Associated Press

Iman Shumpert sparks Cavaliers after J.R. Smith hurts hamstring in Game 2

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Iman Shumpert went from odd-man out to go-to guy in just two games.

Cleveland’s enigmatic shooting guard never even peeled off his warmups off in the series opener against Indiana, exiled to coach Tyronn Lue’s bench as a high-salaried cheerleader.

This was Shumpert’s playoff nightmare, and the demotion stung as he had never sat out a game before in his six-year career when healthy and in uniform.

On Monday night, Shumpert got a reprieve and made the most of it.

Needed to start the second half after J.R. Smith‘s left hamstring tightened up, Shumpert provided scoring, defensive pressure on Paul George and some attitude as Cleveland survived another late rally by Indiana for a 117-111 win to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference series.

“What I saw was a true professional,” LeBron James said of Shumpert, whose struggles late in the regular season led to his Game 1 benching. “We needed it. We needed that energy from him.”

The Cavs, who got 89 points from their Big 3 of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Game 2, may need more from Shumpert if Smith’s injury lingers. Smith wasn’t happy the Cavs’ medical staff kept him out of the game and vowed he’d be ready for Game 3 on Thursday night in Indianapolis.

“If they let me play, I’ll play,” he said. “My leg ain’t broke.”

Cleveland didn’t practice on Tuesday, choosing the first of two days off before Thursday’s Game 3 at Indianapolis for rest and treatment.

Smith was visibly upset at the team’s decision to sit him in the second half. He emerged from the locker room after his teammates and immediately took a seat on the baseline floor. Guard Deron Williams briefly spoke to Smith, who has struggled with consistency after missing three months following surgery for a broken right thumb.

If Smith can’t go in Game 3, the Cavs will likely start Shumpert, who did a nice job harassing George during the third quarter when the Cavs took control and opened a 19-point lead.

Shumpert picked up a foul guarding George in his first 30 seconds on the floor before knocking down a 3-pointer from the corner, forcing Indiana coach Nate McMillan to call time. On his way back to the bench, Shumpert stomped past teammates with a look of defiance. He may have still been fuming at being left out of the rotation in the opener, but he was taking out his frustration on the Pacers.

Later in the quarter, Shumpert forced a jump ball when he tied up George near the sideline and then sneered at Indiana’s star forward. He finished with five points in 20 minutes, but his contributions went way beyond the box score.

“Shump was unbelievable,” Lue said. “Just staying ready, being professional. He came in and made it tough on Paul George. We held Paul George to four points in that third quarter where our defense was really good. Shump sparked that, made a couple shots for us also. Just his energy defensively, made a couple shots, his tenacity it was really good for us. We needed that spark.”

Maybe that spark will ignite a larger fire in the defending champions, who allowed a big lead in the fourth quarter to nearly disappear again before finishing off the Pacers.

If nothing else, Shumpert’s performance was a reminder that depth is crucial in the playoffs, things can change quickly because of injuries and benches often shrink in crunch time.

It wasn’t long ago that Shumpert was starting, but a poor stretch from mid-March until the final regular season game damaged Lue’s confidence in him. To his credit, Shumpert didn’t hang his head, knowing that there might be a time when he was needed.

It arrived and he delivered.

“He’s been great on the bench, cheering guys on, keeping guys motivated and when it was his turn to play, he stepped up and played well,” Lue said. “That’s what we need from Shump.”


Referees misattribute comment to Dwane Casey, incorrectly eject Raptors coach (VIDEO)

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Things sort of fell apart at the end of Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It all started with about a minute left in the game when Serge Ibaka tackled Steven Adams.

No, really.

As Paul George finished the second of two free throws, Ibaka and Adams began to battle for the possible rebound. Adams gave Ibaka the slip off the lane line, and as a recovery move Ibaka tackled his former teammate on the baseline.

Via Twitter:

Then, with 30 seconds left and a chance to tie, DeMar DeRozan drove the lane and missed a shot near the rim while being defended by Corey Brewer.

DeRozan felt he was fouled, and quickly let the officials know about it. The Raptors star could be seen going after ref Marc Davis. Shortly thereafter, DeRozan was given a technical foul.

Via Twitter:

But it didn’t stop there.

A few seconds later, as the game wound down, DeRozan went after the referees again. He was given a second technical, and ejected along with teammate Serge Ibaka.

Then came Raptors coach Dwane Casey.

With fans in the Air Canada Centre chanting at referees, and with tensions high, the officiating crew mistakenly attributed a comment made by a fan or someone else on the Toronto bench to Casey. They decided to eject Casey with just eight seconds left, despite the coach not being the person who actually spoke to the referees.

Kyle Lowry couldn’t believe it, and even Brewer had a good laugh about that one.

The NBA is going to have some explaining to do on that one. Officiating is still under fire in the NBA, with New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry being the most recent coach to go off about the grey shirts.

I’m going to set a few alarms for when they release the L2M report Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Thunder beat the Raptors, 132-125.

Oh, and the referees had to leave the floor in Toronto with a security detail.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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