Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks

Sunday NBA grades: Jarrett Jack strikes blow to Knicks playoff hopes

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while eating a $250 hamburger

source:  Jarrett Jack, Cleveland Cavaliers. Earlier on Sunday the Atlanta Hawks had lost and so the Knicks had real motivation at the Garden vs. the Cavaliers — win and NY is just two games back of the last playoff spot in the East. And the Knicks were off to a 17 point lead in the second quarter. Then in then second half Jarrett Jack happened — he had 23 of his 31 points in the second half to spark a Cavaliers comeback (he also had 10 assists). That comeback was aided by the Knicks deciding to take poor shots, but Jack took advantage — he crossed guys up, drained long twos, hit floaters in the lane and got to the basket. He also hit the dagger with 24.7 left — a fade away jumper that was a bad shot most nights but fell because he was just hitting everything.

source:  DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Yes, it still counts if it was against the Bucks. Milwaukee simply had no answer for Cousins on Sunday night — Cousins had 32 points (14-of-19 shooting), 12 rebounds and 4 assists. He was a beast. It should be noted that Isaiah Thomas had 30 points on 13 shots and Rudy Gay had 24 points on 16 shots, the Kings key three showed up big. Still, we’ll give Cousins the big shoutout because when he plays like this you realize just what a big star he could become.

source:  Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets. Joe Johnson is clutch, he is the guy Brooklyn should get the ball late in close games. If you needed a reminder of that he provided against the Mavericks on Sunday night — he had 10 of his team-high 22 points on the night either at the end of the fourth quarter or overtime. When the Nets needed a bucket to get the game to overtime, they gave the rock to Johnson and cleared out.

source:  Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors. Early in the fourth quarter the Hawks had a 14 point lead over the Raptors and seemed in control, then everything shifted — Toronto won the fourth quarter 36-15 in large part thanks to Lowry who had 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the quarter. Lowry finished the game with 25 points. DeMar DeRozan added 10 points and the Hawks helped the Raptors out shooting 6-of-22 in the fourth. Still, Lowry was a beast and the symbol of all the Raptors did right in this one.

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.