Cavaliers overwhelm Celtics in Game 1

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Celtics fans cheered wildly.

Their team had just cut the deficit to 17 to end the third quarter.

The Cavaliers dominated quickly and then were up-and-down in extended garbage time of a 117-104 win at Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Cleveland led by double digits the final three quarters and by 20 for nearly half the game.

Cavs-Warriors III in the Finals has never felt more inevitable, both teams remaining undefeated in these playoffs. The Spurs’ chances of upsetting Golden State nearly ran out when Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and Boston’s bid to topple the Cavaliers didn’t get off the ground in Game 1.

The Celtics stayed home on Cleveland’s 3-point shooters, so the Cavaliers – particularly LeBron James (38 points on 14-of-24 shooting, nine rebounds and seven assists) – feasted inside. Tristan Thompson (20 points on 7-for-7 shooting with six offensive rebounds) crashed the offensive glass relentlessly, and his final line doesn’t reveal the true scope of the pressure he put on Boston’s defense. The Cavs shot 28-for-35 from the free-throw line to 10-for-18 to the Celtics, a disparity that reflects the difference in paint play.

Kevin Love (32 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-9 on 3-pointers, with 12 rebounds) was the only Cavalier who consistently got loose on the perimeter, completing a dominant frontcourt performance.

Al Horford (11 points on 4-of-11 shooting) was off yet again against the Cavaliers, a continuation of his Hawks days, until the game got out of hand. Jae Crowder (21 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Avery Bradley (21 points) had their moments, but the Celtics looked completely overmatched – and it’s unclear where they go from here.

Boston, which cycled through several defenders on LeBron, could send more help to the Cleveland star. But LeBron has become so good at picking apart defenses with his passing. Maybe the Celtics will shoot better on 3-pointers (12-for-38, 32% tonight), but that’s still not necessarily enough to keep up with the Cavs’ dominant offense. Jaylen Brown (10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds and Boston’s most passable defense on LeBron) was a breath of fresh air, and Gerald Green (11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, +11) shined late. But what will those two do when the game is more contested?

It’s foolish to write off the Celtics after only one game, but this result met every fear of an unwatchable series.

Boston’s answer to LeBron might have come yesterday – which means help won’t arrive until it’s too late for this year.

Heat re-sign Udonis Haslem

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In 2002, not a single team drafted Udonis Haslem.

For the last 15 years, the Heat haven’t been able to quit him.

Heat:

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Haslem isn’t receiving another $4 million windfall like he got last year. He’ll earn $2,328,652 – $1,471,382 paid by the Heat and $857,270 covered by the league (as is done on one-year minimum deals for veterans). An NBA contract, even for the minimum, might be enough of a reward at this point.

To whatever extent Haslem still has a position – he has played just 390 minutes in the last two years – he’s probably a center. The Heat have Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and maybe A.J. Hammons ahead of him. But this isn’t about getting the 37-year-old Haslem on the court, at least not beyond rare spot minutes, where can still be useful as a defender and rebounder.

The Heat want Haslem’s toughness and veteran leadership. He reinforces their culture, and that might be worth a roster spot.

Report: Bulls, agent discussed Derrick Rose returning to Chicago

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Derrick Rose meeting with the Clippers barely registered. He has to meet with the Bucks twice before most noticed.

But it seems Rose and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, have finally figured out how to drum up attention – leak interest from more prominent teams like the LeBron James-led, championship-contending Cavaliers and big-market, widely followed Lakers.

What team could generate even more buzz?

The Bulls!

Sam Amick of USA Today:

If the talks went beyond Armstrong asking the Bulls whether they would sign Rose and the Bulls declining, I’d be surprised.

There’s probably a part of Rose that wants to return to his native Chicago, but it seems his former team has long moved on.

Report: Derrick Rose meeting with Lakers

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Derrick Rose is suddenly in demand – once the market was set at a minimum salary or so.

Not only are the Cavaliers pursuing the former MVP/overhyped role player, so are the Lakers.

ESPN:

Rose is also meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Chris Haynes and Ramona Shelburne. The Lakers are trying to entice Rose to sign with them, suggesting they can offer more playing time and money in a better environment after Rose’s tumultuous season in New York, sources said.

Rose’s tumultuous season was due in part to Rose. No matter where he signs, he can’t escape himself. And Los Angeles is even further from his native Chicago.

But the Lakers can offer more money. They still have the $4,328,000 room exception. Rose would earn just $2,116,955 on a minimum salary from Cleveland, and the Cavs can bump that offer to only about $2.5 million. (That’d come with exponential additional costs, so they probably wouldn’t do that, anyway.)

The Lakers can also offer a larger role. Lonzo Ball can’t play every minute at point guard, and Rose would fill in the rest. They’ll likely add a point guard, Rose or not. The Cavaliers might be set with Kyrie Irving, Jose Calderon and Kay Felder if they don’t get Rose.

I’m not sure how Rose would work as a veteran mentor, especially on a one-year contract as he eyes a bigger payday next summer. But – say whatever else you want about him, and there’s plenty to say – Rose has remained impressively focused on basketball amid untold chaos. Ball – with outsized attention given LaVar and his media market – can probably relate.

Rockets re-signing Bobby Brown, Troy Williams

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James Harden spearheaded the Rockets’ recruitment of Chris Paul, but the MVP runner-up didn’t work alone.

Paul’s former New Orleans teammates Trevor Ariza and Bobby Brown added appeal.

So, unsurprisingly, with Paul in a contract year, Houston is re-signing Brown. The Rockets are also re-signing Troy Williams.

Alykhan Bijani‏ of ESPN Houston:

Williams’ agency:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Brown is an undersized gunner who’s not nearly efficient enough to compensate for his defensive deficiencies, and he turns 33 before the season. But if he helps convince Paul to re-sign, it would be well worth keeping Brown on the roster all year.

The 22-year-old Williams, who went undrafted last year, is the far more intriguing player. A 6-foot-7 forward, he has the athleticism to stick in the NBA. His 3-point shot needs major development – though not quite as much if he becomes more adept at being a small-ball four, an easier task in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system.