Kyrie Irving, Avery Bradley

Three Stars of the Night: A couple All-Stars and an Ilyasova

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Sometimes you watch a game and a certain player just jumps off the screen at you. These were the three who did that for me on Tuesday. And yes, I know that Kyrie Irving has not yet been named an All-Star, but I think that changes Thursday. He’s going to get Doc Rivers vote.

Third Star: Ersan Ilyasova (27 points, 16 rebounds)

Ilyasova is one of those players you don’t hear or think much about, then your team plays the Bucks and you turn to a buddy midway through the third quarter and say, “I wish we had a guy like that.” In this game he knocked down a couple threes and was putting up points, but where he did the real damage was on the offensive glass, where he had seven offensive rebounds. He may have had the dagger shot in this game with his tip in off missed free throw. He had his way with the Philly front line.

Second Star: Kevin Durant (32 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists)

After a pretty “meh” first half (by his standards) Durant looked like an MVP in the final 24 minutes — 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, 5-of-5 from three, five assists. The best scorer walking the planet was feeling it and just carved up the Clipper defense. There was nothing the Clippers could do. Every time he got just a sliver of daylight it became two points.

First Star: Kyrie Irving (40 points, 5 assists)

Irving has the full arsenal of shots and he seemed determined to show them all to Celtics. He knocked down threes, pulled up for midrange jumpers, and drove to the rim where he hit every kind of contested layup. Irving had 19 first quarter points to help the Cavaliers off to a fast start, but it was his play in the fourth quarter that was most impressive. With just under a minute to go he had a fantastic end-to-end drive for a twisting layup late. Then with 22 seconds left he got an isolation set against Rajon Rondo, blew him and drew a foul for the game-clinching and-1. He was the best player on the court and the Cavs won because of him.

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.