Kevin Love

Victor Oladipo, Pacers end Cavaliers 13-game winning streak

4 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Victor Oladipo had 33 points and eight rebounds and the Indiana Pacers beat Cleveland 106-102 on Friday night to end the Cavaliers’ winning streak at 13 games.

Indiana has won three straight, nine of 12 and is the first team to beat the Cavaliers twice this season.

LeBron James had 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for Cleveland, and Kevin Love added 20 points. The Cavs lost for the first time since Nov. 9 at Houston. They had won seven straight on the road.

The teams went toe to toe all night, trading jabs, leads and momentum swings. But Indiana’s closing flurry finally stopped Cleveland.

The Pacers used an 11-2 run late in the third quarter to retake the lead and Cleveland never regained the upper hand. It sure wasn’t easy, though.

Cleveland trailed 93-86 with 9:43 to play and fought fiercely to extend the streak. The Cavs got as close as 96-95 on J.R. Smith‘s 3-pointer with 2:48 left.

But Bojan Bogdanovic answered with a 3, Oladipo made one of two free throws and hit down another 3 to extend the lead it 103-97 with 1:01 left.

The Cavs again made it a one-possession on Smith’s 3 with 10 seconds to go.

This time, Corey Joseph made two free throws, Love missed a 3, and Myles Turner grabbed the rebound to seal the win.

 

Three Things to Know: Cavaliers, Celtics just keep on winning

Associated Press
7 Comments

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) Cavaliers win streak up to 10, while Celtics knock off Sixers. This is the NBA: We get excited about teams that are better than we expected (Pistons) or worse (Thunder) but in the end, things tend to play to form. Going into the season we thought that Cleveland and Boston would be the top two teams in the East, and as we head into December that looks to be the case (with all due respect to upstart Detroit, still technically second in the standings, but come the playoffs they will not hang with the other two).

On top are the Boston Celtics, who handled another upstart team in the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Kyrie Irving had 36 points on 21 shots, and as a team shot 41.4 percent from three. Al Horford had another strong night with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, plus had eight rebounds and five assists — Irving is the guy Boston fans are pushing for MVP (he’s on the second tier in that chase right now at best, sorry) but Horford may be the most valuable to this team. His ability to pop out off a pick opens up the Celtic offense and gives Irving and the other Celtics room to operate.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers pushed their win streak to 10 games, handling the struggling Hawks 121-114. Kevin Love had 25 points and 16 rebounds, LeBron James had 24 points, 12 assists, six boards, and a few highlight plays of his own. The key for this streak — and for the Cavaliers return to prominence — is they are playing defense again, allowing 101.9 points per 100 possessions during the streak (sixth best in the NBA in that time). It was their last in the league defense that held them back early, but Cleveland has turned that around.

It’s going to be Boston and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. Just as expected. And now the season is following form.

2) Nicola Jokic’s ankle injury doesn’t seem to be that bad…*knocking on wood*. For the second day in a row, the league has dodged a bullet on a serious ankle injury to a young star. Wednesday it was the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who is day-to-day with an ankle sprain.

Thursday night it was Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who went down when he stepped on Jerian Grant‘s foot, and it looked bad.

Fortunately, this appears to be just a sprain — X-rays were negative — and nothing more.

Jokic may miss a little time, he is day-to-day also, but it doesn’t appear to be as serious as first feared. Which is good for us fans.

3) With Jokic out, Will Barton drained game-winner to lift Nuggets past Bulls. A thrilling end to the game in Denver, where Kris Dunn made a difficult driving layup that put the Nuggets up, then Will Barton came to the other end and just drove right through a scattered Bulls defense. Robin Lopez helped at the rim, but Barton made the difficult shot for the win.

Denver will need more plays like that until Jokic returns.

Report: NBA executives expect 76ers to pursue LeBron James in free agency

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
25 Comments

In 2010, LeBron James left the Cavaliers’ weak supporting cast to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat.

In 2014, LeBron left declining Wade and Bosh to play with younger stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland.

Could LeBron make another proactive move next summer – specifically to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with the 76ers?

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

executives around the league believe Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo will attempt to sign James.

Do these executives know something we don’t, or are they just connecting dots? The possibility of the former makes this intriguing.

Philadelphia can relatively easily carve out max cap space next summer. Any team with so much room would want LeBron, though determination to chase him will vary. Some teams will bow out, not wanting to waste their time. Others – maybe including the 76ers? – will make harder pushes.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have both publicly emphasized that winning should be LeBron’s priority. There’s a case Philadelphia with LeBron would win more than Cleveland with LeBron.

The 76ers are overloaded with assets – Embiid, Simmons, Markelle Fultz (whatever you make of him at this point), Robert Covington, Dario Saric, several other young and an extra future first-round pick. Philadelphia also signed J.J. Redick in a bid to accelerate its timeline, and the team is 12-8. If LeBron comes, it’d be easy to flip young players and picks for more players capable of winning now.

Embiid and Simmons already appear to be on that level, and they’re just 23 and 21, respectively. The 76ers’ championship window could be open from the moment LeBron signs until he retires. That should intrigue him.

But it’s not so simple. LeBron also cares about his legacy, and leaving the Cavs again would compromise it. He doesn’t want to be known as a carpetbagger. On the other hand, another title would bolster his résumé, and Philadelphia offers the possibility of LeBron continuing his reign over the Eastern Conference.

I don’t know what LeBron will do next summer. He probably doesn’t know what he’ll do next summer. But between now and then, multiple teams will have their moment where speculation centers on them signing LeBron. This is the 76ers’.

It’s a long way from actually signing the superstar forward, but after years of tanking, Philadelphia ought to feel good it has established enough credibility where a LeBron pursuit is at least taken seriously.

Not even LeBron James has saved Derrick Rose’s deteriorating career

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
12 Comments

As Kyrie Irving made abundantly clear, playing with LeBron James isn’t for everyone. LeBron attracts outsized attention, gets passive-aggressive and, intentionally or not, reduces his supporting cast to an afterthought.

But he also makes his teammates better.

LeBron is one of the most unselfish superstars of all time. He’s a willing passer with the tools to maximize it – double-team attraction, court vision and strength to throw cross-court passes. When he puts forth defensive effort, he roams to cover for many of his teammates’ shortcomings.

Many players have looked their very best when sharing the court with LeBron.

But not Derrick Rose.

Rose – who’s away from the Cavaliers and reportedly contemplating retirement – came to Cleveland to rehab his value. He had LeBron in his corner and a new mindset.

It’s just not working.

The Cavs have been outscored by a whopping 10.9 points per 100 possessions when Rose and LeBron share the court. No two-man combo involving LeBron has been anywhere near that bad since at least 2007-08, as far back as NBA.com has data (minimum: 50 minutes).

Here’s the full set of LeBron tandems with their net rating. Scroll aaaall the way down for Rose:

image

Obviously, Rose isn’t the only 2017-18 teammate at the bottom of this list. The Cavaliers have also struggled with LeBron and Tristan Thompson, LeBron and Kevin Love, LeBron and Jae Crowder, LeBron and Jose Calderon.

But Love and Thompson have proven positive track records with LeBron over far great samples. Calderon should be out of the rotation once Isaiah Thomas returns. Crowder, a versatile two-way player, fits extremely well with LeBron on paper.

Rose does not.

He’s a dismal 3-point shooter, neither spacing the floor for LeBron nor taking advantage of the open looks from beyond the arc LeBron frequently generates for his teammates. Though LeBron hasn’t been consistently interested in that end of the floor this season, Rose is a woeful defender.

There are reasons the Cavs have been so awful – far worse than any other LeBron combo – with Rose on the floor. They’ve been even worse when he plays without LeBron (-28.6). It’s only somewhat coincidental Cleveland has gone on a seven-game winning streak after Rose got hurt.

Rose might still belong in the NBA. He can get going down hill and score at the rim. He doesn’t set up teammates and, again, his defense is deficient. But some teams need that one-dimensional offense to prop up weak bench units. Not the Cavaliers, who have Dwyane Wade in that role. But some teams.

Of course, Rose is heavily incentivized to keep trying to play. He’s obviously tired of being injured, but he’s also just 29. That’s young to retire no matter the circumstances.

Maybe it’ll work out better for him Cleveland with more time. But his Cavaliers tenure has been an abject failure so far for the most predictable of reasons.

If LeBron can’t make it work with the former MVP, it’s time to treat Rose as what he is: A borderline NBA player – if he wants to be.

Cavaliers’ Derrick Rose out two more weeks due to sprained ankle

Getty Images
8 Comments

With Isaiah Thomas still rehabbing, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, when he is available (he’s only played in half of Cleveland’s games). More Rose has not been good for Cleveland’s defense, and it’s forced Tyronn Lue to play Kevin Love more at center just to have enough shooting on the floor, so there are driving lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Now we will have to see what Lue and the Cavaliers do without Rose for a couple more weeks. Rose will be out for a couple of weeks with his sprained left ankle, the team announced Friday afternoon.

“Due to continued symptoms, the ankle will be immobilized in a boot for the next week and he will also undergo an extended treatment process over the next two to three weeks.”

Rose has averaged 14.3 points on 47 percent shooting this season in Cleveland.

With Rose and Thomas out, Cleveland has gone with Iman Shumpert technically as the point, although LeBron handles the playmaking duties. He brings some size to the position, but he can’t defend quick point guards well (not that Rose could). This new lineup has won the Cavaliers a couple of games in a row, although that has been far more about their offense making runs rather than their struggling defense (last in the NBA) stepping up.

It’s been tough to get a feel for this Cavaliers team and what they really are this season, in part due to all the injuries. This simply adds to that mess.

The Cavaliers take on the slumping Clippers Friday night.