With Irving out, three things to look for from Cavaliers in Game 2

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OAKLAND — Even before we had all learned Kyrie Irving was out for the rest of the playoffs, the Cavaliers were trying to sell that they’ve been in this position before.

“We’ve played games without Kevin (Love), without Kyrie (Irving),” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said to the media less than an hour before Irving’s fractured kneecap was revealed. “We know how we want to play when they’re not in there. From that standpoint, we can prepare.”

The truth is the Cavaliers have never been quite here before.

These Cavaliers have never been in the Finals before, let alone against a 67 win team that has the best backcourt in the NBA, plus rolls out a deep and effective bench every night.

The Cavaliers already had no margin for error in this series. Then they dropped a winnable Game 1 and in the process Kyrie Irving fractured his kneecap to the point it will require surgery.

1) More Matthew Dellavedova. He’s going to get the start in place of Kyrie Irving, where he will bring some pesky defense, but a lot less athleticism and scoring. The Cavs need Dellavedova to be brilliant.

“Well, you all saw he played terrifically,” Blatt said about Dellavedova in the previous series against the Hawks when he started three games due to Irving injuries. “Matty has been a rotation player for us the whole year. He stepped in and did a great job, and the team believes in him and we believe in him. If necessary, he has to play significant minutes again, he’ll be ready, and we’ll know how to play with him.”

“Just watch some film, see what they are doing at both ends, then be ready for whatever the team needs,” Delladedova said of his preparation.

2) Even more LeBron James. Just when you thought the offensive burden on LeBron couldn’t get any bigger…

LeBron put on a little show for the media Friday. The Cavaliers were not practicing but had media obligations, LeBron came out, had the media moved off one end of the court and took 20 minutes worth of shots. Not in private on a side court, in full view of everyone. He is now the only guy on that team who can be relied upon to create shots, and he’s going to have to do it efficiently for himself and others.

“When guys  myself, Kyrie, Mozzy (Timofey Mozgov)  you know, we did a good job of putting points on the board, and every addition that we had was big for us,” LeBron said. “We’ve got to do a better job, obviously, of getting guys involved.”

What the Cavaliers need is one crazy good J.R. Smith game. You know it’s coming.

3) Play Tristan Thompson at the five and bomb away from three. Going small and shooting threes against the Warriors is far from an ideal strategy — that’s how Golden State prefers to play. But the Cavaliers need to generate offense, and that has happened for them through much of the playoffs when they have played Thompson at the five with LeBron, James Jones, J.R. Smith, and a point guard. The Cavs don’t have many choices here, they need offense and they need to try some small ball, and then hope Smith gets hot.

The two lineups with Thompson at center and Dellavedova at the point were -11 in 10 minutes in Game 1. It didn’t work. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the Cavaliers are desperate.

If they’re not, they should be.

Draymond Green fined $50,000 for tampering with Devin Booker

Draymond Green fined
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“It’s great to see Book playing well and Phoenix playing well, but get my man out of Phoenix It’s not good for him, it’s not good for his career. Sorry Chuck, but they’ve gotta get Book out of Phoenix. I need my man to go somewhere that he can play great basketball all of the time and win, because he’s that kind of player.”

That was the Warriors’ always outspoken Draymond Green on Inside the NBA on TNT Thursday, talking about the play of Devin Booker and the fast start of the Suns in the bubble.

The second he said it, Ernie Johnson asked, “Are you tampering?” Green said, “maybe.”

The NBA said yes and has fined Green $50,000 for “violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.”

In past years the NBA has mostly ignored player-to-player tampering, but after complaints from owners last season the league is cracking down on — at the very least — public tampering by players. Going on a popular national show to say Booker should leave Phoenix qualifies.

Just a reminder for fans of a team desperate for a star and suddenly looking at Phoenix, Booker has four years left (after this one) on his max contract extension. The Suns are building around him and Deandre Ayton — and right now it looks like it’s working (coach Monty Williams should get a lot of credit for that). The Suns aren’t looking to trade, Booker isn’t looking to leave (and has no leverage anyway), and the Suns seem to be building something real down in the Valley of the Sun.

 

Watch Luka Doncic post 36-19-14 with just dazzling passing (video)

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The Bucks’ have one of the best defenses in NBA history, allowing 7.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than league average. The Mavericks have the highest offensive rating (116.5) in league history.

Something had to give.

And it was Luka Doncic – to teammate after teammate after teammate.

Doncic had 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds in Dallas’ 136-132 overtime win over Milwaukee yesterday. He was in complete control as a scorer and passer, showing just how far he has come.

The Bucks already secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But they played hard, forcing overtime. Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like the MVP with 34 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

Doncic was just better.

Report: NBA could play next season at multiple regional bubbles

Warriors star Stephen Curry
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Other than waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside – a possibility – the NBA faces MAJOR challenges next season.

The bubble is working for finishing this season. But that’s with just 22 teams rather than the full 30. And this is just for a few months, not a full season. Players are already bristling about how long they’re separated from their families.

Yet, what’s the alternative to a bubble? It looks like the only safe way to play professional sports.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated

We’re a ways off from next season, but league sources have told me that the NBA is looking at options that include creating regional bubbles, should the COVID-19 pandemic still prevent normal business in the fall. Teams would report to a bubble for short stints—around a month—which would be followed by 1-2 weeks off.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Orlando is a consideration, and Las Vegas — a finalist for this summer’s restart — would reemerge as a possible site too, sources said.

This is an interesting possibility.

Smaller bubbles would reduce the odds of a coronavirus outbreak that undermines the whole league. But what happens if one bubble has coronavirus issues? Teams’ schedules could get significantly unbalanced quickly.

The shorter bubble lengths would allow players to spend time with family more frequently. But how many players would contract coronavirus while between bubbles? Look how many players got coronavirus during this last layoff.

There are no easy solutions amid this pandemic. This is one of many imperfect ideas that should at least be considered.

Report: NBA not bringing other eight teams to Disney World bubble

Knicks vs. Bulls
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The NBA bringing the “Delete Eight” teams to its Disney World bubble to train as other teams depart?

Like other plans for the Knicks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Hornets, Timberwolves and Warriors… it’s not happening.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It’s a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said.

The NBPA won’t agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said.

Bringing those other eight teams to the Disney World bubble was always a ridiculous idea. Why would the NBA jeopardize its highly profitable setup just so some lousy teams could train and maybe hold glorified scrimmages?

Voluntary team workouts are a reasonable allowance. Though it’s difficult to ensure players coming and going from a team facility won’t spread coronavirus, some players are playing basketball in groups, anyway. At their own facilities, teams can at least enforce protocols to increase safety. And players who’d rather be more careful wouldn’t be forced to participate.

There’s no reason to make anything mandatory. These eight teams’ seasons are over.