Kurt Helin

Pistons battle to very end, but too many big Kyrie Irving shots means 100-98 Cleveland win, series sweep


Detroit looked like a team of the future this past week. They have fantastic young talent with Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias HarrisKentavious Caldwell-Pope and more. They have a coach in Stan Van Gundy that knows how to mold a winner. They showed a lot of fight this past week in the first playoff appearances of this core.

But Cleveland is a team of the present. And it showed.

All series long the Cavaliers made plays late in games when they needed to — that included some big threes from Kyrie Irving on Sunday night, including the dagger three, as the guard finished with 31. The result was a 100-98 win for the Cavaliers and a sweep of the Pistons in the first round.

Cleveland will now get about a week of rest while awaiting the winner of the Boston/Atlanta series, which is tied 2-2 after a Celtics overtime win Sunday.

If you’re a Pistons fan, there’s a lot to be optimistic about going forward. Andre Drummond is a beast and showed it Sunday with 17 points and 11 boards, a sweet driving layup, and he hit half his free throws for a night. Trade deadline addition Tobias Harris had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Marcus Morris had 24. A few more pieces and a little more seasoning, and this team will be a threat in the East.

But there are hard lessons to learn along the way. Including on the game’s final play — the Cavs were up by the eventual final score when Irving missed a shot, giving Reggie Jackson a chance (the Pistons were out of timeouts). Jackson drove the length of the court harassed by Irving (Jackson almost lost the rock at one point), he gets to the arc, then rather take another couple steps in and get closer for a game-tying shot Jackson leapt into Irving trying to draw a foul and in doing so missed an off-balance three. There was no call because there was no foul — Jackson initiated the contact, and nobody is going to make that call in that place anyway. Ballgame.

For LeBron James — 22 points on the night — this is his fourth straight first-round playoff sweep. J.R. Smith added 15 points, including one ridiculous deep three that had him silencing the Piston faithful.

The Cavaliers may not have looked invincible in this series, but they got the sweep against a team that pushed them. They stayed healthy (a step forward from last season) and Irving played well. It’s the first step on the way to the Finals, and that is all that matters. Just win baby.

It’s official: Lakers fire coach Byron Scott

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This was expected after a 17-win season, the coaching having an uneasy relationship the team’s young stars, and two seasons in a row where the Lakers had one of the two worst defenses in the NBA.

But because they’re the Lakers, it couldn’t happen without drama.

The Lakers took their time getting there but they are making a coaching change. This was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and has since been confirmed by the Lakers.

“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a released statement.

The Lakers had a team option on Scott’s contract for next season, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (it had been reported Scott had a guaranteed year, however, he did not meet performance baselines to make that a guaranteed season).

Scott was 38-126 in his two seasons as the Lakers head coach, and the Lakers defense was atrocious both seasons. His old-school manner rubbed the young players the wrong way. Those and other reasons were certainly there to let him go; that said what Scott was hired to do was guide the Kobe Bryant farewell tour the last couple years while the Lakers searched for a new direction and more young talent. He did that — Kobe was put front and center and given all the shots he wanted. In that sense, Scott did what was asked of him.

But it was time to move on.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said after the season that he wanted to take some time, let the raw emotions of the season heal a little bit, then make a decision on Scott’s future. That makes sense.

But in that time two things happened. First came the rumors that Scott could stay on — if Jeanie Buss is going to get her brother and the head of the Lakers’ basketball operations Jim Buss to step aside next summer (something still up for debate), wouldn’t it make sense to wait for the new GM to hire the new coach? So you live with another year of Scott, then make a regime change. Those rumors buzzed around, and there is some logic to that because now if there is a new GM he’s stuck with a coach he didn’t select, and that rarely ends well.

The other was that Scott Brooks took the Washington Wizards job. He was both a great fit for the Lakers, and there was some mutual interest.

The leading name for the job will be Luke Walton, although whether he would leave Golden State for the Lakers less stable organization remains to be seen. If you’re looking for a long-shot name, try UConn coach Kevin Ollie — someone Kevin Durant respects highly.

The Lakers are a development coaching job right now. The Lakers have good young talent in D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. — some of whom were not fond of Scott — but they need a couple of seasons of growth and strong coaching development to become the players that lead the Lakers back to prominence. Over the next couple years, the Lakers may draw some free agents once that core is in place as a foundation. But it’s going to be a process — a style of play and a culture must be built.

Whoever the Lakers hire, expect some drama.

Report: Chris Bosh has no plans of retiring, but don’t expect him to suit up in playoffs

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Chris Bosh isn’t going anywhere.

That’s true for both this series and his career, according to a report in the Miami Herald. Bosh is still on blood thinners (to avoid clotting that could be life threatening) and with that will not suit up for the Heat these playoffs. However, he plans to be back next season.

Bosh has indicated to associates that he has no plans to retire at this time and intends to play next season for the Heat. He is under contract for three seasons after this one, at roughly $75.5 million. Even if he retired this offseason, the Heat would not receive any salary-cap relief until summer 2017…

Bosh, eager to return, has sought opinions from multiple doctors about whether it was safe to come off the blood thinners in order to resume playing this season. On that issue, there were different opinions among the doctors consulted by Bosh, according to two sources with direct knowledge. But most of the doctors consulted believed Bosh should continue taking the blood thinners for several months, which is common treatment for the condition, even though the clot dissipated several weeks ago. That is ultimately the course Bosh took.

With $75 million on the line, none of us would walk away.

It can’t be easy for Bosh. He’s competitive, he wants to be on the court, watching the playoffs in a suit is not what he signed up for. On the other hand, his condition can be life threating if left untreated, and the treatment prevents him from playing. There is only one choice there, but it’s got to be frustrating.

Hopefully he can find a balance in future seasons that keeps one of the good guys in the game on the court and healthy.

Three Things to Watch in Playoffs Sunday: Stephen Curry is back, Houston’s defense is in trouble


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1) Stephen Curry is back, Houston better find an improved defense. Fast. In the just 20 minutes Stephen Curry has played in this series, the Warriors have had an offensive rating of 119 points per 100 possessions, and they outscored the Rockets by 17.9 points per 100. It’s a small sample size, but it follows what Curry did in the two games he played against them in the regular season when he averaged 30 points a game with a 70 percent true shooting percentage. Like a lot of teams, the Rockets have no real answer for defending Curry, and his gravity drawing defenders opens up the floor for the rest of the Warriors players.

The Rockets won Game 3 in Houston on a James Harden shot with 2.7 seconds left, but this game will be very different. Expect a sharper Golden State defense, expect a better game from Draymond Green who was frustrated with his turnovers in the last contest, and expect a much more potent Warriors offense. Houston will be physical with Curry using Patrick Beverley, James Harden will get his points and attack, the Houston crowd will be loud and energized after Game 3. But if the Rockets do not find a much better defense quickly, this series will be over in five.

2) San Antonio will close out their series, can Cleveland do the same? Today will be the final game of the Memphis Grizzlies season. Credit them for playing all out just to make the playoffs despite a barrage of injuries, coach Dave Joerger has been brilliant, Matt Barnes and Tony Allen have epitomized “grit and grind,” but they are vastly overmatched, and this will be their final game.

The more interesting question is if Cleveland can close out a feisty Detroit Pistons team Sunday. You know Andre Drummond is going to get his (except in the fourth quarter, when he is forced to the bench by hack-a-Drummond), but the Pistons have had a balanced attack with Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris all playing well. It took a lot of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving for Cleveland to win Game 3 on the road, but the Pistons are not going to roll over in Game 4.

Cleveland has outscored Detroit by 34 in the second half through three games; that is where they have won. By going more with Kevin Love at center and keeping Drummond on the bench, Cleveland has found ways in the second half; the Pistons need to change that around if they plan to play another day. Cleveland’s other advantage? LeBron tends to step it up in close out games.

3) Can Atlanta get back to shutting down Isaiah Thomas and Boston’s offense? Boston shot better at home in Game 3, but not great — 8-of-19 from the midrange, 11-of-32 from three. It was enough. The threat of Jonas Jerebko (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Evan Turner (16 points) created space that was missing with Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk out injured. That opened the door for Isaiah Thomas to go off for 42. Expect the Hawks and their ruthless defense to get back to packing the paint, taking away Thomas’ driving lanes and living with the Celtics’ shooters beating them. The question becomes can the Celtics shooters make them pay? Can Boston’s defense hold the Hawks front line stars in check again and even the series? Or, maybe the better question for the Hawks offense: Can they start to hit open jumpers? It’s become a thing with this team.

If you’re going to watch one game today, make it this one. This is the best playoff series going — evenly matched teams that are chippy with one another. The Boston crowd is raucous. The Celtics have a chance to even the series and make this a best-of-three, but they will need a better game from guys not named Thomas to make that happen, another scorer needs to step up.

Watch 18-0 run that won Charlotte first playoff game in nearly 14 years


It’s been a long, long 14-year playoff win drought in Charlotte — in part because the old team moved to New Orleans, so an expansion team was brought in — but that ended on Saturday night with a win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of their first-round series.

It happened because of this 18-0 run in the third quarter.

The game had been fairly close until that point, but Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin helped spark the run that made this a series again — 2-1 Miami, with Game 4 Monday in Charlotte. We’ll see if Miami can squelch any runs in that game.