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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Tristan Thompson saves Cavaliers’ night

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If you missed everything in the NBA Monday because you were bathing in beer at a spa, we understand. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know from a Monday around the Association:

1) With the game on the line, the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to… Tristan Thompson? It worked Monday. This was not a game that left viewers with the sense the Cavaliers have found their groove again — their offense down the stretch was far too much isolation and leaned too heavily on LeBron James, their defense seemed scrambled at times, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. It’s the kind of grinding game good teams find a way to win, however, and the Cavs blue-collar worker Tristan Thompson came through when needed. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter and he put the Cavaliers up two with a little four-footer off a LeBron assist with 39 seconds to go. Then when George Hill tried to drive to tie up the game on the Pacers’ next possession, it was Thompson again to save the day.

Cleveland had a late 7-0 run to secure the 100-96 win. LeBron had 33, Kyrie Irving had 22, and the Cavaliers got a needed win.

2) John Wall puts up 37 to make sure Wizards get a win over Sixers, stay in the playoff chase. Chicago, Charlotte, Indiana, and Detroit are all in a virtual tie for the final three playoff spots in the East — one of those teams is going to be left out of that party. Right now, the Wizards are trying to crash that party and force a couple of teams to be left out — they are 1.5 games back of those four, but Washington has the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. They just have to make sure they win those “easy” games. Monday night that meant John Wall going off 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, helping spark a 16-0 Wizards run in the final frame to help the Wizards come from behind and get the win over lowly Philadelphia. Right now for Washington, a win is a win and they shouldn’t apologize for any of them.

3) That’s the Bucks we hoped for this season: Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Parker all go off in Milwaukee win over Houston. This is the kind of step forward we’d been hoping to see from Milwaukee all season. Jabari Parker: 36 points (a career high), 5 assists, 4 rebounds. Khris Middleton: 30 points, 5 steals, 4 assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals (we’ll see if the NBA’s reviewed stats let the Greek Freak keep the triple-double, it took his last one away because of some generous hometown scorekeeping as to what qualifies for an assist, and that may have happened again). The Bucks handled a Houston Rockets team that needs wins badly 128-121 and it felt like this was just a sample of what the Bucks could do nightly in the future. Milwaukee answered every scoring barrage James Harden and Dwight Howard could throw at them. It was fun to see — I just hope this wasn’t a one-off and we get to see a lot more of these Bucks down the line.

4) DeMarcus Cousins keeps his cool (barely); Russell Westbrook and Thunder get the win. Stephen Adams was trying to instigate — it’s what he does. He tried to get under players’ skin, and DeMarcus Cousins almost got suckered in by it and did something foolish — he cocked back his arm to throw a punch — but thought better of it and walked away. Adams was called for a penalty, although the Kings got a “delay of game” out of this and I’m not exactly sure for what. Still, good on Cousins for walking away (he did have a technical on the night already, his 14th this season).

In the end, the Thunder’s stars were too much. Kevin Durant had 27, Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder picked up a win in Sacramento 131-116.

5) The Clippers’ halftime show: Unveil strange new mascot, have Steve Ballmer dunk. Top this, Red Panda. The Los Angeles Clippers, at halftime of their eventual win over Brooklyn, first unveiled their new mascot Chuck The Condor. Which I’m not sure really looks like a condor, or much of anything else.

Not long after this, Chuck dunked off a trampoline.

Then 59-year-old Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer dunked off a trampoline.

Let’s see Jim Buss top that.

Blazers fan gets ejected from game in spectacular fashion (VIDEO)

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The Portland Trail Blazers are down to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, 3-0. It’s not been a pretty matchup thus far, with the Warriors looking like their old selves without Kevin Durant.

The Blazers have struggled, and although Damian Lillard reportedly has separated ribs, their problems have been deeper than that. Portland came out looking particularly flat in the third quarter on offense through no pressure of Golden State. It was embarrassing, and lackluster.

The Blazers lost again on Saturday, 110-99, and emotions are running high in Rip City after the team made it to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 19 years.

Perhaps that’s what led to this Blazers fan getting a ejected during Saturday’s game?

Via Twitter:

In videos posted to social media, Trail Blazers security at Moda Center can be seen pushing a rather large gentleman out of the lower bowl behind the stanchion as he yells at Golden State fans. The man decided to finish his drink before it being pushed up the steps to the concourse, much to the delight of the fans around him.

We are supposed to admonish behavior it like this, although we don’t know what led to him being ejected by Blazers security. At one point the announcers on ESPN did say that there was a fan who had thrown something on the floor, and perhaps this is related. We haven’t been able to confirm whether these two incidents are related, but in watching the video it’s clear what the mood is in Portland.

If the Blazers are going to go down playing… well, however it is they have been playing — they certainly don’t look like the Portland team from the regular season — no doubt some folks are going to decide to get rowdy and have a few refreshments.

Game 4 is at Moda on Monday at 6 p.m. and I doubt this guy will be in attendance.

Report: Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon named GM of Pelicans

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The New Orleans Pelicans continue to rebuild their broken front office. Now that David Griffin has taken his place as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, the Pelicans are reportedly adding another name to their executive staff.

According to Shams Charania, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon will join Griffin in the New Orleans front office as the team’s new general manager.

Langdon started his front office career as a scout with the San Antonio Spurs, and was named assistant general manager of the Nets in 2016.

Via Twitter:

Brooklyn is a team that has done more with less as of late, and has acted as efficiently as they can particularly as they’ve tried to recover from the moves of a former GM. The Nets moved Billy King Out of the GM job in 2016 in favor for Sean Marks. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps in February.

It looks like the Pelicans are going to do all they can to get Anthony Davis to stay, and that includes a new front office team, upgrades to their practice facility, and a better health and training staff.

Langdon could be just a piece in the puzzle, but he could also be part of the group that has to figure out the best trade package for Davis if the day comes. Either way, New Orleans is regrouping as they move forward with the number one overall pick where they will presumably take Zion Williamson.

Bucks lead East finals 2-0, and now series shifts to Toronto

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have more than held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton so far in these Eastern Conference finals.

Other than some pretty boxscores, the Toronto Raptors have nothing to show for those efforts.

The supporting cast hasn’t supported much for Toronto, and with what is almost certainly a must-win Game 3 of the East title series looming on Sunday night at home, Raptors coach Nick Nurse is weighing lineup tweaks. Nurse suggested Saturday that Serge Ibaka may start at center over struggling Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell may get minutes that would figure to come at Danny Green‘s expense.

“We’ve got to be better, man,” Nurse said Saturday. “We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to hustle more and we’ve got to work harder.”

He may as well have punctuated that by adding “or else.”

In this playoff format that was put into play in 1984, teams that win the first two games at home of a best-of-seven series have ultimately prevailed 94% of the time. And that’s the luxury Milwaukee has right now, leading the series 2-0 after rallying to win the opener and then controlling Game 2 start to finish.

“We can’t rest,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We can’t relax. We can’t assume anything.”

So the odds are stacked against the Raptors. Nurse was told the lack of success teams have when down 0-2 in a series, and insisted he doesn’t care.

“I don’t really give a crap about that,” he said. “I just want our team to come play their (butt) off tomorrow night and get one game and it changes the series.”

Leonard and Lowry are outscoring Antetokounmpo and Middleton 107-77 – which would figure to have been a boon to Toronto’s chances.

It hasn’t worked that way.

Add up everyone else’s scoring in the series, and it’s Bucks 156, Raptors 96. Rebounding has been one-sided in both games, with Milwaukee controlling things on the backboards. Bench scoring has tilted heavily toward Milwaukee as well.

“We’re just trying to be us,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “We’re not playing any differently, regular season or postseason. We’re just trying to go out there and play Bucks basketball. It starts with our defense. Getting stops. Getting out. Playing in transition. Playing with pace. Sharing the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket.”

The Raptors don’t have to look at the history books to know this series isn’t over.

All they need to do is recall the 2012 Western Conference finals. Leonard and Green were with top-seeded San Antonio, and Ibaka was with second-seeded Oklahoma City. The Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home – then lost the next four, and the Thunder went to the NBA Finals.

“We have another chance to bounce back on Sunday,” Gasol said. “That’s all that matters right now. That’s all that matters.”

 

Andre Iguodala sits fourth quarter with “lower leg soreness,” to get MRI Sunday

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DaMarcus Cousins. Kevin Durant.

Now you might be able to add Andre Iguodala to the list of injured Warriors. He only played 18 minutes in Game 3 Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. Asked about that after the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr listed a hockey injury — lower leg soreness — and said an MRI was coming.

If he has to miss time, that would be another blow to the Warriors. Up 3-0 on Portland, Golden State can close this series out without him, but the Warriors are going to need Iguodala and Durant — and, ideally, Cousins — against the Bucks or Raptors in the NBA Finals starting on May 30.

Iguodala made friends and influenced people when he went back to the locker room late in the first quarter, deciding to flip off the hallway camera on his way.

We will see if the League has anything to say about that or lets it slide.