Kurt Helin

PBT Extra: Cavaliers hit mini-malaise, schedule maker isn’t helping things

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have gotten smacked around two games in a row — first in Milwaukee and then by the Los Angeles Clippers on nationwide television — and they haven’t shown a lot of fight in either. Before that they had to come from behind and barely beat the Sixers. That’s an aberration, a championship hangover, we know the Cavaliers have fight — they came back from down 3-1 in the Finals. But they are in a mini-slump.

The schedule maker isn’t making things easier — they have a back-to-back against the Bulls the night after that big Clippers game. Then the Cavs get a couple of days off and travel to Toronto.

The Clippers had to play Friday in New Orleans. Houston won a dramatic game against Golden State Thursday in double OT, then has to play Denver the next night.

It all comes together in this latest PBT Extra.

LeBron James makes good on bet with Wade, dons Cubs’ uniform for game in Chicago

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It was a brilliant World Series bet between Chicago native Dwyane Wade and Akron/Cleveland guy LeBron James: Loser had to show up to a game in the other team’s city wearing the uniform of the World Series champs.

As if we need to remind you, Chicago showed Cleveland what it’s like to be on the other end of a blown 3-1 championship series lead, coming back to with the World Series.

Friday night as the Cavaliers went to take on the Bulls, LeBron made good on his bet.

LeBron is wearing Ryne Sandberg’s 23 — classy.

This is one of my favorite sports bets ever.

Derrick Rose: “I want to play the rest of my life” in New York

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When a player says he doesn’t want to stay in a city — *cough* Rudy Gay *cough* — it’s news. Aside from that, a player saying he want to spend the rest of his career with the team he is currently on is right out of the Crash Davis/Bull Durham book of clichés.

Derrick Rose has read that book. He’s said those words before. However, it sounds like he was sincere in telling Peter Walsh at SLAM he likes what he sees with the Knicks and wants to stay in the city that doesn’t sleep.

“We’re building the culture,” Rose said. “We’re building the foundation now. I’m under a one-year contract so of course I want to play the rest of my life here. But it takes time, it takes patience to figure out how every one is going to fit, if it is going to fit and going from there.”

Here’s the question Phil Jackson (or whoever is in charge next summer should he opt out) needs to ask with every player/personnel move made going forward:

How does this person fit with Kristaps Porzingis?

That man is the future in Madison Square Garden. Frankly, he’s the present, too — he’s better than Carmelo Anthony right now. The Knicks need to make moves going forward that highlight Porzingis’ strengths (like playing him at the five).

Rose should fit fairly well with that right now as a pick-and-roll point guard to pair with Porzingis’ ability to pop out to the arc or roll to the rim. That said, when Rose and Porzingis have been paired on the court this season, the Knicks have been outscored by 3.9 per 100 possessions, mostly because the team defense has been a disaster. That doesn’t mean it can’t work, so long as you’re not going to run a lot of triangle, Rose understands he needs to feed Porzingis a lot, and there are other shooters on the floor. Rose can be a solid point guard for the Knicks going forward. At least as long as he can stay healthy.

Whether he comes back to New York will really come down to money — the Knicks should make a fair offer for a solid starting point guard in the NBA, then if another team comes in over the top live with it.

But for Rose, he’s in a New York state of mind.

Watch Chris Paul in selfie with fan while game goes on behind him

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Like any number of aging veterans trying to keep their bodies limber and ready for an NBA game, Chris Paul sometimes takes his rests sitting on the baseline floor where the hard surface is better for his back, and he can stretch out a little.

He was feeling so comfortable down there as the Clippers crushed the Cavaliers Thursday that he turned around and got into a selfie taken by a fan, plus he casually chatted with the people courtside.

He could afford to be relaxed — the Clippers showed some mental toughness and maturity, bouncing back from a three-game losing streak to get a big win on the road. CP3 had to feel good.

Three Things We Leaned Thursday: James Harden vs. Warriors, are you not entertained?

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This was as good an early season night of NBA games as we’ve seen, hopefully you stayed up late for a good one rather than watched The Crown with you wife.

1) James Harden gets triple-double, ends Warriors 12-game winning streak — ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?! The Golden State Warriors play the beautiful game — sweet shooters, guys moving off the ball, selflessly passing up good shots for great ones (except Andre Iguodala late in this game, who passed up great for good). James Harden in Mike D’Antoni’s offense with shooters around him is a video game cheat code.

Put those two together and the result was as much fun as an NBA regular season game is going to be.

Harden had 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists to lead Houston to the 132-127 double-overtime win that snapped the Warriors’ 12-game winning streak. The shooters Daryl Morey brought in last summer to put around Harden did their jobs Thursday — Ryan Anderson had 29 points, Eric Gordon 23. On the other side, Durant added 39. The two teams combined for an NBA record 88 three pointers in one game. You couldn’t take your eyes off this one.

Golden State actually played decent enough defense — they held the Rockets to 103.8 points per 100 possessions, nearly six points off their season average. But the Warriors just missed their looks — they were 12-of-44 from three as a team, with Stephen Curry going 4-of-13 and a cold Klay Thompson hitting 3-of-13 (KD was 3-of-11). As a team, the Warriors were 23-of-50 (46 percent) on uncontested shots. That’s not going to get it done (nor will it happen often). Plus, as with every big game, Draymond Green picked up a technical for kicking someone (Harden in the face this time).

This is the kind of win that boosts the Rockets’ playoff chances — they will slump at some point this season for a stretch, wins like this provide a cushion. For the Warriors, they will shrug it off and keep on winning. A Dec. 1 game is not a playoff predictor of any sort.

But it can be must watch television.

2) What problems? Clippers bounce back, blow out Cavaliers in Cleveland. The Clippers started the season 14-2 and there was a whole lot of “has this Clippers’ core finally figured it out?” questions. Then came the recent, ugly three-game losing streak on the road where the offense stumbled and the bench defense looked disjointed, which led to a lot of, “see, there are the inconsistent Clippers we expect.”

Los Angeles’ answer? Go into Cleveland and blow out the defending world champions 113-94.

The Clippers haven’t answered any tough questions until they can do this on a bigger playoff stage, but this is a more comfortable and mature Clippers team — one that knows it has the sword of free agency hanging over this roster — that looks like it may be able to do just that.

Nobody who knows the game should have thought the Clipper offense would continue to struggle — they have been a top-10 team on that end the previous five years for a reason. The Clippers moved the ball beautifully and had 33 assists on 42 made field goals. J.J. Redick was the hot hand and playmaker in the first half with 21 points. In the second Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the entire team got theirs, the Clippers opened the half on a 13-2 run, they were up 19 at that point and the game was over.

It was over because the Clipper bench played well again — they outscored the Cavs bench by 18 (Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford each had 12 points), plus played solid defense and sustained the lead they were handed.

The one other unsung standout in this game: Luc Mbah a Moute for the Clippers. All the Clippers ask of their starting small forward is hit some corner threes and defend well — Mbah a Moute was a key reason LeBron James had a 5-of-14 shooting night. He played LeBron as well as anyone is going to, and while LeBron helped out (3-of-7 on uncontested shots, according to NBA.com) the Clipper defender who harassed him deserves credit.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo is insanely good. With two great games on TNT fewer eyeballs may have found the other games Thursday night, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was beasting in Brooklyn — 23 points on 14 shots, eight assists and eight rebounds, leading the Bucks to the win. The Bucks two best lineups of the night were the starters, and Antetokounmpo with the core bench guys — he was getting into the paint and there’s no easy way to slow him down.