France’s ugly finish (with Batum punching Navarro in groin) costs them in loss to Spain

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After three quarters, this was shaping up to be a classic. And with less than seven minutes to go France led 57-54.

Then the wheels came off for France. Actually, that’s too kind. France crashed and burned. They scored 6 points total in the fourth quarter and went scoreless for more than seven minutes. And then it got worse. France’s poor play degenerated into personal ugliness and a Nicolas Batum punch that probably had David Stern calling to suspend guys until he realized he couldn’t.

In the end, Spain wins 66-59 and advances to a rematch with Russia in the semifinals, the winner of that advancing to the gold medal game. France goes home.

France shot 0-for-11 to end the game (ignoring the meaningless bucket they made as time expired). Spain was down three in the fourth but went on a 12-0 to seal the game, a run in part sparked by a Pau Gasol defensive blocked shot that turned into a fast break and bucket for Sergio Lull that gave Spain a lead they would never relinquish.

Spain picked up their defensive intensity, but France could not create or hit shots they made earlier. They grew frustrated. They could feel the game slowly slipping away (slowly because Spain wasn’t scoring that fast either).

Then the frustration boiled over as France needed to start fouling to extend the game and have a chance.

First was a hard intentional hip check foul by Ronny Turiaf on Rudy Fernandez. That earned Spain free throws that they used to ice the game.

Then came the ugly moment — Portland’s Nicolas Batum came to intentionally foul Juan Carlos Navarro and flat out punched him in the groin. Wound up and punched him. This was way worse than what happened to Carmelo Anthony, this was a six game suspension if he tried it in the NBA. It led to Marc Gasol and other Spanish players coming to defend Navarro and a fight almost broke out.

Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network asked him about it (via twitter):

I asked Nicolas Batum why he hit Juan-Carlos Navarro in the groin. “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop,” Batum said.

David Stern read that and tried to tack on two more games.

Batum went on after the game to accuse Spain of intentionally losing to Brazil in the final game of group play to get France in the first round (and out of the American’s side of the bracket). A few hours later, Batum apologized on twitter:

I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain.

Batum shouldn’t be blaming Spain — France could have won this game and they blew it all by themselves. He can blame himself for shooting 3-for-12 on the night. Overall France shot 33.9 percent for the game and missed a lot of makable looks. France did a good job defensively — they doubled Pau Gasol as soon as he touched the ball and made other guys beat them — but as has been their historic problem France couldn’t score enough.

Marc Gasol had 14 to lead Spain, while his brother Pau had 10 points and 11 boards. Boris Diaw and Tony Parker each had 15 for France, but Parker was so frustrated he shattered his goggles after the game. He really doesn’t like those things.

France had their chances. In the end, they resorted to ugly play. Spain acted like the team that has been there before, so they get a chance to keep playing for a medal.

Watch LeBron James miss a wide open dunk against the Celtics in Game 4 (VIDEO)

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LeBron James did not have a good first half on Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers star had four fouls in the first half, the first time that had ever happened according to ESPN.

Things were not going well for James when he went up for a dunk with nary a defender in front of him and he still wound up being unable to convert the bucket.

This is something you don’t see every day.

Via Twitter:

Of course, thanks to a 23-point quarter by Kyrie Irving the missed dunk didn’t seem to mean much. LeBron’s playoff entry to Shaqtin’ A Fool will be duly noted.

Meanwhile, the Kyrie Irving saved the Cavaliers in Game 4 with a 42-point effort. The Cavaliers beat the Celtics, 112-99, and will have a chance to close the series Thursday night in Boston in Game 5.

Kyrie Irving scores 23 in third quarter, saves Cavaliers in Game 4 win over Celtics

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The Boston Celtics led by as many as 16 points, but Kyrie Irving‘s 23-point third quarter sparked a Cleveland Cavaliers comeback that the visiting squad could never match. With LeBron James struggling early, Irving’s incredible play helped Cleveland grab a win in Game 4, 112-99.

James was the big storyline as the game opened, as the King again struggled with scoring. James got himself into foul trouble hilariously early, racking up his fourth foul in the second quarter. It was the first time in his career that James had four fouls in the first half, and it hamstrung the Cavaliers.

Boston continued their effective play on offense, seemingly less predictable with Isaiah Thomas out with a hip injury. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were the stars for the Celtics, but after an incredible Game 3 performance Marcus Smart failed to deliver.

Irving’s big third quarter was of course the main storyline of the game, with the star guard going nuts on Celtics defenders with a bevy of crossovers, twisting layups, and pull up 3-pointers. He did all this after rolling his ankle, seemingly using the adrenaline to fight off both injury and a series tie at 2-2. Irving’s 23-point quarter fueled a 40-point period for Cleveland, helping them turn the tables and take a 7-point lead going into the fourth.

LeBron seemed to reactivate off Irving’s stellar play, and he wound up scoring 34 points on 15-of-27 shooting, adding six assists, five rebounds, a steal and a block. Irving finished with 42 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range to go along with four assists and three rebounds.

Boston was led by Bradley, who scored 19 points but went just 1-of-7 from 3-point range. Crowder added 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Al Horford dropped 16 points, seven assists, and three rebounds.

Cleveland now has a chance to put us out of our misery and close this series in Boston in Game 5 on Thursday.

If the Cavaliers do close, the big questions that remain will be whether LeBron can perform steadily and if the Cavaliers have what it takes on defense to slow down the Golden State Warriors.

Celtics G Isaiah Thomas visits specialist, surgery undecided

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CLEVELAND (AP) Boston Celtics star guard Isaiah Thomas has visited one hip specialist and plans to see others.

Thomas, who is done for the season with a right hip injury he sustained in March and aggravated in the playoffs, told Celtics coach Brad Stevens that he intends to get “one or two more opinions” before a course of action is set. It’s possible Thomas could undergo surgery on his hip. The Celtics have described Thomas’ condition as a tear in his hip.

Stevens reiterated before Game 4 that Thomas will not play again this season, even if the Celtics push the defending champion Cavaliers beyond five games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Thomas was ruled out for the remainder of the postseason on Saturday, ending his inspiring playoff run following the tragic death of his younger sister.

Stevens said Thomas told him he’s still sore and there is still significant inflammation in his hip.

More AP NBA: http://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

J.R. Smith takes daughter Dakota, born premature, home from NICU for first time (PHOTO)

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith‘s daughter Dakota received some good news on Tuesday. The 5-month-old Dakota had spent her entire life at the NICU at a local hospital, but before the Cavaliers took on the Boston Celtics Smith was able to take Dakota home for the first time.

The news came amid some good news as of late, including Smith and wife Shirley buying flowers for all the NICU mothers for Mother’s Day.

Smith shared the good news with fans on his Instagram.

Via Instagram:

Hopefully this means progress for the Smith family for what no doubt is a tough road ahead.

Cleveland and Boston square off for Game 4 on Tuesday.