Kurt Helin

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two

Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert takes shot at Iguodala, Green’s defense on LeBron on twitter

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Somebody’s feeling a little comfortable heading back home…

That’s Dan Gilbert, the owner of Cleveland Cavaliers poking a little fun at the defense of Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green on LeBron James. He did so with a decent use of humor.

Of course, if we said Matthew Dellavedova wanted a Stephen Curry jersey every time he grabbed ahold of it trying to slow Curry off picks this series Delly would have at least a dozen through two games. It’s the Finals and the Cavaliers have effectively turned this into a grit and grind series, so there’s going to be clutching and grabbing.

The officials are letting the guys play. As they should within reason. Yes, the NBA will admit that the referees have made some mistakes late in games, but it hasn’t swung games. I always go back to what one of my coaches said (and has been echoed by every coach working above a seventh-grade level in just about every sport):

If you don’t want the referees to make crucial calls late in the game, play better earlier in the game and take it out of their hands.

If the Cavaliers don’t blow a late double-digit lead, there wouldn’t have been an overtime where the officials had to make tough calls. The same principle applies to the Warriors — try hitting your shots first. The officials have not decided these games.

(Hat tip NBA Reddit)

Golden State vs. Cleveland NBA Finals Game 3 Preview: Five Things to watch

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 07:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates their 95 to 93 win over the Golden State Warriors in overtime  during Game Two of the 2015 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 7, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Two games, two overtimes. Two games that could have gone either way. As a fan, you can’t ask for a more entertaining NBA Finals.

Game 3 Tuesday night is when the real chess match begins. After Game 1 the Warriors didn’t make many adjustments, they thought they had an off night in the opener and would simply hit more shots and play better in Game 2. Didn’t work out that way. With Matthew Dellavedova tracking Stephen Curry, the Cavaliers played better defense, the Warriors got out of rhythm and for a second game in a row everything was played at the Cavaliers pace and style. Now it’s on the Warriors to make adjustments.

Here are five things to look for in Game 5 from Cleveland.

1) Warriors will attack the rim and use that to create space. The Warriors have been here before these playoffs — they were down 2-1 to a physical, grinding Memphis team that had Mike Conley living in the jersey of Curry and taking the team out of its flow. I went back and watched Game 4 from that series and what you saw was Curry and the Warriors start to attack the rim — the were not hunting threes, they went to get their points at the bucket. Didn’t matter if Marc Gasol was there, they went at it, then used that to create space for threes off kick-outs. It worked, the Warriors won and didn’t lose again that series. Expect some of the same here, we already started to see it in late in Game 2 including the game-tying scoop shot.

“I was able to get to the paint a little bit more in the second half,” Curry said. “I didn’t finish many of them, but I was able to get in there and either make a play or try to  especially that last shot down the stretch in overtime  I mean of regulation.”

The Warriors are going to come off the picks and go right at the rim, even if Timofey Mozgov is there. How the Cavaliers handle that and how the Warriors finish around the Cavs bigs will be at the heart of deciding Game 3.

2) Can LeBron continue to control the tempo? Of all the monster numbers LeBron James has put up these Finals — the triple-double in Game 2, the 41.4 usage rate through two games — it has been his controlling of the pace of that been maybe the biggest key. This has been a slow, grinding series because he is comfortable at that pace and his patience with the ball is part of what has taken the Warriors out of their flow. The Cavaliers defense is getting the credit, but LeBron’s offensive tempo combined with the aggressive offensive rebounding of the Cavaliers has stymied the Warriors transition game. It has taken away the easy points. For the Cavaliers to keep winning, this cannot change.

3) Matthew Dellavedova vs. Stephen Curry. This is the matchup that got all the hype — and no doubt Dellavedova did a good job in Game 2.

“I don’t expect to shoot like this.  I’ve got to play better, find better shots and be more in a rhythm throughout the course of the game for us to really assert ourselves as a team,” Curry said after Game 2.

“It had everything to do with Delly,” LeBron said of Game 2. “He just kept a body on Steph.  He made Steph work.  He was spectacular, man, defensively.  We needed everything from him.”

As noted above, expect to see Curry start to attack the paint more off the bounce in Game 3, he’s not going to settle, he’s not going to hesitate. Dellavedova has played great defense all playoffs, that’s not about to change, but the Warriors will put a lot more pressure on him starting Tuesday night.

4) Would somebody knock down a shot. Please. I know both teams are playing good defense, but come on — the Cavaliers won Game 2 shooting 32 percent. J.R. Smith was 5-of-13, Iman Shumpert was 2-of-11, and Tristan Thompson was 0-of-5 and all at pretty close range. It wasn’t just the Cavs end of the court, Curry was 1-of-9 on uncontested looks. At some point during this series one of these teams is going to start knocking down their good looks, right? Right? Both of these games have been griding and ugly. Hopefully, a few more shots fall on Tuesday.

5) Fatigue. LeBron is averaging 48.1 minutes per game while carrying an insane load (41.4 percent usage rate). He admitted after Game 2 it’s getting to him a little.

“Did you see how I walked in (to the press conference)?  I’m feeling it.  I’m feeling it right now for sure,” LeBron said after Game 2. He also said he’ll have a couple days to recover and that he is built for this.

Still, at the end of games he lacks lift, he’s not been quite the same. Other players on the Cavaliers are logging heavy minutes, too, while the Warriors have a little more depth. The games now move to every other day for a few games, after having a week off, then a game, then a couple more days off. Will the fatigue and drain start to catch up to the Cavaliers? Or can they continue to put up these kinds of physical, grinding performances?

DeMarre Carroll says the Hawks took their foot off the gas down the stretch

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One
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The Atlanta Hawks who got swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers looked nothing like the Atlanta Hawks who won 17 straight games and didn’t lose once in January. Heck, that January team was MIA the final month of the season and most of the playoffs. The uniforms were the same, but aside that it felt like two different teams.

What happened? Injuries were a part of it, but DeMarre Carroll said it was more on the Hawks not being focused. Carroll was on the Sports Radio Talk Show “Go For It”, hosted by former ESPN employee Paul Gant (you can follow it here) and was honest about the Hawks shortcomings.

“I just think that towards the season we knew we were the number one seed we never been in this position before,” Carroll said. “I think we probably took our foot off the gas and I think we learned this season we can’t take the foot off the gas and the good teams can easily play at a high level for a long period of time.”

Carroll on what happened against the Cavaliers, and his knee injury that he played through.

“I think the first game we kind of let it slip away from us,” Carroll said. “We came out the first half really aggressive and I think the second half we didn’t come out wight he same energy and then after that everything started going downhill as far as me being injured, Kyle Korver too, Al (Horford) getting thrown out the game, Shelvin Mack gets injured. So there was a lot of obstacles against us, but you we gotta look forward to next year…

“I was limited big time but the same token many people did not know it was my knee but also had turf toe so it was all on the same leg. Basically, I was just out there on one leg at the same token I got out there I gave it my all but at the end of the day we still came up short as a team.”

Carroll said he thought a healthy Hawks team would have beaten the Cavaliers, adding they really missed Thabo Sefolosha (who missed the entire series after his run in with the NYPD). Not sure what else you would expect a competitor like Carroll to say.

As for Carroll’s pending free agency, he danced around that question.

“You know Atlanta played a big/major role in my life, major part of my family life so it would always be good to get back to Atlanta its a  great system that I grew up in and you know kind of excelled in,” Carroll said. “But, on the same token, my options are open and hopefully its Atlanta they will and have, they will be one of my best options but like I said before my options are open and Mark Bartelstein my agent he will handle all that process. He just told me to sit back and enjoy the ride.”

 

Report: Melvin Hunt remains guy expected to get Denver coaching job

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers
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The Denver Nuggets have gone all over the map with their coaching search. They interviewed the godfather of the modern run-and-gun offense in Mike D’Antoni. Twice Denver has interviewed a defense and discipline guy in Mike Malone.

But interim coach Melvin Hunt remains the guy most people around the league think will get the gig.

Marc Stein of ESPN tweeted this Monday.

Hunt would be a good hire and could be part of the culture change needed in Denver. The Nuggets players responded to Hunt when he was tapped to replace Brian Shaw midseason. The Nuggets went on a run, so much so that management told him to start resting guys to make sure they didn’t lose their draft position (yes, tanking).

Stein had one other interesting coaching note, this one pertaining to the staff for Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City.

Remember Cheeks was an assistant coach in Oklahoma for Scott Brooks the last time the Thunder went to the Finals. He has a good relationship with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. That would be a good get for OKC.

Watch Cleveland weatherman rant about no-call on LeBron James in OT

LeBron James, Andre Iguodala
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As my Twitter timeline Sunday night would attest, fans in Cleveland were up in arms over this call:

The NBA’s report on the officiating in the final two minutes of Game 2 says that LeBron James was fouled by Andre Iguodala on that play, and the referees missed it.

The report also says the referees had missed LeBron’s travel before he went up for that shot. So I guess two wrongs make a right?

The real point we’re trying to get to is this video of a Cleveland weatherman who is far more into that no-call than the little storms coming to Northeast Ohio. (Hat tip to NBA Reddit)