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Warriors defense, Kevin Durant overwhelm Cavaliers on way to 113-90 Game 1 rout

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OAKLAND — Cleveland hadn’t seen a defense with this kind of length and aggressiveness all playoffs. It showed.

More importantly, they hadn’t seen a player like Kevin Durant all playoffs. They had no answer.

“Steve (Kerr) suggested we get the ball in his hands early on so he could be aggressive…” Warriors coach Mike Brown said. “KD didn’t settle.”

Durant had 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting, hitting 3-of-6 from three and having some monster dunks, plus he had eight each of assists and rebounds. Then on the other end, he guarded LeBron James for long stretches and held his own there. Stephen Curry pitched in 28 points and 10 assists, and with that you end up with a rout — the Warriors won 113-90 to take a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

Game 2 is Sunday night at Oracle. That gives Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers a couple days to come up with answers.

The Warriors moved the ball — 31 assists and just four turnovers for the game — and with that got the shots they wanted. Cleveland hung around for the first 24 minutes only because the Warriors missed a lot of shots they normally make.

How complete was the Golden State domination? Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson had just four total rebounds, one on the offensive glass. The Warriors held their own on the boards, an area Cleveland has to dominate to win.

Golden State’s offense will draw the headlines, but it was their defense that seemed to overwhelm the Cavaliers. Cleveland got the isolations they wanted at times, only to find a Warriors defense that was up to the task and hung with them. Golden State also did a great job of having Durant, or Draymond Green, or Zaza Pachulia, stay near the rim and help on the drives of LeBron and Kyrie Irving.

LeBron finished with 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while Kyrie Irving had 22 points on 24 shots. Between them the Cavs two primary ball handlers had 12 turnovers, and as a team the Cavaliers had 20. That let the Warriors get out and run, where they are comfortable.

“We talked about it before we come into this series, like our best defense is going to be our offense, of taking care of the basketball, not a lot of turnovers,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “And tonight we had 20, and that’s way too many against this team.”The game started less with rust and more with both teams looking like they felt the pressure of the moment — there were bad passes, hesitations, and it looked like a Saturday morning rec league game for a few minutes.

The game started less with rust and more with both teams looking like they felt the pressure of the moment — there were bad passes, hesitations, and it looked like a Saturday morning rec league game for a few minutes.

However, a clear pattern emerged. The Cavaliers were selling out to take away threes and the Warriors — unlike the last couple games of last year’s Finals — were willing to take advantage of that and drive to the rim, or use back cuts to get looks. After the game, Lue said “our game plan was kind of backwards” with the focus on the three allowing Durant to get open. Also, LeBron struggled to defend Durant.

On the other end, it was LeBron who kept the Cavaliers in it with 13 first-quarter points on 3-of-5 shooting — he was the best player on the floor early, and he embarrassed JaVale McGee.

At the end of one, it was 35-30 Golden State, with the game at a pace that better suited the Warriors’ style.

While LeBron kept scoring, it was Durant that was the difference — he was getting to the rim for dunks and attacking in ways the Cavaliers could not stop. And that was with LeBron on him much of the time.

Golden State was up 60-52 at the half, and that was despite shooting 19-of-34 at the rim in the first half and being 3-of-13 from three. It felt like they could break the game open with some good looks. They did.

The Warriors started the second half on 13-0 run, complete with a ridiculous Zaza Pachulia three-point play, and the Warriors started to break the game open getting up by 20. The Cavs cut that to 12 when they took advantage of Pachulia’s defense vs. a small lineup, but the Warriors were 6-of-10 from three in the third, were getting stops at the rim (Cavs 5-of-14 in the restricted area in the third), and the Warriors led 93-72 after three. It felt over.

Turns out it basically was. The Warriors pushed the lead and ran away with the game.

Brad Stevens says Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward should be fully cleared by Aug. 1

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Everyone watching the Boston Celtics in the playoffs kept thinking the same thing: Add Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into this lineup next summer and — bang — instant contender.

That leads to the question: Just where are Irving and Hayward on their recovery tracks? Glad you asked.

That’s a good sign for the Celtics. And for fans of good basketball.

One word of caution: Progression when adding stars into a system is not necessarily linear. Or, to put it more plainly, throwing superstars who need the ball in their hands into the mix comes with its own set of adjustments and challenges, things do not always go smoothly or as planned. There could be some fits and starts as the Celtics figure things out next season. (And that’s not even getting into the Kawhi Leonard rumors, which are legitimate but also a long way from reality as of today.)

If you were going to trust one coach to figure it out and get guys to buy in, Brad Stevens would be your guy. The Celtics are rightfully going to enter next season as the bar to clear in the East (free agency depending). Just don’t expect things to go smoothly from day one, because that’s just not how basketball or life work.

Michael Porter Jr. says his injury situation “got exaggerated a lot”

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If healthy, Michael Porter Jr. might be as talented as anyone in this draft. He’s a 6’11” wing or small ball four who can shoot from the NBA three-point line and has the athleticism to get up and down the floor then finish with authority.

But health is a concern. There was the back injury which forced a microdiscectomy surgery that forced Porter to miss all but three games last season. Back injuries in big men are tricky things and can linger. Then last week there was an off-again-on-again workout and medical evaluation with the pause due to a hip issue. Was that soreness tied to the back issue?

In an interview on ESPN radio, Porter played down the injury concerns.

Former Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., who had issues with his hip and back, said Monday that he’s “feeling great” and wouldn’t dismiss the idea of working out for teams this week ahead of Thursday’s NBA draft.

“It’s a possibility,” Porter said on The Will Cain Show on ESPN Radio. “I feel good. … I got evaluated. I let the doctors come in and do all their tests on me. I’m feeling good. I think the teams are comfortable, but I might get a couple workouts in.”

As for last week’s hip issue.

“It was just a little sore, so I told [my agent] my hip was kind of sore and he just wanted to shut it down for a couple of days,” Porter said. “And then people took that and kind of ran with it, saying, you know, my hip was injured, I couldn’t get out of bed. … None of that was really true. I was just sore and I wanted to take a couple of days off. So that’s all that was.”

Porter is the mystery man in this draft — and those guys always seem to rise and have someone fall in love with them. It’s hard to imagine Porter going lower than eighth, but he has been linked to teams as high as the Kings at No. 2.

Porter is the kind of player that some team lower in the draft may fall in love with and be willing to trade up to the top five to snag him. The health is the question. An NBA front office member who has seen Porter’s medical reports described them to NBC Sports as “fine.”

There are also concerns about Porter’s grit and toughness. He has the reputation of having been insulated and having been a bit of a diva, what happens when he gets to an NBA team where he is not the first (and, at first at least, maybe not the second) option. What happens when he has to play more of a role and have it not be about him and his touches? Teams are asking about that.

Despite the concerns, there will be a team taking him in the first half of the lottery. It could be a home run. Or… that’s what makes the draft interesting.

Report: As expected, Jamal Crawford declines $4.5 million player option with Minnesota

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Jamal Crawford wants a bigger payday, and after a solid season scoring 10.3 points per game for Minnesota last season, he might get it despite a tight market. That’s why what happened on Monday was expected.

Crawford opted out of the final year of his contract with the Timberwolves, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford has declined his $4.5 million player option for next season and will become a free agent, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Crawford, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year, will become one of the top reserve scorers on the open market after facing Monday’s deadline to decide on his option.

The concern for teams is that Crawford is 38 and already showing some decline in his skills and game. Crawford can still be productive, but teams will be leery of offering more than two years guaranteed on his contract. And for a guy who comes off the bench — even a three-time Sixth Man of the Year — teams are not going to spend big.

Crawford may also just be looking for a new team chemistry and role, something at this stage in his career he should be able to get.

Enes Kanter’s father sentenced to 15 years in jail in ongoing political dispute

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The dictatorial Turkish government has issued an arrest warrant for Knicks big man Enes Kanter because he is an outspoken opponent of Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter is not foolish enough to go home to be arrested (and likely tortured), he may never see his homeland again.

Kanter’s family had to disavow their son and his beliefs. That apparently was not enough. Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Turkey for “membership in a terror group,” the country’s official news agency reported Monday.

Enes Kanter believes to be a politically motivated attempt to go at him. Kanter released this statement.

The Turkish government’s shots at Kanter are not new. Last summer the Turkish government revoked Kanter’s passport while he was abroad, forcing American diplomats (with some help from the NBA) to step in and prevent him from being sent back to his native country and arrested.

All of this is because Kanter is a follower of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkish president Erdogan — who is essentially a dictator now, and runs a country where human rights abuses are rampant — blames Gulen for masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, and used that as an excuse for a crackdown and consolidation of power.

Using or dividing family members to try to gain political advantage or make a political statement is abhorrent, anywhere it happens. Unfortunately, Kanter is caught in the middle of it and there is little he can do.