Dan Feldman

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors during the second half in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Larry W. Smith - Pool/Getty Images)
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Warriors by 33 to Cavaliers by 30, 2016 features most disparate scoring margins in any NBA Finals

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The 63-point swing between the Warriors’ 33-point Game 2 win and the Cavaliers’ 30-point Game 3 win is the largest game-to-game swing in NBA Finals history.

But that undersells it.

No Finals had ever featured each team winning ANY game by such divergent amounts, let alone consecutive games.

The previous record came in the 1985 Finals. The Celtics won Game 1 by 34, and the Lakers won Game 3 by 25 points – a 59-point difference. But that had the buffer of a nine-point Lakers win in Game 2.

The sudden change in the 2015 Finals is even more stunning when comparing to a team’s best and worst games – regardless of order – in a Finals.

Here’s every time a team’s best win and worst loss in a Finals were separated by at least 40 points:

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Cavaliers stumped at ‘frozen the pond for the Splash Brothers’ question (video)

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LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith were met in their post-game press conference with an um, interestingly phrased, question. It began: “The Cavaliers have effectively frozen the pond for the Splash Brothers during the first three games of the Finals…”

The three Cavaliers responded with glances at each other, awkward silence and confusion.

Ultimately, though, Irving gave a pretty decent answer to the question in spite of itself.

The official transcript:

Q. Gentlemen, the Cavaliers have effectively frozen the pond for the Splash Brothers during the first three games of The Finals. What are you doing differently? How are you keeping them from getting to their spots, getting open looks, and how do you plan to maintain that momentum in Game 4 on Friday night?

KYRIE IRVING: It’s just team awareness, especially with those two guys, knowing their impact and how they can affect the game. Those guys can get it going in bunches, and you saw Steph in the third quarter, as well as Klay in the second quarter when those guys just have the ability to get downhill, as well as spray out to the three-point line. So just having our antennas on the defensive end, but as well as making them work on the offensive end while we’re just being aggressive.

Guys were getting in spots, and it’s both teams are getting up and down the floor. Being able to shoot jump shots effectively while guys are getting up and down, you know, the three-pointer, that you come down and shoot on the first possession is a little different from the eighth possession. Guys are in your face, and we just try to make it difficult for those guys.

But it’s a total team effort on our end, and Swish [J.R. Smith] does a great job on Klay. I just try to pick up Steph as high as possible, and our bigs do a great job getting up to touch. So great job on just total team awareness.

Klay Thompson: Timofey Mozgov’s injuring screen ‘seemed kind of dirty to me’

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Klay Thompson got off to an awful start in Game 3 tonight, shooting 0-for-5 from the field and missing both his free throws.

Then, it got worse.

The Warriors guard suffered a left-thigh contusion when colliding with Timofey Mozgov late in the first quarter. Thompson went to the locker room then returned to the game in the middle of the second quarter.

Thompson:

I didn’t get it. I don’t know. I’m guarding Kyrie. I’m running full speed downhill. I just don’t know who’s trying to set a pick on you in the middle of the key. If it’s on the perimeter, I understand. But it didn’t make sense to me.

Obviously, it didn’t feel good, but I’ll alright. Luckily for us, I’m going to take the day off tomorrow and get healthy. But it’s the Finals. Nothing is going to keep me out of it.

But I re-watched it. I’m just confused why he’s trying to set a screen in the middle of the key when we’re both running full speed downhill. It seemed kind of dirty to me. He stuck his knee out, too. But you know what? That’s basketball.

I’m not nearly as convinced this was dirty.

Kyrie Irving was rushing to get a two-for-one, and the Cavaliers’ timing looked completely off on the play. There’s a decent chance Mozgov wanted to get set but Irving sped by more quickly than the Cleveland center anticipated.

Even as the screen was being set, it’d take some impressive knee-eye coordination by Mozgov to knee Thompson in the thigh while, as Thompson put it, they’re “both running full speed downhill.” It appeared to me that Mozgov’s knee went out because he was still moving his legs to get into position.

That said, it also might have been dirty. Just because I see a plausible explanation for Mozgov doesn’t mean I know what was in his mind.

Will Kevin Love start Game 4 if healthy? Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: ‘I’m not going to tell you’

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From a 33-point Warriors win to a 30-point Cavaliers win, this was the largest game-to-game swing in NBA Finals history.

What changed?

It’s more complex than this, but the answer that will get the most attention: Kevin Love.

The Cavs forward missed Game 3 with a potential concussion, and Richard Jefferson started in his place. Cleveland’s new starting lineup outscored Golden State by 17 points in 22 minutes.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had an interesting exchange in his post-game press conference:

  • Reporter: “Coach, if Kevin is able to go in Game 4, how would you expect to use him?”
  • Lue: “Do I have to tell you.”
  • Reporter: “That’s up to you.”
  • Lue: “I’m not going to tell you.”

I don’t know what Lue will do, but he had an opportunity to affirm his faith in Love, to tell the world – and Love – that an injury wouldn’t cost him his starting position. He passed.

And that’s fine. I’d start Jefferson in Game 4 regardless of Love’s status. Love is still a very good player, but the Warriors expose his biggest weakness – pick-and-roll defense on the perimeter. He is just lost in this matchup. There are probably still minutes for him in this series against certain lineups, but that’s easier to manage with Love coming off the bench.

But Lue should realize what his answer risks. The Cavs have put Love through so many mentally hurdles, and this another. He now must endure days of people unwilling to see the nuance of a good player not being helpful in every situation. Many will say Cleveland’s turnaround without him proves he harms the team, period. That might be true in this one specific matchup, but Love also helped the Cavaliers cruise through the regular season and Eastern Conference playoffs. He’s still good overall.

Is he still a starter? Lue isn’t saying, and perhaps he hasn’t yet made up his mind. If he has, Lue is probably just trying to give his team a competitive advantage, giving Golden State more to consider.

I don’t think that will work, though. The Warriors already know how to thrash Cleveland with Love on the floor. If I were them, I’d spend all my time thinking how to counter the Cavs’ Game 3 starting lineup. That unit actually caused problems.

Grizzlies hire Nick Van Exel, J.B. Bickerstaff as assistants on David Fizdale’s staff

Nick Van Exel looks on
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — New Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale has added J.B. Bickerstaff and Nick Van Exel to his staff.

The Grizzlies announced Wednesday they’ve hired Bickerstaff as associate head coach and Van Exel as an assistant coach. Terms of their deals weren’t disclosed.

Bickerstaff was the Houston Rockets’ interim head coach this past season and had a 37-34 record and playoff berth. He had been on the Rockets’ staff the past five seasons. Bickerstaff also has worked as an assistant with the Charlotte Bobcats (2004-07) and Minnesota Timberwolves (2007-11).

Van Exel, who played in the NBA from 1993-2006, was head coach of the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends this past season. He previously had been an assistant with the Legends and Milwaukee Bucks as well as an Atlanta Hawks player development instructor.