Dominican Republic v United States

Damian Lillard first in line as Team USA injury replacement

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Team USA began building its World Cup roster with a player pool full of All-NBA talent, but steadily, the squad lost much of that star power.

Blake Griffin withdrew. So did Kevin Love. Paul George got hurt. Kevin Durant pulled out, too.

And Damian Lillard got cut.

Unlike with Griffin, Love, George and Durant, Team USA made the call to drop Lillard. For whatever reason, Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski didn’t deem Lillard worthy.

But the door isn’t completely shut on the Trail Blazers guard who made the All-NBA third team last season.

Chris Haynes of CSN Northwest:

Prior to being left off of the final 12-man roster last week, the Portland Trail Blazers’ All-Star point guard was informed that there could be a possibility he’d be added to the roster if one of their players, in particular Derrick Rose who has been dealing with knee soreness, were unable or opted not to continue the journey, a league source told CSNNW.com.

Lillard expressed to Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball, his desire to be a part of Team USA in Spain and said he would rejoin the team if his services are indeed needed, the source said.

“It’s something we did discuss with Damian,” Colangelo confirmed to CSNNW.com via telephone. “We’ll see what happens.”

There isn’t much time left to add Lillard. Teams must submit final rosters tomorrow, and Rose insists he’s healthy. What will change between now and tomorrow?

Because the Americans – with Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond – went deeper at center than most expected, Lillard could even fill-in if a big man gets hurt. The roster balance would just tilt more toward the perimeter. Cousins dealt with an injury earlier in the summer, but he says he’s fine, and Krzyzewski seems to agree. Again, it’s difficult to see a last-minute change here either.

The odds seem extremely stacked against Lillard going to Spain, but I guess it’s nice for him to know he was No. 13. That’s some level of appreciation, and it might make him more willing to try out for the 2016 Olympic team rather than become disgruntled with the process.

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.