LeBron James, Cavaliers hold off Suns 120-116

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PHOENIX (AP) — LeBron James scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers fought off Phoenix down the stretch to beat the Suns 120-116 on Sunday night.

Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Kevin Love 25 for the Cavaliers. They led by as many as 22 in the first half and 20 early in the third quarter.

The Suns tied it late in the third and got within one in the fourth but never took the lead.

Eric Bledsoe scored 31 points and Devin Booker had 28 for the Suns.

James sank consecutive 3-pointers, his only 3s of the game, to give Cleveland a 115-109 lead with 2:46 to play and scored on a driving layup with 44 seconds left to make it 120-114.

The young Suns got their running game going to outscore Cleveland 25-7 and Tyson Chandler‘s inside basket cut the Cav’ lead to 84-82 with 3:31 left in the third quarter.

Phoenix tied it twice before the quarter ended, the last at 90 when Booker banked in an 8-footer with 11.2 seconds left, but Irving sank a 3 at the buzzer and Cleveland led entering the fourth 93-90.

The Sun got within one three times early in the final quarter, the last at 98-97 on Booker’s left-handed drive with 9:37 left. After Phoenix rookie Dragan Bender missed a 3, Irving sank one, then added an acrobatic driving layup to put the Cavaliers up 104-98 with 7:38 left.

The Suns still were down only 109-107 after Marquese Chriss made one of two free throws with 4:28 to play but James sank his first three to boost it to 112-107. Bledsoe’s layup cut it to 112-109, and James sank his second 3 to make it a six-point game. Phoenix never got closer than four after that.

NOT YET

Kyle Korver, acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, joined his new Cleveland teammates Sunday afternoon but couldn’t play because physicals and paperwork still had to be completed to finalize the deal that sent Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams a protected first-round pick and cash considerations to the Hawks.

Korver could make his Cleveland debut Tuesday night at Utah.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: James became the 14th player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career field goals. … Cleveland scored 21 points off 11 Phoenix turnovers in the first half.

Suns: The 69 points matched the most allowed by Phoenix in the first half this season. … Phoenix had won two in a row. The Suns have not won three in a row all season. … Phoenix is 8-5 against the Eastern Conference. … Olympic swim champion Michael Phelps sat next to Suns owner Robert Sarver at courtside.

 

Report: Derrick Rose leaning toward Cavaliers over Lakers

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Derrick Rose met with the Lakers.

Now, it’s the Cavaliers’ turn.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Free-agent guard Derrick Rose is meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers officials in Ohio on Monday, league sources told ESPN.

Rose met with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, but has been leaning toward the Cavaliers opportunity, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers can offer more (the $4,328,000 room exception) than the Cavs are reportedly offering ($2,116,955 minimum contract), but Rose might be eying a starting spot in Cleveland. That comes with complications for both sides.

Just because Kyrie Irving requested a trade doesn’t mean the Cavaliers will trade him. He’s still locked into his contract for two more years, and amid concern of his trade value slipping due to his request leaking, they might just hold him.

Rose’s creaky outside shooting makes him a poor fit with LeBron James. Rose would be an upgrade off the bench, especially as a shot creator while LeBron and Irving are off the floor. But he’s almost certain to underwhelm as a starter.

I doubt that’s how Rose views it, though. The Cavs offer a better path to starting with Irving on the trade block and the Lakers committed to developing Lonzo Ball. One year starting for a prominent team could put Rose right back in the free agent market, in line to receive the contract he believes he deserves. He’d also be playing for a far better team in the interim.

But, if he signs with Cleveland and the Lakers put the full room exception on the table, there’s a good chance, a year from now, he regrets not guaranteeing himself an extra couple million dollars.

Video Breakdown: What is a slot screen and how do NBA teams use it?

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The slot screen just might be one of the most common plays in the NBA when it comes to the pick-and-roll, but can you identify it?

Before we talk about what a slot screen is, we have to define what the slot is when it comes to an NBA basketball court. In simple terms, the “slot” is the area between the elbows and extended above the 3-point line. If you talk to an NBA coach, they would tell you that this area of the floor is referred to as “the slot.”

It stands to reason then that the slot screen is simply a screen that happens within this area of the floor.

So why would you want to know what a slot screen is?

One reason might be to better understand how Your favorite player operates in screens on different parts of the floor. While some players may be a very good at dealing with the pick-and-roll in space and in the slot, they could be comprably worse in Pistol action or in Get action.

Watch the full video breakdown above to see how the slot screen works in an NBA offense.

Eric Bledsoe on Phoenix: “I love everything about it. At the same time I want to win.”

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Ever since news leaked — however it leaked — that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland, Eric Bledsoe‘s name has come up in rumors. A lot. In part because Bledsoe is friends with LeBron James. In part because if Bledsoe went to Cleveland (as part of a package deal), it would give the Cavaliers guy who could play well next to LeBron, and while Bledsoe is no Irving he is a better defender. Bledsoe’s name has come up in a direct trade and as part of a potential three-way deal (none of which is close to happening right now).

Bledsoe has spent the past four seasons in Phoenix and has put down some roots. Does he want to move on? He talked about that and the rumors with Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

Then there’s the question of whether Bledsoe wants to remain in Phoenix. He has embraced the Valley, saying, “I love everything about it.” But as he told azcentral sports Sunday, “At the same time I want to win.”

At 27, Bledsoe doesn’t fit into the Suns’ youth movement, or #timeline, as it’s been coined on social media. He said he “definitely feels” like an old man among his teammates. Then there was this response when asked what he thought of the Suns’ offseason:

“We got Josh Jackson. James Jones (in the front office). But for the most part, I don’t care,” he said. “Whatever team we have at training I’m going to play my heart out for. I just control what I can control. Getting better every time I step onto the floor.”

That was the professional non-answer.

No doubt Bledsoe enjoys the Valley of the Sun, but give him a chance to chase a ring in Cleveland and he’s in. Maybe Irving is done playing with LeBron and going to the Finals, but Bledsoe would love to be in his shoes for a year.

Whether or not it’s Cleveland, expect Bledsoe to be moved by the next trade deadline. He a very reasonable two-years, $29.5 million left on his contract, was playing his best basketball last season before the Suns shut him down (while healthy), he doesn’t fit with the Suns’ youth direction, and a number of teams could use him.

Report: Kyrie Irving’s top choice for trade is Spurs

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade, reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations – Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. But those teams aren’t all equal to Irving.

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:

One league source told ZAGSBLOG that the Knicks were not Irving’s preferred destination, and that San Antonio was atop his list.

Irving is locked up for two more years and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Where he’d re-sign in 2019 and his agent’s agitating could play small parts in which teams offer the most for him, but he has minimal control of where he goes.

Still, San Antonio is an interesting first choice.

Irving reportedly wants to escape LeBron James‘ shadow and lead his own team. But Kawhi Leonard is far better than Irving and already has Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich’s trust. Leonard has even turned himself into a 25-point-per-game scorer and MVP runner-up. So, even though the biggest difference between Leonard and Irving is defense (an oft-overlooked area), Leonard still shines in ways that get noticed.

So, why does Irving want to join San Antonio?

Maybe he underestimates Leonard. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so. See Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Maybe Irving has a sliding scale of priorities. Sure, he’d like preeminence on a team, but maybe he’d relinquish that to join Leonard and Popovich. At least the reserved Leonard would cede the spotlight to Irving as much as possible (which LeBron would never do), and Popovich is more respected than Tyronn Lue.

But back to reality: The Spurs lack assets beyond Leonard to trade for Irving – Aldridge would be a horrid fit with LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and San Antonio’s first-round picks are always in the low 20s – and the Cavs control where Irving goes. It’s very hard to see Irving landing in San Antonio.