Kurt Helin

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Cavaliers bulldozing of East continues, beat Raptors 115-84 in Game 1


It’s been clear since the start of the season Cleveland was the class of the Eastern Conference. The question had been how big was the gap to every other team?

Turns out Grand Canyon big. Mount Everest big. The gap between the quality of Godfather I & II to III big.

That was on full display Wednesday night as the Cavaliers remained perfect in the playoffs and trounced the second-seeded Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals 115-84. While that makes the series just 1-0, the 31-point blowout was the Cavaliers largest margin of victory ever in the postseason, and it felt like a referendum on the East.

The nine days off didn’t matter, Cleveland is still playing its best ball of the season on both ends of the floor.

“We understand who we are as a team,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Defensively and offensively we understand who we are, who we want to play through, who we want to go through, and it’s been easier for the guys.”

LeBron James was 11-of-13 shooting and was attacking the rim all night on his way to 24 points. Maybe more impressive was Kyrie Irving, who finished with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and he got wherever he wanted on the court all night.

“I’m always on Kyrie about staying aggressive, being aggressive because guys can’t guard him one-on-one, especially in transition when we get out fast and get it early to him and he can attack to the basket,” Lue said. “LeBron is the same way.”

After nine days off for Cleveland, it was fair to ask if they would be rusty and Toronto could try to steal a game on the road. Cleveland’s rust lasted about three minutes (Toronto did lead 7-0 to open the game). LeBron got to the rim — he was 7-of-7 shooting in the first half, with every shot at the rim — and as a team the Cavaliers shot 66.7 percent plus hit 50 percent of their threes before halftime. The Cavaliers put up 66 points in 47 possessions in the first half.

Part of it was that the Raptors were terrified of the hot shooting of the Cleveland Cavaliers had from three in the playoffs (shooting 42 percent as a team from beyond the arc in the first two rounds). Toronto’s game plan involved getting out high to chase the Cavs shooters off the arc. It’s a good idea in theory. In practice, the Raptors don’t have the defenders to then contain the Cavaliers ball handlers on the drive. Nor did Toronto protect the rim. Cleveland players blew past their defenders and got straight to the rim — Cleveland shot 17-of-21 in the restricted area in the first half. It was just a show for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers blew the game open with a 16-2 run at the start of the second quarter.

The Cavaliers were playing good defense, too. Kyle Lowry was 2-of-9 shooting in the first half, Cory Joseph was 0-5, but the Raptors were bailed out some by DeMar DeRozan putting up 16 points on 8-of-13 from the field. DeRozan finished with 18 points, and second in scoring was Bismack Biyombo with a dozen.

The game never got close in the second half, and every Cavaliers starter not named Tristan Thompson rested the entire fourth.

It’s hard to picture how Toronto makes this even a series. They may get Jonas Valanciunas for a game, and he can certainly help score inside, slow the game down, and provide a big body in the paint. But that’s not going to be enough. This isn’t the Thunder after Game 1 against the Spurs; this is a much larger gap. Hopefully, Toronto can make Game 2 more competitive.

Dikembe Mutombo rejects lottery conspiracy after Twitter mistake


NEW YORK — Dikembe Mutombo is rejecting the idea of another NBA draft lottery conspiracy.

Mutombo congratulated the Philadelphia 76ers on winning the No. 1 pick with a tweet Tuesday that came about four hours before the lottery. But he tells The Associated Press it was a “mistake that happened” and that he had no knowledge that the 76ers would win.

“I want to let people know there was no conspiracy,” Mutombo said in a phone interview.

Mutombo played for the 76ers during his Hall of Fame career and now works for the NBA as a global ambassador. On Tuesday afternoon, he received an email from the Sixers organization asking him if he would post a congratulatory message on Twitter if the 76ers won.

The email, obtained by AP, showed some sample tweets that could be used. He copied and pasted one onto his Twitter page – but then immediately sent it.

“It was like maybe 30 seconds, then I realized, `Whoa! What did I do here?”‘ he said. “But it was too late. It was out in the air.”

Mutombo quickly deleted the tweet, which included a picture of himself and Allen Iverson, his teammate when the 76ers went to the 2001 NBA Finals. He soon posted another tweet saying he was just excited and had gotten ahead of himself, but was still hoping for a Sixers victory.

The NBA has battled conspiracy accusations since the very first lottery, when the New York Knicks moved up to the No. 1 spot to draft Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing and there was suspicion that one of the envelopes was tampered with so the person selecting would know which one to grab. The league has gone to great lengths to make the event, which is overseen by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, more transparent, even making a video of last year’s drawing to show how it couldn’t be rigged.

Mutombo, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year best known for his wagging his finger when he blocked a shot, rejects the idea of that the league would cheat.

“They need to stop that,” he said. “The NBA is like such a great organization, they don’t even go that way.”

Mutombo got plenty of messages kidding him about his error, and he was able to laugh about it, too.

“I think a lot of people understood the error that was made,” he said.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving put on show at Raptors’ expense (VIDEO)


The Toronto Raptors were terrified of the hot shooting of the Cleveland Cavaliers these playoffs, and they made a commitment to get out high and chase the Cavs shooters off the arc.

Problem is, the Raptors don’t have the defenders to then contain those guys on the drive. Or to protect the rim. All of which led to a blowout win for the Cavaliers and a show that the fans in Cleveland had to love.

Above there was Kyrie Irving showing off his handles, while below we have LeBron James at the rim — where he got most of his shots in this game — throwing it down. Hard.

Report: Mike D’Antoni gets second interview with Houston Rockets

Associated Press

Houston played relatively fast under Kevin McHale — they were top five in the NBA two seasons in a row — and were seventh fastest this season under mostly J.B. Bickerstaff’s guidance.

Maybe that’s not fast enough for GM Daryl Morey.

While all the talk has been about Jeff Van Gundy (who has yet to interview with the team) or maybe Frank Vogel — both defensive minded guys — it is Mike D’Antoni who got a second interview with the team, reports Marc Stein and Calvin Watkins with ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that D’Antoni, currently serving as associate head coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, was summoned for a second sit-down with the club — this time face-to-face with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander — after impressing in his first interview.

The Rockets, sources say, would seek to hire a coach with strong defensive credentials, to essentially serve as D’Antoni’s defensive coordinator… Sources say Jeff Van Gundy has received strong support from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to make a return to Houston for a second stint as the team’s coach, but also maintain that Alexander has yet to be fully sold on a reunion with the ESPN analyst, who has been working in television since the sides parted ways in May 2007.

D’Antoni is an innovative coach who has done a better job than his critics give him credit for, but he wants to win his way and with his style — that means putting together a roster that fits his style. James Harden can mesh with that certainly, and Dwight Howard is gone either way so that’s not a problem. Guys under contract such as Patrick Beverley, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and others certainly could play roles. Heck, Michael Beasley might thrive. However, guys such as Donatas Motiejunas may be a tougher fit.

The Rockets interviewed a lot of people from across the NBA spectrum, but this would be an interesting fit for a team that feels it is on the cusp and just a couple players away. And the right coach.

Philadelphia wins No. 1 pick in NBA Draft Lottery; Lakers keep first-round pick


Sam Hinkie’s “process” was strip the team all the way down to the foundation and rebuild, being bad to get great draft picks — the most likely way Philadelphia was going to land elite talent — and build it back up. He got to do the stripping down part and the team struggled for three seasons, then this year he was pushed to the side as Jerry Colangelo then Brian Colangelo under him were brought in to head basketball operations.

The Colangelos will be the beneficiaries of the process — the Philadelphia 76ers won the top pick in the NBA Draft this June.

For the first time in recent memory, the draft followed the exact order of the odds — no teams jumped up or down the ladder. Here is the lottery draft order:

1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics (via Nets)
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets (via Knicks)
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors (via Nuggets)
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns (via Wizards)
14. Chicago Bulls

• The Los Angeles Lakers stayed in the top three which means they keep their pick (the remnants of the Steve Nash trade). The pick will go to Philadelphia next season and is again Top 3 protected.

The Lakers will draft whoever is left between Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the clear top two picks in this draft. Most teams have Simmons on the top of their lists, but expect the Sixers to take a long look at both. For the Lakers it works either way, both are forwards who would play opposite Julius Randle in a young front line.

• The Knicks pick stayed at No. 7, which was traded to the Denver Nuggets.

• The Raptors had the worse of the Knicks and Nuggets picks, that ended up being Denver’s at No. 9.

• The Suns keep the Wizards’ pick at No. 13.