The Extra Pass: Changes coming in threes; plus Sunday’s recaps

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If you’ve watched basketball this year and thought at some point, “Man, these teams sure are shooting a lot of threes”, you’re not alone. Firing up shots from behind the arc has become more of a standard practice for most NBA teams (except for good ol’ Memphis) and teams like the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers have taken it to the extreme and shocked the league early on.

Whether or not the success of the Suns and Blazers is sustainable remains to be seen, but their formula will be readily adapted. More and more, we’ll see teams crank up the volume on three-point attempts. Basketball has already changed quite a bit in that regard over the last few years, but we may be in store for even more coming soon:

D.J. Foster

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Warriors 108, Cavaliers 104 (OT): Cleveland scored 64 points by halftime, yet managed just 40 in the second half and overtime session combined. No one beyond Kyrie Irving was consistently effective, and his huge three-pointer that was heavily contested by Klay Thompson was the reason that the Cavs were able to force the extra session. David Lee managed just nine first half minutes (and zero points) due to picking up three early personal fouls, but he finished the game with 19 points before fouling out with 3:31 to play. Stephen Curry finished with 29 points and 11 assists in more than 48 minutes of action, and hit the key step-back long two with 13 seconds remaining to seal it.

Magic 109, Hawks 102: Orlando got this victory by shooting 55.4 percent from the field as a team, dominating in points in the paint by a margin of 20, and seeing seven of its players score in double figures. Arron Afflalo continued to put up All-Star numbers in finishing with a team-high 21 points on 10 shots in just over 42 minutes of action.

Thunder 117, Rockets 86: This was a schedule loss for Houston more than anything else, as the Rockets were playing their fourth game in five nights and were on the second game of a back-to-back set. Considering the previous three were all victories, including one on the road against the Spurs, the team likely won’t be too crushed by this singular result. Kevin Durant was unstoppable, and finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in just over 38 minutes of action. Dwight Howard and James Harden each finished in single digits scoring and combined for 17 points — five less than the Thunder’s Jeremy Lamb managed in 26 minutes for the Thunder off the bench.

Spurs 112, Kings 104: San Antonio needed a 31-17 fourth quarter to pull this one out, and got it thanks to 10 points apiece from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the final frame. The Spurs put together a 16-4 run over the game’s final 4:58 to seal it, negating strong performances from DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 14 rebounds), Rudy Gay (24 poiints, nine rebounds) and Isaiah Thomas (27 points, nine assists) in the process.

76ers 111, Lakers 104: Here is the bottom line — the Sixers have a deeper pool of solid NBA talent to draw from than the Lakers right now. Without Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol or Steve Nash, and with Xavier Henry going out after a knee injury (MRI Monday), the fact is the Lakers just do not have the quality bodies to hang. Los Angeles shot 37 percent and had 22 turnovers on the night. Still, they took a lead in the fourth but a 10-2 Sixers run late sealed the win. Thaddeus Young had 25, Evan Turner 22 for the Sixers.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.