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Three Things to Know: Cavaliers win the only way they can, LeBron dominates

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Cleveland gets entertaining, pressure-relieving win over Minnesota. They can thank LeBron James. This is the only way Cleveland can seem to win games now: Their offense is on fire and covers up the terrible defense, LeBron James plays at an MVP level and makes all the big plays, and he gets just enough help from some role players to get the team over the top.

That recipe came together Wednesday night in the Cavaliers thrilling 140-138 overtime win against the Timberwolves.

Neither team played much defense in this one. Cleveland’s defense has been terrible all season, and after a stretch where the Timberwolves were coming together on that end they have reverted to bad habits, allowing 113.4 points per 100 possessions in their last 10 games, 28th in the NBA (and worse than Cleveland). On Wednesday the Timberwolves had an offensive rating of 129.7, the Cavaliers 130.4.

From the opening tip, LeBron James was engaged — unline many recent games — and the Cavaliers needed all of it. He got some good support and energy from Cedi Osman and Jeff Green off the bench, and J.R. Smith pitched in 20 points on 14 shots, but it took LeBron’s triple-double to get the win —37 points, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds.

It also took LeBron making all the plays down the stretch. Like a game-saving block on Jimmy Butler with seconds left in overtime.

Then there was LeBron hitting the game-winner over Butler.

This win doesn’t solve Cleveland’s problems — the team still can’t defend, it has some serious structural issues, and LeBron and Dan Gilbert are not now best friends. But the Cavs desperately needed a win, and they got it. It relieves a little pressure on the situation. For now.

2) Don’t look now, but the Pistons have won five in a row since Blake Griffin arrived. When Stan Van Gundy traded for Blake Griffin he was largely ripped by NBA pundits (I panned the move myself). From the start taking on four-and-a-half seasons of Griffin at max salary, especially with his injury history, was something I saw as tying the team’s hands long-term (especially combined with the Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson contracts) and putting a ceiling on how good they were going to be long-term.

But short-term it’s been a boost.

The Pistons are now 5-0 with Griffin after a 115-106 win against Brooklyn, a win that has them in a virtual tie for the final playoff slot in the East. Detroit has a top-8 offense and defense since the trade, and Griffin is averaging 21.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, plus Griffin is assisting on 31.3 percent of teammates buckets when he’s on the court. He’s making plays, developing a real chemistry with Andre Drummond, and the Pistons look like a playoff team.

It’s going to be close the rest of the way between Detroit, Philadelphia, Miami, and maybe Indiana (if they stumble a little) for the final playoff spots in the East. When the music stops and the season ends one of those teams is going to be without a chair and will be in Cabo rather than on the court. A few weeks ago that looked like it would be Detroit, but with Griffin they look like they could be in ( says they have a 53 percent chance of making it).

3) Paul George says he is happy in Oklahoma City, but don’t confuse that with him staying or sure. Recent comments from Paul George made it sound like he was going to re-sign with the Thunder this summer, and the Lakers have taken this to mean they are out of the running to land him this summer.

Not so fast, my friend.

George opened the door a little with comments to Sam Amick of the USA Today, saying he’s certainly happy in OKC — but that doesn’t mean he’s staying for sure.

The Thunder are all in on George, they are shooting down trade requests for him (sorry Cavaliers fans). In its mind, Oklahoma City plans to re-sign George this summer. However, George may feel differently. He is going to get through the playoffs with this team, step back and size-up the situation, and make the call. Oklahoma City had an impressive win against the Warriors the other night, but they also seem headed for a tough first-round playoff matchup with Minnesota, followed by meeting those Warriors (who will be a lot more focused in the playoffs). An early exit could change minds. Or not. We can’t say from the outside and months before free agency is a reality, nobody knows what George will decide. Not even George.

But that trip to Los Angeles is not off the table. Never was.

Report: Mike Woodson close to joining Suns coaching staff

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The Phoenix Suns are bolstering their coaching staff. After spending most the 2017-18 season under interim head coach Jay Triano, Phoenix finally settled on Igor Kokoskov as their top man.

Now, it appears they’re adding some veteran talent to the front row.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Suns are in talks to bring former New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson in as Kokoskov’s right hand man. Meanwhile, is reporting that the decision has already been made to hire Woodson.

Via Twitter:

Woodson, 60, was last on the bench with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-2018. He was head coach of the Knicks from 2012-2014, and helmed the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010.

This is a smart hire for the Suns, who have needed some legitimacy after firing Earl Watson just three games into the season this year. Phoenix has been in a bit of a freefall since letting Jeff Hornacek go in 2015. Indeed, despite for one outlying 48-win season in 2013-14, Phoenix hasn’t been a very good team in this decade.

With a solidified coaching staff and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, there’s hope yet for the Suns. Now, the question is who they take with that pick. Luka Doncic? Deandre Ayton? The draft continues to intrigue.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 Tuesday vs. Rockets

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“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it. His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us.”

That’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Andre Iguodala

The Warriors are going to have to be without that tone Tuesday night, Iguodala will miss the game with a knee contusion.

This is a blow to the Warriors, who have started small with Iguodala through the first three games of this series. The Warriors have been 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with Iguodala on the court through the first three games of this series.

Expect Kevon Looney or Nick Young to start, with the rest of the minutes divided up between Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, and David West.

Whatever Kerr and the Warriors go with, expect James Harden and the Rockets to attack it.


WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.