Three Things To Watch in Game 5: Can Cleveland keep knocking down its threes?

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OAKLAND — The Cavaliers felt they finally played like themselves in Game 4. The Warriors thought they had an off game that let the Cavaliers get up a head of steam, but they can correct it. Which is it? We find out Monday night, here are three things to watch for in Game 5.

1) Can the Cavaliers knock down threes like that again? On the road? The Cavaliers set a new NBA record hitting 24 threes in Game 4, and doing it on just 45 shots. They were 6-of-9 from the left corner, they were killing it above the break, and particularly when uncontested (as a team the Cavaliers shot 63 percent overall in the game on uncontested looks).

Can they replicate that?

The Cavs believe they can. They said that this is who they are and this is why they play with pace.

The Warriors think they helped Cleveland get rolling.

“Those 24, I would say probably 10 of them were just mental breakdowns and giving them open looks,” Stephen Curry said. “And they’re obviously great three-point shooters. If you give them open looks, they’re capable of making it, and they can make them in furies. So just staying connected to bodies, trying to stay close on screens, on switches, making sure we’re talking and communicating. And the biggest thing is early in the game you can’t let them get going, because they feed off of that.”

“So we saw a lot of things on tape,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Most of the stuff I already mentioned. Not boxing out, not handling one-on-one defense very well, a lot of breakdowns communication-wise. You see all that stuff. And then it’s a lot easier for the team to look at it on film, and you go over your game plan, you remind them of what you’re trying to do, and you go from there.”

I expect a more focused Warriors defense. Cleveland is capable of beating that, but they’re going to be challenged more in this game.

2) Stephen Curry can’t be 4-of-13 overall and 2-of-9 from three.
Kevin Durant was the Warriors MVP through the first three games (so much for that “he’s riding the Warriors’ coattails” to a title, he’s asserted himself) but Curry was right on his heels. In those games, Curry had 28, 31, and 31 points, and shot a combined 14-of-29 from three. His image had taken a hit last Finals, and he was making up for it.

Then in Game 4 he had 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and he was 0-of-5 on uncontested shots.

“They did a good job on him in Game 4,” Kerr said. “We ran a lot of on-ball stuff in the first half, we ran a lot of off-ball stuff in the second half. Hardest thing is playing from behind. No matter what, it’s difficult. We were down 20 right away in the first quarter. And so playing from behind is a difficult proposition, and you start searching for some things. And we were scattered the rest of the game. But there’s some things we can do to free him up, and we’ll try that tomorrow.”

“Well, he’s dangerous, so we just wanted to limit his shots, take the ball out of his hands. And we did a good job of that in Game 4,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. We have to try to do it again in Game 5.”

With Durant — not to mention Klay Thompson — in the fold, Curry doesn’t have to carry the offense, but he’s got to be assertive and have his moments in Game 5. Another poor outing and he will need to pack for a flight to Cleveland.

3) Does anyone get in foul trouble? Which is a kind way of saying. “please basketball gods, let this game be officiated better than the disaster that was Game 4.” The Cavs would have won anyway, but last game the officials were inconsistent, they let the game get away from them, then they tried to reel it back in by calling technicals.

In the wake of that mess, expect the Game 5 officials to call things a little tighter and try to establish a clear line early. Which may not be ideal for a Cleveland team that needs to be physical to throw Golden State off its game. Here is what Kyrie Irving said about what the Cavs need to continue from Game 4.

“Just our physicality,” Irving said. “I thought we brought a physicality to the game. I thought our defensive mindset was really good, and I thought offensively we really played with a pace. We shared the basketball. We moved bodies, and it was very effective for us. So we have to have a carry over to Game 5.”

Will the officials let them? Or will someone, from either team, get in early foul trouble and alter the course of this game?

I just hope we’re not talking about the officiating postgame again.

One reason Markelle Fultz happy to be Sixers over Celtic? Philadelphia has Chick-fil-As

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For about a month, from the day of the NBA Draft Lottery until less than a week before the draft, it was assumed Markelle Fultz would be a Celtic. And he said he was good with that — he’s the No. 1 pick going to a 53-win team that is thinking title contention. That doesn’t happen often.

Then that top pick was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, and suddenly Fultz was going to be paired with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Fultz liked that a lot, and he liked the city a lot.

Why? Because they have Chick-fil-A restaurants. Check out what Fultz wrote in the The Players’ Tribune, an article titled “What’s Up, Philly.” (Hat tip Inceptions at NBA Reddit)

Then (Fultz’s agent) Keith hit me up and said, “New plan. Philly.”

I was just waking up. So I was like, “O.K., cool. Do they have Chick-fil-A there?”

A crispy chicken sandwich for breakfast. It’s kind of like my good luck charm. Keith never got back to me about that important question. So I found out for myself. I googled it immediately.

Philly does have Chick-fil-A. It has six, actually. Seven if you count the one at the airport. Boston has zero Chick-fil-As, for what it’s worth.

Are restaurants becoming a new recruiting tool? “I know you’re thinking of signing in San Antonio, but we have far more Chipotle’s per capita.” “There’s a Cheesecake Factory just down the street from our practice facility.”

I give it four years, max, before Fultz switches to a slightly healthier breakfast choice, at the requestion of Philly’s training staff.

Warriors newbie Jordan Bell gets call from Draymond Green

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jordan Bell knows he will most certainly get an earful from Draymond Green come training camp as a Golden State Warriors rookie.

Green came looking for him on draft night with a FaceTime attempt after acquiring his new teammate’s digits from general manager Bob Myers. But Bell – out with friends celebrating – didn’t answer because the number was unfamiliar.

Bell decided he would text back instead.

“I was like, `Who is this?”‘ Bell recalled Friday, when he was formally introduced and given his new No. 2 Golden State jersey at team headquarters.

“He didn’t reply so I called the number and said, `Who is this?’ Then he was like, `Yo, I FaceTimed you, hang up right now and FaceTime me right back, don’t call me,”‘ Bell said. “I FaceTimed him and he didn’t answer. I was like, all right. I waited like five seconds and I called him back FaceTime and he answered … and we started talking about it. He was like, `Enjoy this night, celebrate, it only happens once, but after this time we have to get back to work, we’re trying to get rings over here.”‘

The NBA champions began the night Thursday without a draft pick but acquired Bell in a trade with the Bulls. The 6-foot-9 forward and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year out of Oregon was the 38th overall selection by Chicago.

Bell had been upset he dropped so far in the draft, then everything changed once the Warriors made a move for him. Green was drafted 35th overall out of Michigan State in 2012 and still has a chip on his shoulder about it. In fact, he can name every team in order and its selection above him that draft year.

“Draymond will be a fun challenge for you,” Myers said. “Draymond texted me as I was driving home and he said, `What the’ and then expletive `is your problem’ to me? So you can fill in the blank. Then he said, `I have to hear about this’ expletive `on the internet, you didn’t’ expletive `tell me about it.’ So I couldn’t text and drive so I called him and I said, `OK, all right, calm down.”‘

Green demanded he be able to talk to Bell, so Myers obliged with the new rookie’s contact info.

Green’s teammates are accustomed to his intensity. He even yells at them from time to time.

“He’s like our team mom in a way,” joked Myers. “He’s the one that you have to kind of get through him.”

 

Rumor: Cavaliers could wait to chase Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony after buyouts

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The first reaction to hearing Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota on draft night was “the Bulls only got what back?”

The second reaction was “does Dwyane Wade still opt in?”

Yes, he does, and as he said there are 24 million reasons to do so. Hard to argue with that logic. Which leads to the next question: Will the Bulls buy him out? Or, more likely, when will the Bulls buy him out?

Carmelo Anthony could be in the same boat. Phil Jackson wants to trade him but Anthony has a no-trade clause. The number of teams willing to give up anything for ‘Melo where he would waive that clause is very, very limited. You might be able to count them on one finger. And that might be generous. So a buyout could be in order.

Which leads to this interesting note from Brian Windhorst, via Marc Stein, of ESPN.

This makes sense for the Cavaliers. They need roster upgrades and they are capped out. They tried to find a deal to move Kevin Love to get space to chase Jimmy Butler or Paul George, but those three team deals never came together in part because of a lack of trade value for Kevin Love. Adding either or both of these two players to the roster for minimum salaries while giving up nothing is a perfect scenario.

Wade, obviously, has played with LeBron. Even though he is not the player he once was, if his knees are rested he is capable of stretches of fantastic play that can help carry a team. He would be another offensive weapon in a deep arsenal of weapons the Cavaliers have stockpiled.

Anthony would be the same in some ways — he remains a strong scorer in isolation (sets the Cavaliers run more than any other team in the league) and he makes difficult shots. The problem would be elite teams — Golden State, Boston, etc. — could expose his defense against the pick-and-roll. Still, he would be an upgrade if nothing is surrendered for him.

There’s a lot of “what if” still to happen before we get to this. However, the idea of one or both of these guys being in Cavaliers uniforms by the start of next playoffs is not out of the question.

Alec Peters’ tearful reaction to being selected what NBA Draft should be about

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The NBA Draft production in Brooklyn is entertainment. It’s glitz. There’s stage with changing graphics. The NBA Commissioner comes out and announces the picks, then guys who have realized for a while now they would fulfill their dream of playing in the NBA come up on stage in their expensive suits, put on a baseball cap from their new team, shake the Commissioner’s hand, and next get interviewed on national television. It all feels rehearsed and staged, with very little feeling genuine.

I prefer how it went for former Valparaiso star Alec Peters better. He was in his hometown, with family and friends, unsure if his name would be called until just before it happened at spot 54 — and he still didn’t believe it until he heard it.

That is authentic.

The Suns are a good place to land for a young man wanting to develop and prove he belongs in the league. Peters is a 6’9″ power forward who shot 36.9 percent from three. Can he develop into a stretch four/pick-and-pop threat? He’s got a high IQ and will need to prove he can hang with NBA bigs, but he’s going to get his chance.

(Hat tip Ball Don’t Lie)