LeBron James’ teams have been atypically resilient. Will these Cavaliers?


Since LeBron James entered the NBA, teams that lost Game 1 on the road have won the series just 17% of the time.

LeBron’s teams have won in such situations 50% of the time – including, of course, last year’s NBA Finals.

The Cavaliers again face that deficit after dropping Game 1 of the Finals to the Warriors last night. Will LeBron again rally his team from a 1-0 hole without home-court advantage?

His history in such situations:

Series Team Opponent Game 1 Result
2017 NBA Finals Cavaliers Warriors 113-91 ?
2016 NBA Finals Cavaliers Warriors 104-89 Won in 7
2015 NBA Finals Cavaliers Warriors 108-100 Lost in 6
2014 NBA Finals Heat Spurs 110-95 Lost in 5
2014 conference finals Heat Pacers 107-96 Won in 6
2012 NBA Finals Heat Thunder 105-94 Won in 5
2011 conference finals Heat Bulls 103-82 Won in 5
2008 second round Cavaliers Celtics 76-72 Lost in 7
2007 NBA Finals Cavaliers Spurs 85-76 Lost in 4
2007 conference finals Cavaliers Pistons 79-76 Won in 6
2006 second round Cavaliers Pistons 113-86 Lost in 7

That’s an incredible record. LeBron has even overcome a Game 1 pounding similar to the 22-point beat-down Golden State laid on Cleveland yesterday, winning four straight over the Bulls after losing Game 1 by 21 in 2011. He also pushed the Pistons to seven games in 2006 after losing Game 1 by 27.

But this feels different.

LeBron was the best player in most of those series, and his teams’ turnarounds revolved around that fact. But Kevin Durant was the best player in Game 1, and the way the Warriors flustered LeBron offensively and exposed him defensively, Durant might remain the best player on the floor. Just three years removed from winning MVP, Durant sets a high bar.

In some of those series, LeBron’s team was superior but didn’t care enough about the regular season to secure home-court advantage. That’s not the case against the Kevin Durant-Stephen CurryDraymond GreenKlay Thompson Warriors. The 51-win Cavs wouldn’t have caught 67-win Golden State if they tried.

But Warriors were probably superior to the Cavaliers last year, and LeBron still made it happen. So, maybe he can inspire another comeback this year.

He’ll have to play better. His teammates will have to play better. It’s asking a lot.

At least the past provides reason for confidence.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.