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Without Kyle Lowry Raptors fade in fourth, Cavaliers pull away for 115-94 win, 3-0 series lead

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For three quarters Friday night, Toronto was playing their best ball of the playoffs and hanging with the Cavaliers.

DeMar DeRozan was aggressive and getting buckets, Norman Powell was playing solid defense on LeBron James and forcing him into tough shots, Jonas Valanciunas was using his size to score, and as a team the Raptors were attacking the Cavaliers in smarter ways. It was a two-point game entering the fourth, even with Kyle Lowry sidelined.

Then Cleveland found another gear — specifically, LeBron found another gear, but as a team the Cavs shot 11-of-14 and 4-of-5 from three in the fourth.

“We got stops and Kyle (Korver) got hot,” was how LeBron explained the fourth quarter.

The Raptors started the fourth 1-of-12 from the field. For the quarter they were 0-4 from three, for the game they were 2-of-18 from deep. That was their fatal flaw.

The result was was Cleveland pulling away for a 115-94 victory.

The Cavaliers are now up 3-0 in the series and can close it out Sunday. They are 7-0 in these playoffs, 10-0 in the postseason dating back to the Finals last season.

“I liked our fight. I loved the way our guys competed,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “There was no back down. That stretch, right at the beginning of the fourth quarter, is what got us.”

DeRozan tried to carry the Raptors, he had 37 points for the game on 12-of-23 shooting. He did a fantastic job throughout the game of drawing out the trap and being more patient on offense. But he had just one in the fourth as he wore down.

“(DeRozan) having to play 40 minutes, go one-on-one, I thought he just got tired,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of DeRozan.

“Production from our bench, (it) has to come in and give us a boost, and for whatever reason they couldn’t get started,” Casey said. “We had to give DeMar and Jonas some kind of blow.”

Cleveland got bench production — it was the LeBron plus the bench unit that helped Cleveland pull away at the start of the fourth. Kyle Korver had his best playoff game for Cleveland with 14 points shooting 4-of-6 from three, plus even getting a block. However, it was LeBron who dominated the start of the fourth, and this shot later in the quarter may have been the dagger.

The problem for the Raptors is that even when playing their best ball of the series for three quarters, they were basically even with the Cavs. Toronto needs to be at its peak for 48 minutes to have a chance, the Cavaliers only need to find a higher gear for a quarter or so.

Cory Joseph started in place of Lowry and was 2-of-12 shooting overall and 0-of-6 on uncontested looks (via NBA.com). Powell was 6-of-19 shooting and 1-of-9 on uncontested looks. The Raptors moved the ball well at times only to miss the shot.

Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving each had 16 points for the Cavs,

Hornets’ Miles Bridges on All-Rookie: ‘I didn’t get snubbed. I played like a— all year’

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The NBA released its All-Rookie teams yesterday. Hornets forward Miles Bridges missed out, getting only one first-team vote and four second-team votes.

Bridges:

I love this attitude. Bridges didn’t deserve to make it. It’s silly to for anyone, including him, to pretend otherwise.

He’s obviously being too hard on himself. He had an OK rookie year. It just wasn’t one of the NBA’s 10 best this season.

Players often hold inflated opinions of themselves. That might help them succeed in a high-pressure job, and that’s obviously their priority. To be clear: I’m not criticizing them for adopting an approach that helped them reach this high level. But it leaves them as lousy analysts of their own performance.

Bridges doesn’t have that problem. It’s easy to see how this will drive him to improve.

His humility won’t work for everyone. But it works for him, and it’s a refreshing change of pace.

Warriors nine-day layoff before NBA Finals one of longest in NBA history

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The NBA Finals will begin May 30 – their earliest start in 33 years.

The Warriors will still have to wait a while to begin play.

Golden State, which completed a sweep of the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals Monday, is in the midst of nine straight off days. That’s tied for the fourth-longest layoff during a postseason in NBA history:

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The Warriors probably don’t mind the long break. Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins are battling injuries and can use the time to recover.

The big question: Is rest or rust more important?

Of the previous 10 teams with such long layoffs, seven won the ensuing Game 1 and seven won the ensuing series. But we’re dealing with varying levels of team quality, major differences in opponent rest and a small sample.

It seems clear rest matters more for a banged-up Golden State. But that doesn’t mean rust won’t be a challenge against the Bucks or Raptors.

Magic Johnson not keeping his stories straight (video)

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As Lakers owner Jeanie Buss repeatedly asked Magic Johnson about problems within the organization, he reportedly said there were none. Then, he went on television and detailed a ton of internal dysfunction.

After resigning as team president, Johnson said he had a good working relationship with general manager Rob Pelinka:

Then, Johnson went on television and accused Pelinka of betrayal.

In that same interview, Johnson also said Buss approved his part-time status while running the front office:

I told her, I said listen, ‘I can’t give up all my businesses. I make more money doing that than becoming president of the Lakers. So, you know that I’m going to be in and out. Is that OK with you?’ She said yes

In this case, Johnson went on television and contradicted himself… TWO YEARS EARLIER.

Darius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold:

Johnson:

If it was probably any other situation, I probably wouldn’t have left my business aside, left my business to concentrate fully, 150 percent on Lakers business. But because of her leadership – and I know she wants to win so bad – I decided hey, I wanted to work side-by-side with her.

So, Johnson and Buss (who was at his side for that interview) apparently knew the importance of saying Johnson was fully committed to running the Lakers. They apparently didn’t understand the importance of Johnson actually being fully committed to running the Lakers.

No wonder he was so bad at his job.

Reports: Michigan hiring Heat assistant Juwan Howard as head coach

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Juwan Howard made an All-Star team and an All-NBA third team. He spent 17 seasons in the league. He has been a Heat assistant coach the last five years.

But he might best be known as a member of the Fab Five.

That connection will resonate even more strongly as Howard returns to Michigan.

Miami Heat Beat:

Jeff Goodman of Stadium:

Michigan needed a coach after losing John Beilein – who had no NBA-coaching experience – to the Cavaliers. So, the Wolverines are hiring Howard, who has no college-coaching experience.

Shifting levels will be an adjustment for Howard. So will becoming a head coach for the first time.

But Howard was has established himself as a steady contributor to the Heat’s respected coaching staff. He interviewed for the Lakers, Cavs and Timberwolves head-coaching positions. Howard brings far more credibility than just his Michigan-alumnus status to this job.