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Paul George on Thunder’s slow start: “We have a whole year to figure it out”

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have the second best defense in the NBA, allowing less than a point per possession (96.9 per 100 possessions). They are long, athletic, and have a big backstop in Steven Adams in the paint.

Yet, they are just 4-6. Tuesday night, they lost to a Sacramento Kings team that was 1-8 coming in.

Despite having reigning MVP Russell Westbrook plus Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on the roster, the Thunder have the 22nd ranked offense. Watch them play and it reminds you of the 2010-11 Miami Heat when LeBron James first arrived there: guys played next to each other taking turns in isolation, not getting plays out of the offense. The Thunder make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (via the SportVU tracking cameras in arenas). They run more isolation than any team in the league — 12.3 percent of their shot attempts come out of isos, and they shoot just 42.7 percent on them, scoring only 0.87 points per possession on them (19th in the league). Anthony still stops the ball, and the Thunder are predictable. And predictable is defendable.

Paul George is not worried, he is still preaching patience, as he told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

“We have a whole year to figure it out,” George said. “We can’t really try to rush this. It’s something that’s step-by-step, day-by-day [and], at this point, game-by-game.

“We’ve got to slowly get on the same page.”

Carmelo Anthony is preaching from the same book.

“This is all new to everybody, new situations for everybody,” said Anthony, who along with George joined the team this summer. “Even though we losing games, I think it’s more of lessons being learned than actually losing the game. So right now, we’re learning a lesson in these last couple games.”

Hard lessons. However, they are right, it was always going to take a while to figure out, it would take time for these players who speak glowingly of making sacrifices to win actually put that into practice. We’ve seen it when LeBron James jumped ships (first to Miami, then back to Cleveland), there are rough patches. Even last year’s Golden State Warriors had some bumps integrating Kevin Durant into the fold.

The challenge is this: Will they figure it out in time to keep Paul George? Westbrook signed a massive extension and is going nowhere, and Anthony has a $27.9 million player option next season that most around the league think he will pick up (unless he reaches a wink-wink deal with the Thunder for multiple years at a little less money). However, George is a free agent. The people around him were not shy about talking Lakers before the trade.

Next summer, with the chemistry be worked out and the pull of staying in OKC be so strong that George re-signs? That’s the real deadline for this team. But they’ve got 72 more regular season games to put it together, that’s plenty of time.

LeBron James recalls six turnovers with striking precision (video)

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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LeBron James showed off his memory after the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the Celtics, detailing every play of the beginning of the fourth quarter:

He was at it again after Cleveland’s Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

Asked about his six turnovers, LeBron perfectly described six turnovers:

The turnover LeBron very noticeably said went off Jeff Green‘s hands was actually assigned to Green. So, that meant LeBron omitted one of his own:

Still, this was incredibly impressive. It was also maybe a little passive-aggressive, the way LeBron notes the ball going off Green’s and J.R. Smith‘s hands.

So, it was quintessential LeBron.

Celtics top Cavaliers in Game 5, setting up Game 7 in Boston?

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LeBron James and a couple Cavaliers teammates left the court well before the Celtics dribbled out their 96-83 Game 5 win Wednesday.

The Cavs are already moving on.

Game 6 will be Friday in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers – down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals – must win to avoid elimination. The way Boston has played on the road, it’s even easy to look ahead to Game 7, which is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.

Still, the Celtics bought themselves leeway with their decisive win in Boston tonight. They led by double digits the final 20 minutes, breaking the Cavs’ momentum after two straight wins in Cleveland.

“It’s tough going on the road, playing against somebody else in their house with their crowd,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks tonight. “So, we were just comfortable. We came back home and defended home-court like we have all playoffs.”

Boston is now 10-0 at home this postseason – but just 1-6 away. Fueled in part by that historic split, no game in this series has been close. All five have been decided by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory – 18 – is in the 97th percentile for largest ever in a 3-2 best-of-seven series.

So, just as two big Celtics wins in Games 1 and 2 didn’t deter the Cavaliers, this one likely won’t, either. The Cavs should be heavily favorited in Game 6.

Beyond, if it gets that far? That’s a much bigger tossup.

Teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series have won 85% of the time. But Boston is missing a key reason it secured home-court advantage, including a chance to break the 2-2 at home rather than on the road – Kyrie Irving. And LeBron James is downright scary in a Game 7, even on the road.

The Celtics at least took care of business tonight, showing a far greater sense of urgency than Cleveland. Brad Stevens changed his starting lineup, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris, and tightened his rotation to just seven players until garbage time. Boston ran the floor much harder than the Cavs, decisively outrebounded them and beat them to loose balls. Even in altercations, the Celtics had a man advantage.

LeBron (26 points, 10 rebounds five assists and six turnovers) never made his presence felt in the way usually necessary for the Cavaliers to win. Cleveland’s four other starters combined to score just 24 points, two fewer than LeBron did himself.

After Boston seized control early, the Cavaliers made few adjustments in strategy or effort – as if they’re saving those for later.

LeBron James says we don’t know full story of his upbringing, but he’ll reveal it after retirement

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
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LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school – as a junior.

He has been in the spotlight ever since, somehow living up to the outsized expectations set while he was a teenager. His story has been told and retold – how he and his mom moved around Akron as she struggled to provide for him, how his athletic ability lifted himself and those around him.

But are we missing key details?

Upon passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most shots made in the playoffs, LeBron reflected on his journey.

LeBron:

To know where I come from, you guys know a little bit of the story. But you guys don’t know the full story about where I come from and the struggle that I had. You guys know about the single-parent struggle, and y’all done heard that story. But there’s a lot more to it, which I’ll talk about when I’m done playing ball.

But to know where I come from, small city 35 miles south of here, and to hear I’m in the same category or talked about and jumping these greats in the playoffs — it’s like I was a kid and I watched the playoffs so much and I was like, I would love to be a part of that, that moment, that atmosphere. I think it’s pretty cool. You hear the scoring, the field goals made, and for a kid that really doesn’t care much about scoring.

Like with LeBron’s secret motivation a couple years ago, I’m totally intrigued. When LeBron decides to share, I’ll be all ears.

Larry Nance Jr., Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier exchange shoves after whistle (video)

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Marcus Morris fouled Larry Nance Jr. in Celtics-Cavaliers Game 5 tonight. Nance didn’t like that, got up and shoved Morris. Morris and Terry Rozier didn’t like that, and both shoved Morris.

All three received a technical foul, which seems fair.