After Thomas reportedly led the charge against Love during a recent team meeting, Love rather demonstrably bent down to hand the ball to Thomas – who, at 5-foot-9, is the NBA’s shortest player – during the Cavaliers’ win over the Pacers on Friday.
One team source suggested to ESPN that it was a clear sign of Love trying to embarrass Thomas after the point guard was one of the instigators in calling out Love on Monday for leaving Cleveland’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder early last weekend during an explosive team meeting.
Love was not asked in his group session with the media about the play, but there was little doubt, based on several conversations after the game with Cavs players, that he meant what he did.
Spiraling dysfunction in Cleveland? Maybe.
But this also seems how friends might treat each other when annoyed with each other. Thomas didn’t like Love leaving the loss to Oklahoma City then missing practice the next day. Love didn’t like being called out for how he handled an illness. So, Love responded by trying to embarrass Thomas during a game. The back-and-forth could end here, both Thomas and Love satisfied they inflicted appropriate repercussions on the other. Deeper bonds prevent these issues from snowballing.
So does winning. The Cavaliers beat the Pacers on Friday then the Pistons on Sunday, Cleveland’s first win streak in more than a month. Keep that going, and Love and Thomas are more likely to leave any problems behind them.
Playoff Edition Three Things to Know: Westbrook vs. Lillard is best show in playoffs
The NBA playoffs are underway and there can be a lot to unpack in a series of intense games, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Russell Westbrook vs. Damian Lillard is the best show in playoffs; Round 3 goes to Westbrook and Thunder. Oklahoma City vs. Portland has become must-watch TV. This third-quarter sequence shows exactly why Russell Westbrook vs. Damian Lillard is the best drama going right now. Well, second after Game of Thrones, but best in the NBA playoffs and one you need to be watching.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Westbrook anticipated a Lillard layup attempt, got up, and swatted the shot back. When he landed, Westbrook looked at the crowd along the baseline and yelled something. Lillard, in turn, said something right back to Westbrook, and then the two started jawing. As they have at points throughout the series. Westbrook was making it personal, he demanded the ball on the next Thunder possession, posted up Lillard and knocked down a little turnaround jumper right over the Blazers’ guard. Westbrook then celebrated with his rock-the-baby move (the way he did this one was more shook-the-baby). After the game, Lillard said he didn’t even see it, although in the videos Lillard seems to smirk at it.
Lillard then went off scoring 23 of his 25 points in a historic, franchise-best third quarter to make it a game.
In the end, Oklahoma City got the needed win 120-108 behind 33 points ( on an efficient 11-of-22 shooting ) and 11 assists from Westbrook. Westbrook even hit the dagger three over Lillard.
The Thunder still trail in the series 2-1 and need another win on Sunday in Game 4 or they may fall too far behind to catch up.
Two keys in Game 3 led to the Thunder win.
First, Oklahoma City finally decided to be aggressive in trapping and pressuring Damian Lillard, taking the ball out of his hands early in the shot clock. At least OKC did in the first half. This has been the book on how to beat Portland in the playoffs for a couple of seasons now — make anyone other than Lillard or C.J. McCollum beat you — but OKC used it sparingly in the first couple of games. During the regular season Jusuf Nurkic became an excellent outlet for Lillard when those traps came, but he is out and now Enes Kanter has to be that man. He was not as good. Portland got away from it when Lillard got hot but the Thunder need to go back to it as often as they can.
Second, the Thunder hit their threes. Oklahoma City shot 10-of-61 from three (16.4 percent) from three in the first two games in Portland, but at home they felt comfortable and the shots fell — 15-of-29. This was the biggest difference in the game, Portland’s defense but the Thunder could not beat them from three and on Friday night OKC won that bet.
Can the Thunder sustain that at home?
Tune in for Game 4 Sunday to find out. Lillard vs. Westbrook is the best show going right now.
2) Pascal Siakam goes off for 30 points, 11 rebounds in leading Raptors to win on the road over Magic. During his pregame media availability, Raptors coach Nick Nurse was asked if Pascal Siakam was formally the Raptors third offensive option now.
“If he has he’s dropped down from being the 2nd option,” Nurse responded.
Siakam was option No. 1 on Friday night, scoring 30 points, pulling down 11 rebounds, and leading the way for Toronto to get a 98-93 win on the road. Siakam did it impressively, with everything from threes to postups, and plenty of attacking off the bounce, much of it against a good defender in Jonathan Isaac.
Toronto now leads the series 2-1 and if Orlando is going to have a real chance in this series it needs to win game 4 Sunday.
The Raptors needed the breakout game from Siakam because Kawhi Leonard looked human, scoring 16 points but needing 19 shots to get there (he also had 10 rebounds). Orlando geared its game to stop Leonard (who was under the weather), but the Raptors had other options in this one.
The Raptors also defended well — Evan Fournier was 1-of-12 shooting on a night the Magic as a team shot 36.2 percent and scored less than a point per possession (98.9 offensive net rating). Terrence Ross had 24 off the bench — and hit a halfcourt shot right before halftime — to keep Orlando close. The Magic better find their shooting touch before Sunday or this series will end quickly.
3) Boston has Kyrie Irving (and Jaylen Brown), Indiana can’t score consistently, and Boston is in command of series. We’ve seen this movie before. Boston went into Indiana Friday night and took control of the series going up 3-0 after a 104-96 win that followed the same formula that has worked for the first two games.
First, Kyrie Irving can get buckets whenever he wants. He had 19 points in this game, although it was Jaylen Brown’s 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting that was the dominant force. Jayson Tatum pitched in 18 points.
Second, Indiana just can’t score consistently The Pacers had 61 points in the first half, finding some offense in playing uptempo, even if that is not their style (the Pacers were 25th in the NBA in pace during the regular season, then this had been the second slowest paced playoff series so far this season). But the scoring would not last. Indiana started the third 1-of-8 from the floor and finished the quarter 5-of-21 shooting. Then down the stretch, Indiana was 1-of-7 from the floor. Without Victor Oladipo the Pacers are prone to these offensive droughts, especially against a good Celtics’ defense, and it is simply too much to overcome.
Game 4 is Sunday and maybe the Pacers extend the series to a fifth game, but we know how this movie is going to end.
Russell Westbrook outduels Damian Lillard, Thunder pick up win to get back in series
Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.
George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.
Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 89 early in the fourth.
Oklahoma City regained control, then kept it. Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining put the Thunder up 10.
Celtics beat Pacers 104-96 to take 3-0 series lead
Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.
Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter.
And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.
It’s been that kind of series for Indiana, which erased a 15-point first half deficit to take a 61-59 halftime lead. Myles Turner opened the third with a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game.
But Boston charged back with eight straight points to retake the lead, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 80-73 and pulled away late.
The Celtics took control quickly by going 8 of 10 on 3s in the first quarter to build a 37-22 lead.
Evans finally got the Pacers righted with 12 second-quarter points including bookend 3s to start and finish the 17-3 spurt that allowed Indiana to tie it at 52. The Pacers closed the half on a 9-2 run to take the lead.
Pascal Siakam scores 30, leads Raptors past Magic for 2-1 series lead
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Toronto Raptors think Pascal Siakam should be selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
He was their MVP on Friday night.
And the East’s No. 2 seed has the home-court edge back again.
Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a floater with 1:33 left to help snuff out a big Orlando rally and the Raptors held off the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”
Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting.
“It’s just taking what a defense gives us and going with it,” Siakam said.
Kawhi Leonard — battling illness this week — had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 13 points and Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assists, plus ran down a huge offensive rebound with about 15 seconds left to extend a critical possession and spoil Orlando’s first home playoff game since 2012.
“It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”
“Our turnovers hurt us again,” Vucevic said, lamenting Orlando’s 16 giveaways. “We had too many of those. Empty possessions for us and against a team like that you can’t have that.”
The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third after a brief Orlando spurt, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.
That being said, they went down swinging.
Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.
Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, Lowry ran it down and Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to clinch the win.
“Critical,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.
Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.
Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half. The Magic got within 48-45 at the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.
The Magic got the lead twice in the second half, once by one point, the other by two points. And both leads lasted exactly 15 seconds, getting taken away on 3-pointers by Siakam and Green.
And now it’s up to Orlando to regroup, the same way Toronto did after dropping Game 1.
“It’s 2-1,” Clifford said. “It’s not like it’s 3-0. It’s 2-1…. Handling disappointment is a huge part of NBA basketball and it’s a bigger part of playoff basketball.”