Kurt Helin

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Three Things to Know: It’s just one game, but new-look Cavaliers impress

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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) New-look Cavaliers impress, blow-out Celtics in first game.
Things looked different — Cleveland actually tried on defense, for one. George Hill was solid defending pick-and-rolls creating turnovers with his length, plus made the extra rotation — and when he did so did J.R. Smith. And LeBron James. The Cavaliers blitzed Kyrie Irving at times, but what was impressive is the guys rotating behind that blitz. All-season long that had been lacking in Cleveland and it led them to have the second-worst defense in the NBA, but on Sunday afternoon in Boston the effort was there.

Combine that with a near triple-double from LeBron James, and 17 from Jordan Clarkson, and you got a Cleveland rout of Boston in the first game for the new-look Cavaliers.

Here is the obligatory “don’t read too much into one game” disclaimer. I want to see what Cleveland looks like after some practices during the All-Star break, and a couple of weeks of games together — and when teams get some scouting reports on them and game plan a little.

But for one game, the Cavaliers where impressive. And it wasn’t just the defense. The Cavaliers dropped 64 points in the first half on the best defense in the NBA this season, then put the game away with an 11-0 fourth-quarter run. It was such an easy win LeBron sat the fourth quarter, a rarity this season. Hill had 12 points and ran the pick-and-roll with LeBron like a veteran (better than LeBron and Isaiah Thomas ever did), Nance brought energy, and the entire thing fit.

Here’s the thing that most should worry the rest of the East — LeBron looked like he was having fun again. He was energized. And an energized and smiling LeBron is a force of nature.

2) Paul Pierce gets his jersey retired by Celtics. After that game — one a lot of Boston fans would have left early had it not been for this — Paul Pierce’s number 34 jersey was retired by the Celtics. Deservedly so. He is the greatest Celtics since the Bird era, and he helped bring another banner to Boston. Check out the highlights here (and if you want to see the entire hour ceremony, follow this link).

3) Utah routs Trail Blazers for a ninth straight win, Utah back in the playoff mix. Rudy Gobert is back and the Jazz defense is stifling, Ricky Rubio has found his comfort level in Quin Snyder’s offense (although he was out Sunday), Donovan Mitchell looks like the Rookie of the Year, and the Utah Jazz are back.

Sunday that was because of Joe Ingles, who dropped a career-high 24 points, then the rookie Mitchell knocking down his final three shots and a few free throws to end the game and cap off a 27-point night. The Jazz opened the second half on a 22-5 run and won the third 38-19 to give them a lead that Damian Lillard (39 points) could not make up. For Utah, it was a good sign that just-acquired Jae Crowder looked comfortable scoring 15 points and going 3-of-7 from three (he had started to find his shot near the end in Cleveland).

This was a huge win in the standings.

Written off a few weeks back, Utah went into Portland Sunday and beat the Trail Blazers handily 115-96. The win improves the Jazz to 28-28 and has them just 1.5 points out of the playoffs in the West — there are now only 2.5 games separating six-seed Portland and 10-seed Utah. The bottom of the West is going to be the race to watch — fivethirtyeight.com has Utah with an 89 percent chance of climbing into and making the playoffs (with the Nuggets and Trail Blazers grabbing the other two spots at 64 percent, which would leave the Clippers and Pelicans on the outside looking in).

Dwyane Wade says Miami is his last stop: ‘This is it for me guys’

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Dwyane Wade played for a season in the city where he grew up, Chicago.

Then he chased a ring — a futile effort — with his friend LeBron James in Cleveland.

Now Wade has returned home to Miami — his real home. And he’s not going anywhere else, he will finish his career in a Heat jersey, he said on NBA TV Friday night after the Heat beat the Bucks (a big win in their efforts to stay in the playoffs). Via the Miami Herald.

“This is it for me guys. I’m (going to) stay here until I decide to hang it up. This is home. I’m so happy to be back.”

Wade, at 36, is a free agent next summer. Wade and Heat dealmaker Pat Riley worked out their differences, and this is a good deal for both sides — Wade can play another couple of seasons (with plenty of nights off as needed) and cement his Heat legacy, and for Miami he still can give something on the court and he puts butts in the seats.

Miami is capped out, so they will need to re-sign Wade using the mid-level or other exception this summer. That will be a pretty easy deal to work out.

This is how Wade’s Hall of Fame career should come to an end.

 

Watch Anthony Davis drop 44 in double OT win against Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Davis had 44 points and 17 rebounds, Rajon Rondo had a triple-double, and the New Orleans Pelicans recovered after blowing a 28-point lead to beat the Brooklyn Nets 138-128 in two overtimes on Saturday night.

Rondo finished with 25 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds as the Pelicans snapped a three-game losing streak.

Nikola Mirotic had 21 points and 16 boards, and Jrue Holiday chipped in 22 points.

Allen Crabbe made eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points for the Nets, who have lost their last four games.

Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in 24 points and 10 rebounds, and D'Angelo Russell came off the bench with 21 points and nine assists.

New Orleans led by 28 points in the third quarter when the Nets, who looked flat in the first half, launched their wild comeback, sending the game into overtime on Crabbe’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in regulation.

Crabbe continued his hot shooting, connecting on two more 3s to open up the first overtime session, giving the Nets a 122-118 lead with 2:28 left.

But the Pelicans came back to force the second OT on a jumper by Holiday.

Davis then scored four points during a 7-0 run for the Pelicans, putting them up 130-124 with 2:50 remaining. After a pair of free throws by Joe Harris, Rondo hit three free throws to put it away.

 

Watch Isaiah Thomas score 22 in Lakers debut, Mavericks still win

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DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 22 points, Harrison Barnes had 21 and the last-place Dallas Mavericks spoiled Isaiah Thomas‘ strong debut with the Lakers, beating Los Angeles 130-123 on Saturday night.

Thomas finished with 22 points and already looks like a better fit in coach Luke Walton’s offense than he did in an ill-fated 15-game stint with Cleveland after the offseason trade that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston.

The diminutive guard’s first half with the Lakers was his highest-scoring half of the season, a team-high 16 points.

Thomas, who was part of a four-player deal at the trading deadline that also brought Channing Frye, missed the first 36 games recovering from a hip injury.

Doug McDermott had eight points in his Dallas debut following a deadline deal that brought him from New York and was part of a youthful closing lineup that outscored the Lakers 13-5 in the final 3:09.

The Lakers had a season-best, four-game winning streak stopped for the third time in a month.

Nowitzki, Barnes and starting guard Wesley Matthews all sat in the last three minutes, and rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. put Dallas ahead for good at 119-118 on a layup. Smith finished with 14 points, and the Mavericks had a season high in points.

Julius Randle had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, and Brandon Ingram scored 22 points. Kyle Kuzma had 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Dwight Powell scored 19, two shy of his career high, for Dallas. J.J. Barea had 10 points and nine assists.

Thomas entered the game to a noticeable ovation from the usually solid number of Lakers fans in the Dallas crowd, and hit a 3 from the left wing on his first LA possession in what proved to be just a start. He was 4 of 7 from long range before halftime.

Reports: Marco Belinelli waived by Hawks, will sign with Sixers

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The Atlanta Hawks wanted to move on from veteran Marco Belinelli.

The Philadelphia 76ers want to make the playoffs and could use more shooting and wing depth.

The Hawks have reached a buyout with Belinelli and waived him, and once he clears waivers he is headed to Philly, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports (confirmed by other sources since).

Belinelli brings some shooting — he’s hitting 37.2 percent from three this season — and some depth on the win to the Sixers, who could use both. He brings little else (the Hawks were -10.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor). However, the Sixers are thin on the bench and Belinelli provides an inexpensive guy to bring in, hit some shots and provide some floor spacing. It’s not a bad flier for the end of the season.