How will Cavaliers score now when LeBron James rests?

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The Cavaliers scored just six points on 12 possessions – an offensive rating of 50.0 – when LeBron James rested during Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

And that was with Kyrie Irving.

Irving played all seven LeBron sat, scoring four of Cleveland’s six points and assisting the other basket. As you might have heard, Irving is out for the rest of the series.

What will the Cavaliers do now when LeBron is on the bench?

Um…

Well…

You see…

Let’s start with reviewing what happened in Game 1.

Here are Cleveland’s three buckets without LeBron, two by Irving and one by Timofey Mozgov from Irving:

Otherwise, the possessions featured nine missed shots, no offensive rebounds, no trips to the free-throw line and no turnovers. Only one of those nine shots – a missed Mozgov layup – came within 15 feet. The Cavaliers just stagnated and settled for jumpers.

Irving generated the only looks Cleveland got going toward the basket without LeBron.

This possession, in which Irving didn’t touch the ball, could preview what we’ll see in Game 2:

So what should the Cavaliers do with LeBron off the court?

The simplest answer if for him never to rest. Can LeBron play 48 minutes per game? He might have to do it only three more nights.

If that proves unrealistic, Cleveland shouldn’t settle for running its base offense through Matthew Dellavedova or Iman Shumpert. That’s unlikely to yield positive enough results.

Potential solutions:

  • Maximize LeBron’s minutes. In basic terms, it’s up to LeBron to determine how much he can handle. But David Blatt could help by intentionally fouling Andre Iguodala and/or Andrew Bogut. Iguodala (59.6 percent free-throwing shooting this season, 71.7 percent for his career) and Bogut (52.4, 56.1) probably aren’t bad enough free-throw shooters to validate the strategy in a vacuum, but there are benefits. It could keep LeBron on the court while resting during defensive possessions spent watching the Warriors shoot freebies. Hack-a-Shaq limits running opportunities, but the Cavaliers don’t push the ball much, anyway.
  • Focus on defense. If the Cavaliers aren’t going to score anyway, they might as well do their best to ensure the Warriors score as little as possible while LeBron rests. Maybe that means a rotation role for Shawn Marion.
  • Slow the pace. If the Cavs bleed the shot clock while LeBron sits – something they naturally did in Game 1, anyway – they can limit the number of possessions LeBron misses. That gives Golden State fewer opportunities to use this time to pull away.
  • Bomb 3-pointers. Cleveland can become a true live-by-the-3, die-by-the-3 team. Let J.R. Smith run wild. If you’re going to take a bad shot, might as well take one worth an extra point if it goes in.
  • Crash the offensive glass. The Cavaliers’ deadly offensive-rebounding combination, Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, didn’t share the court without LeBron in Game 1. But Cleveland could turn to the duo in Game 2. There will likely be plenty of offensive-rebounding opportunities. However, crashing the offensive glass would run counter to getting back on defense. Plus, the Warriors’ defensive game plan against LeBron is more conducive to offensive-rebounding than Golden State’s tamer defense when he sits.

Without Irving, the Cavaliers need to increase variance, period.

Those seemingly doomed minutes with LeBron on the bench would be a great place to start.

Report: NBA Draft Lottery to be conducted virtually this year

NBA Draft lottery
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images
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We’ve all been part of more virtual meetings — and happy hours — than we care to count. Now 14 NBA teams are going to be on another one — one that could help determine their fate.

The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery will be held virtually on Aug. 20. Not a surprise, but Shams Charania of The Athletic reports it will soon be official.

Teams will still “send” representatives to the lottery, but via Zoom rather than with a lucky charm in person.

This is considered a relatively weak draft, but, as always, there are players near the top who could help teams. The odds of landing the top pick for the eight teams in the lottery are:

1. Golden State Warriors (14%)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (14%)
3. Minnesota Timberwolves (14%)
4. Atlanta Hawks (12.5%)
5. Detroit Pistons (10.5%)
6. New York Knicks (9%)
7. Chicago Bulls (7.5%)
8. Charlotte Hornets (6%)

Washington’s dreadful play in the NBA restart bubble — the Wizards are 0-6 — means it now has a worse record than both Charlotte and Chicago, but the lottery odds for those teams were locked in before the bubble.

 

Break up the Suns! Phoenix remains perfect in bubble defeating OKC

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points, and the Phoenix Suns rolled past the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 on Monday to remain perfect and improve to 6-0 in the restart and improve their playoff chances.

The Suns have surged in the Western Conference standings. They entered the day just 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Memphis and a game behind ninth-place Portland in the race to qualify for a spot in the play-in series.

“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “That may sound like coach-speak, but we dug ourselves a hole with our record. We scrapped all year long and won some games, but it’s been an uphill battle.”

Williams appreciates the position the Suns are in.

“We’ve done a good job of getting to this point,” he said. “No one knew we were going to be here, but we’re here and we’re thankful for that.”

Phoenix center Deandre Ayton sat out the first quarter because he missed his coronavirus test on Sunday. He tested negative on Monday and was cleared. He started the second quarter.

“In an NBA season guys are going to make mistakes,” Williams said. “You have to be able to give people grace. It wasn’t intentional. Thankfully he was able to get tested early enough that he was able to come back and play, and the guys received him with open arms because we all understand we’re human.”

With Ayton out, Oklahoma City led 37-23 at the end of the first quarter. After Ayton entered the game, Phoenix dominated the rest of the way. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes.

Oklahoma City was without four of its top five scorers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (bruised right calf), Danilo Gallinari (left ankle maintenance), Dennis Schroder (birth of child) and Steven Adams (bruised left leg) sat out. Reserve center Nerlens Noel (sprained right ankle) also did not play.

Rookie Darius Bazley had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

The Suns rallied from 15 points down in the second quarter to take a 65-64 lead at halftime. Phoenix opened the second half on an 11-2 run and controlled the game from there.

“I thought their pressure disrupted us,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we got a little bit stagnant. We made some pretty decent plays. We were able to get some open looks, but I thought there in the second quarter they turned up their defensive intensity and that probably took us out of some rhythm.”

Rumor: Pelicans will soon fire coach Alvin Gentry

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry works for a lead executive – David Griffin – who inherited, rather than chose, Gentry in the first place. Gentry has had just one winning season in five years in New Orleans, and the Pelicans particularly underwhelmed this season.

Connect the dots.

William Guillory of The Athletic:

The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that Gentry’s time with the Pelicans won’t last much longer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Executive VP David Griffin and Pelicans ownership have a decision to make with a year left on Gentry’s contract, sources said. Consider two relationships Griffin has back to his front-office days in Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively, if there’s a change in New Orleans: LA Clippers assistant Ty Lue and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, sources said.

Zion Williamson was transcendent at times this season. Brandon Ingram blossomed. Youngsters Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Jaxson Hayes showed flashes. Veterans Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors provided reliable depth and versatility.

But New Orleans was never quite as good as the sum of its parts.

Some of that falls on Gentry.

The Pelicans’ defense was often scrambled. An offensive-minded coach, Gentry hasn’t shown he can correct that issue. His lineup decisions rarely maximized the offense, either.

Lue and Kidd are unsurprising candidates. Lue had a great record working for Griffin with the Cavaliers (obligatory LeBron James mention), and Kidd is good at getting his name tied to job searches. Are Lue and Kidd the most likely coaches to replace Gentry? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just the first candidates to emerge publicly. This job search isn’t even officially underway.

But it could be soon.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.