NBA Finals turn feisty

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CLEVELAND – LeBron James famously enters “Zero Dark 23,” a social-media blackout, during the playoffs.

Thankfully, Kyrie Irving doesn’t.

“You hear some chatter going on throughout the Warriors’ locker room in terms of them trying to end it here,” Irving said. “…That adds some extra motivation. And you give us a day in between, and we were ready to come out.

“Social media is everywhere. I mean, social media is just – it raises the bar, especially the attention that goes on with it. So, we see everything. I’ll be sitting up here lying saying that I didn’t see it.”

Said LeBron: “I didn’t hear it, but some of the other guys heard it and told me that that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms, and I think it came from Draymond, which is OK. That’s Dray, anyway.”

Wait until they hear what Draymond Green – who drew a loud reaction when he was seemingly ejected (but actually wasn’t) from the Cavaliers’ Game 4 victory Friday – said in his latest interview.

“I don’t pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland, honestly,” Green said. “Don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.”

Green will have an opportunity not to return this season. This is still a 3-1 series, a historically overwhelming margin – especially with the leading team hosting Game 5.

But there is that one exception in the Finals. And these teams appear to be getting tired of each other entering their 25th matchup in the last three years.

The Cavs are hunting for motivation, and Golden State keeps providing plausible opportunities for them to find it.

Zaza Pachulia punched Iman Shumpert in the nuts and seemed to escape proper punishment. Stephen Curry (again) squatted at mid-court as Steve Kerr or Green picked up a technical.* And Green, at least in the eyes of Cleveland partisans, avoided an ejection he had coming.**

*I legitimately don’t know whether Curry was just stretching, giving his impression of the officiating or anything else. But Richard Jefferson sure appeared to have a reaction to it, and it looked out of place as heated argument was happening above Curry’s head. I asked Curry for an explanation, and he and Durant – rather emphatically – shut me down. Obviously, I still don’t know what Curry was doing. I’m curious Jefferson’s thoughts, though I didn’t get to Cleveland’s locker room tonight to ask him.

**Allowing Green to remain in the game was the right call.

“They aren’t going to punk us. Not me. They’re not about to punk Tristan Thompson,” Tristan Thompson said. “You got the game [expletive] up with that one. You can talk all you want but I’m definitely going to bark back. That’s just how I’m built.

The escalating tension led to one great moment, the best players in the series – Durant and LeBron – jawing with each other for a while.

“You can’t take the emotion out of the game,” Durant said. “We weren’t coming to blows. We were just talking. That’s a part of basketball. The game of basketball created that. The refs didn’t. We didn’t as players. It’s like the aura of the game created trash talk.

“I’m sure it’s going to continue. There’s nothing malicious, or we didn’t say anything malicious. It was just a part of the game. Emotions are what keeps this game alive.”

Durant has acquitted himself well to all this, including not being fazed by Dahntay Jones talking smack to him from the bench. Green might be the Warrior most comfortable in this environment, one that clearly benefited the Cavs overall tonight.

“I love this game. I love you all,” Green said after the loss. “I’m having a great time right now.

“Ain’t no tech going to stop me from being me.”

But what about the rest of Warriors?

“We’ve got to find our edge next game,” Curry said.

Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan fined $15,000 for criticizing referees

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The Raptors lost to the Warriors on Saturday, and DeMar DeRozan – despite his own brilliant performance – was irked.

The Toronto guard seemed particularly upset about a review of an out-of-bounds call in the final seconds. After initially giving the ball to the Raptors, officials said it touched DeRozan while he was out of bounds and granted Golden State possession:

The NBA’s replay guidelines say (emphasis mine): “Referees can only initiate a review on a called out-of-bounds play (for example, not one where an out-of-bounds might have occurred) and only those involving doubt as to which player caused the ball to go out (not those, for example, where a player stepped on the line).”

DeRozan

I mean, it’s frustrating being out there feeling like you playing 5-on-8. It’s just what it feel like, period. Some of them calls was terrible, period.

I thought you couldn’t even do that. I’m not even a referee, and I know that rule. So, somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

The NBA corrected him in the two-minute report, saying “After communicating with the Replay Center, the ruling on the floor of Raptors possession is overturned and the Warriors are awarded possession because the ball touches DeRozan’s (TOR) leg while his body is out of bounds before Curry (GSW) knocks the ball out. Referees were able to review two aspects of this out-of-bounds play since they were part of the same sequence.”

Then, the league fined him.

NBA release:

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan has been fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The comments were made following the Raptors’ 127-125 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, Jan. 13

Saying “5-on-8” seems to be a secret code word for getting fined. I’m not sure whether the rest of DeRozan’s comments would have gotten him fined, but that phrase almost certainly did him in.

Kyle Lowry on plan to meet Ben Simmons after ejections: ‘Put it this way, I was back there’

AP Photo/Rich Schultz
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As Kyle Lowry and Ben Simmons were ejected late in the 76ers’ win over the Raptors yesterday, the players appeared to challenge each other to meet in back.

Lowry eagerly left the court and headed through the tunnel. Simmons appeared much more reluctant at that point.

Despite a report of a confrontation in the hallway, Simmons said nothing escalated, as he went to his locker room.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet

TKO.

Warriors complained of no hot water in showers in Cleveland

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
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The Cavaliers are clearly frustrated.

Did someone in Cleveland take out that frustration on the Warriors after they beat the Cavs last night?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Players were complaining about there being no hot water in the visiting locker room showers. When they walked in, they could be heard screaming in discomfort. Most of the players emerged shivering from taking a quick wash-off.

“Man, they got to do something in ‘The Q.’ Somebody call Bron!” Kevin Durant yelled, referring to LeBron James.

No one seemed angry; the situation was more humorous.

That’s the right approach. Whenever the hot water is out in a visiting locker room, the finger is pointed at the home team for sabotage. Sometimes, heating systems just fail.

Giannis Antetokounmpo assists fastbreak dunk with football-style long snap (video)

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is scoring more in the post, the basketball analogue of football’s trenches.

Apparently, he’s taking the comparison to the next level.

In the Bucks’ win over the Wizards yesterday, Antetokounmpo played the part of a long-snapping center to set up Khris Middleton in transition.

NBC Sports Washington: