David Blatt calls trend of hard fouls against LeBron ‘worrisome’

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LeBron James has been victimized by a series of hard fouls recently, and predictably, his head coach would like that to stop.

James Harden was suspended a game for kicking LeBron in the groin, and Jonas Valanciunas was called for a flagrant for taking LeBron to the floor two games later.

There were no such antics during Friday night’s loss to the Hawks, but Cavaliers coach David Blatt said that the trend of teams being overly-physical was troublesome nonetheless.

From Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com:

“I just think LeBron is getting hit, and getting hit every time he goes to the basket, and half of them are ignored,” he said. “Because of the strength and the power he brings to his drives, it’s easy to overlook a lot of stuff.”

James was belted again tonight going to the basket by DeMarre Carroll, but I didn’t think it was dirty or flagrant. It was just a good, hard foul. Carroll even made a play on the ball. But when it comes on the heels of the Jonas Valanciunas takedown and the James Harden kick, all of these events are coming a little too close together.

“It does seem to be a trend,” Blatt said. “That’s going to happen now and again, but when it’s happening continually that’s worrisome. And it should be worrisome for everybody. Because there’s ways to defend guys and ways to defend guys physically, but there’s a limit and that limit needs to be recognized.”

Carroll committed two fouls against LeBron in this one, but upon further review, neither could be classified as being hard or crossing the line. One was a simple contest as James drove to the basket (likely the play in question), and the other was a reach after LeBron used a spin move to get loose. It’s possible, however, that one of these appeared to be more violent in person.

Regardless of how you view Carroll’s fouls, though, this isn’t something that’s going to change. LeBron is one of the best players in the world, and teams aren’t just going to let him get to the basket without putting a body on him to make his shot attempts as difficult as possible.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates and family for helping him reach this point.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win.

The last player from Europe to win the MVP award was Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.