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.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.