Thursday night NBA grades: Golden State get a couple “A” grades

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while worrying about what was really in your donkey meat

source:  Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors. When he is going like he was in this game — especially in the third quarter when he had 14 of his 36 — there is nothing you can do. Miami tried switching defenders, even doubled him a few times, but it didn’t work. Curry’s quick release was too much for Miami. However it wasn’t just the hot shooting (those 36 points came on 22 shots) it was the 12 assists — he was the catalyst of some fantastic ball movement from the Warriors. This was his best game of the season and the Warriors looked like the team they were in the playoffs last year for the first time in a while.

source:  David Lee, Goden State Warriors. Golden State clearly had a plan early to punish Miami inside and it was David Lee who took the most advantage — he had 13 points in the first 12 minutes as Shane Battier had no answers for him. Lee finished 32 points on 17 shots, plus he pulled down 14 rebounds. Lee the last few weeks is playing as well as I can remember him playing.

source:   Orlando Magic’s last 50 seconds of regulation (and overtime). If you have a nine point lead with one minute left in the game, you should not lose it. This was an ugly loss, there were so many mistakes at the end. Like Jameer Nelson fouling Jarrett Jack on a three point attempt. Or how E’Twaun Moore missed two clutch free throws (a guy shooting 90 percent from the stipe the rest of the season). Or there was Dion Waiters driving layup to tie the game — he blows by Arron Afflalo and there is just no help. It was a lot of mistakes that opened the door for the Cavaliers to come back.

source:  Brooklyn Nets. A come from behind win on the road to beat Oklahoma City? I don’t care who the Thunder were without, that’s the Brooklyn Nets we thought we were getting this season. The turnaround was sparked with Paul Pierce at the four and Deron Williams dropping a season-best 29. Then Joe Johnson capped the whole thing off in dramatic fashion.

source:  Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. He is not getting this grade for the 27 points, although it showed how much the Knicks needed him back. He’s not getting this grade for the dozen rebounds. No, he is getting this grade because he was drawing the double then sharing the rock with the open man. His four assists on the night don’t do justice to how he was sharing the rock and how the rest of the Knicks followed his lead. That ball movement exposed a night of slow Spurs defensive rotations (uncharacteristic of them) and it all started with Anthony.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.

Bulls’ Paul Zipser has surgery to repair broken left foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser has had surgery to repair a broken left foot.

The team said Friday the operation was performed in his native Germany. The Bulls gave no timetable for his recovery.

Zipser averaged 4.0 points in 54 appearances before sitting out the final nine games last season.