Cavaliers advance to second round – but but maybe lose Kevin Love and moral high ground in process

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BOSTON – Kevin Love sprinted off the court, and civility soon followed.

Love headed straight to the locker room after injuring his shoulder in the first quarter – knocking him out for the rest of the game and probably longer – when Kelly Olynyk grabbed him. After building a big lead, the Cavaliers sent in enforcer Kendrick Perkins, who didn’t take long to start a scuffle with Celtics tough guy Jae Crowder. Then, J.R. Smith got ejected for whacking Crowder.

The game might have devolved further – with Perkins re-entering the game as soon as Olynyk first went to the scorers’ table in the second half – if the Celtics didn’t charge late to make it competitive. Finally – with Love battered and Smith likely facing suspension – the Cavaliers put away Boston, 101-93, Sunday to complete a first-round sweep.

Cleveland advances to face the Bulls or Bucks, but that doesn’t mean the hard feelings of this series will quickly be forgotten.

“I thought it was a bush-league play,” Love said. “… I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose.”

Said Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas: “We could say the same thing. We’re all men here. We don’t need to cry and tell you guys.”

Evan Turner said J.R. Smith should be suspended. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving said Olynyk didn’t make a basketball play. Gerald Wallace said the Cavaliers sent in Perkins to even the physicality.

As the accusations fly, judge for yourself. Here are the incidents between:

Love and Olynyk:

Perkins and Crowder:

Smith and Crowder:

Blatt didn’t update Love’s status, but players with dislocated shoulders average missing 26 games. At least the Cavaliers did their part to maximize their time off before round two.

LeBron (27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block) and Irving (24 points and 11 rebounds) stepped up in Game 4 without their third start, and  Iman Shumpert (15 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals) and Timofey Mozgov (12 points and 11 rebounds and three blocks) made key contributions.

That was enough against Boston, but what about Chicago, which leads Milwaukee, 3-1?

Love’s potential absence looms large against the Bulls, who appear to be rounding into form. They’re tough and talented, but maybe Cleveland learned a lesson in toughness Sunday. To a certain degree, who cares about the moral high ground? The Cavaliers will get pushed again in these playoffs, and they want to prove they can and will respond in kind.

Asked whether this game diminished his respect for the Celtics, LeBron James gushed about Brad Stevens, how the coach prepared Boston. No mention of players from LeBron.

Undoubtedly, Stevens did an excellent job with these Celtics, even getting them into the playoffs following a chaotic regular season. But a talent deficit caught up to them.

Now, the question becomes: How well did Stevens and Boston prepare the Cavaliers?

They might be less talented without Love, but they should be tougher. Headed toward a closer-than-expected matchup with the Bulls, that could make all the difference.

French point guard Theo Maledon declares for NBA draft

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French point guard Theo Maledon has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot-five Maledon is declaring as an Early Entry candidate from the international ranks. International players who do not turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft can declare as Early Entry players.

At 18 years old, Maledon was a part-time starter for ASVEL Basket in France in the French Pro A League. ASVEL Basket is owned in part by former NBA player Tony Park, who also serves as the club’s president. Maleon started in 23 of the 46 games he played for ASVEL Basket this season.

In 46 games with ASVEL, Maledon averaged 7.3 points per game. He shot 42.1% from the floor, including 33.3% on three-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists per game. In mid-January, against former NBA player Shane Larkin and Turkish club Anadolu Efes, Maledon started and dished out 10 assists, while scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds.

In part due to his size for the point guard position, and his excellent play on the youth level, ESPN has Maledon ranked 15th in their top-100 prospects. He’s widely expected to be in the mix to be a lottery pick.

Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. The deadline to withdraw as an Early Entry candidate is Monday, June 15. The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held on Thursday, June 25.

Report: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan turns down interview with Bulls

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Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan has reportedly declined an opportunity to interview for a front office job with the Chicago Bulls.

Buchanan joined the Pacers in 2017 as their general manager under President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. Prior to moving to Indiana, Buchanan was the assistant general manager with the Charlotte Hornets.

In turning down the Bulls opportunity, Buchanan cited how well he and his family have been treated in Indiana. Buchanan had previously worked with Pritchard when both were members of the Portland Trail Blazers front office.

Chicago is replacing John Paxson and Gar Forman at the top of their front office structure. Paxson and Forman have led the Bulls basketball operations together since 2009. Chicago’s search will now reportedly focus on Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets, Adam Simon of the Miami Heat and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors.

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”