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Three Things to Know: Toronto looks dangerous, Cleveland disinterested

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Raptors look like team that can go deep in the postseason. The Cavaliers want to be woken up when the playoffs start. No Kyle Lowry. No Serge Ibaka. But the Toronto Raptors had a secret weapon for their nationally televised game Thursday night — Cleveland’s defense.

The Cavaliers don’t care about the regular season — LeBron James called them a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” team during the 82-game marathon — and it shows with a 3-7 record in their last 10 and a defense that is dead last in the NBA during that stretch. This could be the Cavaliers worst game of the season, and the offense was not going to cover up the defense in this one. Isaiah Thomas looked rusty as he missed his first 11 shots, finishing 2-of-15 with four points. Kevin Love was 2-of-8 on the night. J.R. Smith hasn’t made a shot in two games (0-of-12). As a team, the Cavaliers shot 6-of-26 from three (23.1 percent). LeBron James played well and tried yelling at his teammates to snap them out of their funk, but id didn’t work.

This game and the bad habits the Cavaliers are developing are exactly why plenty of people around the league think Cleveland is vulnerable.

It’s not just the Cavaliers are bad — the Raptors are good. Legitimately good. They are top five in offense and defense in the league this season and they unleashed all their strengths on the listless Cavs. The Raptors pounded the Cavaliers inside with their size, and their depth led to Toronto winning the battle of the bench 76-48. The Raptors had a defensive rating for the night of 95.9, and an offensive rating of 129.5. Everything was going so well Fred VanVleet had 22 points.

There are no statement games in January, but for the Raptors this is a good confidence boost.

2) Boston comes from 22 down in London to beat Sixers. The NBA’s annual sojourn to London did not slow down the Celtics’ winning streak, now at seven games.

The Sixers got off to a fast start and led by 22 in the first half, but the Celtics owned the second half and picked up a 114-103 win. The stats tell the story: Philladephia shot 54.7 percent in the first 24 minutes and 36.6 percent in the second 24. Boston cranked up their defense after the half, and that fueled their offense — the Celtics shot 61.9 percent in the second half. Ridiculous. But this was more than just shots falling, Boston’s effort was there in the second half, while the Sixers looked like they just wanted to get to the pub.

Kyrie Irving led the way in the second half and finished with 20 points and seven assists.

3) NBA blows opportunity, will not televise All-Star Game Draft. The NBA All-Star Game itself is a listless affair. All-Star Saturday is a blast, the weekend-long circus around the game is entertaining, but the actual on-the-court product has great players taking turns scoring against non-existent defense. It’s not entertaining, and sport should be that at least. This season the NBA came up with a good way to inject a little fun into the game — have the top vote getters be captains and pick the teams in a draft of every All-Star, playground style. As of today’s vote, Stephen Curry and LeBron James would take turns picking teams.

Except the league is blowing it because they are doing the draft in private. The teams will just be announced, we will not know the draft order or anything else.

Where is the fun in that?

“Yes, it would be more fun if we had that kind of draft…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on NBA TV. “I think there was a sense from the players that it put them in an impossible position, where they’re picking one player over another – in part, not because they necessarily think that player is better than another player, maybe because they have a personal relationship with the player, or they think that player would be a better complement to the players, and that, invariably, if they just did it as a pure draft, guys would say, Oh, I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player.”

Yes, you can. We want to have that “I can’t believe such and such was selected before that player” debate. This is an entire business and league selling entertainment — why put one of the most entertaining parts behind a curtain? We want to see how the sausage is made. One of the reasons we love the NBA is the interpersonal drama, and this would bring plenty of it — would LeBron James pick Kyrie Irving? Would Curry team up Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant again? Who ends up with a chip on their shoulder because they were picked last?

Who wouldn’t watch the All-Star Draft? Will some player have hurt feelings? Maybe, but he’s an All-Star, he’ll get over it.

This was a chance to put some real drama into the All-Star Game, but the NBA went halfway with its idea.

Enes Kanter’s teammate told him “You’re about to get 50 dropped on you” after LeBron troll

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Enes Kanter likes to inject himself in situations he doesn’t belong in.

The New York Knicks forward likes to take aim at the biggest star in the game, LeBron James, and has said in the past that he would fight LeBron if he had to.

Some previous comments from LeBron riled up members of the Knicks organization, and there’s been animosity between the two sides ever since.

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Kanter had something to say on Twitter about his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, dropping 148 points during a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Heck, even former Cavaliers coach David Blatt jumped in on that one, albeit immediately before his own team got 151 scored on them.

Kanter took to Twitter, using LeBron’s own catchphrase against him:

Of course, that’s probably not the best idea. Kanter is a role player and LeBron is one of the best who ever played. Even if the Cavaliers are stinking it up lately, you can’t go after the King like that. You just might miss.

Via ESPN:

“One texted [teammate] me just to say — I’m not going to say who — but he texted me ‘You’re about to get 50 dropped on you, boy.'” Kanter said before Sunday’s matinee against the Los Angeles Lakers. “I responded something back, but I’m not going to say what it is.”

Kanter added that he’s just “having fun” and wanting to put “a smile on people’s face” with his constant prodding.

We’ll see if he ends up smiling the next time Cleveland and New York meet on April 9 at MSG.

David Blatt’s troll on the Cavaliers backfires when opponent scores 151 (VIDEO)

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David Blatt, perhaps sensing his time to pounce as rumors swirl around Tyronn Lue’s departure, decided to troll the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. It did not go so well.

Blatt, who was fired from the head coaching spot in Cleveland in 2015, now heads Darüşşafaka S.K. in the Turkish Super League. Coaching Team Europe vs. Team Asia in the Turkish BSL All-Star Game, Blatt joked during a TV interview that he was just hoping his team didn’t give up as many points as the Cavaliers did to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. That game ended with a score of 148-124.

Via Twitter:

So what happened to Blatt’s Team Europe in the All-Star Game?

According to Erik Gundersen over at LeBron Wire, Team Europe promptly got rolled on with a tally of … 151 points.

The final total in the Turkish All-Star matchup was 151-142 in favor of Team Asia.

Oops.

Salah Mejri threatened to come to Blazers locker room after Jusuf Nurkic tussle

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The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks had a game of many emotions on Saturday night at Moda Center. Of course, the game wasn’t that close — Portland led by 17 at the half and finished the game by beating Dallas, 117-108.

But as we’ve seen in the NBA recently, the propensity for NBA players to get into physical spats is high. So it was no surprise that we saw yet another scrum between NBA players on the east side of the Willamette on Saturday as Dallas’ Salah Mejri got tangled up with Jusuf Nurkic and Evan Turner.

The play began with Nurkic getting a clean block on Mejri. Because of the position of the two players, Nurkic’s arm was angled as such that after the block it came clean through to rest on Mejri’s shoulder. Mejri turned, and the whole thing became a tangle of arms and elbows.

Neither Mejri or Nurkic took kindly to that, so the two squared off. Nurkic gave Mejri an ineffectual little push, while Portland’s Evan Turner jumped in to hold Mejri back. The Mavericks center promptly flopped all the way to the ground, inexplicably grabbing his face. It was Premier League-level flopping from Mejri, just top notch stuff.

Via NBC Sports Northwest:

After the game, Turner told media that Mejri threatened to come get the Blazers.

“He’s like ‘I’ll come to the locker room!'” said Turner. “Out of a 225 lb. dude [Turner] a 275 lb. dude [Nurkic] and a 7-footer [Mejri] who hit the ground?”

Portland’s CJ McCollum didn’t seem too impressed with the threat.

“If they really want to fight, they know where to find people,” said McCollum.

Much like any arena, the visiting locker room is just down the hall from the home squad at Moda Center, so it would have been easy for Mejri to get to. Nothing happened, so it turned out as an empty threat.

Meanwhile, Turner was assessed a technical foul for the tussle — presumably for “pushing” Mejri. There was notable tension the rest of the game between Mejri, Nurkic, and the crowd at Moda Center, but nothing else of consequence happened.

LeBron James: “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs”

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Cleveland’s defense was pathetic Saturday and the Thunder routed them because of it. The Cavaliers gave up 148 points, allowed the Thunder to shoot 58 percent, and basically were little more than traffic cones for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the rest of the Thunder to dribble and pass around. The Cavaliers have lost 8-of-11 and coach Tyronn Lue’s seat is getting warm.

Can the Cavaliers even get out of the East? LeBron James wasn’t even asking that question after the Saturday loss, he wants his team to get to the conference finals first. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Playoffs? We can’t even start thinking about that, not the way we’re playing right now,” James said. “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven’t even began thinking about the postseason.”

It’s January, it’s far too early to write LeBron and the Cavaliers off — his teams have won the East for seven straight seasons in a row for a reason. Cleveland’s mid-season malaise is a thing and they snap out of it, Isaiah Thomas will find his legs and play better, but this season has shown some troubling structural flaws in the Cavaliers. Ones that could bite them in the playoffs. Ones they are active in the trade market trying to address, or at least shore up a little.

Nobody around the league is comfortable picking against a LeBron team in the East — he has been to seven straight Finals for a reason (and how impressive an achievement that is gets overlooked). But this seems to be the weakest LeBron team since he bolted Cleveland (the first time?), and a second-round matchup vs. Toronto is no gimme anymore. LeBron is right to be concerned.