Tyronn Lue’s Game 2 plan: Play faster, move ball better, but no major changes

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OAKLAND — Cleveland’s lineups in Game 1 where LeBron James, Kevin Love, or Channing Frye were the center were -13 on the night. Those lineups struggled to score and had a hard time getting consistent stops against the ball movement of the Warriors.

So what is Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue changing up for Game 2?

“I don’t see a reason for change,” Lue said Friday. “I think the way they play defense, they switch 1 through 5, and it makes you play one-on-one basketball. So your movement with floppy stuff coming off of pin-downs, they just switch out and try to deny those passes. And then you’ve got to post Kevin, you’ve got to post LeBron against those mismatches. So I don’t see any reason for change. We’ve just got to convert.”

That was the theme of the day for the Cavaliers — they think their defense did a good enough job holding the Splash Brothers and Warriors in general in check, they just need to knock down their shots. And get better ones by playing faster and moving the ball more.

“I just told LeBron I need him to play faster,” Lue said. “I need him to pick up the pace for us offensively, getting the ball out and just beginning to play faster….

“Pace, so we can get up the floor and get guys open shots in transition like J.R. (Smith) and Kevin and Channing and those guys. But I think the floor’s more open when you’re able to play with pace and LeBron and Kyrie (Irving) can get downhill. Ball movement, we’re running our sets. When you’re switching 1 through 5, it makes you stagnant. It makes you play one-on-one. So the best thing you can do is try to get the matchup you want and try to explore it.”

If Cleveland trying to play faster seems counterintuitive to you, you’re not alone.

If you watched the game and thought Cleveland’s defense looked scattered, and not used to having to stay sharp for 24 seconds of ball movement and passing, you’re not alone. Did Cleveland’s defense make the Warriors look uncomfortable or rushed at any point?

I’m not sure more of the same is the answer for what ails Cleveland. That said, making drastic changes after one game or moving away from your identity is not wise either.

Lue is not wrong — the Warriors smooth defensive switching threw off the Cavaliers offense because Cleveland stopped the ball, tried to isolate the mismatch, then pounded the ball and became predictable. That can’t happen, and they know it.

“You know, when you’re out there and they’re switching and you have a one-on-one matchup, I think quick moves and not holding it as long is good,” LeBron said. “I think when you keep the ball on one side for too long and you’re pounding and pounding and pounding, then that can — too much of that won’t result in good basketball. It won’t result in good rhythm for everyone out on the floor. So there is a fine line. I’m okay with us having some isolation basketball if we’re going quick.”

As it was Thursday night after the loss, this was not a downtrodden Cavaliers team — they believe they could have won Game 1 if they had just made the shots they usually make.

“I’m not discouraged at all,” LeBron said. “I understand we had our opportunities. We played some good basketball for 36 minutes, and the fourth quarter got away from us. We definitely missed some really easy looks. Some looks that we’re accustomed to making that we’ve made all year long. But not discouraged in the fact that we were able to get into the paint, get where we want to go, but we’ve got to be able to knock them home.”

Shooting better from three and in the paint will help.

Will it be enough is another question.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.