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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.