Getty Images

LeBron James scores 35 points, Cavaliers sweep Raptors

11 Comments

TORONTO — LeBron James scored 35 points, Kyrie Irving added 27 and the Cleveland Cavaliers completed a four-game sweep of Toronto, beating the Raptors 109-102 on Sunday to give James his seventh consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kyle Korver scored 18 points to help the Cavaliers become the first team to win eight straight playoff games the year following a title, and the first team to win eight straight in consecutive postseasons.

Channing Frye had 10 points, and Cleveland finished 16 for 41 from 3-point range.

They finished off the Raptors about an hour before Game 4 between the Celtics and Wizards tipped off in Washington.

That series won’t end until Wednesday night at the earliest, and could run until Monday night, meaning the Cavaliers will have plenty of time to rest before the Eastern Conference Finals.

James added nine rebounds and six assists. Irving had nine assists.

Serge Ibaka scored 23 points, and DeMar DeRozan had 22 for Toronto. The Raptors took their first fourth-quarter lead of the series but couldn’t avoid their fourth straight loss.

Making his second start in place of injured point guard Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph had 20 points and 12 assists for Toronto, which lost in six games against Cleveland last year in the Conference Finals. P.J Tucker had 14 points and 12 assists in his first career playoff start.

Lowry sprained his left ankle in the third quarter of Game 2, and aggravated the injury while trying to warm up for Friday’s Game 3. He was not active Sunday.

A 3 by Toronto’s Fred Van Vleet cut it to 87-86 at 9:51 of the fourth, but James answered with a 3. Toronto kept it close, and took a 93-93 lead when Ibaka converted a three-point play with 6:38 left.

Irving responded with a 3 and, following a missed shot by DeRozan, added a pair of free throws to put Cleveland up 97-92 at 5:54. After a basket by Cory Joseph, Irving added two more free throws and a layup, scoring all of Cleveland’s points in an 11-2 run that gave the Cavs a 103-95 edge with 4:00 remaining.

Cleveland missed nine of its first 12 field-goal attempts, including four straight 3-point shots, and trailed 26-15 with 2:38 left in the first, but Toronto couldn’t hold its lead. James converted a three-point play with 15 seconds left in the first to tie it at 28-all after one.

Following a replay review, Cleveland’s Shumpert was called for a technical foul in the second after he kneed DeRozan in the ground area while rising for a jump shot, an incident that left DeRozan lying on the court in pain.

The Cavaliers started a 17-7 run while DeRozan was on the bench, opening a 51-41 lead with 3:46 left in the second. Korver scored 16 points in the second, making four 3-pointers, as Cleveland led 61-49 at halftime.

James scored 10 points in the third but the Raptors got nine from DeRozan and seven from Ibaka to close the gap. Toronto trailed 85-80 heading to the fourth.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland has swept its opponent all nine times it has taken a 3-0 series lead. … Korver’s career high for points in a quarter is 17. … James was the only Cleveland player to shoot a free throw in the first half. He went 3 for 3 from the line.

Raptors: Toronto shot 10 for 29 from 3-point range. … The Raptors used a different starting lineup in all four games. … DeRozan’s eight assists were a career playoff-high.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss: ‘I have complete faith in Magic Johnson … I have patience’

AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
Leave a comment

Shortly after she hired Magic Johnson as team president last year, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said she’d be heartbroken if the Lakers didn’t have an All-Star in 2018, when the game was in Los Angeles. Her urgency was apparent.

Of course, the Lakers didn’t have an All-Star last season. None came close.

But then they signed LeBron James this summer, and Buss has changed her tune.

The Rich Eisen Show:

Buss:

I have complete faith in Magic Johnson in terms of his ability to be a leader, to know how to put together a winner. And I have patience. And I think what he’s done has exceeded my expectations, how quickly they’ve kind of turned around the roster.

Johnson has done a great job running the Lakers. He cleared cap space while maintaining plenty of assets and convinced LeBron to sign.

The degree of difficulty on that is… debatable. Perhaps, LeBron just decided to join the Lakers and didn’t need much convincing.

What’s next for Johnson?

Maybe Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee will fit well with LeBron. Maybe Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are ready to compete deep into the playoffs.

I’m skeptical, which means Johnson’s next steps will be tricky. He has more than earned Buss’ faith, and her patience gives him even more latitude to build as he sees fit.

Still, it’s a bit odd to see a team acquire a 33-year-old superstar then shift into a more-patient approach. LeBron’s prime won’t last forever.

It’s on Johnson to maximize it.

Danny Ainge roasts Celtics players on Twitter

Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Celtics president Danny Ainge has built a star-studded and deep team. Boston even has a few extra first-round picks to get even better in future years. The Celtics have 15 players with standard contracts, the regular-season limit. Unlike last year, Boston probably won’t swing a major late-summer trade.

So, Ainge is spending his time clowning his players.

He got Jaylen Brown:

Then Terry Rozier:

Do more, Danny! Kyrie Irving is overdue for another social-media feud.

Did Kevin Durant choose Warriors within day of Thunder losing to them in 2016?

Robert Reiners/Getty Images
2 Comments

The Warriors eliminated the Thunder in the 2016 Western Conference finals on May 30. On the following July 4, Durant announced he’d leave Oklahoma City for Golden State.

But when did Durant actually decide on signing with the Warriors?

Durant, Rich Kleiman (Durant’s business partner) and Rudy Cline-Thomas (Andre Iguodala‘s business partner) sat on a panel at Bloomberg’s Players Technology Summit.

Cline-Thomas, as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“Remember 2017, you just lost to the Warriors — no 2016, you had just lost the Warriors, May — you and I get together after the game. I thought I was just gonna focus on not talking about basketball, and you wanted to focus on talking about Silicon Valley — asking me how it was out here.

“You had been following what Andre and I were doing, how it was being surrounded by all these CEOs, innovators and entrepreneurs. And I was like, ‘Wow. First and foremost, like yo — this dude just told me he’s about to sign with the Warriors, right (laughter). So, I was like I’m not gonna tell anybody, didn’t tell anybody whatsoever, didn’t want any rumors to get started…”

Durant on when he began thinking differently about business opportunities, via Shiller:

“Probably about 2015, I had got hurt. Basketball had always been my world … it stopped, and I had to think about other parts of my life and what I was interested in … it was rough because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I liked or what type of person I wanted to be … I started to hear about Andre and more guys around the NBA — especially that play for the Warriors — that took advantage of the opportunities of being in the Bay Area.

“So throughout that whole year, me and Rich were talking about investing in companies and what I like to do outside of ball. Then I (saw) you and just all those questions came out at once and I was basically telling you I was coming to the Warriors (laughter).”

Kleiman, via Shiller:

“Well I just learned that he told you in May, before free agency — which is hardly factual, which we’ll have to clear up with Marc Spears and everybody here (laughter) — no way did that happen, but cool… (laughter).”

Did Durant really tell Cline-Thomas in May of a plan to sign with the Warriors? Did Durant know his intentions and inadvertently show his hand while talking to Cline-Thomas? Did Durant not consciously know where he’d sign but reveal clues to Cline-Thomas during their conversation? Were Durant and Cline-Thomas just joking?

Was Kleiman trying to set the record straight? Was he just trying to cover for Durant?

Durant was back in Oklahoma City for a press conference June 1, 2016. So, when Cline-Thomas says “after the game,” it sounds as if he meant the night of Game 7.

Of course, that will raise all kinds of questions about Durant’s competitiveness in the 2016 Western Conference finals. If he had one foot out the door to join the Warriors, how motivated was he to beat them? But Durant was awesome throughout that series. Golden State was just a great team. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he compartmentalized his feelings on the Warriors while facing them.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if he decided on Golden State shortly after the series. Draymond Green recruited Durant throughout that season. The Warriors’ desire to add Durant and their high level of appeal was well-established. Even without tampering, they didn’t have to wait until free agency officially began to become Durant’s choice. The NBA can control timing of permissible contact – not Durant’s mind.

It’s just tough to tell exactly what to take from Durant’s, Cline-Thomas’ and Kleiman’s comments – even with context of video:

Report: Kobe Bryant’s $6 million investment in sports drink now worth $200 million

Christopher Polk/Getty Images
3 Comments

Kobe Bryant’s investment in BodyArmor is paying off – in a huge way.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

Bryant made his first investment in the brand, for roughly 10 percent of the company, in March 2014, putting in a total of roughly $6 million over time. Based on the valuation of the Coca-Cola deal, his stake is now worth approximately $200 million, sources told ESPN.

Bryant earned about $330 million in his 20-year playing career. Add endorsements and this investment, and he could be approaching the level of wealth necessary to buy a major share of an NBA team (if that’s what he wants, which it doesn’t seem to be).

But we need greater context to understand Bryant’s acumen as an investor. If he diversified his portfolio, reporting on only the big winner could be extremely misleading. It’d be like saying Bryant made 11,719 shots. It’s impressive. But understanding how impressive requires knowing how many shots he attempted.