Monday And-1 Links: Ronny Turiaf returns to Minnesota rotation, not so for Shabazz Muhammad

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

• One of my personal favorites around the league, Ronny Turiaf was back on the court for Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night, recovered from elbow surgery. Good to see it. He played 22 minutes and pulled down 9 rebounds.

• In other Timberwolves news the team is expected to soon send first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad to the D-League where he can get some minutes.

• RIP to Pacers co-founder, ex-president Chuck DeVoe who passed away at age 83.

• Remember when Jan Vesely got drafted, kissed his girlfriend Eva Kodouskova, and that became a thing. Well, they have broken up. It almost makes you lose faith in love.

• Russell Westbrook talks about his latest knee surgery. He says he wasn’t feeling any pain but wanted to do what was best long-term for his knee.

• Clippers blogger (and my occasional pickup ball partner) Steve Perrin on how the Clippers have done historically without Chris Paul.

Chris Paul arrived in Los Angeles to join the Clippers in December of 2011 just after the NBA lockout ended. In two plus seasons since then, the Clippers have played 184 games — 164 with Paul, and 20 without him. As it happens, the team has won almost exactly two in three games with Paul (109-55) and exactly one in two games (10-10) without him.

• If you’re really enjoying these Toronto Raptors… well, know they may not be kept together that long.

• DeMarcus Cousins is up to 10 technical fouls this season. At 16 he gets a mandatory one-game suspension from the league.

• Kevin Durant has opened a restaurant in OKC. All the items on the menu are less than the NBA road per diem, in case traveling players are looking for a place to eat besides Chipotle.

• A  number of NBA players are copying Dirk Nowtizki’s one-legged fade away.

• The Pelicans have told D-League guard Pierre Jackson (they own his draft rights) to go ahead and look for a trade if he wants.

• Former UNLV star and NBA player Jackie Robinson is heading up a plan to build a new NBA-ready arena in Las Vegas on the strip (by the SLS Las Vegas hotel-casino). It would open at the end of 2016.by 2016. They would love to get an NBA team in the building at some point but they don’t need one to get it built, there are enough events. There are actually two NBA-caliber arenas being built on the strip right now.

• If you care, apparently Dwyane Wade fathered a child with another woman while he and finance Gabriel Union were on a “break.” Sounds like the plot of a “Friends” episode to me.

• Dwight Howard was asked about the Lakers and had this response:

• Finally, my man Coach Nick with a Kurtis Blow basketball parody video:

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

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

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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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.