Kevin Durant is still right to pick Luis Scola as the MVP of the World Championships

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I don’t know that there’s a good player response to questions about individual accolades, but typically, a player’s answer to that kind of prompting is used to construct or enhance the public representation of a player’s personality. They can convey arrogance or humility, hunger or passivity, appreciation or entitlement.

Or really, they’re just semi-canned responses to questions that top players know they’ll be asked at some point or another. So unsurprisingly, Kevin Durant’s answer, when asked on Wednesday about the possibility of being the MVP of the tournament, was self-deprecating and in-line with everything we think we know about the Durantula. From Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse:

“I doubt it,” said Durant about getting a spot on the team. “A lot of guys are doing better than I am. I’m just trying to go out there and win.”

Don’t think for a minute Durant believes he has a chance to be the Most Valuable Player even if his Americans win gold Sunday.

“He’s the best,” Durant said of Argentina forward Luis Scola, averaging 30.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in the event. “He’s had a hell of a tournament. MVP by far in this tournament. Win or lose, he has to be MVP because he’s putting on a show. He carried (Argentina on Tuesday with) 37 points. He’s tough to cover for anybody.”

Then again, maybe it isn’t self-deprecation at all. Durant’s 33-point outing today against Russia was one of the best showings in the tournament thus far, but it still doesn’t vault KD over the top of the MVP discussion. As of right now, Scola has just seven points and finds his team down 20 to an underdog Lithuania squad…yet he remains the easy pick for tournament MVP.

Five 30+ point performances in seven games, each with 57% shooting from the field or better. 195 points on 125 shot attempts. Gaudy rebounding totals.

Durant may be the top player on the tournament favorites, but Scola has been in a class of his own throughout. Durant obviously isn’t asked to shoulder quite as much of his team’s production, given Team USA’s superior depth. Yet in assessing which player is more worthy of MVP honors (not that KD isn’t a fine choice, as well), that’s hardly a decision-altering asterisk. Both players have led quality teams, but Scola’s production and performance have been off-the-charts, while Durant’s have been merely remarkable.

Heat players past, present throw support behind David Fizdale heading to Memphis

David Fizdale
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The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.

It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.

Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.

Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.

Watch Kevin Love drop 25 points on Toronto

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Before Game 5, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue told Kevin Love just to stay aggressive. Channing Frye told him the same thing.

Love took that advice to heart. From the opening tip of Game 5, Love was attacking — backing down the overmatched Luis Scola and knocking down threes. Love had 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 25, helping spark an easy, 38-point Cavaliers win in Game 5.

Now, can Love do this on the road in Game 6?

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.