Cavaliers counting on rest, better shooting to bounce back in Game 5

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CLEVELAND — Steve Kerr made the first big, bold coaching move of the Finals changing his starting lineup to go small. He did it because he had to, his team was getting beat with what they normally had done.

Also, he did it because he could.

The onus now falls on coach David Blatt and the Cavaliers to make their counter moves — but don’t expect a big roster change.

Because he can’t. Not with a seven-man rotation.

“We don’t have many options as far as lineups we can go to, but we can make adjustments,” LeBron James said. “That’s what you do throughout a series.  We’ll get to the film and make the necessary adjustments coming into Game 5.  But as far as lineup changes, we don’t have many different lineup changes we can actually go to.”

If it’s not going to be a dramatic adjustment, what are the Cavaliers counting on for Game 5?

Rest. Better shooting.

With rest, there are two days off between games four and five, and that benefits the Cavaliers, who have a short bench. This is a team where key players like Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron are publicly dealing with cramps (and other guys doing the same, just not as publicly). LeBron was not getting to the rim late, settling for fade aways. Stephen Curry blew by a dead-legged Dellavedova all night.

Yes,” Blatt said when asked if fatigue was a factored into Game 4. “Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast, and it seemed to have an impact on us, yes.”

Maybe if the Cavs are rested there will be a little more spring in their legs. Which brings us to…

Shooting better. The Cavaliers shot 33 percent overall and were 4-of-27 from three in Game 4. But it wasn’t just about defense, they were missing looks they normally knock down — the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks.

“Offensively we were terrible,” LeBron said. ” You can’t always bank on your offense.  Sometimes your offense just doesn’t show up, and there is no way we go 4-for-27 from the three-point line and expect to win. We outrebounded them still.  We had 16 offensive rebounds.  We had 20 second chance points.  But we just couldn’t get the long ball going tonight, and that definitely hurt  our offense hurt us just as bad as anything.”

“We didn’t make shots,” Blatt added. “And that put a little bit more pressure on (LeBron), too, because he was passing the ball, and the normal shots that we make in that situation, we didn’t.”

Often when you ask a coach in any playoff series what needs to be done following a loss and they will answer something along the lines of “effort” or “energy” rather than with strategy. Even when what they need is a strategy change.

For the Cavaliers it has to be energy and effort. Their roster isn’t changing for Game 5, Blatt has who he has. And if he really trusted guys like Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, you already would have seen a lot more of them.

Still, Blatt likes the Cavaliers chances.

“We’re in a three game series for the NBA Finals.  Six months ago I would have bought that,” Blatt said, referencing the Cavaliers challenging first half of the season. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, go back to work, continue to believe in ourselves, play the best basketball we can, and try to win this thing.”

Report: Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson may have torn labrum in his right shoulder

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Dallas’ reserve point guard Jalen Brunson has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury suffered against Atlanta, and he was expected to miss the next three games with the Mavericks out on the road.

It sounds like he may be out longer than that, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

 

Brunson, the former Villanova star, has given Dallas a solid 18 minutes a night off the bench this season, averaging 8.2 points and shooting 35.8 percent from three. In the short term this means more minutes for J.J. Barea, but come the postseason Brunson’s size and defense would be helpful off the bench.

If playing through the injury isn’t going to make it worse or risk long-term damage, then it’s up to Brunson and his level of pain tolerance as to when and how much he plays. The surgery can wait until after the playoffs. Just expect he’s going to miss a little time in the immediate future.

Timberwolves fined $25,000 for resting healthy D’Angelo Russell against Denver

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Sunday, in a game against Denver, the Minnesota Timberwolves rested D'Angelo Russell. He was healthy, they just gave him the night off, and nobody around the NBA thought twice about it.

Except for the folks in Manhattan at the NBA’s league office.

The league fined the Timberwolves $25,000 as an organization for “violating the league’s player resting policy.”

The Timberwolves response? Basically, ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The new management team in Minnesota is very focused on modernizing the health and player development programs in the organization. Resting Russell was part of that, and if they felt the need to make sure Russell was good to go for future games they were not going to be dissuaded from sitting him.

Especially if the cost is just $25,000.

Some teams have gone to great lengths to make sure the league knew their player medically needed days off, the most prominent among those being the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard on back-to-backs. Then Doc Rivers admitted the truth — that they were resting him at times when Leonard was healthy and could play — and he got hit with a $50,000 fine.

The league has become very sensitive to the idea of “load management,” that healthy players are being rested during the regular season. From a PR perspective, it’s bad for business and is seen as devaluing the regular season. However, coaches and team sports scientists have seen the value, particularly in preventing injuries and having players relatively fresh for the playoffs, so they will continue to do it.

At this point in the season, every player is a little banged up. These kinds of fines by the league will push teams to say Russell — or whomever — is out for a game due to a sore knee, or ankle, or back, or whatever. Every player has some ailment that could use a little rest. This is how it was done before the league became more transparent and let teams just call it “rest.” The practice is not going to change with teams, it may just have a new name.

Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including game-worn Finals jerseys, going up for auction

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NEW YORK — Some key Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including two of his Los Angeles Lakers uniforms and cement handprints from his induction into the Grauman’s Chinese Theater hall of fame gallery, are going up for sale in April.

Julien’s Auctions said Thursday that the items would be up for sale on April 30 as part of its annual sports auction that includes a silver medal from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a 2002 FIFA World Cup gold winner’s medal.

Bryant’s items were already being planned for auction when he, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“We are honored to include this collection of his items and pay tribute to this giant who was an inspiration not only to basketball fans but to the entire world,” said Darren Julien, Julien’s Auctions’ president and CEO.

The Lakers uniforms up for sale are one worn during the 2000 NBA Finals, with his original number 8. The uniform included a black armband which marked the memory of Wilt Chamberlain, who died that season.

The other uniform was from his 2007 season, when his number was 24.

Other Bryant items include Adidas game shoes signed by the late legend; and a basketball signed by the 2010-11 Lakers including Bryant and other stars such as Ron Artest and Pau Gasol.

Juliens said the Bryant items were being sold by a collector in Kentucky. Fans can view what’s up for sale between April 27 and April 30 in Beverly Hills, California, before the auction takes place at Juliens Auctions Beverly Hills.

Bryant, who was 41, and his daughter were remembered Monday at the Staples Center with a memorial that included a performance from Beyoncé and tributes by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse to perform musically next month

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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On his way to guiding the Raptors to a championship, Nick Nurse earned viral fame by arriving in Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference finals with a guitar slung over his back:

Now, Nurse is preparing for a different stage.

Nurse, via CityNews:

I’m working on four songs right now that I’m getting ready to – I’m getting ready to have a little performance. Actually, March 11th, I’m having a kickoff for my foundation – Nick Nurse Foundation – in support of music programs for kids around the Toronto area. So, we have a lot of bands coming in, and I’m going to sit in with, well, at least one of them.

Nurse is doing this while building a strong case for Coach of the Year.

Excelling in the NBA and music, Nurse is a regular Damian Lillard.