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Game 2 deja vu: Cavaliers race out to big lead early, get 39 from LeBron, rout Raptors

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The Cavaliers raced out to 19-9 start and were an offensive force early — they hit their first eight shots from three and shot 71 percent as a team in the first quarter, which earned them an offensive rating of 148 (points per 100 possessions). Toronto was missing shots and those were becoming transition buckets for the Cavaliers going the other way.

Cleveland also played focused defense, like trapping DeMar DeRozan hard and forcing him into a 2-of-11 shooting night with five points for the game. Meanwhile, LeBron James was getting whatever he wanted on his way to 39 points on 10-of-14 shooting, attacking the rim and getting to the line 21 times. All of this led to Cleveland being up 62-48 at halftime, which was identical to the halftime score of Game 1.

The rest of the game felt like Game 1, too, as the Cavaliers cruised to a 125-103 win where most of the fourth quarter was garbage time.

Cleveland now leads the series 2-0 as it heads to Toronto for Game 3 on Friday night.

“We’re not a complacent team,” LeBron said postgame, which might run counter to some of the malaise we saw from the team during the regular season, but this is the playoffs and the Cavs have looked sharper this series. “We know that their home court can be very dangerous, we found that out last year, we had a 2-0 lead and dropped two in a row on their floor, so we’ve got to learn from that experience and get better going into this year.”

After watching the first two games, it’s hard to see how Toronto makes a serious comeback without a lot of help from Cleveland. Yes, this is what happened a year ago — two blowout wins by the Cavaliers at home, then Toronto won on their home court — but that series never really felt in doubt either. Toronto has to defend better and that’s in the paint, at the arc, and in their rotations. Everything has to be crisper and at a new level to win a game at home.

“We should be embarrassed, we should be angry, we should be pissed off, mad,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame.

The Cavs offense has been spectacular — Cleveland had 18 threes in the game, but a lot of those were fairly well contested — and their defense is improved this round.

The Cavaliers are taking what the defense gives them, and that was getting inside and getting fouled in Game 2 (LeBron had more free throw attempts, 21, than the entire Raptors team, 19, which speaks far more to aggressiveness than officiating).

This game also saw LeBron pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second on the all-time playoff points scored list.

For the Raptors, DeRozan has to get going at home Friday. He is 9-of-27 shooting through two games, and he is too crucial to their offense not to have him making a bigger impact.

“No, we can’t. To be honest with you, we can’t (win if DeRozan doesn’t get his usual number of points),” Casey said. “They’re into him, bodying him, and he’s got to vault up and make his shots, I’ve got to do a better job of getting him open looks.”

Casey tried to shake things up starting Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell again, going smaller, but it didn’t have a huge impact. Toronto did get a boost from Jonas Valanciunas is punishing the Cavs second unit inside — at one point he had 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting, and he finished the game with 23 points. However, his inability to guard on the perimeter allowed to the Cavaliers get some buckets as well, there was a tradeoff.

There just aren’t a lot of good answers for the Raptors if LeBron is on his game and the Cavaliers care about defense. That’s what happened through two games in Cleveland, we’ll see if the dynamic changes in Toronto.

 

Here’s LeBron James scoring the 30,000th point of his career (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is officially the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points in an NBA career.

The Cleveland Cavaliers great, who preemptively congratulated himself in a weird Instagram post earlier in the day, got points 30,000 and 30,001 at the age of 33 years and 24 days, edging Kobe Bryant by a year and 80 days.

The play came with just a second to go in the first quarter while the Cavaliers played on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

Dribbling on the left arc against Danny Green — a formidable defender — LeBron gave a hesitation dribble before stepping just inside the 3-point line for a pull-up jumper.

Via Twitter:

LeBron still has Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Where he ends up might just depend on how long Nowitzki plays.

Top five 2018 All-Star Game snubs

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We fans love to talk about who gets snubbed. There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and we argue about who was 69th and deserved to be there.

With the NBA All-Star game, there are always legitimate snubs — and with the Western Conference so ridiculously deep this season good players were going to get left out. Just picking my reserve choices for a podcast felt brutal.

We now know the All-Star Game starters and reserves, so who got snubbed. Here are the top five.

1) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has been devastated by injuries this season (not to mention losing Chris Paul in the off-season) yet they are still in the playoff hunt in the West and the main reason is Lou Williams. The leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5,3 assists a night, and is shooting better than 40 percent from three. He had a red-hot January so far, averaging 29.2 points per game. This may be a case where Damian Lillard got the nod from the coaches for his multi-year body of work (he’s been good a long time), but Williams is having his best season ever and has a great case.

2) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets. He likely didn’t get selected because he has missed 17 games this season — but Stephen Curry missed 15 and is a captain. When CP3 has played he’s been brilliant, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, he’s been crucial to improving the Rockets defense this season, and when he is on the court the Rockets outscore opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are 23-5 when he plays. Houston is the second best team in the NBA, they should have more than one representative tonight.

3) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons. The coaches went with four guards for the East reserves, and that left just three frontcourt spots and four deserving players. Drummond is the odd-man out. Which sucks — he is averaging 14.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and he remains the best rebounder in the game today pulling down 15 a night. He has improved his defensive play as well, but what everyone notices is he hitting his free throws (62.9 percent) and that means Stan Van Gundy can play him at the end of games and not sub him out.

Drummond was more than a little frustrated he didn’t make the cut.

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has played well on both ends this season next to Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from three on one end of the floor, and defensively he is averaging 4.4 deflections per game and has 93 steals — both tops in the league. George is a four-time All-Star and it feels weird to see him left out, but he came to the ridiculously deep Western Conference and good players were not going to make it. He’s the odd man out in the frontcourt.

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets. Could have got a lot of directions here – Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic can make their cases on appeal — but people have been sleeping on just how well Walker has been playing this season. Walker is averaging an efficient 21.8 points per game, dishing out 5.9 assists per night, and when he is on the court the Hornets outscore teams by 5.1 points per 100 possessions (that’s better than the Celtics or Timberwolves net ratings for the season). The problem is when he sits they fall apart, and Walker pays the price for his team struggling this season. His name has popped up in trade rumors, and he is the best guy available right now (not that he gets moved in a tight market). Walker was an All-Star last season and had a very strong case to be one again.

Lou Williams, Andre Drummond are #madonline about All-Star snubs

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Lou Williams is having a career year. He’s done everything for the ailing Los Angeles Clippers, who have turned things around and are battling for the No. 8 seed in the West.

Likewise, Andre Drummond is having a statistically important year for the Detroit Pistons as he leads the league in rebounding and in defensive box plus/minus.

Needless to say, both of them had a strong case to make the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. The only problem is that neither of them did.

That had both Williams and Drummond speaking their minds on Twitter on Tuesday, letting fans know what they thought about their snubs.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

Via Twitter:

Who should have been left off the East and West teams in voting, respectively, to make room for Williams and Drummond? No doubt this will be some topic of discussion for years to come as both players use it as fuel for the rest of the season.

All-Star reserves announced, Kristaps Porzingis, Damian Lillard make cut

Associated Press
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Last week the All-Star Game starters were announced, and a few players felt burned by the selections.

Now the reserves have been announced, and the real snubs happen.

As a reminder, the NBA is trying to inject some life into this staid event by having LeBron James and Stephen Curry — the top vote-getters in each conference by the fans — named captains who will pick the All-Star teams. Playground style. Just one after the other, whoever they want from either conference (but not televised… boo), first from the pool of other starters selected by fans, media, and current players, then from the list of reserves selected by the coaches (those coaches had to choose two backcourt players, three frontcourt players and two wild-cards for each conference). Curry and LeBron can pick anyone — if Lebron wants to choose James Harden, he can.

Here are who the coaches chose to round out the rosters:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Russell Westbrook
Klay Thompson
Damian Lillard
Jimmy Butler
LaMarcus Aldridge
Draymond Green
Karl-Anthony Towns

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Kyle Lowry
Victor Oladipo
John Wall
Bradley Beal
Kristaps Porzingis
Al Horford
Kevin Love

The Warriors become the first team to have four All-Stars in consecutive years.

There are four first-time All-Stars in there: Towns, Beal, Oladipo, and Porzingis.

So who got snubbed? The West was so deep there was just no way to get all the deserving guys in, but the biggest snubs are the Clippers’ Lou Williams (he has carried that team), Chris Paul of the Rockets (probably due to missed time), and the Thunder’s Paul George. Out East Andre Drummond was just off the board, as were Goran Dragic and Ben Simmons.

Just as a reminder, the starters are, from the West, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins; and from the East Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid.

The All-Star Game is Feb. 18 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.