Kurtis Rayfield is the Warriors physical performance coach, and he had a bet with big man Zaza Pachulia — Rayfield Rayfield had a quality beard going, but if Pachulia had a double-double of points and rebounds in a game, plus had a dunk, they could shave it off. A strange trifecta.
For 67 games, Rayfield continued to look like a member Zach Brown band. Pachulia was not holding up his end.
Just relax, your bracket isn’t that bad. Yet. Wait until the end of today, then it should be a smoldering pile of rubble. Sorry, just trying to be realistic. Anyway, here’s the big takeaways from an NBA Thursday with six games.
1) Love is in the air — and on the court — for Cleveland. Kevin Love returns, Cavaliers beat Jazz. The Cavaliers went 7-6 with Kevin Love sidelined following a knee scope to clean up “loose bodies” that were irritating him. Cleveland didn’t rebound as well without Love, their floor spacing wasn’t right, and their bench was hurt.
Thursday night, Love was back. A little earlier than expected, the team had said he was going to come back on the team’s upcoming road trip, but he played in this game in Cleveland instead. Love started 4-of-5 from the floor and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Love being back wasn’t the reason the Cavaliers beat a good Jazz team, however — that was LeBron James. He had 17 of his 33 in the fourth to give the Cavs the win.
The Cavaliers have a 2.5 game lead over Boston and, sorry Celtics fans, but you’re not catching them. With Love back, the Cavaliers will cruise to the top seed in the East now. The only question left is can anyone challenge them in the East playoffs.
2) Russell Westbrook had the pass of the year Thursday night. Oh, and another triple-double. Yes, Westbrook had 24 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds to lead the Thunder past the stumbling Raptors in Toronto. That would be 34 triple-doubles this season, if you’re counting.
But that’s not what anyone is talking about — this half-court bounce pass through the defender’s legs to Victor Oladipo is the pass of the year. This is insane.
3) Dwyane Wade is done for the season with a fractured elbow. Bulls done as well. Wednesday night, Dwyane Wade collided with Zach Randolph and injured his elbow. Thursday, the Chicago Bulls announced Wade has a fractured elbow and is done for the season.
With that, the Bulls playoff dreams died as well. They didn’t look right for a while — the Bulls are just one game back of Miami and Detroit (tied for the eighth seed), however, Chicago had lost six-of-seven and the wheels were coming off before this injury. Also, they have a rough stretch of games coming up (the next three are Wizards, Jazz, Raptors), and Wade was bringing 18.6 points per night and some of the best clutch play on the team. Now the Bulls will have to lean more on their thin bench, and there hasn’t been a lot of good shooting there either (which is what they need).
Will Wade return to the Bulls? There are 23.8 million reasons he might — that’s how much his player option is for, and at age 35 he’s not going to get that much on the open market. That said, Wade’s return to his hometown did not go well this season, he was clearly frustrated with the front office and largely just ignored the coach, and he may well just bolt. That seems to be the sense around the league, that he will not return to Chicago. He could go back to Miami, you can bet LeBron James will pressure Cleveland to go after him, and a few other teams will line up. We will see this summer what matters to Wade — money, contending, lifestyle — by the choices he makes.
New Laker GM Rob Pelinka offers Rob Lowe Lakers tickets to clear up confusion
Westbrook may need a little push from a marketing campaign. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post conducted a media straw poll and found voters have Harden as the clear frontrunner. Talking to voters I know, there is also a sense that it still is very close between Harden and Westbrook, and the final 15 games will matter in the voting at the end.
We know how Kanter and Adams would vote.
Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers, will start Thursday night vs. Jazz
Since Kevin Love was sidelined just before the All-Star break to have surgery to remove “a loose body” from his left knee, the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone just 7-6. Their rebounding has been an issue, but also the team missed the consistency of Love’s shot and his floor spacing as well.
They will miss it no longer — he will be back Thursday night in Utah, coach Tyronn Lue announced.
This is a huge boost for a Cleveland team trying to hold off Boston and retain the No. 1 seed in the East.
Before his injury, Love had been having his best season as a Cavalier, averaging 20 points and 11.1 rebounds a game. He found a comfort zone playing off the ball more with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — the Cavaliers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with Love on the court than off it this season (although there is a lot of noise in that because he plays so much with LeBron and Irving). It took time, but Love adapted his game to fit with the Cavaliers, such as taking more corner threes — 2.6 per game — than he had at any point in his career.