Archive for the ‘ NBA Playoffs Blog ’ Category

The Cavs have a logjam on the bench in the backcourt, with multiple options. Because LeBron James handles the passing that a point guard would typically handle, the team’s biggest need from both starting and backup guards is good outside shooting, and defense. According to ESPN.com, the Cavs will now give Rodney Hood more of a shot:

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says he will switch up his rotation in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday by giving minutes to seldom-used wing Rodney Hood against the Golden State Warriors.

“We’re going to give Rodney a chance,” Lue said Tuesday. “He’ll get a shot, and see how he does. He’s been working, staying ready. So we’ll see.”

Hood was the Cavs’ starting shooting guard in their playoff opener — a 98-80 loss to the Indiana Pacers — and has seen his role diminish dramatically since then, going from a bench player to receiving six DNP-CDs in Cleveland’s past 10 games…

He had much more success during the regular season for the Cavs, including a seven-game stretch from late March through early April when Hood averaged 13.9 points on 49.3 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3 with 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game.

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We’re only two games into the 2018 NBA Finals, so it’s a bit early to pick a clear Finals MVP candidate. But it’s a two-player race so far, between LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Here’s a Warriors-area outlet, NBC Sports Bay Area, stating the early case for Steph:

Steph Curry is the obvious choice for Finals MVP so far. Yes, it is only two games into the series, and as the Warriors know very well, anything can happen. But unless the Cavaliers were to come back and win the series, Curry has to be the odds-on-favorite. While he has had dominant moments in the Finals, his masterful play actually started at the end of the Western Conference Finals. Over the last three games (including Game 7 of the WCF) Curry is averaging 29.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field, 49 percent shooting for deep (on a staggering 14 attempts per game) coupled with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Curry has dished out 27 assists over the last three games, his highest mark since exactly a year ago, when he tore up the Cavs in the 2017 NBA Finals. Also this fun fact: Steph Curry has out-rebounded one of the Cavaliers’ best rebounding big men, Tristan Thompson, in each of the Finals games thus far. If that sounds familiar, it is because last Finals, Curry had more boards than Thompson in three of the five games, and finished with more rebounds overall in the series.

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The Warriors won NBA Finals Game 1 in overtime and then easily took Game 2. The action now shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday. Here’s the SF Chronicle with a look at GS forward Kevin Durant’s play so far:

In Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, Durant appeared in a haze, following up blown coverages on James with clanged jumpers. His missed box-out on the 6-foot-6 J.R. Smith late in regulation — not Curry’s 29 points and nine assists — would have been a major talking point had Smith not inexplicably forgotten that the score was tied in that crucial moment.

“Last year was a pretty smooth ride, and we were clicking,” Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday. “We didn’t have injuries. We had a pretty healthy run. I think this year, it’s just been harder overall, just because of the cumulative wear and tear of the journey.

“Kevin has still been great. He hasn’t probably been as consistent as he was last year, but neither have we. I would say that about every one of our guys.”

Durant made good on his vows to be better in Game 2, attacking the rim with purpose and kicking out to open shooters early in the shot clock. His well-executed possessions gave the Warriors an early lead and, ultimately, helped pave the way for one of Curry’s signature scoring binges.

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The Warriors were without Andre Iguodala in NBA Finals Game 1 and may be without him in Game 2. But now Klay Thompson is questionable for Sunday’s Game 2 with a banged-up ankle. Here’s Cleveland.com reporting:

Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson suffered a high left ankle sprain in Game 1 of the Finals and said he plans to play in Game 2 Sunday.

The Warriors are officially calling him “questionable.”

Thompson was injured in the first quarter of Golden State’s 124-114 win when JR Smith fell into his leg diving for a steal. He limped to the locker room and returned to the game for the start of the second quarter and finished with 24 points and five 3s.

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Tristan Thompson fined, has flagrant foul downgraded

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has been fined $25,000 for failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection and for shoving the basketball in the face of Golden State Warriors forward/center Draymond Green, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 2.6 seconds remaining in overtime of the Warriors’ 124-114 win over the Cavaliers on Thursday, May 31 at Oracle Arena.

Thompson’s Flagrant 2, which was assessed for his actions in contesting a jump shot by Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, was downgraded to a Flagrant 1 upon league office review. The foul occurred directly prior to Thompson’s interaction with Green.

So, no fear of suspension for Thompson for NBA Finals Game 2 Sunday night in Oakland.

Kevin Love cleared for NBA Finals Game 1

Some good news was released by the Cavs today. Kevin Love has completed the NBA’s Concussion Return to Play Program and will be available to play tonight in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

According to ESPN.com, “Love was still in the league’s concussion protocol as of Wednesday afternoon. He was injured during a head-to-head collision with Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.”

The Cavs and Warriors begin their 2018 Finals series tonight in Oakland.

The Warriors continue to be without Andre Iguodala, but are otherwise healthy.

NBA Finals Game 1 between the Cavs and Warriors takes place at Golden State tomorrow night, and so far one key player is definitely out while another’s status, as of this hour, remains uncertain.

The Warriors have their stars in tact — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are good to go — but the next player on the list of key contributors, Andre Iguodala, remains out with a leg injury.

The Cavs are in worse shape. The squad is clearly led by LeBron James, but their other player who fits in the star category is Kevin Love, and as of this afternoon he hasn’t been cleared from the NBA’s “concussion protocol” program that aims to protect players and make sure it’s safe for them to play after a head injury. He still may play, but as of Wednesday afternoon he isn’t ready yet.

Without Love, the Cavs will rely on the hustle of Tristan Thompson, and scoring from a lot of players who will collectively have to step up and play the games of their lives at the Finals level.

And we’re back to this. LeBron James in a key playoff situation surrounded mostly by role players, while a key star or two are injured. In this case it’s one player, Kevin Love. Of course, the Celtics played this season without Gordon Hayward, and are now without Kyrie Irving. They’ve gotten extremely good play from guard Terry Rozier in Irving’s place, though. And Game 7 is in Boston. So, advantage Celtics. Except, the Cavs have LeBron. But the Celtics right now have looked like the better team. Especially when playing at home. So, advantage Celtics, still, right? But… LeBron… Anyway, enjoy the game, and here’s the Boston Herald reporting on K-Love:

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol Saturday and declared out for Sunday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics.

The 8:30 p.m. game at TD Garden will determine the East’s representative in the NBA Finals, which open May 31 at the home of the West champion. The Rockets lead the defending champion Warriors 3-2 going into Saturday’s Game 6…

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Love was flying with the team to Boston Saturday afternoon.

Love banged heads with Jayson Tatum with 6:58 left in the second quarter and went to the locker room to be evaluated.

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The headline isn’t a surprise — of course a player is going to generally say good or great things about his team’s fans — but it’s still fun to read the exact wording they use to do it. The Celtics are undefeated so far at home in these playoffs. Here’s Jaylen Brown discussing the home crowd, via NESN.com:

Jaylen Brown has said before that playing at home can be like having the best sixth man in the league, and the Celtics swingman doubled down Wednesday night after Boston defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-83 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals to take a 3-2 series lead.

“The energy level, we feed off the crowd,” Brown told reporters in Boston. “The crowd is like the best sixth man in the league, is what the tale says. So when we’re out there, we can definitely feel the energy the Garden is giving us. And we use it to do what we gotta do.”

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The Celtics lead the Cavs 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Finals series. Game 4 is tonight in Cleveland. Here’s Boston.com with a Celtics roster update:

Celtics backup point guard Shane Larkin took part in a lengthy individual workout with assistant coach Jay Larranaga after Sunday’s practice, his first since spraining his left shoulder in Boston’s May 7 loss to the 76ers in the conference semifinals. On Monday, Larkin said he made it through the session with minimal soreness. Although he remains sidelined in this conference final against the Cavaliers with no return date set, he believes he is “pretty close’’ to getting back on the court.

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Jaylen Brown annoyed by Game 3 effort

The Celtics played two great games vs the Cavaliers in their Eastern Conference Finals series. Then came Game 3. Here’s Boston.com reporting:

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was unimpressed with his team’s — and his own — effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the conference finals.

“I thought it was embarrassing,” the 21-year-old said during a light practice at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday. “The way we came out, the way I played.”

Brown — who scored 13 and 14 points in the opening quarters of Games 1 and 2, respectively — finished with just 10 points in Game 3. The Cavaliers constituted a pointed effort to limit him, particularly during the first quarter.

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Must-win Game 3 for Cavs tonight

The Cavs, down 2-0 to the Celtics in their second round playoff series, face a must-win game in Cleveland tonight.

Well, mostly must-win.

Historically, it’s pretty must-win. But historically, few players like LeBron James have ever existed.

Boston has looked to us like the clearly superior basketball team in the first two games. However, they’ve regularly been better at home.

The Cavs in these playoffs have of course been led by LeBron (33.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 9.2 apg, 54% FG this postseason). But second-in-command Kevin Love (15.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is shooting just 40.2% in these playoffs. Kyle Korver at 10.2 ppg has been their third leading scorer, but next up is JR Smith who has hit at just a 37% FG clip.

And defensively, the entire team needs to step up.

But can they? The Cavs looked excellent in the final month of the regular season, but playoff intensity is other-level, and to be taken seriously as a team, they can’t just rely on LeBron.

Tonight’s Celtics at Cavs Game 3 is at 8:30pm ET on ESPN TV.

We’re down to four teams still alive in the 2018 playoffs. Every possession matters. Does every heckle matter? Depends how strong the material is, and who the target is. CJ Paul, the brother of Rockets guard Chris Paul, appears to be refining his heckling skills, in Kevin Durant’s direction. Here’s the SF Chronicle reporting:

When cameras caught Kevin Durant shouting at a fan during Wednesday’s Western Conference finals game against the Rockets, it took the announcers a moment to recognize what was happening.

“Don’t wake a sleeping giant when he already has 36,” TNT announcer Chris Webber cautioned the fan.

“That’s C.J. Paul,” commentator Reggie Miller realized. “That’s Chris’ brother.”

Indeed, the man heckling Durant was the older brother of Houston star Chris Paul. And it’s not the first time he’s been caught in a court-side controversy.

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LeBron James arrives early for Game 2

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals is tonight in Boston. The Celtics dominated the Cavaliers in Game 1, in somewhat alarming fashion — at least for Cavs fans. Here’s the Akron Beacon Journal with the latest on LeBron James:

There have been times in the past when LeBron James was the first to arrive at shootaround, ready to work on his game virtually alone.

In 2017-18, the most frequent early arrivals have been J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade, before he was traded on Feb. 8, along with rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic.

But on Tuesday, James was on the court by himself, with only assistant coach Phil Handy and another staffer, working up a sweat at least half an hour before the rest of the Cavaliers walked in to TD Garden.

James might have had a goal in mind as he prepared for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics.

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The 2018 Eastern Conference Finals begin shortly, and the Celtics are making a starting lineup change, moving useful role-playing Aron Baynes to the bench and starting Marcus Morris.

While Baynes is more of a center, Morris is clearly a forward. The move, we speculate, is to allow Morris to help guard LeBron James, either fully or as a help defender alongside rookie Jayson Tatum. If we had to guess, Morris will likely guard James. And then Tatum shifting to him when Morris sits.

We’ll soon find out. Game 1 starts at 3:30pm ET on ABC television.

It’s always fun keeping track of Nick Young, both on and off the court. He’s a personality. Here’s the SF Chronicle with an update on his Warriors rotation role:

Like most NBA head coaches, Steve Kerr has shortened his bench in the playoffs. It came as little surprise when reserve guard Nick Young, one of the Warriors’ more inconsistent players, spent much of the first two rounds anchored to the sideline.

That may change in the Western Conference finals. After Golden State’s Game 5 win over the Pelicans in the second round Tuesday, Kerr went out of his way to mention that Young could be a factor against the Rockets.

“Nick Young played really well against Houston this year, and he’s a good matchup for them,” Kerr said. “I think every series is different, and you have to look at your opponent and figure out what you need to do to match up and to win some battles.”

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Rodney Hood messed up. But apologized. And apparently, it was accepted. And even laughed at, because the Cavs season has been wild and crazy, and as long as the squad keeps winning they’ll just push through it all. Here’s the Akron Beacon Journal reporting:

Rodney Hood said when he apologized to his teammates Thursday for refusing to go into Monday’s game against the Toronto Raptors with the Cavaliers up by 30, the reaction was laughter.

That’s because in a season marked by a contentious team meeting in which virtually no one was spared, coach Tyronn Lue’s leave of absence to address health issues, Kevin Love’s panic attacks, Isaiah Thomas’ criticism and a litany of injuries, lineups and rotations, Hood’s suggestion that Jose Calderon play ahead of him barely moved the needle.

“They were like, ‘Hood, that’s not really a distraction’ because of everything they’ve been through this year,” Hood said after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “They all [made] light of it, they understand, so it wasn’t anything, really.”

Lue turned to rookie Cedi Osman and left the struggling Hood out of the rotation as the Cavs finished off a sweep of the Raptors and earned their fourth consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday in Boston.

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Their No. 2 seed tells us the Celtics are exactly where they’re supposed to be. Reality is infinitely more rewarding.

On Wednesday night, the C’s booked passage to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, and it wasn’t easy.

The Philadelphia 76ers took them to the final seconds, but Jayson Tatum’s layup with 22 seconds broke the night’s final tie before Marcus Smart intercepted the final desperation pass that secured Boston’s 114-112 victory.

WEEI.com

Brad Stevens inserted Brown into the starting lineup for Marcus Smart and it immediately paid off. Brown went 3-for-3 with six points and a block in the first three minutes of the game, helping Boston get out to an early 8-6 lead. The 76ers answered quickly, though, going on a 10-7 run, thanks to a strong start from Ben Simmons, to take a three-point lead with four minutes remaining in the opening frame.

With a minute left, Tatum drove down the lane and missed a layup, but Smart grabbed the rebound and put it back to tie the game. After a 76ers turnover, Smart shot a bullet pass to Tatum down low for two, giving the C’s a two-point lead with 18.8 seconds to play.

The Sixers fed the ball to Embiid on the ensuing possession, but he missed the shot and the ball went out of bounds to Boston. The Celtics closed it out at the free-throw line.

NESN.com

They were supposed to be the dependable and consistent forces in times like this. They were supposed to be the ones who could keep their cool in pressure situations. But on Wednesday night in Boston, in a win-or-go-home game, Redick, Belinelli, and Ilyasova were ineffective more often than not.

Redick hit a deep three with 3.8 seconds left to play, bringing the Sixers within one point of the Celtics, giving them a glimmer of hope at the end. But he missed two wide-open shots earlier in the fourth quarter that could have given the Sixers some breathing room.

One shot in particular, when the Sixers were leading by 109-107 with just over a minute to play, Redick found himself completely in the open, and it didn’t go down.

Phillynews.com

The Boston Celtics closed out the Eastern Conference semifinal, four games to one, with a 114-112 victory over the Sixers in Game 5 on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Boston will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals for the second straight year. Game 1 is expected to be 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

On this night, the Sixers couldn’t overcome their Achilles’ heels — turnovers and missed opportunities.

They committed 17 turnovers in the game and four in the fourth quarter. Joel Embiid also missed an opportunity to knot the score with 12.5 seconds left. That forced the Sixers to put the Celtics on the foul line and they didn’t panic, making 3 of 4 down the stretch to win the game.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Draymond Green crashes Pelicans huddle

The Warriors have eliminated the Pelicans in five games. During Game 5 last night, GS forward Draymond Green successfully eavesdropped on a Pelicans huddle and mostly got away with it. Here’s the San Jose Mercury News reporting:

Draymond Green revealed a bit of his silly side on Tuesday.

In the first quarter of the Warriors’ 113-104 win over New Orleans, he took a break from jawing with Rajon Rondo and firing up his team to engage in some levity.

As Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry gave instructions to Rondo, Green walked over and joined their huddle — until a referee yanked him away.

“I saw the play,” Green said. “They were watching something of us. It was good.”

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Guarding James Harden is extremely difficult. He’s awesome in one-on-one situations. He can hit three-pointers in a defender’s face. And when he drives, the result is often an assist or free throws for Harden. Here’s Jazz backup guard Dante Exum discussing it, in the Houston Chronicle:

Though much has been made about Jazz reserve Dante Exum’s success when defending James Harden in Wednesday’s Game 2, Exum said it was about studying enough video to know what to expect and simply staying in front of Harden often enough to frustrate the Rockets’ star.

“It’s definitely about watching film and knowing his tendencies,” Exum said. “Everybody has tendencies and like to get to a certain place. He goes left and likes to step back. It’s just knowing when he’s doing that and what I can do to stop that.

“It’s just about me staying in front of him. I’m not going to get that charge call every time which you saw in the second half (of Game 2). As long as I stay in front of him, it’s just going to frustrate him. He’s used to getting by guys or stepping back and getting an open shot. As much as possible, I have to stay in front of him and remind him that I’m there.”

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