NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 2: LeBron hulks out inside and rips Thunder to shreds

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For years we’ve asked the question.

“LeBron James is so big and powerful. Why doesn’t he get inside more?”

In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, we found out what happens when he does. James scored 18 of his 32 points in the paint. He scored 20 points on field goal attempts. So on non-free-throws, James scored 18 of 20 in the paint in the Heat’s 100-96 win.

Here’s a look at his shot chart for the game, which shows just how aggressive he was in this game, when the team needed him most down 1-0. This game may honestly have been more impressive than his 45-point explosion vs. Boston. He attacked instead of relying on the jumper, he fought for his points instead of settling. That word is huge. When LeBron James doesn’t settle, he is impossible to defend.

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Yikes.

That’s the kind of LeBron James who can ruin a team’s night, and James did it in Game 2. James realized early on that the Thunder have no one who can contain him inside and he made it a point to drive and jump-stop, drive and jump-stop. He had the array going. Jump hooks, floaters, runners, dunks, and putbacks. It was a brutal array that left the Thunder stunned. The Heat outscored the Thunder 48-32 in points in the paint. James was a monter reason why.

Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant were gifted a jump-shooting James in Game 1, only to find in Game 2 a James engaged and raging in the paint. It was Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk. And when Serge Ibaka blocked James in the first quarter, James turned around and got two driving layups on him, one on a fly-by, another with a pump-fake, putting the brakes on and watching Ibaka Top Gun on by.

The Thunder were caught in a bad situation. Switch and put a big on him, he bursts past. Put a wing defender on him in isolation, and he muscles inside. But more than that is this. James isn’t settling anymore. He took one bad shot late going for the dagger. But when his team needed him to make plays, he put on his hard hat and went to the paint. This is bad for the Thunder, bad for the league, bad for anyone up against him.

You can survive James when he’s doing the all-around game. But a LeBron James motivated and engaged in creating shots close to the rim, with that kind of athletic set?

That’s the stuff of nightmares. And it’s the stuff of a tied series going back to Miami.

Bulls claim PG Kay Felder off waivers

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The Bulls’ point-guard position is a quagmire.

Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne are both injured (and not necessarily good). Jerian Grant is maybe an adequate backup pressed into starting. Ryan Arcidiacono is on a two-way contract.

Enter Kay Felder.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived forward Jarell Eddie and center Diamond Stone, and claimed guard Kay Felder off waivers.

Felder was waived by the Hawks, who acquired him in a salary-dump trade from the Cavaliers. Cleveland drafted Felder No. 54 last year, but ran out of roster spots this year.

Felder is only a moderate prospect. He impressed in the D-League, but at 5-foot-9, he has significant limitations. (His size also makes him incredibly fun to watch when he gets rolling.)

For Chicago, he’s a quite-noteworthy addition.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.