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Tyronn Lue says he should have called more plays for LeBron James

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The Toronto Raptors finally put a complete game together Saturday night — Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were hitting shots, Bismack Biyombo was a force on the boards and in the paint, and the Toronto role players were making plays.

But they got some help from an off night from the Cavaliers that scored just 84 points — Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were a combined 4-of-28 shooting. That had Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue thinking he should have leaned more on LeBron James to get the offense going. Here is what he said Sunday, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“I think I should have called more plays to make [James] dominant,” Lue said Sunday. “I think we continued to run plays that had been effective and working throughout the course of this series, knowing that Kyrie and Kevin could get going at any time. I should have put the ball in LeBron’s hands a little bit more to let him create and let him draw double teams. So that was more on me.”

After a loss, it’s natural for coaches and everyone on the losing team to be critical of their performance. And yes, it’s hard to say “more LeBron” is ever really a bad idea, he was 9-of-17 shooting on the night.

But if Love, Irving, and the Cavaliers role players aren’t hitting, it doesn’t matter what Lue or LeBron do.

Just don’t expect another off game from the Cavaliers.

Thunder defense, transition overwhelm Warriors in 133-105 Game 3 rout

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Well, that escalated quickly.

The Warriors had withstood the early explosion of the Thunder at home, hit a few threes and the game was tied 40-40 in the second quarter. It looked like we could be in for a contest that went down to the final seconds.

Then Oklahoma City’s defense started getting in the heads of the Warriors shooters, and it snowballed — especially after the Thunder became motivated by a Draymond Green kick to the groin of Steven Adams (which drew a Flagrant 1 foul). The Thunder’s small-ball lineup of defenders were cutting off Warriors drives and passing lanes, challenging shooters, the Warriors rushed shots, then the Thunder took the misses and got out and ran. It snowballed, the Thunder role players suddenly couldn’t miss, while the Warriors became frenetic and lost their poise (for the second time this series).

The result was a 32-9 run that became a 52-19 run and stretched into the third quarter. To the delight of a raucous Oklahoma City crowd, the Thunder ran the Warriors out of the building winning 133-105.

Oklahoma City now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. That game becomes vital for Golden State, which can’t afford to go down 3-1, it’s hard to picture them winning three straight in this series.

While the point totals are impressive — Kevin Durant had 33 on 15 shots, Russell Westbrook had 30 on 19 shots — it was the defense from both teams that turned this game. As it did in the second half of Game 1, the Thunder’s length and athleticism clearly bothered the Warriors — and it was the starters and the Warriors’ small-ball “death lineup” that were the biggest problems. The death lineup was -22 on the night and was on the wrong end of the Thunder’s big run. Green was -43 on the evening, Klay Thompson -41, Stephen Curry -39.

“I think it was like 40-40…” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame. “We put our starters back in and they stopped moving the ball, we were taking quick shots that was just feeding their transition. It wasn’t so much turnovers as bad sh0ts, quick shots, we weren’t forcing them to defend at all. That’s death here because this team is so athletic, and on their home floor they are going to push the ball like crazy.”

The Thunder continue to switch the pick-and-roll, but where the Warriors usually use that to pick apart mismatches and move the ball they haven’t done that against the Thunder, instead just jacking up isolation shots. The Thunder’s athleticism plays into that.

Those Warriors’ starters got frustrated with their offense and allowed that to affect their defense — this was the worst transition defense we have seen from Golden State in the Kerr era. Golden State players didn’t get back on defense, or when they did they looked like little more than traffic cones for Westbrook, Dion Waiters, and other Thunder players to drive around. The Thunder players’ eyes got big and they just kept attacking.

Oklahoma City had their confidence by the third quarter and even though the fast breaks were fewer, they were still hitting everything. This is the Thunder shot chart from the third:

Thunder shot chart

The Warriors have made a point this series of not guarding Andre Roberson because he’s not a threat from the outside — he was 3-of-5 from three and hit 5-of-9 overall for 13 points. It was that kind of night for the Thunder, who were led by Durant and Westbrook they went into attack mode and just steamrolled the team in front of them.

Stephen Curry had 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting, 3-of-11 from three. Klay Thompson added 18 points. Besides their big two, the Thunder also got 14 points from Serge Ibaka and 13 from Dion Waiters.

Much of the postgame talk was about the Green shot to Steven Adams’ groin, and whether it was intentional. I think the referees got it right with a flagrant 1 call, and Green may be writing a check to the NBA because of it. But I don’t think it warranted a suspension — and it gives Thunder fans someone to boo in Game 4.

The Warriors are down 2-1 and while Game 4 is not a must win, it’s close to it for the Warriors.

“We were down 2-1 twice last year, in Memphis and in Cleveland, both times we were blown out in Game 3,” Kerr said. “We have that memory. I’m confident we are going to come out and play a really good game in Game 4.”

They need to, they need to get their swagger back, or this season will end much sooner than the Warriors expected.

Draymond Green picks up flagrant foul for kicking Steven Adams, um, down under

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The referees got this one right.

Draymond Green tried to go up in the lane for a shot over Steven Adams in the second quarter and was fouled. But, in trying to sell that call, Green flailed his arms and fell back, kicking his legs out.

And kicking Adams right in the… groin. Where men least want to be kicked.

The call after review was a shooting foul on Adams and a flagrant 1 on Green. That was the right call, the punishment fit the crime.

After the game, both Kerr and Green said they thought the call should be rescinded. Not a chance. The rule states a flagrant foul is “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent” and this fits the definition. It becomes a flagrant two — meaning a suspension — if it is deemed “excessive.” That implies intent that I don’t think was there, although a number of Thunder players after the game did say they thought Green did kick him intentionally (this is twice Green has hit Adams down there in two games).

Green said this was not intentional.

Green may get a fine, but don’t expect the one-game suspension that Cleveland’s Dahntay Jones got for Green. For one, Jones intentionally got his swing in there, where I don’t see intent with Green. The other key factor here: Jones has a long history of those kinds of blows to guys. That impacts the league’s decision making.

What is KD wearing? Kevin Durant debuts new KD 9s in Game 3

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If you’re going to debut a new shoe, why not get the biggest audience possible.

Kevin Durant unveiled his new KD 9s during Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals Sunday night. This is the latest iteration of Durant’s signature Nike shoe.

From the Nike press release:

In response to Kevin Durant’s trademark versatility and impressive court coverage (approximately four miles a game and 15 marathons a season), it offers support, comfort and responsiveness via the most advanced construction of Nike Flyknit and Zoom Air technologies to date, adapted to basketball’s specifications.

Designed by Leo Chang, the low-cut shoe features a Flyknit upper engineered down to the pixel for maximum containment. Specifically, it features a pattern with a distinct honeycomb structure precisely knit for the multidimensional movement of basketball and Durant’s lateral quickness. 

The shoes seem to work for Durant, who shot 5-of-9 for 18 points to start the game, getting the Thunder out to double-digit leads.

Cavs’ Dahntay Jones suspended for shot to Biyombo’s “groin;” Raps’ coach Casey fined $25,000 for ripping referees

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Cleveland’s Dahntay Jones has a reputation as a guy who will take a cheap shot if given the chance.

He did that at the end of the Raptors’ Game 3 win in Toronto. Jones was in the paint battling for a meaningless rebound with Bismack Biyombo and gave him a clean shot to the, well, as Biyombo said after the game “the nuts.” That’s going to cost him a one-game suspension, the league announced. Jones cannot play Monday in Game 4 of this series. You can get a better look at the shot in this Vine.

Losing Jones is no big deal for the Cavaliers, he’s not part of their regular rotation, he only plays during garbage time.

The fine is not going to hit Jones that hard — remember he signed at the very end of the regular season and made just $8,819 for the season.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey picked up a $25,000 fine from the league for his comments after the game that the Raptors — Biyombo in particular — was not getting calls. He had to know he was getting fines the second he said this:

“[Biyombo] is not getting the calls. We shoot zero free throws in the fourth quarter. Zero. He’s getting hit. There’s one play where they almost have a brawl. He gets killed on that play. I don’t know if he’s getting hit because of how physical and tough he is, but he’s getting cracked…. Again, I’m going to say this: I think he gets hit almost on every rebound and putback there is, and he just doesn’t get the calls, whether he’s rolling to the bucket, and we’ve just got to have consistency with that.”

Casey was willing to take the fine to make the point. We’ll see if the calls are a little different in Game 4.