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.

Report: Cavaliers hire J.B. Bickerstaff to John Beilein’s staff

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to figure things out. LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, and now the team has hired John Beilein to be its head coach. The team doesn’t have a top pick the way it has in years past, and barring any trades they will select 25th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

But at least they are figuring out there coaching staff Issues.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers have hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to be its top assistant coach. Bickerstaff was apparently also in talks with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings.

Via Twitter:

Bickerstaff previously headed the Houston Rockets from 2015 to 2016, and was the top man for the Grizzlies over the last two seasons after the team canned David Fizdale.

This is a solid hire for the Cavs. Bickerstaff has been a respected assistant in the league for the past decade-and-a-half, and he should give some veteran NBA oopmh behind Beilein, who most recently coached at Michigan for 12 years and is headed into his rookie season.

Raptors outlast Bucks in 2OT to take Game 3 of ECF

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Don’t count the Toronto Raptors out yet.

On Sunday, Kawhi Leonard and his bench mob outlasted Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 118-112, in 2OT.

Finally back at home, Toronto showed up in the biggest way possible, and in exactly the way they had been needing in Games 1 and 2. Pascal Siakam, a non-factor in those contests, scored 25 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, grabbing 11 boards to go with three steals. Norman Powell scored 19 off the bench, including hitting three 3-pointers.

Of course, the Raptors were led by none other than Leonard, who had 36 points and dominated at the free-throw line, going 12-of-13. Toronto’s best player also had nine rebounds and five assists.

As a team, Game 3 was about Toronto finally hitting on all cylinders from the 3-point line. Where before almost no players outside of Leonard were able to get it going from deep, Game 3 was a much different story. Eight Raptors combined to make at least one three each, and Toronto shot 37.8% from the arc.

By the same factor, the Bucks struggled. As the home crowd pushed Toronto forward, Antetokounmpo and his squad just couldn’t get it going. The first half only treated the Raptors right, who scored 58 points. And although Antetokounmpo started to come on a bit better in the third quarter, the game eventually developed into a bit of a rock fight by the fourth.

Toronto looked like it had sealed up the win the end of regulation. Fred Van Vleet came up with a crucial block on Khris Middleton on the final possession, but the Milwaukee guard scooped up the loose ball and put it back in the hoop to push it to extra time.

By the time the second overtime rolled around, Antetokounmpo only had one foul left to give. The Bucks’ superstar then fouled out just 36 seconds into the second overtime while trying to draw a charge on Siakam.

That allowed Leonard score eight of Toronto’s 15 points in the second OT en route to the six-point victory.

It took a wondrous night on defense for the Raptors to force Antetokounmpo to shoot just 5-of-16 from the field. Even still, Milwaukee’s star had 23 rebounds and seven steals, and it took until he fouled out in the second overtime for Toronto to grab a win.

The Raptors should be happy about what they were able to accomplish on Sunday night. Getting wins at home in a crucial playoff games is what championship hopeful teams should do. Still, it took every single ounce of what Toronto had, and even then it was only just barely enough to grab their first win of the series at home.

Nick Nurse will need to build on what he learned from Game 3 and see if they can improve upon it to level the series in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Report: Grizzlies interviewed Igor Kokoskov for head coach gig

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The Memphis Grizzlies now have the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Many believe that Memphis will trade Mike Conley and draft Ja Morant as a means to move the franchise forward.

The only problem? The Grizzlies still don’t have a head coach.

Memphis fired coach J.B. Bickerstaff and demoted general manager Chris Wallace to scout back in April. The Grizzlies are moving forward with some non-traditional front office hirings that include Jason Wexler, Zach Kleiman, Rich Cho, and Glen Grunwald.

According to one report, at least one inquiry has been made about the head coach position: former Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov got a shot to interview with Memphis.

Via Twitter:

Memphis is taking its time selecting their coach, and it’s not necessary that the team has someone in place leading into the draft. Whether the next guy will be “the guy” or simply “the guy who helps them rebuild in the future” we aren’t yet sure.

Kokoskov got a raw deal in Phoenix, with many feeling as though the Suns wasted their hiring of the Slovenian national team’s coach by not drafting Luka Doncic with the No. 1 overall pick last year. It would be nice just to see him back on an NBA bench at the start of next season.

Draymond Green on techs: ‘I was doing more crying than playing’ (VIDEO)

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Draymond Green believes he’s the best defender ever. The Golden State Warriors star was certainly incredible against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night, with the Warriors beating the home team, 110-99.

But one thing that has bothered Green’s detractors over the years is how much he speaks to the referees, particularly to his own detriment. It’s one thing to work referees the way that Chris Paul or Damian Lillard or James Harden does. It’s another to continuously antagonize refs en route to a whole mess of technical fouls, which have been a problem for Green in the playoffs in the past.

But Green has been pretty subdued when it comes to technicals this postseason, and that’s apparently in due to a concerted effort by the Golden State forward to curb his attitude and realize that he’s doing more damage than good.

Via Twitter:

This postseason, and particularly this Western Conference Finals, have been an interesting shift in the narrative around Green. Where before it seemed like haters could glom onto how much Green whined, at this point he’s simply dominating the Trail Blazers from a play standpoint and nothing else.

It’s been impressive to see, and I think all of us are happy to watch Green play the way he has without flapping his gums and putting the Warriors at a disadvantage because he wants to yell at the boys in gray.