Kurt Helin

Cavaliers hold off feisty Pistons 101-91, take 3-0 lead in series

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — LeBron James had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving made a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cleveland Cavaliers move within a game of a first-round sweep with a 101-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Irving scored 26 points for Cleveland, which overcame a gritty effort by the Pistons in Detroit’s first home playoff game since 2009. Andre Drummond scored 17 points for the Pistons, but Detroit fell behind toward the end of the third quarter, and a late rally came up short.

The Cavs lead the series 3-0, with Game 4 coming up Sunday night.

The Pistons have now lost 11 straight playoff games against Cleveland, and they’ve lost nine in a row overall in the postseason.

Down by nine in the fourth, Detroit went on an 8-0 run, forcing the Cavs to call a timeout. Irving responded with a 3-pointer, and J.R. Smith added one of his own to make it 95-90. Irving made it an eight-point game with a 3-pointer in the final minute.

A raucous, towel-waving crowd tried to give Detroit a boost. Pistons fans booed James early and often, although the Cleveland star threw down a two-handed dunk on his team’s first offensive possession.

Data curated by PointAfter

Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson, who seemed eager to get into a verbal battle with James and the Cavs after Game 2, scored nine points in a fearless first half Friday, but James had the final word before halftime, making a jumper with less than a second left in the second quarter to give Cleveland a 54-53 lead.

Cleveland methodically built a 79-73 lead after three quarters, and after a three-point play and a 3-pointer by James early in the fourth, the Cavs were up by nine. It was 87-86 after Detroit’s run, but the 3s by Irving and Smith helped Cleveland hold on.

With 1:34 remaining, the public address announcer at the Palace announced the results of a replay review with his popular “Deeeeeeeeeetroit Basketball” call, but it turned out he was mistaken and had to correct himself. Officials were giving the ball to the Cavs.

Detroit’s chances were all but extinguished when Irving sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 43 seconds remaining, and James ran back to midcourt for a celebratory chest bump.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Mo Williams (sore left knee) did not play.

Pistons: Reggie Bullock (left leg) missed the game. … Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2008 against Boston.

Watch Kyrie Irving hit dagger three, seals Cavaliers’ win (VIDEO)

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If this play looks familiar, it’s one Golden State runs. It works for them.

It worked for the Cavaliers, too. Kyrie Irving was freed up by a LeBron James screen, got a little deeper in the corner than he probably wanted, and drained the three. It put the Cavaliers up by eight inside :45 seconds and the game was over. The Cavaliers went on to win 101-91 despite a feisty performance from Detroit.

LeBron celebrated this three enough to make up for the Rockets’ bench.

NBA gives Kevin Durant after-the-fact technical; Rick Carlisle calls out Thunder’s “physical escalations”

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are a physical basketball team that likes to instigate contact. Do not think of guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — or especially Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams — as finesse players.

Friday, the league gave Durant an after-the-fact technical foul for a “physical taunt” for this elbow thrown during Game 2.

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During his media availability Friday, Rick Carlisle complained about the “non-basketball physical escalations” by the Thunder.

The Thunder want a physical game. That plays to their strengths. It does not play to Dallas’ wheelhouse, so you can understand Carlisle putting this out there trying to get a more tightly called game. And to plant a seed in the minds of the referees about what to look for. It’s playoff gamesmanship, and he’s playing it well.

Stephen Curry would be “very” surprised if he doesn’t play in Game 4 Sunday

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Steve Kerr and everyone around the Warriors will go out of their way to tell you there is no correlation. But…

After Golden State lost Game 3 on a James Harden shot, didn’t we all know Stephen Curry would be back for Game 4? The organization was going to be extra cautious bringing him back(Curry had wanted to play Thursday) because it’s an ankle injury and he has a history with those, but the second they paid a price for not having him the equation would change. Thursday they paid a price.

Which brings us to Curry’s practice comment Friday.

The Warriors want to close this out in five games, and they wanted Curry to play in at least one game again before the second round (too much rest equals rust).

Rocket fans are jumping on Charles Barkley for being Charles Barkley today; they are defending their team on social media against the questions of how the bench reacted. Good for them, they reacted as fans should. This was a good win for the Rockets.

With Curry back, it was also the Rockets last of the season.

NBA: James Harden should have been called for offensive foul on game-winning shot

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Is this even a surprise?

Down one with 10.7 remaining after an Ian Clark layup gave Golden State a one-point lead, James Harden brought the ball up the court. Andre Iguodala picked him up 30 feet out. Harden drove hard to his preferred left, spun back to the middle — and as he did pushed off on Iguodala to create space. It worked, Harden stepped back and nailed the 13-foot jumper. Ballgame.

The NBA reviews the calls in the final two minutes of close games.

The league said Harden should have been called for an offensive foul, that he pushed off. Watch the video above, he did. No question.

Two things here:

First, sorry Warriors fans, but that report and $4 will buy you a latte at Starbucks. It’s nice so you can use it to complain, but it’s ultimately meaningless. The bucket still counts.

Second, and key for Harden and other scorers, is there is zero chance any referee would call it in that situation. Referees swallow their whistles the last couple minutes in the playoffs, and Harden knows it. He made the smart play. This was about as likely to be called as Michal Jordan’s push off on Byron Russell.