Asked after Game 1 how Danny Green had progressed since they played together for the Cavaliers, LeBron James responded, “Is that a serious question?”
You can bet LeBron will get more questions now about his former Cleveland teammate, and now he’ll know they’re serious.
Green shot 5-for-5 on 3-pointers and 6-for-6 overall to lead the Spurs with 17 points during their 103-84 loss to the Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. He set an NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made without a miss in a single game, besting the 4-for-4 marks of Paul Pierce (2008) and Scott Wedman (1985). Green also tied Robert Horry’s franchise record with five 3-pointers made in a Finals game.
Tony Parker assisted three of Green’s 3s, and Kawhi Leonard assisted another in transition. But this wasn’t just a limited role player standing in the corner waiting for his teammates to make plays for him. Green also made a 3-pointer off the dribble while running a pick-and-roll, and he even blocked a LeBron shot.
Green and Parker are the only two Spurs to score double digits in both Finals games. Not bad for a player the Spurs cut twice because he didn’t bring consistent effort.
By leading San Antonio in scoring, Green joined even more elite company. In the last four years, onlyLeBron, Parker,Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jason Terry,Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen,Kevin Garnettand Pau Gasol had led a team in scoring during the Finals before tonight.
Green – a second-round pick in 2009 and a small piece of the Cavaliers teams LeBron deemed not good enough – didn’t help his new team best his old teammate, but he sure delivered a game to remember.
Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.
The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.
But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.
Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”
“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”
What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.
“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”
The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.
Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.
So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.
But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.
The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.
The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.
Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.
Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.
Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.
After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.
In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.
And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.