Three Things to Watch in Game 4: How will the Cavs respond to the inevitable Warriors run?

3 Comments

The Warriors small ball “death lineup” ripped the heart out of the Cleveland with an 11-0 run that closed out the game and gave the Warriors a 3-0 advantage. It feels over, but here are three things to look for in Game 4.

1) When the Warriors inevitably go on a 10-0 run (or more) to grab a lead, how will Cleveland respond? Do not doubt the pride of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers — they are going to come out in Game 4 with a “not in my house” attitude. They will be physical. They will attack the paint. They will do everything they did in Game 3 that made it close, and probably do it with more desperation. Closing out teams in the NBA is hard.

“We understand what’s at stake, our whole entire season,” Kyrie Irving said. “There’s really no other decision, other than to leave it all out there.”

However, the Warriors have their own motivation: perfection. They can be the first 16-0 playoff run in NBA history — and they want that for their legacy (no matter what they said to the media). They too will come to play, Golden State is not thinking “it’s okay, we can just win it at home next game.” The Warriors want this bit of history, and they will come in waves at the Cavaliers.

At some point, the Warriors are going to go on a 10-0, or 12-0, or 15-0 run, as they do every game. There will be a three-minute stretch where the Warriors incredible defense shuts the Cavs down, everything Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson throw up from 28 feet falls, and it will push the Warriors to an 8-10 point lead. How will the Cavaliers respond to that? In Game 3 they fought back, made it close again, even took the lead themselves.

But down 0-3 following an emotional, gut-punch loss, when the Warriors make their run in Game 4 will the air come out of the balloon in Cleveland? Will the Cavaliers’ players shoulders slump a little? Will the fans go quiet in Quicken Loans Arena? Will there be a sense of inevitability that overtakes them? I would not be surprised. The Cavaliers will play hard, but if the Warriors pulled away in the second half it would not be a shock.

2) With less rest between games 3 and 4, will we again see LeBron and the Cavaliers’ stars wear down in the fourth? Two trends have been well documented through this series. First, the Cavaliers struggle when LeBron sits — he was +7 in Game 3, but in the 2:23 he sat they were -12. Second, because of the extra minutes he’s on the court and the crazy workload at both ends, LeBron is wearing down in the second half. In Game 3 LeBron had 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting in the first half, with half his shot attempts coming within eight feet of the rim as he attacked the basket; In the second half he had 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and while six of his shots were within eight feet he only hit three. He’s worn down like that in every game, and the idea of getting him more rest just means bigger deficits.

“There’s no tomorrow. So we just have to play,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He needs a break, he’ll let me know. We’ll get him out, get him right back in. But right now our season’s on the line, and we just have to play.”

How do the Cavaliers get out of this cycle, especially in a game with just one day off between (the only game in the series with one day of rest)? The only hope is better play from their reserves — when LeBron goes to the bench Cleveland had to be able to hang close. There can’t just be a 10-0 run (like at the end of the first quarter in Game 3 when LeBron sat), which forces Lue to bring him back quickly. LeBron is as well conditioned an athlete as there is on the planet, but he’s human, you can’t ask him to run the offense on one end then guard Kevin Durant/Draymond Green on the other and not see a drop-off.

Cleveland needs things to change in Game 4, in terms of rest and strategy, but the mantra from the coaching staff and players seems to be one of “we just need to do what we do better.” That does not bode well.

3) Watch Kevin Durant hoist up the Finals MVP trophy. If the Warriors in this game — and after the first three games of this series, it’s hard not to predict that — then Kevin Durant will be named Finals MVP on Friday night. He has earned it. Through three games Durant has averaged 32 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists per game, he hit the game-winner in Game 3, and on the other end he’s been the Warriors best defender on LeBron. He’s been brilliant.

“We knew how good he was, but just how clutch he’s been, how many big shots he’s hit for us,” Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said of what has impressed him about Durant this series. “I think I said it last night, it just looks like he understands this is his moment, this is his time. He’s earned it. He’s been in this league for a long time, and he’s, I think, at the top of his game at the biggest time.”

Is that vindication for his much-maligned decision to join the Warriors? Maybe, but I don’t think Durant sees it that way — what he wanted was his best shot at a title, and he’s going to get that. He has had a series on the biggest stage that made people question who is the greatest player on the planet right now.

He has had a series on the biggest stage that made people question who is the greatest player on the planet right now. He has earned the trophy coming his way, and if he has one more strong night in Game 4 he will get that trophy Friday night.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
0 Comments

Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

Orlando Magic v New Orleans Pelicans
Getty Photo
0 Comments

After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.

Reports: Suns push for Jarred Vanderbilt derailed Bojan Bogdanovic trade

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Utah traded Bojan Bogdanovic not to one of the contenders pushing for him — Phoenix, Miami, even the Lakers — but to rebuilding Detroit. It’s a move that caught the NBA off guard.

News has come out now that part of what hung up the Suns’ effort to land Bogdanovic was their push to make promising young forward Jarred Vanderbilt — who the Jazz got from the Timberwolves in the Rudy Gobert trade — as part of the deal. The well-connected John Gambardoro first had the report.

If the Suns had not pushed for Vanderbilt it doesn’t mean they would have landed Bogdanovic using a Jae Crowder-based package ( with another player, maybe Landry Shamet, and some picks). Reports have also suggested the draft package that was part of the Suns offer was not impressing the Jazz, so Utah moved on to a cost-cutting move rather than one where they took back more salary than they preferred.

The Pistons may decide to trade Bogdanovic again closer to the February deadline and maybe the Suns can get in the mix then. But for now, the Phoenix target is in the Motor City to start the season.

 

 

Knicks’ Leon Rose plays it safe with media, Mitchell trade: ‘We’re thrilled with where we are’

2022 NBA Summer League - Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks
Bart YoungNBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Leon Rose continues to play it safe.

He’s played it safe with the New York media since he arrived — he doesn’t meet with them. Instead, he again turned this week to the MSG Network — owned by Knicks governor James Dolan — so he doesn’t have to face hard questions or defend decisions.

He also played it safe in the Donovan Mitchell trade talks, not going all-in to get the All-Star out of Utah. Mitchell is now in Cleveland and we will see over the course f the next 12-24 months if playing it safe was the right call. Here’s Rose’s explanation of the situation in that MSG interview (hat tip Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News).

“We went through that process and at the end of the day we made a decision to stay put. And we’re thrilled with where we are. Taking a look at the summer, we feel great about what transpired.”

As every GM does this time of year, Rose said he likes his team and its chances this season.

“One of our main goals has been to create internal stability. Signed RJ Barrett, first extension of a player since Charlie Ward. We retained Mitchell Robinson. He’s a player who has developed the last few years and we feel very fortunate that we were able to keep him. We got the No.1 point guard in free agency this summer in Jalen Brunson. So we feel really good about the summer.”

In the interview, Rose also defended Tom Thibodeau and his decisions as coach, despite rumors of him being on the hot seat. Rose said Thibs is not under pressure.

The Knicks should be better this season with Brunson, plus Barrett should take another step forward. New York’s problem is much of the East got better — Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington and others — and this roster likely still leaves the Knicks fighting to make the play-in.

Rose deserves credit for being patient, trying to build culture and foundation, and not just throwing Dolan’s money at an aging superstar. He hasn’t done anything stupid, which is a step forward in New York. But he also hasn’t done anything bold yet, he’s just played it safe.

At some point, Rose and the Knicks will have to push their chips in and make a bold, all-in move. But for now, they are playing it safe.