Irving, James lead Cavs to season series sweep of Magic

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The work is only beginning for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and LeBron James had 18, including a layup and pair of free throws down the stretch to help the Cavs hold off the Orlando Magic 109-103 on Friday night and clinch a playoff spot.

“There’s nothing much to say,” coach Tyronn Lue said after the defending Eastern Conference champions improved the best record in the East to 49-19 with their fifth victory in six games.

“We thought we were going to make the playoffs, so it wasn’t really a big deal to clinch,” Lue added. “We have bigger things ahead of us. We have a bigger deal in front of us.”

Channing Frye came off the bench to make four 3-pointers and score 14 against his old team as the Cavs beat the Magic for the 14th consecutive time. A rested James returned to the lineup after taking off Wednesday’s home victory over Dallas and finished 6-of-15 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds.

“This one’s definitely for him. He showed up and showed why he’s a valuable part of our team,” James said of 6-foot-11 Frye. “He has the ability to shoot the ball.”

Data curated by PointAfter

Victor Oladipo had a career-high 45 points for Orlando, but only scored six in the fourth quarter. The last of his six 3-pointers trimmed Cleveland’s lead to 107-103 before James made two free throws to put it away.

“That team has been punking us. I wanted to set a tone that we aren’t here to get punked, we’re here to compete, and I think we did a good job of that,” said Oladipo, who was 16 of 22, including 6 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Cleveland’s defense tightened in the fourth quarter, and the third-year pro only got off three shots.

“I’m still upset about the fourth quarter. I can’t let them deny me the ball like that. I’ve got to demand the ball much more. That’s something I need to learn and get better at,” Oladipo said.

The Cavs led 63-54 at the half, using a 31-9 run to wipe out an 11-point deficit. Kevin Love delivered two 3-pointers and a dunk during an 11-0 burst that built Cleveland’s lead to double digits.

Oladipo scored 24 before halftime and 15 more in the third quarter, when the Magic opened with an 18-7 run to regain the lead and cling to an 86-83 edge going into the fourth.

But in the end, Oladipo simply didn’t get enough help – offensively or defensively – for Orlando to finish the job.

“When he’s making his jump shots he’s tough to guard. He’s athletic, he gets to the basket and can finish,” Lue said. “I thought our bench did a great job of finding him at the end and being physical with him.”

Evan Fournier had 18 points for the Magic and Jason Smith added 10.

Love finished with 14 points in 23 minutes. Frye, obtained from Orlando at the trade deadline, made four of six 3-pointers, and Tristan Thompson contributed 11 points and 15 rebounds, 10 of them in the fourth quarter.

“I felt like our guys really did come to play,” Oladipo said. “They just had too much firepower for us.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: The winning streak over the Magic is their longest against any team since taking 13 straight over the Philadelphia 76ers from 1991 to 1994. … Shot 50 percent, including 13 of 28 on 3-point attempts. They have made at least 10 3-pointers in eight of their last nine games. … Held Orlando to 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Magic: Lost the first three games of the season series by an average of 24.7 points. … Oladipo was 8 of 11 from the field and made all six on his free throws in the opening half. No one else on his team had more than six points in the first two quarters. … Oladipo is the ninth player in franchise history score 40, first since Aaron Affalo in December 2013. … G Elfred Payton sat out his fifth consecutive game with a right elbow sprain.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers at Miami on Saturday night.

Magic at Toronto on Sunday.

NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.

Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).

• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.

We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.

• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.

Deandre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.

Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.

• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).

• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.

• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.

The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.

• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever… everyone has their opinion.”

• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.

As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.

 

Report: Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Grizzlies may show interest in Crowder trade

2022 NBA Playoffs - 	Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns
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The Phoenix Suns had media day on Monday, but veteran Jae Crowder was not there, part of a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until a trade could be found. It left players and GM James Jones addressing the issue.

What teams are interested in Crowder? Shams Charania of The Athletic says to watch for the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Grizzlies among others.

Miami has been at the front of the line in terms of interest (and Crowder has suggested online he would welcome a return to Miami). The Heat have minutes to fill at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly and Crowder — who was on the Heat team that went to the bubble Finals against the Lakers — would be a solid fit. Putting together a trade is a little more tricky. The Heat would likely want Duncan Robinson at the core of the deal, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig — and that means the Heat have to throw in a pick (a protected first) or a minimum-contract player (Gabe Vincent?) to make the deal work. Not impossible, but not likely.

The Celtics need depth at the four but what they can offer is bench minutes, filling Danilo Gallinari‘s role (he is out for the season with a torn ACL) but putting together a trade is next to impossible financially considering who Boston would be willing to give up (not Robert Williams). Dallas could put together a deal if the Suns are interested in Dwight Powell (probably not, the Suns just paid Deandre Ayton a lot of money to be their center) or Reggie Bullock. Memphis could send out the dead money of the Danny Green contract (out for the season due to injury) and picks, or Ziaire Williamson and some minimum players (probably also with picks). Atlanta, Chicago and other destinations have come out in rumors.

As for why Crowder pushed for a trade, the man himself posted his own hype video on Instagram and Tweeted this.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the most heard speculation around the league as to the reason — the Suns were going to start Cameron Johnson at the four to have more shooting and Crowder wanted none of that — but the reason now is moot. Crowder will get traded.

The only questions are when and where.

Durant, Irving talk about Nets moving on from ‘very awkward’ summer, but drama continues

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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Media Day — arguably the most boring and tedious day on the NBA calendar — was anything but in Brooklyn.

After a summer Kyrie Irving admitted was “very awkward” — where both he and Kevin Durant pushed to be traded, and Durant threw down an ultimatum saying it was him or coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks — everyone was back under one roof and trying to stay on message about just wanting to win.

But drama will follow this team like a dark cloud until they force the conversation to be about something else. Like how many games they are winning.

Until then, the awkward questions and moments will come. For example, why did Kevin Durant ask for a trade this summer? What did he want to see changed? He talked about the team feeling unstable last season. Which it was (for a variety of reasons).

“My whole thing was, I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player. I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“You know, when I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, we shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Those are the best, drama-free answers he could give. But Durant still loves to stir the pot on Twitter and did so later in the day.

(That was the question asked boiled way down, but both the question and Durant’s answer had a lot more context, it was not a confrontational answer in the moment.)

Kyrie Irving said there were options for him this summer, although limited ones, because he is unvaccinated. He also talked about the reasons he wanted to return to the Nets.

Marks handled the inevitable “your star wanted you fired” questions as well as he could, saying at one point “that’s pro sports.”

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinions and I think from us, it’s not to hold a grudge against what Kevin said, but it’s a little bit of saying, ‘All right, if that’s the way he feels, what’s going on here?’ Like, what do we need to change?” Marks said.

In the end, everyone talked about moving on and the potential for this roster. Durant is not disappointed to be back.

“I wasn’t disappointed. I still love to play. I knew that wasn’t going to get affected regardless of what happened this summer,” Durant said.

The Nets have the talent on the roster to be title contenders, but have more questions than any other team at that level after the past couple of years: Can Durant stay healthy? Will Irving be focused and committed for an entire season? How does Ben Simmons fit in and what is his role? Can their thin frontcourt hold up? Will they play enough defense? Is Steve Nash up to the task? Does this team have the will and drive to be contenders?

Playing through the drama is the only way to answer all those questions, but if they do this team could be a powerhouse.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.