Kurt Helin

Physical intensity picks up between Cavaliers, Raptors heading into Game 4


TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan remembers the angry emotions Raptors teammate Bismack Biyombo once stirred in him as an opponent.

“I hated him,” DeRozan said Sunday.

The Cavaliers likely feel a little anger toward Biyombo after his pivotal performance Saturday, when he helped stop Cleveland’s 10-0 start to the playoffs in Toronto’s 99-84 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 4 is Monday night at Air Canada Centre.

Biyombo hauled down a Raptors’ playoff-record 26 rebounds, blocked four shots, and scored six of his seven points in a quick fourth-quarter spurt that helped seal Toronto’s win.

That wasn’t all. Biyombo was involved in a first-half skirmish that saw LeBron James take a tumble after catching an accidental elbow from his own teammate, Tristan Thompson. Late in the fourth, Biyombo drew a flagrant foul after he collared a driving James, sending the Cavs’ star sprawling again.

DeRozan hasn’t forgotten what all that feels like.

“I hated Biz,” Toronto’s All-Star guard said. “He was a fouler, always blocking shots. He always went for the pump fake, though, but I hated Biz. Now by far he’s one of my favorite teammates of all-time.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey understands Biyombo can be both a “nightmare” and a “nuisance” to play against, whether it’s the center’s habit of finger-wagging after blocks, or flexing his muscles after big dunks.

To Biyombo, being a nuisance is no big deal. It’s the way it’s got to be.

“Until you really get to know the real side of me, then you know who I am,” he said. “But on the floor I don’t have friends.”

At the final buzzer Saturday, Biyombo lay crumpled in pain in Cleveland’s paint after being struck below the belt while battling Dahntay Jones for a loose ball. Biyombo took the hit while tapping the ball to a teammate, his eighth offensive rebound of the night.

Casey was upset at the referees after the game, complaining that Biyombo wasn’t getting calls and citing Cleveland’s 86-51 edge in free throw attempts in the series. On Sunday, Casey declined to say whether those comments had drawn league discipline.

“I’m not trying to get anybody,” Casey said. “It’s over with. I said what I had to say last night. I’m not trying to send a message. It was a comment about the game last night and it’s over with.”

Jones was suspended for Game 4 by the NBA on Sunday, while Casey was fined $25,000 for his comments.

After a testy, physical Game 3, the Cavaliers were also wondering whether they were getting a fair shake from the referees. Asked whether James and the Cavs had to sell calls, coach Tyronn Lue said it’s tough for his star because defenders “tend to bounce off” a driving James.

“If you don’t foul him hard, he’s going to get an and-one and a three-point play,” Lue said. “You’ve got to try to be physical with him so he can’t take the contact and finish at the rim. When you get around the neck, like Biyombo did last night, that’s different. But when teams hard-foul, you’re supposed to get hard-fouled when you’re going to the basket, especially being that strong and that powerful.”

Speaking before the Cavs held a film session at their Toronto hotel Sunday, James didn’t want to say whether he’s getting the whistles he deserves.

“I really don’t get involved in it too much,” James said. “I just play the game and let the referees decide what the call may be and move on. I can’t have my focus go somewhere else. That allows my energy to be somewhere it shouldn’t be.”

With Cleveland’s run over, Richard Jefferson said the mood was a little down when several Cavs gathered for a postgame meal Saturday night.

“That’s the first time in a month the dinner conversation wasn’t joyous and excited and having fun,” Jefferson said. “We were just kind of talking about the things that we needed to do. We were trying to keep our minds off of it, but you could see that everybody was a little off.”

Shooting-wise, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were more than a little off in Game 3, going a combined 4 for 28. Lue said Irving, who got the worst of a collision with Toronto’s Cory Joseph late in Saturday’s game, was feeling fine after having the wind knocked out of him.

Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, out since Game 3 of the Miami series after spraining his right ankle, is listed as doubtful for Game 4. Valanciunas is progressing slowly and will be re-evaluated Monday, Casey said.

The Ringer brilliantly spoofs Draymond Green talk by invoking O.J. Simpson trial


Back in the 1990s, when the O.J. Simpson trial captured the nation’s attention — and for those too young to remember, the arrest and trial were ubiquitous, with what some would call media overkill but people ate it up, so they got more — it became a cultural debate in America much as anything. O.J. guilt or innocence had little to do evidence and for most more to do with the deep emotional feelings had attached to the case, feelings built off their previous biases on race, and the crime culture in the nation at the time.

The Draymond Green kick to Steven Adam’s nuts has some of the same elements: What people think about whether Green intentionally kicked Adams speaks to their fandom in the series, the growing Warriors backlash (they talk a lot of trash and don’t get called out for it like other teams), their feeling about physicality in the league, and more.

The Ringer — Bill Simmons new venture, with podcasts already launched and a Web site coming — had fun with American Crime Story combining the two. Enjoy.


Watch highlights of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook dropping 63 on Warriors

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The Oklahoma City Thunder put on a show.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant put on a show — they scored a combined 63 points on just 34 shot attempts. They led the Thunder attack that steamrolled the Warriors in Game 3.

It started with the Thunder defense, which was fantastic from late in the first quarter on Sunday night, with smooth switches on picks and athleticism that threw the Warriors off their game. Then the Thunder turned those misses into transition opportunities — and Durant and Westbrook in transition are nearly impossible to stop.

It was quite a show.

Draymond Green says kick to Steven Adams groin not intentional, but will he get suspended?


It will be the sports talk radio topic of the day:

Did Draymond Green intentionally kick Steven Adams in the “groin” during Sunday night’s Thunder win? And if the Cavaliers’ Dahntay Jones was given a suspension for a blow to Bismack Biyombo‘s nether regions, should Green be suspended for Game 4?

Don’t bet on it.

For his part, Green said not only was the kick unintentional he thinks the call will be rescinded. Steve Kerr said the same thing. While the rescinded part is laughable — the NBA’s flagrant foul is defined as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent” and this certainly qualifies — Green’s postgame quotes were that this was a natural part of his shooting motion after he was fouled and not intentional.

“I was following through on the shot, and my leg went up. So no, I don’t think I’ll be suspended since I don’t know how anyone could possibly say I did that on purpose regardless of the way it may look.”

For the foul to be considered a flagrant 2 and worthy of a suspension, it would need to be considered “unnecessary and excessive” — usually meaning the league thinks it’s intentional.

Russell Westbrook and many the Thunder players said after the game they did believe that it seemed intentional. They noted this was the second game in a row Green caught Adams down there, although no foul was called on the play in Game 2.

Thunder fans leading the pro-suspension call point to Cleveland’s Dahntay Jones getting a one-game suspension from the league for a blow to Bismack Biyombo’s groin at the end of the Raptors’ Game 3 win. But that comparison doesn’t hold up on several levels. For one, while Jones tried to be subtle, watching the video shows a clearly intentional arm swing to make that blow happen (the intent on Green’s move is up for debate). Second, Jones’ long history of cheap shots and his reputation for them played into the league’s decision.

Finally, the suspension of Jones was less painful to him than a fine. Jones signed with Cleveland for the playoffs, right at the end of the regular season, so his salary for the year was just $8,819. As noted by former Nets executive Bobby Marks of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, the fine is 110th of that — or $80.17. If they league wanted to hurt Jones they would have fined him, it would have cost him his entire season’s salary. They didn’t. The league took the less painful path (and Jones is not part of the team’s playoff rotation, he’s only in for garbage time).

The league most likely lets the call stand as a flagrant 1, and maybe they tack on a fine for Green. But don’t bet on a suspension.

That said, the league can be hard to predict when it comes to fines and suspensions, it is possible Green gets one. If so, the series changes because with Green out it’s unlikely the Warriors could win Game 4 Thursday. And if Golden State goes down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to picture them advancing.

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.