Cavaliers hold off feisty Pistons 101-91, take 3-0 lead in series

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — LeBron James had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving made a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cleveland Cavaliers move within a game of a first-round sweep with a 101-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Irving scored 26 points for Cleveland, which overcame a gritty effort by the Pistons in Detroit’s first home playoff game since 2009. Andre Drummond scored 17 points for the Pistons, but Detroit fell behind toward the end of the third quarter, and a late rally came up short.

The Cavs lead the series 3-0, with Game 4 coming up Sunday night.

The Pistons have now lost 11 straight playoff games against Cleveland, and they’ve lost nine in a row overall in the postseason.

Down by nine in the fourth, Detroit went on an 8-0 run, forcing the Cavs to call a timeout. Irving responded with a 3-pointer, and J.R. Smith added one of his own to make it 95-90. Irving made it an eight-point game with a 3-pointer in the final minute.

A raucous, towel-waving crowd tried to give Detroit a boost. Pistons fans booed James early and often, although the Cleveland star threw down a two-handed dunk on his team’s first offensive possession.

Data curated by PointAfter

Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson, who seemed eager to get into a verbal battle with James and the Cavs after Game 2, scored nine points in a fearless first half Friday, but James had the final word before halftime, making a jumper with less than a second left in the second quarter to give Cleveland a 54-53 lead.

Cleveland methodically built a 79-73 lead after three quarters, and after a three-point play and a 3-pointer by James early in the fourth, the Cavs were up by nine. It was 87-86 after Detroit’s run, but the 3s by Irving and Smith helped Cleveland hold on.

With 1:34 remaining, the public address announcer at the Palace announced the results of a replay review with his popular “Deeeeeeeeeetroit Basketball” call, but it turned out he was mistaken and had to correct himself. Officials were giving the ball to the Cavs.

Detroit’s chances were all but extinguished when Irving sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 43 seconds remaining, and James ran back to midcourt for a celebratory chest bump.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Mo Williams (sore left knee) did not play.

Pistons: Reggie Bullock (left leg) missed the game. … Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2008 against Boston.

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.