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Cavaliers bulldozing of East continues, beat Raptors 115-84 in Game 1

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It’s been clear since the start of the season Cleveland was the class of the Eastern Conference. The question had been how big was the gap to every other team?

Turns out Grand Canyon big. Mount Everest big. The gap between the quality of Godfather I & II to III big.

That was on full display Wednesday night as the Cavaliers remained perfect in the playoffs and trounced the second-seeded Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals 115-84. While that makes the series just 1-0, the 31-point blowout was the Cavaliers largest margin of victory ever in the postseason, and it felt like a referendum on the East.

The nine days off didn’t matter, Cleveland is still playing its best ball of the season on both ends of the floor.

“We understand who we are as a team,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Defensively and offensively we understand who we are, who we want to play through, who we want to go through, and it’s been easier for the guys.”

LeBron James was 11-of-13 shooting and was attacking the rim all night on his way to 24 points. Maybe more impressive was Kyrie Irving, who finished with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and he got wherever he wanted on the court all night.

“I’m always on Kyrie about staying aggressive, being aggressive because guys can’t guard him one-on-one, especially in transition when we get out fast and get it early to him and he can attack to the basket,” Lue said. “LeBron is the same way.”

After nine days off for Cleveland, it was fair to ask if they would be rusty and Toronto could try to steal a game on the road. Cleveland’s rust lasted about three minutes (Toronto did lead 7-0 to open the game). LeBron got to the rim — he was 7-of-7 shooting in the first half, with every shot at the rim — and as a team the Cavaliers shot 66.7 percent plus hit 50 percent of their threes before halftime. The Cavaliers put up 66 points in 47 possessions in the first half.

Part of it was that the Raptors were terrified of the hot shooting of the Cleveland Cavaliers had from three in the playoffs (shooting 42 percent as a team from beyond the arc in the first two rounds). Toronto’s game plan involved getting out high to chase the Cavs shooters off the arc. It’s a good idea in theory. In practice, the Raptors don’t have the defenders to then contain the Cavaliers ball handlers on the drive. Nor did Toronto protect the rim. Cleveland players blew past their defenders and got straight to the rim — Cleveland shot 17-of-21 in the restricted area in the first half. It was just a show for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers blew the game open with a 16-2 run at the start of the second quarter.

The Cavaliers were playing good defense, too. Kyle Lowry was 2-of-9 shooting in the first half, Cory Joseph was 0-5, but the Raptors were bailed out some by DeMar DeRozan putting up 16 points on 8-of-13 from the field. DeRozan finished with 18 points, and second in scoring was Bismack Biyombo with a dozen.

The game never got close in the second half, and every Cavaliers starter not named Tristan Thompson rested the entire fourth.

It’s hard to picture how Toronto makes this even a series. They may get Jonas Valanciunas for a game, and he can certainly help score inside, slow the game down, and provide a big body in the paint. But that’s not going to be enough. This isn’t the Thunder after Game 1 against the Spurs; this is a much larger gap. Hopefully, Toronto can make Game 2 more competitive.

Asked about getting stabbed in back, Chris Paul says trade from Rockets

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Chris Paul has gotten traded three times in his career.

New Orleans sent him to the Clippers – but only after David Stern nixed a deal with the Lakers – in 2011. In 2017, Paul engineered a trade to the Rockets by opting in. Then, in an unprecedented star swap, Houston dealt Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook last summer.

Paul recently discussed trades with comedian Kevin Hart.

Hart:

Why is it always such a crazy time when it comes to these trades and whether they’re happening. You’ve been part of some big conversations. Is it at a point where it’s just business, or is it becoming personal?

Paul:

Every situation is different. But the team is going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll tell you one thing and do a smooth nother thing.

Hart:

That’s the business side.

Paul:

Exactly.

Hart:

Do you feel like there’s been times where, “Damn, that’s a little eye-opening. I got stabbed in the back”?

Paul:

Absolutely. This last situation was one of them. The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. You know what I mean? He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is an easy target right now. Many people around the NBA resent him tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms) and costing the league significant revenue in China.

But, in this case, Morey brought it upon himself. He said in June he wouldn’t trade Paul then did so, anyway.

Maybe that was to protect Paul’s feelings if he stayed in Houston. In that case, Morey could tell Paul he believed in him all along. There’d be no way to know Morey was fibbing. Now that Paul is gone, Paul being upset is someone else’s problem. It’s a common tactic by executives.

Paul reportedly requested a trade from the Rockets, but he denied it. I don’t necessarily believe Paul. There was plenty of evidence of tension between him and Harden. It’d be pretty conniving to request a trade then throw Morey under the bus for making the trade.

But Paul’s denial of a trade request is on the record. So is Morey’s declaration that he wouldn’t trade Paul.

Morey must own that.

Report: Rockets have lost about $7M in China revenue this season, $20M overall

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms, has cost the NBA and its players a lot of money in China.

Probably no team has been harder hit than Houston.

Early estimates pegged the Rockets’ potential lost revenue at $25 million. It apparently hasn’t been quite that bad yet, but it’s already close. And the effects are trickling down to Houston star James Harden.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

League sources say the franchise has lost more than $7 million in revenue this season from cancelled Chinese sponsorship agreements and nearly $20 million overall when terminated multiyear deals are calculated.

For their superstar James Harden, the losses could be considerable if no resolution is reached. A source says Harden’s endorsement agreement with Shanghai’s SPD Bank Credit Card is imperiled.

This is why NBA teams are preparing for a lower-than-projected salary cap. It’s also why the union is planning to better educate its players on global issues.

The money involved is significant.

Nets, CEO David Levy part ways after fewer than two months

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Gersson Rosas – who lasted just three months as Mavericks general manager – was the standard for a short front-office tenure in the NBA.

David Levy, whom the Nets hired as CEO in September, is out after fewer than two months.

Nets release:

The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center today announced that David Levy and the organization have mutually agreed to part ways. Oliver Weisberg, Chief Executive Officer of J Tsai Sports and NBA Alternate Governor of the Nets, has been named interim Chief Executive Officer of the Nets and Barclays Center.

“I want to thank David for his collaboration over the past several months and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Weisberg. “As we enter an exciting next chapter of our organization, it’s important that ownership and management are completely aligned on our go forward plan. We are proud of the culture of the Brooklyn Nets under the leadership of General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson, and we look forward to continue bringing the best experience to our fans.”

This shockingly short tenure raises questions. Mainly: What happened? Absent other information, good luck convincing people there’s not a scandalous story behind this.

The Nets generally appear to be in a good place. They have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and a good amount of young talent. Brooklyn (4-5) has been mediocre, but this was always going to be a limbo season before Durant returns.

There have been a couple controversial incidents. Nets owner Joe Tsai spoke up during the NBA’s China-Hong Kong-Daryl Morey crisis, toeing the Chinese government’s line. A report also emerged about Nets officials being concerned with Irving’s mood swings.

Does either relate to Levy’s exit?

This vague statement leaves the door open to speculation. That isn’t necessarily fair to the people involved, but it’s what they’ll have to deal with.

Trey Lyles inbounds to Dejounte Murray, who promptly steps over sideline to inbound (video)

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The Spurs weren’t sharp in their 113-109 loss to the Grizzlies last night.

No play looked worse than this.

Trey Lyles inbounded the ball to Dejounte Murray, who apparently thought he should have been the one throwing the inbound pass. Murray stepped out of bounds to do that – but Lyles’ inbound pass made it a live ball. So, Murray committed a turnover that was quite simple if not for how stunningly silly it was.

Good news for Murray: He’s preemptively off the hook, because his error only brings to mind a worse inbound gaffe earlier this week.