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J.R. Smith said when things got bad he considered asking Tyronn Lue to sit him

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Tuesday night against OKC, J.R. Smith looked like the dangerous wing shooter and player the Cavaliers had back when they won an NBA title in 2016. Smith was 6-of-9 from three for 18 points and made some key plays in Cleveland’s fourth straight win, second with the new-look roster.

However, Smith is legendarily streaky with his shot and during some of the dark days with the Cavaliers — you know, like a couple of weeks ago — Smith’s shot was not falling, and he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin he considered asking Tyronn Lue to sit him.

“There were times when I wanted to go to [Lue] and be like, ‘Listen, man, I’m not playing well. Why not take me out?'” said Smith, who in 14 games this season has scored three points or fewer. “Fortunately, I didn’t and just stuck with it. I’ve known T-Lue since my rookie year. Our relationship is based on communication — how he communicates with me, how I communicate with him. He’s been really consistent at that.”

Lue is loyal and sticks with the players he trusts and the schemes he likes. To a fault sometimes, but loyalty can have its rewards.

Smith has figured out how to play next to LeBron, which is why he fits better on the first unit. Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson can play with LeBron, but they also have their own chemistry which can generate some good looks without LeBron facilitating. Put Rodney Hood and Kyle Korver next to Clarkson and Nance and you have a second unit that at the start of the fourth pulled away from Oklahoma City in a way the starters could not.

Smith is going to be a key figure in however deep the Cavaliers go in the playoffs this season.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.