NBA Playoffs Blazers Suns Game 4: The vengeful return of Brandon Roy

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The Blazers needed an emotional lift. Something to get their crowd back into the zone after a deflating Game 3. Something to give them just a little bit of a push at both ends. And Brandon Roy, out for two weeks following surgery to repair a torn miniscus, making an early return? That’ll do it.

Roy came in and played absolutely huge in limited minutes, while the Portland defense held the Suns to a season low, and just. Like. That. 96-87. Series tied 2-2.

This one’s starting to get a little tense. After Amar’e elbow last game, you had two flagrants called in this one. One was Jerryd Bayless, who played brilliantly with passion, but got too worked up in transition. The other? Channing Frye made a moderate swipe on a Nic Batum fastbreak and was called for what may be the weakest flagrant foul in the history of professional basketball?

And you know what? It wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The Rose Garden wasn’t going to let the Blazers lose this game. Brandon Roy wasn’t going to let the Blazers lose this game. Marcus Camby, knocking down mid-range J’s from 22 feet (where he’s a 47% shooter by the way) wasn’t going to let the Blazers lose this game. And LaMarcus Aldridge more than anyone wasn’t going to let the Blazers lose this game.

While Amar’e Stoudemire was working inside (26 points, 8-10 FTs), Aldridge was the scoring option the Blazers desperately needed. 31 points, and deadly from mid-range. And make no mistake, he wanted it defensively as well. 11 boards, often in traffic.

There was no great adjustment made by the Blazers, the Suns just struggled, Jason Richardson fell back to Earth and missed a lot of open looks, while Steve Nash had six turnovers, including two late (one leading to the Batum flagrant). Versus the first Blazers win, this wasn’t a matchup or strategy win, this was one fed on energy and willpower. The Blazers were fierce all over, led by their general back on the floor. And when Roy nailed a jumper late to push the lead back up to multiple possessions, it felt like something legendary, even Willis-Reed-esque.

(It should be noted that Roy’s injury was not that severe, that surgery was not that invasive, and that essentially he just came back a week earlier with doctor’s clearance. Dramatic, but not really Reed-esque. But still a great story.)

The Suns suddenly have gone from looking like they were in complete control of this series to facing a must-win in Phoenix in Game 5. A loss puts them at the brink of elimination going back to the Rose Garden. And the Suns don’t have anyone coming back from injury to get them a boost. They’re just going to have to execute and find a way.

Otherwise, Roy’s return will just be a warmup for Round 2.

Report: Minnesota “intent” on trading Ricky Rubio to get more shooting

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It’s easy to look at the trio of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota now and think “that team will make the playoffs next season and be a contender in a few years.” They have set themselves up for that potential run.

But with those three on the floor, Minnesota needs shooters at the other two spots to provide spacing. Butler may have hit 36.7 percent of his threes last season, but he is far more dangerous as a slasher getting to the rim. Same with Wiggins (who shot 35 percent from three). Obviously, Towns operates around the basket. The defensive strategy against the Timberwolves is not hard to envision: Pack the paint and make them shoot over the top of you. Take away the inside.

Minnesota needs shooters. To get that they are dangling Ricky Rubio, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rubio should have value, and he makes a reasonable $14.3 million next season and $15 million the one after (a fair price for a point guard of his quality). He remains one of the best passers in the league, a guy with amazing court vision. He’s also one of the better defensive point guards in the NBA. He shot the ball well after the All-Star break last season (35.3 percent from three) and was more aggressive getting his shot, but Tom Thibodeau is clearly not sold that’s a permanent change.

Minnesota has some cap space and could chase a player like Patty Mills at the point or Kyle Korver as a free agent to give them shooting, plus try to trade Rubio. They have options, although they don’t have the money to chase the J.J. Redicks of the world.

If you hear of a shooter being available, know that Thibodeau is lurking, trying to land him.

Report: Cavaliers, Nuggets, Pacers three-way trade involving Paul George “very unlikely”

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We knew back on the night of the draft that as the Cavaliers desperately looked for a way to pry Paul George out of Indiana, they started involving third teams in the talks (because Indy had no interest in Kevin Love for Paul George straight up, not should they). Phoenix was involved, but that fizzled. So did talks involving Denver.

But those latter ones didn’t die the night of the draft, according to reports that came out over the weekend. Denver, Cleveland, and Indiana were still talking about a three-team deal that would land Love in Denver and George in Cleveland. The challenge for Cleveland was finding the combination of young players and draft picks that Indiana wants in a deal — Indy is rumored to want a lottery pick (preferably high lottery) and a young player or players.

Now that Denver three-team is “very unlikely” to happen, according to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

As first reported by ESPN, the Cavs engaged the Nuggets as a possible third team to facilitate a trade for the All-Star George on draft night, but a source said the discussion was “nothing serious” and “very unlikely” to happen now…

The Nuggets had the No. 13 pick in Thursday’s draft and traded it to Utah for Trey Lyles — obviously giving up on getting Love, at least for the time being.

Indiana would have wanted the No. 13 pick, because future Dever picks are likely to be outside of the lottery as this is a team poised to make a leap into the playoffs, with Nikola Jokic leading them. As for players, Denver had shot down all requests for Jamal Murray. Indiana likely asked for Gary Harris, but if Murray was off-limits then Harris likely was as well. Emmanuel Mudiay was available but that wasn’t going to get the job done.

Denver likes its roster and what it’s building. While Love could have been an upgrade over Danilo Gallinari‘s role, it wasn’t enough to get them to break up the team to make it happen. And that ultimately has been Cleveland’s challenge in getting a deal done — Love isn’t commanding as much as they hoped on the trade market.

In the same article, Varden has an update on Cleveland’s discussions with Chauncey Billups about becoming the president of basketball operations.

The Cavs are still in discussions with Chauncey Billups to lead Cleveland’s front office after the departure of David Griffin. They’re also remaining active in the trade market, with a host of remaining front-office personnel, including Koby Altman, an assistant GM under Griffin, working the phones.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, speaking on the Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe, said Billups is weighing a lot of things, on and off the court, in making a complex decision. He likes living in Denver (his hometown) as does his family, and with his television schedule, he can be home a lot. On the other hand, he knows the importance and need for more African-American executives in the NBA had how important it could be for him to be in that role. There’s no easy answer for Billups.

The lesson here should be one for Dan Gilbert (and other owners): If you are going to fire a GM right before the draft and the start of free agency, you must have a replacement ready to go. Plan B has to be set. To fire a guy not having that plan, then go searching right before a critical off-season for your team, is how long-struggling teams operate.

Video Breakdown: Cavaliers elevator doors fake out vs. Warriors in Game 4

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The 2017 NBA Finals are over but we just can’t quite move on to the summer without mentioning this play from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Game 4 onslaught from 3-point range.

Yes, the Cavaliers hit a myriad of insane, falling over, lucky shots in their record-setting Game 4 win. But they also had a number of excellent plays drawn up by head coach Tyronn Lue, with one of them coming here in the first quarter.

The thing I love about this play the most is how it combines multiple actions to confuse one of the best defensive teams in the NBA in the Golden State Warriors. Cleveland mixed Floppy action with a sideline elevator doors play, getting both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to overreact to Kyrie Irving.

Meanwhile, the real shooter ended up being one of the elevator doors screeners in Kevin Love.

Cleveland will need to regroup for next season if they hope to take on the Warriors yet again in the NBA finals in 2018. Meanwhile, check out this sweet video breakdown of a play that is straight out genius.

Watch Allen Iverson’s first bucket in Big3 League debut

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The Big3 League came to Brooklyn and put on a show (which you can see broadcast on FS 1 Monday night).

That includes coach Allen Iverson putting on a jersey and playing a little.

He got his first bucket taking a ball saved from going out of bounds, dribbling up to the elbow, and knocking it down. The crowd loved it. Iverson coached/played his team to victory thanks to Andre Owens putting up 20 points and 15 rebounds.