we’re going to do.’ I laid it all out for him. He was like, ‘Okay, we’ll see what happens but you guys are my team.’ Fortunately it turned out the way it did.

Matt Mosley: Mark, why did you essentially pick Harrison Barnes over Chandler Parsons? Parsons ends up getting very similar, if not the same money, from Memphis. Y’all had a great relationship. I saw quotes recently [where] you said, ‘It continues to be a great relationship.’ Did it simply come down to the knee, the medical, as comparing Barnes to Parsons or do you just feel like maybe Barnes has more upside?

Mark Cuban: Can’t go into any details, but I’ll just say it wasn’t a basketball issue. Chandler obviously is a very, very skilled player. There’s a lot of great things to his game. But he’s, in essence, a different player from Harrison. Harrison is longer, more athletic, younger. Just like Chandler really didn’t get a chance to have his game blossom when he was with the Rockets. He just showed glimpses of it because of Dwight [Howard] and James [Harden] being there. I think Harrison was kind of in the same role. I think we’re going to give Harrison the opportunity and I know he’s excited about the opportunity to really shine and be a featured guy for us.

Chuck Cooperstein: I don’t know if you saw the ESPN piece…about the summer ranking of the Western Conference teams in which they had the Mavericks ninth. I said something, ‘Well, here we go again.’ Right?

Mark Cuban: You never know until you know. That’s why we play the games. If you look at last year you look at New Orleans, you look at Houston, you just don’t know. I would have told you last year, and I think I did tell you guys, that we’re about eight sprained ankles away from being a top contender. Now we’re probably only three, maybe four. You just don’t know. Look at Portland and what happened there. You just don’t know.

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(more…)

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!!!!

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He’s ready!

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You know he’s ready …

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Stephen Curry, pre-game.

A photo posted by John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) on

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

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

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

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

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Akron’s got your back LeBron!

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Hmmmm …

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It is a “young man’s game.”

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Time to get it in. Got your popcorn ready?

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

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Prime Time’s fearless prediction …

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By Any Means Necessary approach from Steve Kerr tonight.

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It’s early, relax peoples.

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Yes he does!

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LeBron turned the one over, too!

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Sorry, need one more look.

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His handle is wicked, too.

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Kevin Love came to play!

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Things change …

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Rebounding remains the most glaring issue for the Warriors.

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END OF FIRST QUARTER CAVALIERS 23, WARRIORS 22

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Ask and you shall receive #giveusoneclosegame

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He’s #CLEAN

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

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

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Dave is down with the Warriors!

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LeBron is just waiting on this one every time.

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

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

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HALFTIME WARRIORS 49, CAVALIERS 42

The Global Game!

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Another look at Steph’s third foul … ?

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

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

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Warriors bigs are struggling something terrible, on both ends.

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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?

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It could wild in Cleveland tonight …

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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.)

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

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

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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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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We did it, Cleveland. #NBAChampions | #OneForTheLand

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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The Finals Stat: Game 6

CLEVELAND — We’re going to Game 7. The Cleveland Cavaliers fought off elimination one more time with a 115-101 victory and an all-time performance (41 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and three blocks) from LeBron James. They’ve sent The Finals back to Oakland for a deciding game on Sunday (8 ET, ABC).

James scored or assisted on 27 straight points for his team spanning the third and fourth quarters, but another stat stood out as the Cavs became the first team since 1966 to force a Game 7 in The Finals after trailing 3-1.

The stat

47-19 – Score in fast-break points over the last two games, favoring the Cavs.

The context

20160616_basicsThe Warriors led the league with 20.9 fast-break points per game in the regular season, while the Cavs ranked 19th with just 11.8.

There was a thought that Cleveland wanted to keep the pace slow and play deliberate, half-court offense, like it did in last year’s Finals. But early in the series, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue insisted that he wanted his team to play faster, so that it could get easier looks at the basket.

Lue looks like a genius at this point, with the Cavs having won the three fastest-paced games of the series so far. They were out and running early in Game 6, outscoring the Warriors 31-11 in the first quarter, including 9-0 on fast-break points. There were many highlights throughout the night, including an alley-oop from J.R. Smith to James midway through the third quarter.

James has registered 12 of the Cavs’ 47 fast break points over the last two games, while Kyrie Irving has accounted for almost as many (18) as the entire Warriors roster.

And that the Cavs have kept the Warriors’ running game in check throughout the series is just as important as the Cavs’ own fast break points. Golden State can be absolutely deadly in transition, having registered an effective field goal percentage of 67.8 percent in the first six seconds of the shot clock in the regular season.

But through six games, the Warriors have been able to get only 13 percent of their shots in the first six seconds, down from a regular-season mark of 18 percent. And the Cavs have limited them to an effective field goal percentage of just 49.1 percent on those early-clock shots.

This has been a wild series, and the wildest development may be that Cleveland is winning the transition game.

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

Thompson thrives as Finals starter, Cavaliers’ ‘heart and soul’

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – In this year’s balloting for the Kia Sixth Man of the Year Award, Tristan Thompson finished 10th. Which suggests that on a team comprised entirely of Sixth Men, Thompson might have trouble getting off the bench at all.

And yet here he is in his second consecutive Finals, and not just as a reserve or even a super-sub but starting. Eight of the players who finished ahead of Thompson in the Sixth Man voting are done, prepping for next season already, while Andre Iguodala (the runner-up for the award) and Thompson still are battling for the jewelry that will commemorate this one.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was a little surprised when Thompson received such little consideration for the Sixth Man, but Lue likely dissuaded some voters when — days before the regular season ended — he announced to the world that Thompson would start the rest of the way and through the playoffs for the Cavaliers.

The way they were playing by then — quicker, with pace and a focus on the 3-point line — stripped value from Timofey Mozgov, the Cavs’ traditional big man. So Lue instead went with Thompson, whose work when pressed into a starting job last postseason earned him a five-year, $82 million contract and the backing of LeBron James.

This time, Thompson’s work might help earn him and his teammates rings, along with a special status in NBA history: the first team to win The Finals after falling behind 3-1.

“He’s been a beast for us all year,” James said after Cleveland’s shootaround Thursday before tonight’s Game 6 (9 ET, ABC). “He gives us extra opportunities. He gives us a paint presence and we need it from him.”

While Golden State has been adjusting to personnel changes in the middle — pocket big Draymond Green was suspended from Game 5 and now starting center Andrew Bogut will miss Games 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 with a knee injury — Thompson has been a constant for the Cavs. He has posted double-doubles in the past four games and grabbed at least 10 boards in nine of his 11 career Finals games.

His increased role has led to bigger stats — 9.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in 36.2 minutes in two Finals series so far — without any change in job description. Lue called Thompson “the heart and soul” of the Cavaliers after Game 3, lauding his aggressiveness and energy in chasing down offensive rebounds.

“It’s a big-time compliment. I definitely appreciate that, Coach Lue,” Thompson said. “But for me, [it’s] just do my job in a new starting role. Having a high motor, being active, just bringing that energy and this spark every night.”

Thompson drew some chuckles from reporters when he shared his typical pregame routine. While James has been talking about his game-day viewings of ‘The Godfather” movies, Thomspon is an HGTV junkie.

“It’s relaxing for the brain,” Thompson said of the network, known for real estate-and-renovation shows. He added, though, that he would give an “all-out shout-out” until HGTV does a segment on his house.

As far as not shrinking in a big moment, considering how few big moments Thompson and the Cavs had before James came back to Cleveland in July 2014, the 6-foot-9 native of Toronto said: ” Go out there and play and — who gives a crap? — just go out there and play.”

The Finals Live Blog — Game 5

Two words [Game] #READY WATCH Me in B [READY] featuring @e40

A video posted by Draymond Green (@money23green) on

OAKLAND — I feel your pain Draymond Green.

For a player who serves as the vocal and emotional leader for the reigning and defending NBA champions to have to sit out a Game 5 of The Finals at home, with a chance to clinch back-to-back titles, it has to tear your heart out.

Sure, plenty of folks insist that you did this to yourself, that you knew one more Flagrant foul point would result in a one-game suspension.

It’s true, we all knew. Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s VP of Basketball Operations, was left with no choice but to discipline Green, what with all of the hoopla surrounding his kicking and swinging exploits during this postseason.

But I still didn’t think his response to being stepped over by LeBron James late in the Warriors’ Game 4 win deserved anything more than the double fouls the officials usually call in an instance where players exchange tough words but don’t dive into any sort of physical exchange.

If the Warriors take care of their business while you watch next door from the A’s stadium (according to NBA rules Green cannot be in the building from two hours prior to tip off until after the game has ended), you won’t have far to go to join in on the championship celebration.

The fact that you won’t be able to participate in what serves as potentially the biggest game in the Warriors’ historic season is what stinks.

As much as this season has been about two-time KIA MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Star and Splash Brother Klay Thompson and their otherworldly shooting exploits, as much as it’s been about the Warriors’ Strength In Numbers mantra and campaign, it’s also been about the continued evolution of the game of Green, a hybrid point/power forward capable of performing at another level on both ends of the floor.

This game without any of the principal figures — James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love included — for whatever reason, is something of a letdown. You always want to see the best of the best, at full strength, go at it with everything on the line.

But not this time.

The game must go on …

And something tells me one of these guys will have to play a significant role tonight for the Warriors to win

2 hours… #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Welp, the “high road” …

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Spoken by a man who knows …

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As important as Draymond is to the Warrior, and no one is disputing that, this guy might be more important!

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On this date in history: MJ went 5-for-5 in The Finals .. just saying!

OTD in 1997 Michael Jordan won his 5th @NBA Championship and #NBAFinals  MVP.

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Game 5!!!

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Love them or hate them, these are two real ones.

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Kyrie going with the grunge look tonight?

#Cavshion presentation 💯 | #ALLin216

A video posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Who plays Steve Kerr tonight for his team?

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A moment of silence for all those affected by the terror in Orlando over the weekend.

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Cavs will probably need each and every single point he can provide tonight.

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It’s gonna be a wild night!

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Desperate times call for desperate measures … sleeves?

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Dre Day after all?

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No reason to wait …

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Steph with a 3 and Kyrie tries to get some “get back” and, of course, turns it over …

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It’s early, but he’s right. No flow on offense.

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You knew that wouldn’t take long. #FreeDraymond

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Again, it’s early …

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Mighty clever. #SPLASH

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Speechless. Just speechless.

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Just a good ol’ fashioned playoff foul!

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Cavs battling the elements, the crowd, the nerves and the Warriors  and hanging tough.

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Where’s Draymond? Follow the sign …

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They can’t stop, won’t stop …

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LOL

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Where is Draymond? With Beast Mode!

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WARRIORS 32, CAVALIERS 29 at end of 1st quarter. LeBron is clicking (4-for-7 for 12 points, 2-for-2 from deep), Kyrie and JR, too (17 between them) and the Cavs are still down. Warriors are 5-for-13 from deep, Curry has 10 and Klay 8). Iguodala with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and the early lead for Finals MVP.

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Strength In Numbers?

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Cavs showing their mettle. Quick burst for a 36-32 lead with 10:46 to play before halftime. They re not rattled by the moment.

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Kerr has to be a master tonight, managing minutes and controlling the pace and tempo.

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Draymond eating good at the A’s game.

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Livingston goes boom!

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Kyrie and Klay playing 1-on-1 for Game 5 …

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Klay Thompson is not trying to go back to Cleveland anytime soon.

BEST NICKNAME EVER?

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No resemblance. None!

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Kyrie has 18 of his own and the Cavs are up 54-50 with 3:45 to play before halftime. This is the kind of game you wish we had every night in The Finals. Two heavyweights throwing blows.

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You wonder who is going to blink first?

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This is one of LeBron’s finest performances, given the magnitude of the moment.

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Great first half both ways. Tied at 61 and yes, things are mighty different for both sides without Draymond out there.

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B | B | Z Bronny, Bryce & Zhuri. #ThisIsWhyWePlay

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Meet me at the rim! #NBAFinals

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

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Everybody hates Kevin …

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More #SHADE for Love …

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Get your popcorn ready for this second half!

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Hugs all around.

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Solid observation …

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Right on Ricky!

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Bogut with a sweet block and a nasty knee injury on the same play. Huge loss for the Warriors at 10:07 of the third. They are without their two best rim protectors (Bogut and Green) for the remainder of this game.

No replays necessary!

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Heavyweight slugfest!

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Positionless basketball.

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A little love for Tyronn Lue?

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LeBron’s haters are silent tonight. He’s flat out ballin in this building tonight.

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Pressure mounting on the home team. Warriors look a bit spent. No Draymond is crushing right now.

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Cavs must continue to attack the rim if they want to hold on to this lead. Warriors have no resistance at the rim.

Meanhwhike across the way …

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LeBron is in another world tonight. Step-back game and everything working like clockwork.

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Cavs are making them work like crazy for even a decent look.

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CAVS 93, WARRIORS 84 after 3. LeBron is refusing to go quietly into the offseason right now. Suffocating defensive effort from his team. And clutch shot-making from he and Kyrie. Warriors look fatigued and missing Draymond’s presence on both ends something terrible.

Great drama!

Warriors will have to rally to try and win this thing here at Oracle. And without Bogut or Draymond it’s looking tight. Hold on for what should be an unreal fourth quarter.

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Cruel and unusual comparison.

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Keep an eye on this stuff …

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But he keeps hitting buckets, 34 and counting for Uncle Drew’s nephew, who is killing it tonight.

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Just so we’re clear about what kind of night LeBron is having …

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Me and my partner rollin’ like Batman and Robin …

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Kyrie!

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The Closer!

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You don’t have to be a fan. If you have eyes and understand the goal is to put the ball in the hole …

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Masterful performance indeed.

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Identical twin uglies?

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On the flip side …

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I cannot say enough about the way LeBron and Kyrie approached this game. Total calm. Understood what was at stake and played like assassins. Unreal performance by two guys. Barely needed any scoring help from the rest of the Cavaliers.

That’s why I always pack for 7!

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GAME SLEEVES, CAVS 112, WARRIORS 97 to stave off elimination and we shall see what both teams can muster in time for Thursday’s game in Cleveland.

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He grabbed 3 …

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See you Thursday night for Game 6!

 

The Finals Live Blog — Game 4

THE LAND — Your move Splash Brothers!

LeBron James and his crew answered the call in Game 3 of this series, bouncing back from a 30-point tail dragging in Game 2 to deliver a 30-point whipping of their own Wednesday night.

Now it’s time to see if two-time KIA MVP Stephen Curry and All-Star shooting assassin Klay Thompson will finally get going in The Finals and remind us why we’ve been talking about them being the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. Doing it on the Cavaliers’ home floor tonight in Game 4 would only serve to heighten the drama in this series (not that it needs much more, see Kevin Love and the concussion protocol, Draymond Green insisting that the Warriors got “bullied, punked” in Game 3, etc.)

I don’t know that the Warriors can finish this series the way they want to without Curry and Thompson getting back into the groove they were in during most of their record-setting regular season.

Asking Green and the rest of the Warriors to carry them to victory in two more games, even with at least two more possibly on their home floor, is asking a bit too much.

We know what LeBron will bring tonight. No one knows the magnitude of the moment like does, playing in his sixth straight Finals with legacy on the line each and every time he hits the floor.

It's GAME DAY at the #NBAFinals!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

So it comes down to this, to Game 4, on the road in a hostile environment against an opponent that is wide awake now, the moment of truth, if you will, for the Splash Brothers.

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It was more than just a dunk, LeBron’s epic Game 3 smash …

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You do remember that free agency is just around the corner, right? That’s what friends are for Kevin Durant and James Harden

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Happy Birthday Jeff Teague, keep it classy bro!

Join us in wishing Jeff Teague a happy birthday!

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Where you at Klay T?

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Careful Swish, the is the sort of thing that got the Thunder in trouble in the conference finals. #Respek

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Team USA point guard ranks are thinning by the day!

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Ownership importing some human noisemakers for the Warriors.

Thanks to Joe Lacob & Peter Guber, Dubs employees are on their way to Cleveland for Game 4! #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Stuff Curry is ready!

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Something tells me getting beat by 30 is No. 1 …

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Uncle Drew is locked in and ready to go …

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Love appears to be ready to go. Still not sure if he is going to be in the starting lineup.

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You said this last time Steph!

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Hey man, we matter a little bit …

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Love is A-C-T-I-V-E!

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Gotta give it up to the fans here in Cleveland, the atmosphere around the arena is indeed off the charts.

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Klay is sleeved up and ready to go!

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David Aldridge gets a word or two with Steve Kerr

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Spike Lee representing the Greatest Of All Times! Muhammad Ali!

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This is just wrong!

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Keep your t-shirts!

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What Tommy said!

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Give the political stuff a rest for one night.

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Draymond drawing fouls like a modern day MJ … Jordan Rules?

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In addition to his shooting struggles, Steph got lost on D big time here:

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Who he play for?

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Where you been big fella?

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#SPLASH

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WARRIORS 29, CAVALIERS 28 after the first 12 minutes …

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Stop it. Please. Stop!

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Steph heating up tonight!

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Live by the 3 …

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Not sure what Steph is watching on D, but he keeps losing his man.

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Kyrie showing off his improved defensive prowess.

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The story of the game for the Warriors. Getting waxed on the boards.

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CAVALIERS 55, WARRIORS 50 at halftime … You wanted a close one, you got it!

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SPLASH BROTHERS are SPLASHING

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Not the kids!

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Andy V getting it from the former home crowd for …

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🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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

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WARRIORS 79, CAVALIERS 77 at the end 3 … NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT A BLOWOUT TONIGHT!

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Way too much. And the Warriors keep getting timely buckets (3s from all over). 93-84 Warriors with 5:56 to play. The crowd in here is nervous!

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Brilliant player making clutch plays all over the floor.

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Basically …

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Draymond kept his cool there, double fouls and no techs or Flagrants.

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This is what all the LeBron/Draymond fuss was about …

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Freaky moment. Guy had Trump Sucks written on his chest and stomach. Republican National Convention is a month away.

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Steph with a driving layup and dagger. No one questioning him right now.

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SPLASH BROTHERS putting the game away at the line …

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WARRIORS 108, CAVALIERS 97 — SPLASH BROTHERS REVENGE!

Warriors head home with a 3-1 lead and a chance to close the Cavaliers out before the home crowd at Oracle Monday night to win their second straight Larry O’Brien trophy. Don’t guess anyone will waste time questioning Steph (38 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds) or Klay (25 and 4 rebounds) tonight.

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Dubs lead the series, 3-1. #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Film Study: Ball pressure from the Cavs

CLEVELAND — On the Golden State Warriors’ second possession of Game 2 of The Finals, Andrew Bogut caught a pass about 10 feet above the 3-point line. His defender, Kevin Love, was standing at the foul line…

20160609_bogut_g2

Bogut had plenty of space to see the other nine guys on the floor and Love provided no pressure.

On the Warriors’ first possession of Game 3, Bogut again served as an initiator of the Warriors’ offense. But this time, Tristan Thompson forced him to catch the ball much further from the basket …

20160609_bogut_g3

When Bogut did catch it, Thompson was right there with him, forcing him to turn his back to the action elsewhere on the floor.

On Wednesday, the Cavs were more aggressive both offensively and defensively than they had been in Games 1 and 2. Offensively, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were on the attack early and often. Irving didn’t hesitate to pull up for a jumper when the Warriors gave him space.

And space is what Cleveland didn’t give the Warriors. The two images above illustrate the difference between the Cavs’ defense in the first two games of this series and the Cavs’ defense in Game 3. Thompson met Bogut high on that first possession of the game and Cleveland sustained the pressure most of the night.

On that first possession, the Warriors’ first three catches were all at least 35 feet from the basket and Bogut’s eventual post-up took place 20 feet away. The result was a long 3-point attempt from Draymond Green.

A few minutes later, the Warriors looked to get an early look off of one of the two shots that Irving missed in the first quarter. But James met Klay Thompson at the 3-point line…

20160609_9-1

Tristan Thompson again pressured Bogut above the arc…

20160609_9-2

James denied a Stephen Curry looking to come off a pin-down screen from Green…

20160609_9-3

Irving was there as Klay Thompson made a catch at the top of the key…

20160609_9-4

And again in the corner four seconds later…

20160609_9-5

Thompson rushed a contested, off-balance shot. It was one of 11 stops the Cavs earned on the Warriors’ first 13 possessions of the game.

The Cavs’ defense deserves a good deal of the credit for the struggles of Curry, who has rushed several shots himself, forcing others because he hasn’t been able to get many clean looks in rhythm.

In Game 2, the Warriors were able to leverage the Cavs’ fear of their 3-point shooting to get layups. In Game 3, the Cavs were able to take a lot of those away with better pressure on the ball, keeping the Warriors’ passers from seeing and executing those passes to screeners slipping to the basket. Golden State had just 19 shots in the restricted area on Wednesday, down from 28 in Game 1 and 27 in Game 2.

“Everyone extended their defense a little bit more,” James said about his team’s Game 3 defense on Thursday. “They’re such a great 3-point shooting team that you have to extend your defense to start off with. More than that, they move the ball so, so well. And Draymond being one of those guys, one of their playmakers along with Steph, along with [Shaun] Livingston, along with [Andre] Iguodala that makes so many great passes well beyond the 3-point line. So, you’ve got to do a good job of trying to help the back-line defense by putting a little ball pressure on them.”

It’s not something the Warriors haven’t seen before or that they haven’t been able to handle in the past. But on Wednesday, they couldn’t handle it. Beyond the rushed shots were 18 turnovers, six of them from Curry.

“I just try to pick up Steph as high as possible,” Irving said after the game, “and our bigs do a great job getting up to touch.”

“I think we were a little too relaxed coming in,” Iguodala said on Thursday. “For us, loose plays to our advantage. But when you’re too loose sometimes and you got a team that’s desperate and they punch you in the mouth, you’re next step would be to slow down, be more fundamentally sound, and rely on five guys being on the same page. But sometimes we get in panic mode a little bit and we try to get it all back at once. That’s just compounding problems and mistakes.

“I feel like they hit us first last night and it took us a while to throw a blow back or initiate the contact.”

SportVU player tracking has what’s called an “influence score” that measure’s ball pressure on a scale of 1-100. The Cavs’ influence score in Game 3 from 20 feet and out was 85.9, not too much higher than it was in Game 2 (85.4).

But if you isolate just the first quarter, there’s a more significant jump, from 85.5 in Game 2 to 87.3 in Game 3. It dropped after that, but the Cavs set the tone early.

It’s probably not a coincidence that they were able to bring more pressure and not suffer consequences on the back end of their defense in the game that Love missed with a concussion. Replacing Love with Richard Jefferson in the starting lineup gave Cleveland more collective quickness and fewer matchup worries in transition. And moving James to power forward allowed him to switch onto Curry on pick-and-rolls where Green was the screener.

Four of Curry’s six turnovers were live-ball turnovers after James or Tristan Thompson switched onto the MVP. The Cavs don’t have rim protection with Timofey Mozgov mostly out of the rotation, but a frontline of James and Thompson is certainly mobile enough to defend Curry out beyond the 3-point line. Love and Channing Frye don’t have nearly the same kind of mobility.

Of course, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue isn’t about to tell us that Love’s absence was a good thing for the Cavs.

“We competed, we played harder, and we were able to get matchups in transition,” Lue said about Game 3. “It didn’t have anything to do with Kevin being on the floor. It’s just the way we approached the game.”

The energy and focus was certainly better in Game 3 than it was in Games 1 or 2. The question is if the lineup change influenced the energy. Is it easier to pressure the ball when you know you have the right defenders behind you?

Maybe we’ll get the answer in Game 4.