Douglas
AP

Love, LeBron lead Cavaliers past Gasol-less Grizzlies 103-86

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CLEVELAND (AP) Kevin Love scored 29 points, J.R. Smith found his aim – for one half – and LeBron James added 23 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fifth straight, 103-86 on Tuesday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis rested center Marc Gasol for the first of back-to-back games against the defending NBA champions.

Smith, who has been in a season-long shooting slump, scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half as the Cavs, who gave star point guard Kyrie Irving the night off, built a 22-point lead and ended the Grizzlies’ six-game winning streak.

Zach Randolph replaced Gasol in the starting lineup and scored 18 points to lead the Grizzlies. The reigning Western Conference player of the week, Gasol is expected to play Wednesday in Memphis to complete a brutal three-game stretch for the Grizzlies, who beat Golden State by 21 on Saturday.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said after the game that James, Love and Irving will not travel for the game Wednesday. Cleveland will start Smith, DeAndre Liggins, Iman Shumpert, James Jones and Tristan Thompson.

Smith came in shooting a career-low 31 percent from the field and 32 percent on 3s, the lowest mark since his rookie season with New Orleans in 2004. He also has been slowed by a sore left knee, which he hyperextended last week, causing him to miss two games.

Smith got it going early, dropping four 3-pointers in the first half. His fourth put the Cavs ahead 56-34, and he was 6 of 8 at halftime. He missed his first six shots in the third quarter and finished 8 of 17 – 6 of 10 on 3s.

Cleveland seemed disinterested after halftime and Memphis managed to stay within striking distance, but the Grizzlies didn’t have enough firepower without Gasol and Mike Conley, who is expected to miss another month with a back injury.

The Grizzlies were still within eight when James scored on a layup and hit a cutting Love for an easy bucket to make it 90-74 with 5:11 left.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: G/F Vince Carter returned after missing seven games with a right hip flexor strain. He played 18 minutes. … Memphis coach David Fizdale was an assistant in Miami the four years James was with the Heat. “He coached me more than I coached him,” said Fizdale, who got a big hug from James before the opening tip. “You’re talking about a one percentile guy when it comes to basketball intelligence. I think I learned more from him than he learned from me.”… Memphis is 12-0 this season in games decided by five points or less.

Cavaliers: James needs 28 points to pass Moses Malone (27,409) for eighth place on the career scoring list. … In Saturday’s win over Charlotte, James became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 to score 44 points and get 10 assists, nine rebounds and shoot 70 percent. … With his 3-pointer in the first, Love became the fifth active player with 800 career 3s and 6,000 rebounds. James, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are the others. … Channing Frye was back after missing two games for his father’s funeral. … Smith passed Dale Ellis (1,719) for 14th on the career 3-pointer list.

UP NEXT

Grizzlies: After facing the Cavs again, Memphis hosts Sacramento on Friday.

Cavaliers: Cleveland’s next home game is Saturday against the Lakers.

Watch DeMarcus Cousins’ historic 44/24/10 night

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The last time somebody did this — scored more than 40 points, had more than 20 rebounds, and dished out more than 10 assists in a game — “Poseidon Adventure” was in the theaters and Elton John had just released “Rocket Man.” It was Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was still playing in Milwaukee.

Monday night, DeMarcus Cousins did it.

Cousins scored 44 points, had 24 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in the Pelicans’ double OT win against Chicago. These were not meaningless points, Cousins picked up seven of them in the second overtime.

Cousins has had a monster first half of the season and earned his first All-Star Game start this year.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.