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Tyronn Lue: Appeal of Cavaliers-Warriors III mirrors Lakers-Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — As the sports world salivates while awaiting a seemingly inevitable NBA Finals, Cavaliers coach Tryonn Lue is keeping his undefeated team focused on its next unknown opponent.

And keeping an eye on the Warriors.

“I’m always watching,” Lue said. “I’m watching everybody.”

But maybe that Northern California team a little more.

With both Cleveland and Golden State at 8-0 in these playoffs and on a collision course toward a potential third straight Finals, there has been heated debate about whether Cavaliers-Warriors 3.0 is good for basketball.

It’s the first time two teams have swept through the first two rounds, and with the way the Cavaliers and Warriors are playing, it doesn’t seem to matter who they’ll face once the conference finals get going.

Lue isn’t overlooking Boston or Washington, one of which will play Cleveland next, but he isn’t buying into this notion that a third helping of Cavaliers vs. Warriors is somehow a hoops overindulgence.

“I think a lot of people wanted to see Boston and the Lakers back in the day,” he said. “I think nowadays, a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. And it’s not a problem. Right now, it’s two of the teams playing some of the best basketball. So, two of the teams that have been in back-to-back Finals, so, why not?

“Why not want to see it again?”

Draymond Green has no objection.

“I know as a basketball fan that’s what I’d want to see,” Golden State’s loquacious forward said. “You hear all the talk about it. You know it’s there, but we’ve got four more games to win before we can reach an NBA Finals. … We’ve got to stay locked in and focused on the now. If that happens, it happens. I know we’ve got to take care of our business and I’m sure they think the same way.”

Following two days off after sweeping Toronto in the second round, the Cavaliers got back in the gym on Wednesday to work on some defensive schemes and push through conditioning drills while DJ Steph Floss, who spins records during games at Quicken Loans Arena, filled the facility with thumping music.

It’s the same routine the Cavs have used while going 16-0 in the first two rounds the past two years, so Lue isn’t changing much.

“We’re just sticking to it and I think with the DJ, it just gives them a different look and it gives guys motivation to work out to the music and just something different,” he said. “I don’t know, it’s worked the last couple years for us, so we’re just going to continue to do it.”

Winning has worked as well, and after staggering to the finish line in the regular season, LeBron James and the Cavaliers have taken their game to another level.

James, who will be appearing in his ninth Eastern Conference finals in 14 years next week, has never been better. He’s averaging 34.4 points – up 8.1 over last year – with 9.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists in eight games. The extra rest between series has kept him fresh, and the 32-year-old seems extra motivated following a regular season in which Russell Westbrook and James Harden dominated the MVP conversation because of the triple-double exploits.

James has found another gear in the postseason and Lue believes the Cavaliers are capable of shifting even higher – if that’s possible.

“We definitely can get better,” he said. “We know that.”

The Warriors have been more impressive in rolling over Portland and Utah. In its first postseason with Kevin Durant on board, Golden State is winning by an average of 16.5 points per game – nearly 7 points higher than Cleveland and on pace to be the highest point differential in league history.

From the moment last summer when Durant left Oklahoma City and joined Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Co., it’s been assumed they would cross paths with the Cavaliers this June.

And, as Lue said, what’s so bad about that?

“I think last year (the Finals) had some of the best ratings, I think, in NBA history,” he said. “I think now with them adding Durant and the way they’re playing, the way we’re playing, it can be even higher.”

 

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

AP
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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.