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LeBron James’ 29 points lead Cavs past Hawks, 110-108 in OT

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ATLANTA (AP) — LeBron James had 29 points to pass another Hall of Famer on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and the Cleveland Cavaliers recovered after blowing a big first-half lead to beat the Atlanta Hawks 110-108 in overtime on Friday night.

James had 16 rebounds and nine assists, just missing a triple-double.

The Cavaliers still lead Toronto, which won at Memphis, by 2 1/2 games in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

James moved past Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson into 11th place on the NBA’s scoring list when he scored on a layup late in the third quarter. Atlanta’s Al Horford was called for goaltending on the play.

The basket gave James 26,711 points. He began the night 21 points behind Robertson’s 26,710 points.

The Cavaliers led by 21 points in the second quarter. Atlanta charged back to briefly take the lead in the third quarter. Cleveland led by 11 early in the fourth quarter before Atlanta forced the extra period.

Horford missed a 3-pointer at the end of overtime.

James made one of two free throws to give Cleveland a 105-104 lead. Paul Millsap, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds, missed a short jumper with 25.8 seconds remaining. Kyrie Irving, who had 20 points, made five of six free throws in the final 20 seconds of overtime.

Cleveland snapped a streak of five straight losses in Atlanta over four seasons.

Jeff Teague had 28 points and nine assists for Atlanta, which has lost two straight after winning nine of 10.

James moved past Robertson only one night after passing former Hawks Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins for 12th place.

With the game tied at 96-all late in regulation, James missed an 18-foot jumper, and Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore grabbed the rebound with 4.9 seconds remaining.

The Hawks couldn’t get off a shot. Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert stole the ball from Teague as the fourth quarter ended.

Cleveland took its biggest first-half lead at 55-34 when Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha dribbled the ball off his foot for a turnover, setting up a fast break that ended with a power jam from James.

WELCOME BACK

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue played parts of four seasons with the Hawks from 2004-08. Lue said he received a warm greeting in making his first return to Atlanta since being hired as coach on Jan. 22.

“It feels good to come back and see people who treated you well over the course of your career,” Lue said.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland’s previous win at Atlanta on Nov. 30, 2012. … Kevin Love had 15 points. Thompson had nine points and 14 rebounds. J.R. Smith made four 3s for 12 points. … The teams met for the first time since Nov. 21, when the Cavaliers took a 109-87 home win over the Hawks. They play again at Cleveland on April 11.

Hawks: Atlanta is 0-5 in overtime games this season. … Atlanta-based hip-hop recording artist T.I. performed at halftime. … The Hawks’ 16 turnovers led to 16 points for Cleveland. … Horford had 14 points and nine rebounds. Korver also had 14 points.

 

Report: James Harden, Chris Paul and Gerald Green were holding back Trevor Ariza in back hallway

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Rockets players James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Chris Paul reportedly went through a back hallway to confront Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin in the Clippers’ locker room after last night’s game.

That’s one version of the story, at least.

But it apparently isn’t the only one – at least when it comes to Harden’s, Green’s and Paul’s involvement.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

A hallway runs between the Clippers locker room and the visitors locker room, where players from opposing teams often see each other and catch up. According to a Rockets source, Ariza was waiting on Griffin, and when the game ended he charged from the hallway into the Clips locker room. When Rivers spotted Ariza near the entrance, according to the source, he said: “Let his b—– a– come in.” Ariza then turned his attention to Rivers.

ESPN reported that Ariza was flanked by three teammates—Harden, Paul and Gerald Green—but their purpose was unclear. “They were holding Trevor back,” the source said.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Harden was sitting out his seventh straight game with a strained hamstring on Monday night, and Rockets sources believe that he’ll be ready for a return to the lineup on Thursday night against Minnesota.

Austin Rivers challenging Ariza is juicy, but the type of thing people say during altercations. The rest of this sounds like the Rockets trying to position themselves ahead of the NBA handing down punishments.

If they were just trying to restrain Ariza, then Harden, Paul and Green shouldn’t be fined or suspended. But if Harden is suspended, he could serve his penalty Thursday – even if the Rockets are fibbing about him being ready to play (though they at least previously laid the groundwork for that one).

There’s a lot for the league to untangle.

Russell Westbrook ejected (video)

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Russell Westbrook jumped from fifth to second in the NBA in technical fouls in about two seconds.

The Thunder star received two technical fouls and an automatic ejection late in Oklahoma City’s win over the Kings last night, leaving his nine technical fouls behind only Draymond Green‘s 11.

Westbrook got hit in the face on a drive, but instead of a foul being called on Sacramento, Westbrook was whistled for travelling. That’s quite a turnaround from the expected call to the actual call, so I understand why Westbrook was so upset. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Westbrook said something that warranted ejection. Thunder coach Billy Donovan also got a technical foul in the sequence.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

The league used to crack down on that more with public fines, but the Thunder have skirted the rule this season.

Report: ‘Several prominent’ Cavaliers express concern about aging, defenseless, redundant roster

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The Cavaliers look like they can’t hang with the Warriors, which is troubling enough for a team with championship aspirations.

But for that realization to come during a miserable 2-8 stretch only puts more stress on the Cavs, who already appeared to be ripping at the seems. LeBron James is performativity howling at his teammates. They’re pointing the finger back at him. Coach Tyronn Lue is talking about personal agendas.

And tensions aren’t easing.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, multiple players acknowledged growing discontent and a strong sense of concern that unlike past seasons, the team does not have the capability to fix its problems and get back on a championship track.

Several prominent players, speaking on condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.

The Cavaliers have one preeminent player: LeBron. It’d be disingenuous to frame this article this way without including him, and I doubt McMenamin is doing that.

These concerns are perfectly valid.

Cleveland is the NBA’s oldest team, weighted by playing time, in a decade. That doesn’t bode well for building up steam toward and in a long playoff run. This is an even more extreme version of the problem LeBron’s last Heat team succumbed to.

Isaiah Thomas is a defensive liability, and Kevin Love – playing a lot of center – isn’t a rim protector. Several other players – LeBron, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Jose Calderon, Channing Frye and Derrick Rose – are well past their defensive peaks, which weren’t necessarily high in the first place. The Cavs’ defense ranks 29, ahead of only the Kings.

Wade, Calderon and Rose can’t all serve as lead playmaker while LeBron sits – leaving the other two without clear roles when everyone is healthy. Smith and Korver would both be spot-up 3-point specialists if Smith were hitting shots. Jae Crowder and Jeff Green look similar (a compliment to Green, but a telltale sign of how underwhelming Crowder has been). Frye is a lesser version of Love as a stretch five. Tristan Thompson can’t get going, and Iman Shumpert can’t get healthy.

To be fair, the Cavaliers are 26-17 – hardly bad, but not quite championship-caliber. This portrait of doom and gloom is accurate only when measured against the highest of expectations.

The Cavs can still trade the Nets’ first-round pick to upgrade the roster, though they’re reportedly disinclined to do so. This report sounds like a plea from top players for the team to reconsider. And if owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman don’t, it’ll read as LeBron framing his exit in free agency next summer.

Danny Green tugs down Dennis Schroder’s shorts (video)

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We collectively made a federal case out of J.R. Smith untying shoelaces.

We probably ought to at least question what the heck Danny Green was doing to Dennis Schroder here.

At least Schroder got the last laugh with 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the Hawks’ win over the Spurs.