<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three

LeBron James carries load, makes enough plays in Cavaliers win (VIDEO)

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LeBron James’ shot still is not falling — he was 14-of-37 shooting in Game 3. Atlanta defended him well, contesting 27 of his 37 shot attempts.

But LeBron still made the plays he needed to — driving dunks, steals, key threes, defensive plays — to carry the load for the Cavaliers and get them an overtime win and a 3-0 series lead against the Hawks. His exhaustion was evident as he fell to the ground after the game ended.

LeBron finished with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists — his 12th playoff triple-double, moving him past Karl Malone on the all-time playoff list.

 

Phil Jackson says he likes three pointers, but relationship appears complicated

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
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Remember is the second round when Knicks president Phil Jackson tweeted this:

Well, all four of the teams left in the playoffs were in the top five in the NBA in three pointers made this season. It looks like the Finals will be the three-loving Warriors against a Cavaliers team that has leaned on the three more come the playoffs. That’s not even talking about the Spurs who won the title last season, or the Heat the couple before that (or the jump-shooting Mavs before that). So things are “goink” pretty well, thanks.

Sunday, Jackson decided to clarify his position.

Phil Jackson has forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know, and certainly when you think about his teams one thing that comes to mind is Robert Horry or Derek Fisher hitting threes with the Lakers, or Steve Kerr and John Paxson with the Bulls.

That said, how he’s trying to position himself in these tweets isn’t exactly revolutionary — play the game from the inside out. A team can’t just shoot threes, they have to have balance and be able to score inside and in a variety of ways. Notice all four of those teams left can score inside as well — LeBron James for Cleveland on the drive-and-kick, Dwight Howard in the post or James Harden on the drive in Houston, and Golden State does it on drives and cuts and the occasional post up (they had 58 points in the paint Saturday).

The question is prioritization of the three pointer.

None of those teams would pass up a dunk or uncontested lay-up for a three — it’s a matter of efficiency. But what about a contested eight-footer? An open free throw line jumper? Do you prioritize a lower-percentage (in terms of points per possession) midrange shot over an open three? It’s about value, and the league has moved to valuing the three more.

And that’s the smart thing to do.

Kyrie Irving out for Game 3 for Cavaliers with knee tendonitis

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers- Game Three
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Kyrie Irving was dragging around a sore left leg through the first gameof the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks. Doctors advised him to sit out Game 2 Friday, he did but pushed himself to try and get back for Game 3 because the man does not like to sit.

Didn’t work. He is out for Game 3 in Cleveland due to tendonitis in his left knee, the team announced.

Matthew Dellavedova will start for the Cavaliers, as he did in Game 2.

There are a lot of guys with nagging issues this time of year. What is concerning with Irving is that the Cavaliers had almost a week off between finishing off the Bulls and starting up against the Hawks in the next round, yet his condition didn’t really improve much. It’s led to some speculation there is more than just tendonitis going on with the knee.

With the Cavaliers up 2-0 in the series, this seems like a safe place to rest Irving. If the Cavaliers can close the series out in four or five games Irving could have another long rest before the Finals start.

 

 

 

Stephen Curry boxes out, takes offensive rebound from Dwight Howard

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three
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If one play can sum up a game, this was it.

Stephen Curry was every bit the MVP Saturday night, dropping 40 points on 19 shots — hitting shots then telling the fans courtside to sit down. He owned the game that put the Warriors up 3-0 and within a game of the Finals. That included out working and getting an offensive rebound in front of Dwight Howard, who has six inches and at least 50 pounds on Curry. It was about hustle and desire.

We should be fair to Howard here, he was the only Rocket who brought it in Game 3. He was 6-of-10 shooting, he was playing defense and blocking shots, he was encouraging teammates. It was just not near enough.

This was Curry’s night.

Stephen Curry drops 40, Warriors rout Rockets by 35 to take 3-0 series lead

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three
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For two games on the road, the Rockets battled and found little edges that kept games close. James Harden was forced into a lot of midrange shots and tough step-backs, but he was draining them. Dwight Howard was playing through a painful knee but he was putting up double-doubles. Role players stepped up beyond what could be expected from them consistently. The defense struggled with communication at times but looked fantastic at others.

Still, it felt like there would be one game in this series where all those edges wouldn’t go their way, where the Warriors would make the plays and get the bounces.

Plus, we had yet to see the best of Stephen Curry in this series — not just the ridiculous shooter, but the MVP who made a good team great.

It all happened Saturday night.

Golden State raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, got 40 points on just 19 shots from Stephen Curry, and the Warriors routed the Rockets, 115-80.

Golden State now has a commanding 3-0 series lead. I won’t get into how no team has ever come back from 3-0 down in an NBA playoff series, I’ll just say Game 4 is Monday night in Houston.

“The halftime box score was really telling…” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who noted that his team was up 25 despite shooting just 45 percent and hitting 4-of-15 from three, but they had just one turnover. “If we defend like crazy and don’t turn it over, and when we do that we’re tough to beat.”

That pretty much was Kerr’s dream half.

It was about the paint — Andrew Bogut had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter, and Golden State had 14 points in the paint in the first quarter, 32 in the half. It wasn’t just post ups, it was a matter of guys working hard off the ball and working for rebounds — Golden State grabbed 38 percent of its missed shots as offensive rebounds in the first half.

Maybe the most emblematic play of the first half: Stephen Curry snuck baseline and got inside rebounding position on Dwight Howard, got the offensive board, and was fouled going back up.

“For us, we have to score in the paint, we have to get offensive rebounds,” Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale said. “They beat us up in those two areas.”

The other side of this was Houston just could not hit shots — the Rockets shot 29.3 percent in the first half and were 2-of-13 from three.

James Harden was 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, struggling with different looks and a variety of double teams. Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes got time on him, not just Klay Thompson. Golden State just started putting a second guy between Harden and the rim, and for Harden the midrange shots he made look effortless for a couple games would not go down.

Golden State was up by 25 — 62-37 — at the half. The Game felt over. It was

The Rockets came out early in the second half and made a run, got the lead down to 18 and the crowd into the game.

Then the Warriors came back and Curry shut them up — and would not give the fans a dap.

Synergy Sports tweeted out that Curry has made 91% of the 3-pointers he’s attempted from the left corner this postseason.

If you’re looking for a bright spot for the Rockets, Dwight Howard looked spry and energetic, with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He moved a lot better and played with some passion.

But this is a rough night in Houston — James Harden had 16 points on 3-of-16 shooting.

Houston has played well and valiantly this postseason, but the Warriors are simply better.