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AP

LeBron scores 16 in fourth as Cavaliers outlast Lakers, 119-108

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CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, Kyrie Irving matched a career high with 12 assists and the refreshed Cleveland Cavaliers finally put away Los Angeles in the fourth quarter, beating the young Lakers 119-108 on Saturday night.

Kevin Love had 27 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, leading the Cavs to their sixth win in seven games.

The Cavs were back at full strength after coach Tyronn Lue left James, Love and Irving behind earlier this week for a game in Memphis, a decision that sparked some criticism as fans were denied a chance to see the three stars and Cleveland lost.

Irving looked more like himself in his first game in a week, adding 21 points as the Cavs improved to 19-6.

James, who was late getting onto the floor before the game, scored 26 points and needs two more to pass Moses Malone for eighth place on the career scoring list.

Nick Young made eight 3-pointers and scored a season-high 32 for the Lakers, who snapped an eight-game losing streak on Friday in Philadelphia and were a headache for the defending NBA champions all night.

Jordan Clarkson added 20 points and Los Angeles rookie Brandon Ingram missed a triple-double by one point and an assist.

Channing Frye and James each hit a 3 to help Cleveland to a 95-86 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Lakers refused to give in and were still within 110-105 when James drained another 3-pointer with 2:32 left as Cleveland closed the game on a 10-3 run.

Los Angeles first-year coach Luke Walton wanted his team to “come out swinging. Nobody is expecting us to win.” The Lakers did just that, taking an eight-point lead after one quarter and outworking the Cavs, who weren’t connected on either end of the floor.

Cleveland briefly turned up its defensive intensity to offset its sluggish start, opening the second quarter with a 15-2 run.

The Lakers, though, hung around by making 16 3-pointers and had a chance for an upset before James took over in the fourth.

TIP-INS

Lakers: G D'Angelo Russell was inactive with a sore left knee that has bothered him most of the season. He scored 15 in Friday’s win. … Walton was an assistant with Golden State last season and said he has yet to watch Cleveland’s Game 7 win in the NBA Finals. “You don’t get over losing Game 7,” he said. “You’re happy for the guys here, but it sticks with you for the rest of your life.” … Walton spent two seasons playing with the Cavs, who were rebuilding in 2011-13 after James left for Miami. “I had a blast here. We didn’t win a lot,” he said. “But the fans were great and packed the arena every night. Good memories for me.”

Cavaliers: Cleveland has won five straight over the Lakers. … The Cavs have won 25 of their last 29 at home against Western Conference teams. … Lue said he and general manager David Griffin are still discussing roster options after C Chris “Birdman” Andersen sustained a season-ending – and likely career-ending – knee injury in practice Friday. The Cavs have been looking to add a backup point guard, but may now also be in the market for a big. Lue said the Cavs will miss Andersen’s positive energy. “I love what he stands for,” Lue said.

UP NEXT

Lakers: Continue their six-game trip at Charlotte on Tuesday.

Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Tuesday before hosting the Bucks on Wednesday.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.