Cavaliers explode for historic offensive night in overwhelming Warriors

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“Tonight was who we are.”

That’s how Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue saw a historic offensive explosion from his Cavaliers team in route to a Game 4 win.

We will see if that level of offense is sustainable, but it was a joy to watch Friday night. Cleveland’s offense looked more like the side that dominated the Eastern Conference playoffs. The numbers were just stunning:

• 49 first quarter points, an NBA record for most points in a quarter.

• 86 points at halftime, also an NBA record.

• 24 made three pointers, also an NBA record (they did that on 54 attempts).

• An offensive rating of 137.1 points per 100 possessions (for comparison the Warriors’ league-best rating for the regular season was 113.2).

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined for 94 points.

• Plus the Cavaliers were making plays like this:

It was the kind of night where even Deron Williams, who had no points in 44 minutes through the first three games had a couple of buckets in this one.

Cleveland had shot 29 percent from three through the first three games of this series, and they can’t win that way — certainly not against the high-powered Warriors (who also had a good offensive night Friday, it was just overwhelmed). Cleveland was more aggressive and more physical to start this game, but the biggest difference was just that their looks were going in — particularly from role players.

“We made shots,” Lue said in an understatement. “We have been getting these shots all series. We haven’t shot the ball very well, but defensively we got stops early and were able to get out in transition and score some easy baskets. And Kevin (Love) shot the ball well. Draymond (Green), he’s one of the best help defenders in the league, and tonight when he was helping, we made him pay. Kevin made shots. When we’re making shots and we’re playing with pace, we’re a tough team to beat. This is who we are. We’re a tough, resilient team.”

“I give them a ton of credit, they made some tough shots,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They made 24 threes, and we knew that we weren’t going to keep them quiet from the three-point line the whole series. They made some tough shots, but we were not sharp defensively, so always a combination. It’s never one thing.”

In a sky full of stars Kyrie Irving was the brightest light in the Cleveland offense Friday, dropping 40 on Golden State. More than leading the team in scoring, he was seemingly the guy who always came up with the big bucket that stopped a Warriors run and kept the Cavaliers in charge.

“Shot some tough ones, and happily they went in,” Irving said. “But other guys just came in, and Kev and J.R., Bron, as well as Shump and Deron and Kyle. I mean, when we’re hitting threes, we’re a different team. And we understand that. But when we take the threes that are in rhythm and we’re getting guys to their spots and we’re unselfish as we were tonight, then our three-pointers are a little bit different, and it makes the difference.”

Will that difference carry over to Game 5 is a question for another day. For now, we should enjoy — you’re not going to see another offesnsive night like this.

Manny Pacquiao says he has thought about buying part of NBA team when he retires

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At age 40, Manny Pacquiao is not retiring. Even if you and some boxing pundits think he should. Tonight (Saturday) he fights Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is expected to pull down about a cool $26 million for his trouble. If you’re getting paid like that, why retire exactly? He has said he wants to fight another five years or so.

After that, he’d like to buy part of an NBA team.

That’s what he told TMZ in a pre-fight interview.

He said he has thought about buying a piece of an NBA team after he retires. Pacquiao, a basketball nut who uses the sport as part of his training, owns an entire semi-pro league — the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — in the Philippines (one of the most basketball-crazy nations on earth). Pacquiao said he thinks his experience with that league would help him as an NBA owner, that some of the skills will translate, which is likely true. Pacquiao said it’s about finding the right opportunity.

Forbes estimates that Pacquiao will have earned, after Saturday’s fight, more than $500 million in his career. Various websites estimate his net worth in the $200 million range. He’s got the money to jump in as a part owner.

In an NBA that loves personalities and characters — and one always trying to gain more traction in Asian markets — don’t be shocked if this happens someday.

Once Pacquiao retires.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.