LeBron James

D.J. Augustin, LeBron James

PBT’s Sunday Night NBA Winners/Losers: Cavaliers shouldn’t hit panic button, may want to locate it

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while you were detained after trying to bring a midevil war hammer on a plane….

source:  Cleveland Cavaliers. ”Right now we are not very good. In every aspect of the game.” That would be LeBron James assessment of the Cavaliers right now, and they looked every bit that bad in a humiliating, 23-point blowout loss at home to the lowly Pistons Sunday. Yes, the Cavaliers were without Kyrie Irving, but the bigger issue is the defense is struggling and Anderson Varejao is not walking through that door. Kevin Love was never much of a defender but LeBron is not hustling back consistently in transition defense and the rest of the team is following his lead. Coach David Blatt can’t get this team to buy in on defense, rather they are a team of bad habits. Still, this is a six-win Pistons team… well, make that seven wins, but the point is this is the kind of team the Cavaliers should be able to beat with LeBron and Love on the court together. That they can’t speaks volumes to where they stand. Their problems are bigger than ones that can be solved with some magical trade (that may not happen anyway). It’s still just more than a third of the way into the season, there’s time to turn it around and become the team many feared. But a lot of things need to change.

source:  Detroit Pistons. Yes, the Cavaliers have issues, but let’s give the Pistons credit — that was their best game of the young season. Is it a coincidence their two best games of the season (beating the Pacers Friday) came after Josh Smith was cut loose? Probably. First off, they hit 17-of-31 from three, that’s a one-off. Also, Brandon Jennings has these kinds of night a couple times a season — 25 points (13 in the third quarter), and almost all of it on jump shots, as he was 5-of-6 shooting from the midrange and 5-of-9 from three. Jennings also has six assists. (To be fair, he’s played well in three of the last four, maybe he’s finding a groove.) That said, it’s two big wins in a row for Detroit. We’ll be watching to see if this continues.

source:  Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams. The Raptors 1-2 punch at the guard spot put up 61 points on the Nuggets. Kyle Lowry continues to be one of the best players in the Eastern Conference this season — he had 30 points (on 20 shots), 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Then Lou Williams comes in off the bench and put up 31 points on 18 shots including going 4-of-7 from three. When those guys re hitting like that the Raptors can beat anybody. It is the play from these guys that has Toronto having won eight of nine without DeMar DeRozan.

source:  Dallas Mavericks. In what was a really entertaining game against Oklahoma City, Dallas may not have won the big individual battles but they won the war and got a quality victory. This one may have been a toss-up: Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points (10 in the fourth) on 13 shots, while Serge Ibaka had 26 points on 14 shots, plus 10 rebounds. At the point guard spot Rajon Rondo had 15 points, seven assists, and six rebounds, while Russell Westbrook flirted with a triple-double scoring 18 points, with nine assists and nine rebounds. Still, without Kevin Durant that’s not enough from Westbrook. But you knew it was going to be a good night for Dallas when Greg Smith was doing this.

source:  San Antonio Spurs. Speaking of teams getting quality wins, the Spurs are still without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard yet were able to beat the Rockets 110-106. This was another great game for the fans — it was close the entire way (if a bit sloppy, the teams combined for 43 turnovers), but as they do when it got to the end the Spurs simply executed at a higher level than their opponents. The Spurs got 24 from Danny Green, plus the usual strong nights from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

LeBron, after Cavaliers lose by 23 at home to Pistons: ‘Right now we are not very good. In every aspect of the game’

LeBron James
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The Cavaliers have gotten off to a slow start this season, at least when compared to the wealth of talent on the roster that had preseason expectations in Cleveland at an all-time high.

Things got even slower on Sunday, when the Cavs dropped a home game by 23 points to a Pistons team that came into the contest with a record of just six wins against 23 losses to this point of the season.

Cleveland recently lost Anderson Varejao for the season due to injury, and was without Kyrie Irving for the second straight game thanks to a knee injury he reaggravated in the Christmas Day loss to the Heat. But things started fine in this one, with the Cavaliers getting out to a lead of 15 points early in the second quarter — before the wheels came off completely, the offense became stagnant, and the Pistons seemingly couldn’t miss.

Playing without 40 percent of your starting lineup, as it turns out, is no easy task. Detroit set a franchise record for three-pointers made with 17, and shot 54.8 percent from three-point distance while moving the ball consistently, and well ahead of the Cavaliers rotations. Cleveland, meanwhile, clearly missed Irving’s playmaking — he averages 37.9 minutes per game as the team’s point guard, and without him, the open looks were few and far between as Cleveland made just 17.2 percent of its shots from three-point distance, while launching 29 beyond-the-arc attempts.

With Varejao gone and no other real bigs to speak of, Andre Drummond had his way inside for most of the game, and finished with 16 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots. And with Irving gone, Brandon Jennings had one of his best outings of the season, finishing with a game high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting — this from someone who came into this one shooting a little better than 37 percent from the field on a per-game basis.

LeBron James was far from even average, finishing just 5-of-19 from the field with 17 points, to go along with seven turnovers. And he had no trouble stating the obvious when discussing the loss afterward.

From Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

#Cavs LeBron James: “Right now we are not very good. In every aspect of the game”

That about sums it up.

Now, we probably shouldn’t take too much from a December loss, even one as painful as this. The missing pieces matter, and as long as Irving is back to full strength sometime soon, that will solve a lot of the problems offensively that were evident in this one.

But a bigger concern might be the lack of big man depth inside. Cleveland is going to have to try to make a move to add someone at some point this season, if indeed it wants to play deep into the postseason as was expected when this so-called super-team was assembled.

James took a knee to the quad before halftime, and was seen leaving the arena with a slight limp. His health is obviously paramount to his team’s chances, but so is his level of aggressiveness on the floor. And he simply has to bring it offensively on a regular basis (i.e., no more chill mode), especially on a night when the team’s second leading scorer was forced to sit it out.

David West after Kevin Garnett blows in his ear: ‘I think (Lance Stephenson’s) was more sensual’

Kevin Garnett,David West
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Early on in the Pacers’ 110-85 win over the Nets on Saturday, Kevin Garnett did something unseemly to David West.

Garnett appeared to Blow in West’s ear — or if not in his ear specifically, directly into his face.

West immediately retaliated with a shove, and received a technical foul — which was likely Garnett’s goal all along, to get his opponent off his game.

We saw something similar, of course, between Lance Stephenson and LeBron James, when the Pacers faced the Heat in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

West was clearly heated at the time, but was willing to joke about the silliness of the situation afterward.

From Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:

“Yeah, I didn’t like that,” West said. “I just know it was too close and I didn’t like it. I don’t really play them games. We’re out there to play basketball so let’s play basketball. Everybody was kinda looking at what made me push him or whatever, (I) told ’em, ‘he blew in my face.'”

Then, recognizing the absurdity of the Lance-like moment, West began to smile.

“An aggressive blow at that,” West described. “I think Lance’s was more sensual. That was an aggressive one.”

West is known as one of the more legitimate tough guys among his fellow players, while Garnett has a reputation of being all bark and no bite — i.e., essentially the opposite.

Being “aggressive” in that way is Garnett’s attempt at getting inside his opponent’s head. But after the shove from West early on, I’m guessing Garnett was on his best behavior for the remainder of this one.

Kevin Love benched entire fourth quarter of Cavaliers win over Magic

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers
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After three quarters of play during Friday night’s matchup in Orlando, the Cavaliers trailed the Magic by four points.

Cleveland has gotten off to a slower than expected start to the season, while Orlando was eight games under .500 coming into the contest. It would have been a bad loss for the Cavaliers, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that head coach David Blatt was willing to try anything to prevent it — even if that meant benching one of his star players.

Kevin Love didn’t register a single fourth quarter minute, with Blatt instead preferring to go small in order to better match up with Orlando’s lineup. It worked to perfection; the Cavs held their opponent to just 14 points in the final period (LeBron James scored 15 in that final 12 minutes himself) and came away with a much needed victory.

From Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“The way that Orlando was playing, they didn’t make a particular substitution and we were just matched up so well defensively, we decided to not to go with it,” Blatt said about not putting Love in the game. “Certainly to Kevin’s credit, he actually kind of recognized it and supported that.”

It’s not accurate to say Love never left the bench in the final quarter. He was one of the most supportive players as he stood up repeatedly, clapping and cheering his teammates on. And vocally, he screamed more than when he was playing. …

“It’s all about the matchup,” Love said. “Had it been different, it might have been a tough pill to swallow. Tristan was doing a phenomenal job on [Nikola] Vucevic, forcing him into tough shots and blocking shots. It was really how they matched up. They went small. It wasn’t hard for me at all. I was up pretty much every play I could be.”

It’s big for the Cavaliers that this strategy not only worked out in terms of the team getting the win, but that Love was fully on board and remained engaged while being relegated to the bench.

Love is going to opt out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, if nothing more than to give himself a raise. But the fact is that he could choose to leave if he feels his role is diminished as the season goes on, and there’s no question that Blatt rolled the dice a bit here, without fully knowing that the strategy would pay off, or how Love would handle the situation on the sidelines.

Kevin Garnett blows in David West’s ear, West retaliates and gets technical (VIDEO)

Brooklyn Nets V Detroit Pistons
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Kevin Garnett will do anything to get in the head of an opponent… but imitate Lance Stephenson?

Yup. And it worked.

During the first half of Indiana’s visit to Brooklyn, Garnett blew in the ear of Pacers’ veteran David West, who took a little offense at that and pushed KG. The referees blew the whistle and hit West with a technical for the shove.

Of course, then Pacer Lance Stephenson became a meme after he blew in LeBron James’ ear during the playoffs last season. It didn’t really bother LeBron, and West moved on from this pretty quickly. But I somehow doubt KG will become a meme.

This just fits with Garnett’s personality.