Houston Rockets Media Day

Friday And-1 Links: James Harden sued for allegedly punching a Lakers fan

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. 

• James Harden is being sued for allegedly punching a Lakers fan. First off, I know how annoying Lakers fans can be but you still can’t just haul off and slug them. It’s the law. Anyway, his alleged incident happened outside an LA nightclub when the Harden was in an SUV, rolled down the window to greet fans, the heckler says he yelled that Kobe owned him, so Harden punched the guy. There were no criminal charges, just a lawsuit from the alleged victim. Take this with a whole lot of salt, who knows what the reality is.

How little Div. III liberal arts school Pomona College came to rule the NBA — that is where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and Grizzlies GM Jason Levien are from. So is Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard who wrote this story. So is my wife, who found me this story… but that’s not why I’m running it. Well, not the only reason. It’s a really good story.

Great bit of work by Tom Haberstroh at ESPN — while Andrea Bargnani’s shooting numbers are not terrible, the team’s defensive numbers and really just about every measurable stat falls off the chart when he is in the game. That includes Carmelo Anthony’s shooting — when Bargs is off the court Anthony shoots as well as he did last year.

• If you haven’t heard Brian Shaw tell the story of the car accident that changed his life, you need to.

• How the Memphis Grizzlies got their grit and grind back, via Sam Amick at the USA Today.

• There may soon be a new basketball league out there, made up of recently retired NBA players.

• Jerry West, in praise of Oscar Robertson.

• Danny Green loves snakes.

• Leandro Barbosa has signed to play in his native Brazil, but his deal does have an NBA out.

• Former players union head Billy Hunter used to invest union money with a company called Prim Capital, the owner of said company has now pled guilt to defrauding the union.

• The NBA is now partnered with Diageo — the makers of Ciroc and Crown Royal — for a sponsorship deal. So expect to see a lot more of those brands’ ads during games (among other places).

• The NBA is working in Nigeria with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, as well as Africare and ExxonMobil, to create a program called “Power Forward” — a youth engagement initiative that will use basketball to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria. Sounds like a good cause, I hope it finds success.

• If you ever wanted to own socks with images of Allen Iverson, Dominique Wilkins, Shawn Kemp, or  Anfernee Hardaway/Shaquille O’Neal on them, well, just follow this link.

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.