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Three Things to Know: So, about that new-look Cavaliers juggernaut…

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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) Spurs defeat of Cavaliers a reminder the team has a lot of questions still, then LeBron James lashes out at officials.
The change was so sudden and so jarring it jolted us all — after a month of watching Cleveland play dispirited, unimpressive basketball, the post-trade deadline Cavaliers looked like a different team (which they pretty much were). Guys helped each other and switched on defense. LeBron James was energized again. Cleveland looked like the best team in the East again for a couple of games.

People lept to conclusions — “the Cavs are back in the Finals for sure” — when we didn’t really know how good this Cleveland team was yet. The new players were younger and more athletic, they brought energy, but also had question marks. What would happen when teams got a little film and started to attack them at weak points?

Those Cavaliers have lost two of three, falling to the Spurs on Sunday in a nationally televised game where they looked like a bunch of new players trying to figure each other out on offense. Don’t blame LeBron, he had 33 points on 25 shots, plus 13 rebounds and 9 assists. And he was making plays like this.

LeBron didn’t get much help. J.R. Smith played like he did during the Knicks Sunday day games, going 0-of-6 from the floor and just being disengaged. George Hill was so bad Jordan Clarkson took most of his second-half minutes. Cedi Osman looked like a rookie. The Jeff Green at the five experiment was a mess. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The Cavaliers were out of sync on offense. You can argue this was just an off-shooting night for the Cleveland — they shot 41.8 percent overall and just 23.5 percent from three — but it was more than just missing good looks. The games against the Wizards and Spurs (both losses) have been a reminder that this new roster still has a long way to go and not a lot of time to develop the kind of chemistry they need.

As for Sunday’s game itself, the Spurs went on a 16-0 run starting late in the third and carrying into the fourth to take a double-digit lead, and that was the ballgame. The Spurs never let the Cavs back in it meaningfully and won 110-94

San Antonio was physical with the Cavs, and after the game LeBron decided to take on a $25,000 fine (you know it’s coming) to lobby future officials.

We’ll see if it works, but the officials are not LeBron’s biggest concern right now.

2) James Harden drops 41, Rockets win streak up to 12. Houston is the hottest, best team in the NBA right now. Sunday, the beard dropped 41 points to lead the Rockets to their 12th straight win, beating a Denver team that has been playing well of late.

Here’s the question I keep getting asked about the Rockets: Can they beat the Warriors in a playoff series? I’m not sold. Houston has the best chance of any team, it may be the only team with a chance against a healthy Golden State, but a lot of questions remain. What happens when teams drill down on matchups in the playoffs, dragging Harden or Ryan Anderson into every pick-and-roll (they have been better defenders this season, but the playoffs are a different animal)? Harden and Chris Paul have had their postseason foibles, are both ready to step into this bigger stage? Houston can score with Golden State, but even with P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute are they going to be able to get enough stops on Durant and Curry? Golden State’s versatility is part of what makes them great, they can find a weakness and exploit it like no other, I’m not convinced the Rockets can match that in a playoff series.

But it’s going to be fun to watch.

3) RIP agent Dan Fegan. This is tragic news. Longtime NBA power broker agent Dan Fegan died in a car crash Sunday at the age of 56. According to the police, Fegan was driving in Aspen, Colo., and as he tried to merge onto the highway he was hit by a bus. His son and another passenger had to be airlifted to a Denver hospital, where both are in serious condition.

Fegan had a long list of top NBA players as clients for many years (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard and many others) because he was a fierce negotiator on their behalf. He frustrated front offices at times, but he was also respected for his passion and dedication. And he will be missed by many. There was an outpouring of grief and sadness around the league, and on social media.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

View this post on Instagram

We’re Sorry Breonna😔🤦🏾‍♂️

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0