Pistons battle to very end, but too many big Kyrie Irving shots means 100-98 Cleveland win, series sweep


Detroit looked like a team of the future this past week. They have fantastic young talent with Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias HarrisKentavious Caldwell-Pope and more. They have a coach in Stan Van Gundy that knows how to mold a winner. They showed a lot of fight this past week in the first playoff appearances of this core.

But Cleveland is a team of the present. And it showed.

All series long the Cavaliers made plays late in games when they needed to — that included some big threes from Kyrie Irving on Sunday night, including the dagger three, as the guard finished with 31. The result was a 100-98 win for the Cavaliers and a sweep of the Pistons in the first round.

Cleveland will now get about a week of rest while awaiting the winner of the Boston/Atlanta series, which is tied 2-2 after a Celtics overtime win Sunday.

If you’re a Pistons fan, there’s a lot to be optimistic about going forward. Andre Drummond is a beast and showed it Sunday with 17 points and 11 boards, a sweet driving layup, and he hit half his free throws for a night. Trade deadline addition Tobias Harris had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Marcus Morris had 24. A few more pieces and a little more seasoning, and this team will be a threat in the East.

But there are hard lessons to learn along the way. Including on the game’s final play — the Cavs were up by the eventual final score when Irving missed a shot, giving Reggie Jackson a chance (the Pistons were out of timeouts). Jackson drove the length of the court harassed by Irving (Jackson almost lost the rock at one point), he gets to the arc, then rather take another couple steps in and get closer for a game-tying shot Jackson leapt into Irving trying to draw a foul and in doing so missed an off-balance three. There was no call because there was no foul — Jackson initiated the contact, and nobody is going to make that call in that place anyway. Ballgame.

For LeBron James — 22 points on the night — this is his fourth straight first-round playoff sweep. J.R. Smith added 15 points, including one ridiculous deep three that had him silencing the Piston faithful.

The Cavaliers may not have looked invincible in this series, but they got the sweep against a team that pushed them. They stayed healthy (a step forward from last season) and Irving played well. It’s the first step on the way to the Finals, and that is all that matters. Just win baby.

Report: Bulls hiring Billy Donovan as coach

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder-Bulls
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Billy Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering a new contract. Maybe it wasn’t as much money as he desired to coach a team that could be entering rebuilding. But active head coaches rarely turn down an NBA job unless they know they’ll land on their feet.

Donovan will land on his feet – with the Bulls.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a major credibility upgrade for Chicago, which fired Jim Boylen. Donovan is a solid NBA head coach who adapts to his players rather than putting them through extreme measures.

Considering they just hired Arturas Karnisovas as president, the Bulls might have patience for a rebuild. Donovan will be tasked with overseeing the development of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Donovan’s time as a college coach at Florida shows he can help players progress.

But Chicago also frequently faces pressure, especially internally, to win sooner than later. Donovan inherits veterans like LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Donovan showed at Oklahoma City he could manage a team with immediate expectations.

Is this group’s long-term future inspiring? No. Is this group’s present inspiring? No.

But Donovan provides a little boost in both areas.

Celtics: Romeo Langford out rest of playoffs after wrist surgery

Celtics guard Romeo Langford
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The Celtics don’t have quite enough dependable players to fill a playoff rotation. So, beyond its core, Boston has juggled deep-bench minutes throughout the postseason.

One of those options – Romeo Langford – will no longer be available.

Celtics release:

Celtics guard Romeo Langford this morning underwent successful surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.

A rookie, Langford also suffered a right-hand injury last season at Indiana. A pattern? Probably not. But it’s another interruption in the 20-year-old’s development.

For Boston’s playoff hopes, this is a minor setback – one made even smaller by Gordon Hayward returning (and staying). Though more of a forward, Hayward clears the way for Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to handle more guard minutes, a few of which could have gone to Langford.

Adam Silver: It’s on U.S. government whether American companies, like NBA, operate in China

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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Politicians have repeatedly criticized the NBA for its involvement in China.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is defending his league.

Sopan Deb of The New York Times:

Senators have power to affect the United State’s foreign policy, including where American companies are permitted to operate. The NBA shouldn’t face unique scrutiny for acting like a business, seeking to maximize profit, within legal parameters.

Silver is generally right: There is value in exposing American values to countries with authoritarian regimes. Basketball can be a good vehicle for doing so. Those connections can inspire change for the better.

But the league has repeatedly failed to uphold American values it espouses in its dealings in China. That warrants criticism and leaves Silver’s response quite lacking.

Adam Silver: Next NBA season will likely start in 2021

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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The NBA said next season would begin on Christmas at the earliest.

But get it straight: That’s a best-case scenario.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via CNN:

My best guess is that – even though, as you said, it will be the 2020-21 season – is that season won’t start until 21. We said a week or so ago that the earliest we’d start is Christmas of this year, but the more I’m learning – even listening to Dr. Fauci this morning – I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January. The goal for us next season is to play a standard season – the other part of your question – 82-game season and playoffs. And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans. But there’s still a lot that we need to learn in terms of rapid testing, for example. Would that be a means of getting fans into our buildings?

February seems like a reasonable expectation. But so much is changing with our handling of coronavirus. Predictions are weak at this stage.

Of course, the NBA wants to play a full 82-game season with fans at arenas. That’s how to most directly maximize revenue.

But when will it be safe for fans to attend games? How long will owners and players be content to wait while making practically no revenue? At some point, will it be better to play games and draw some revenue?

Assuming next season begins on a date the NBA doesn’t want to use as its start date going forward, how will the league get its annual calendar back on track if not reducing the schedule length? Fewer off days? Shorter offseason?

Like with many things, coronavirus creates many difficult complications.