NBA playoffs: Celtics crash Cavs' Game 2 MVP party, send series back to Boston tied 1-1

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There have been more embarrassing games by a number one overall seed at home after having their franchise player win the MVP.

Well, one at least.

But the performance by the Cleveland Cavaliers was so pathetic, and that of the Boston Celtics so dominant, this one is likely to leave a lingering stench in the Q until the Cavas head back for Game 5, no matter the series count.

Two days after a game where the Cavs looked like they could handle the best punch the Celtics could throw at them, the Celtics landed a a series of blows in Game 2 that knocked the Cavs to the same position they were in after the first half of Game 1 and instead of slacking off, proceeded to heymaker them into the ground in front of a homecrowd. All this just minutes after LeBron James received the MVP from Commissioner David Stern. The final score was 104-86, but it felt much wider.

The blueprint? Pretty simple, really. Lockdown Mo Williams and force him into the same awkward pull-up transition jumpers he nailed in Game 1, only with a hand in his face, constantly hammer and deny LeBron James, crash the glass, and have Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen lead the way.

Rondo didn’t “Olajuwon” James’ “Robinson” but it was an outright domination to be sure. Rondo finished with 19 assists, to go with 13 points and 2 steals. You even got the trademark ball-fake-and-soft-lay-in move which he faked both Anderson Varejao and Anthony Parker out with. He was everywhere, forcing the ball up quickly on every possession, and making huge plays at every point.

The Cavs did make a 15-0 run late to get back into it, but at that point the lead was simply too much and Boston responded with an 11-3 run to nail the coffin shut. Two missed threes between the four and five minute mark of the fourth kept the lead enough.

LeBron James’ elbow will be discussed at length in the next three days, but let’s be clear. James’ pedestrian performance (24 points, 7 rebounds, 10 of 15 from the line) was the product of a sound defensive strategy from the Celtics which worked hard to simply deny the ball to his side, then hammer him when he went inside, and largely forced him out of the action.

Meanwhile, Mo Williams crashed back to Earth and the crater he left is big enough to contain his ego. Without Williams and with Shaq continuing to struggle, the Cavs had no option. Antawn Jamison had a good game, but not a great game.

The Celtics played with championship defense and the Cavs played with a discerning lack of urgency for the second game in a row. So now we have a 1-1 series headed back to Boston. This isn’t over. The Cavs will have answers to some adjustments most likely, and James is unlikely to have consecutive bad games. But if the Cavs thought they were immune to the failure they suffered last year, they’re likely now staring it in the face in the locker room.

Game 3 is Friday in Boston.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.

Tyronn Lue imitates LeBron James’ criticism of reporter (video)

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After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.

Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.

Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.

In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.

Tony Bradley becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade

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North Carolina hasn’t had a one-and-done player in eight years.

Since Brandan Wright declared for the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, the Tar Heels have emphasized player development over multiple years. That practice has yielded two national titles, including this year’s, in that span.

It also limited freshman center Tony Bradley’s playing time this season, as he was stuck behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

But Bradley shined enough in 15 minutes per game to follow Wright as one-and-done from Chapel Hill.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Bradley is a borderline first-round pick, though this late decision when many expected him to return to school indicates he believes he’ll go in the first round. There’s certainly logic in turning pro before scouts pick apart his game over a larger sample.

Bradley is huge – 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan – but he’s not explosive. The hope is someone in the Rudy Gobert mold.

Whomever drafts Bradley will hope his elite offensive rebounding is a harbinger. But why is his defensive rebounding and rim protection so forgettable?

He moves and passes fairly well for his size, but considering he’s so big, those aren’t necessarily skills for him to hang his hat on. If a teammate sets him up, he uses his size to finish well at the rim.

Beyond his size and offensive rebounding, Bradley doesn’t set himself apart one way or the other. Whether that’s good or bad depends how deep in the draft it is.