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Lakers’ D-League affiliate targeting Bob MacKinnon as coach

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A couple of big moves were reported late Friday night. The bigger one was probably Greg Oden to the Miami Heat, but ESPN’s Dave McMenamin had a scoop of his own at almost exactly the same time as the Oden news: the Los Angeles D-Fenders are targeting Bob MacKinnon to be their next head coach.

Okay, so that might not make quite as much of a wave in the basketball world, but the Los Angeles Lakers paying attention to their NBA Development League team could end up being pretty important if they struggle early on this year or don’t reload with a few stars next summer. And the fact that they’ve decided to target MacKinnon, one of the more intriguing coaches at the D-League level, shows that they’re looking to develop a fun, winning culture.

MacKinnon coached the Springfield Armor for the past two seasons, but more famously was the coach of the 2009 D-League champion Colorado 14ers when he compiled a run-and-gun roster that averaged 118.9 points per game thanks to a pace of 104.5 possessions each outing. Run-and-gun, then, is obviously what he preferred to play before having to run the Brooklyn Nets offense in Springfield. With the Lakers’ affiliate team, though, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to go back to the D-League version of Mike D’Antoni Seven Seconds or Less offense he ran with the Phoenix Suns.

D’Antoni got away from running and gunning with last year’s Lakers lineup, but he’s said he’ll get back to his playbook this year. If MacKinnon is allowed to do something similar with the D-League squad, he’ll not only be helping them get ready for a call-up to the Lakers, but also give the players opportunities to get noticed around the rest of the league as well. The best part of a lot of possessions in the D-League though, as MacKinnon’s preached for awhile, is that players fighting for limited opportunities are less likely to worry about their minutes.

“The great thing about basketball is that it’s a player’s game,” MacKinnon said. “When I got the job last year, I figured ‘What’s most important to the players?’ The most important things are minutes and numbers. Points, rebounds, assists, that kind of thing. As a coach I thought, ‘What can I do to take some of their concerns away and make it more about winning?’ I thought if we could get our possessions up, the way that we play will be determined more by possessions than by minutes. If we get our possessions up, the numbers will take care of themselves.”

If the D-Fenders do end up hiring MacKinnon, he’ll technically be taking over for Mark Madsen. Madsen didn’t actually ever coach the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, however, because he was promoted to the Lakers’ as an assistant shortly after accepting the Development League gig.

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.