No Kyrie Irving, no problem: Cavaliers cruise to blowout Game 2 win over Hawks

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Kyrie Irving was ruled out for Cleveland’s Game 2 matchup with the Hawks, and just how healthy he can be later in these playoffs will go a long way in determining the Cavaliers’ championship chances.

But for one night, against an Atlanta team dealing with injury issues of its own, LeBron James was more than enough for Cleveland to get the job done.

James finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Cavaliers to an easy 94-82 win, one that put Cleveland up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

The best player for the Hawks in the postseason has been DeMarre Carroll, but his status was in doubt for this one after leaving Game 1 with a knee injury. He started and played 34 minutes, but was tentative offensively, and looked uncharacteristically awkward at times while trying to defend James.

With Irving’s absence and Carroll’s injury, James asserted himself from the opening tip. He scored 13 first quarter points to get things going, before moving into more of a facilitator role as the game went on — and his teammates rewarded him by knocking down shots.

Iman Shumpert and James Jones combined for 17 points in the second quarter, and LeBron’s first seven assists all resulted in makes from three-point distance.

The Hawks were able to hang around, however, and trailed by just four early in the third despite it never really feeling like they posed a credible threat to take the Cavaliers out. Cleveland made that perception a reality by putting together a 19-4 run that lasted almost six minutes, and extended the lead to 20 points late in the period. Atlanta never challenged the rest of the way, and the fourth quarter was, for the most part, extended garbage time.

Things got even worse for the Hawks when they lost two more key players with injuries. Kyle Korver left in the third with what the team was calling an ankle sprain, after Matthew Dellavedova rolled onto his leg during a scramble for a loose ball. A short time later, Al Horford was helped off the floor with a knee injury, but he returned after being examined on the bench.

Injuries weren’t the reason the Hawks were so overmatched, however, and they weren’t a factor for the victorious Cavaliers.

Atlanta hasn’t been dominant for quite some time; the Hawks won 40 of their first 48 games of the season, before finishing just 20-14, and losing twice in the first round of the playoffs to a 38-win Brooklyn Nets squad. Winning 60 games in the watered-down Eastern Conference isn’t as impressive as it may have seemed on the surface, and the Cavaliers, even without Kyrie Irving, were able to expose the Hawks for what they are, and are likely to continue to do so for the two more games it will take to wrap up this series.

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.