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.

Trailblazers’ Maurice Harkless fined $15,000 for throwing headband into stands

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Nobody wants your sweat.

I guess that’s the message the league was trying to send Portland’s Maurice Harkless, who was fined $15,000 by the league office for “throwing” his Ninja-style headband into the crowd near the end of Portland’s Friday night loss to Oklahoma City.

“Throwing” is a strong word for the light toss he made, not that the officials cared, Harkless was given a technical and ejected at the time for the move.

Harkless was fired up as he and Russell Westbrook had been jawing at each other before the ejection.

 

Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan ejected after throwing ball at referee Scott Foster in frustration

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Scott Foster and his officiating crew refereed Game 3 between the Clippers and Warriors Thursday night, and by the end players on both teams were frustrated enough with the tightly — but not consistently — called game they were ready to throw the ball at Foster.

San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan couldn’t resist the urge.

Near the end of the Nuggets’ road win over the Spurs — which sends the series back to Denver tied 2-2 — DeRozan was given a charge call from Foster, then threw the ball in his direction out of frustration. When the notoriously short-fused Foster realized what happened, he ejected DeRozan. The league will back Foster on this, it can’t have players throwing balls at officials or making other grand gestures to show them up.

But DeRozan’s sentiment is easy to understand.

The Athletic did a survey asked about a quarter of NBA players a series of questions, including, “Who is the worst ref?” Foster came in second with 20.7 percent of the vote (Tony Brothers won the “honor,” and he is working the playoffs as well).

Expect Foster to keep working deep into the playoffs, he has officiated 18 Finals games in his career.

Joel Embiid returns, puts up 31 and 16 to lead 76ers past Nets, give Philly 3-1 lead

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NEW YORK — Joel Embiid scored and rebounded. He blocked shots and even threw the most important pass of the game.

The only thing he didn’t do is lose his cool after his hard foul triggered a scuffle.

After having to sit out the last game, there was no way Embiid was going to risk an ejection and miss his chance to help the Philadelphia 76ers seize control of the series.

Embiid had 31 points and 16 rebounds, and passed to Mike Scott for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left as the 76ers beat the Brooklyn Nets 112-108 on Saturday to take a 3-1 series lead.

Embiid also had a flagrant foul that led to a scuffle and two ejections during an eventful return to the lineup after missing Game 3 with a sore left knee.

“I know these guys are going to go at me because they want me to retaliate, so I’ve got to be mature when I’m on the court and just stay cool and not react,” Embiid said.

“Today I could have reacted but I felt like my team needed me more than they needed Jared Dudley, so I’ve just got to stay cool and mature and do my job.”

Tobias Harris had 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the 76ers. They can advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight season with a victory at home Tuesday night.

They got a big boost from the return of Embiid, who scored eight straight points in the fourth quarter after the Nets led by seven. He helped the 76ers overcome the loss of Jimmy Butler, who was ejected in the third quarter after Embiid’s hard foul on Jarrett Allen.

Even that ended up working out for the 76ers. Scott took what probably would have been Butler’s position on the floor in the final seconds and turned Embiid’s seventh assist into the go-ahead basket.

Embiid also had six blocked shots.

“Just look at the magnitude of what the numbers say, the influence that the numbers say that he must have had on the game,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “To have 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, six blocked shots and you win, well it’s hard to sort of say it any better than that. He was dominant.”

Caris LeVert scored 25 points after being inserted into the Nets’ starting lineup. D’Angelo Russell and Allen each added 21.

Dudley also was inserted into the starting lineup for the Nets and had been agitating the 76ers with his defense and his talking, but was gone midway through the third quarter as one of the central figures in the scuffle that spilled into the stands.

Embiid swung his arm forcefully while fouling Allen, and Dudley quickly moved in and bumped Embiid. Butler then ran in and pushed Dudley to start the shoving. Dudley, Simmons and referee Ed Malloy all got knocked into the seats, and after a lengthy video review, Butler and Dudley were given technical fouls and ejected, and Embiid’s foul was ruled a flagrant 1.

Dudley said he was trying to send a message. The Nets have been upset over an elbow Embiid hit Allen with in Game 2 that they felt should have been an ejection, and were further angered after when Embiid laughed as he apologized in his press conference.

“When you have a guy giving flagrant fouls, I mean Joel Embiid is second in the league in flagrant fouls,” Dudley said. “So for that elbow he had before just to have a flagrant 1, no fine, no nothing, laughing in the media, if you think that a team that I play on is going to have (to accept) that, that’s another thing coming, especially on this young team.”

Embiid would later make the biggest mark with his offense. The 76ers were trying to get the ball to him trailing by one after Joe Harris’ layup, but Embiid couldn’t control the pass under the rim. But he regained the ball and found Scott in the corner for a 3 and a 110-108 lead.

Allen then turned the ball over after three Sixers surrounded him and Harris closed out the scoring with two free throws. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was angry afterward, feeling Allen was wrapped up by Harris as he tried to roll to the basket.

Dudley and Simmons jawed at each other after Dudley gave him a long stare with his arms up after hitting a 3-pointer during a 9-0 run that gave Brooklyn a 63-53 lead shortly before halftime. The Nets led 63-57 at the break.

Blake Griffin active for Pistons-Bucks Game 3

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DETROIT – Blake Griffin got technical fouls in Games 1 and 2.

He’ll have a chance to contribute much more in Game 3.

Despite a report he was likely to miss the entire first-round series with knee pain, the Pistons activated Griffin for Game 3 against the Bucks tonight.

Detroit has gotten walloped in the first two games with Griffin inactive. Now comes a glimmer of hope.

Griffin is the Pistons’ best and most important player. Their entire offense was built around him. His unique ball-handling and passing ability for a big allows him to create for himself and others. If he actually plays, it could transform Detroit back into the team it was in the regular season.

But those Pistons also lost all four regular-season games against Milwaukee. They still must face the NBA’s top team throughout the season. Detroit got outscored by 15 points per 48 minutes with Griffin on the court against the Bucks.

Griffin also looked quite hobbled late in the regular season. The extent to which he was helping the Pistons at that point was questionable. He can do only so much as a decoy, especially one a step slow defensively.

But, at minimum, Griffin could shake up a series that was running firmly in Milwaukee’s favor.