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Raptors fire Dwane Casey

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Two days after Raptors president Masai Ujiri declared “I believe in Dwane Casey,” Toronto did what it had been building toward.

Raptors release:

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri announced Friday that Dwane Casey has been relieved of his duties as the team’s head coach.

“After careful consideration, I have decided this is a very difficult but necessary step the franchise must take. As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level,” Ujiri said. “We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”

Casey guided the best run in Raptors history. After a couple losing seasons to begin his tenure, Toronto has won at least 48 games and made the playoffs each of the last five years – including a franchise-best 59 wins this season.

But the Raptors underwhelmed in the playoffs annually – including this year, which they tried so hard to make different.

Toronto implemented a “culture reset,” overhauling the offense and empowering the bench. Everything was designed to improve the teams postseason fortunes.

The result: Getting swept by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the second round, same as last year.

Ujiri said he won’t blow up this team – nor could he easily. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka have hefty salaries guaranteed for the next couple years. Keeping this core intact guarantees a high floor.

Firing Casey could raise the ceiling.

Casey is a good coach, and I don’t think he was Toronto’s problem. But maybe he was. He did himself no favors this postseason. At this point, it might be worthwhile to try someone else. Changing coaches is far easier than changing players.

This will be Ujiri’s first coaching search. He inherited George Karl with the Nuggets and Casey in Toronto. That Casey made it this long with an executive who didn’t hire him is somewhat surprising, though Casey’s run wasn’t without multiple potential firings previously.

The Raptors have a few strong internal candidates – assistants Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian and minor-league coach Jerry Stackhouse. Toronto also has a strong veteran roster that could attract top available outside coaches.

Casey was already named Coach of the Year by his peers. He could win the more prestigious Coach of the Year award, as voted by media. He would’ve had my vote if I had one.

The NBA won’t announce the winner until its June 25 award show. By that time, Casey might even be working for another team. Whether he’s employed elsewhere or unemployed, this sets up an awkward moment if he walks across the stage to accept an award for the quality work he did with the Raptors.

Russell Westbrook’s triple-double hands Warriors fourth straight loss

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook recorded his first triple-double of the season as Oklahoma City defeated the Golden State Warriors 123-95 Wednesday night in a game in which Thunder rookie Hamidou Diallo was carted off on a stretcher with 7:17 left with an apparent left leg injury.

Diallo’s left leg was stabilized as he was wheeled away to applause from the Oracle Arena crowd. The team it turns out not too serious.

Westbrook began 1 for 6, then hit stride, finishing with 11 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds. It was his second game back since missing five with a sprained left ankle, then another when he welcomed twin daughters Saturday night.

Paul George had 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Steven Adams contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Thunder sent the two-time defending NBA champions to their first four-game skid in nearly six years.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson scored 27 points apiece with Durant grabbing a season-best 14 rebounds for the Warriors, who were again playing without All-Star starters Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, as well as key reserve Alfonzo McKinnie.

Clearly in pain, Diallo moved himself off the court and was under basket for several minutes.

In a loss Monday at Sacramento, Diallo became the first Thunder rookie ever to go at least 7 for 7 from the floor. He made both his 3-point tries on the way to 18 points.

Westbrook’s 3-pointer 4:17 before halftime put the Thunder ahead 50-37.

The Warriors, who held off the Thunder 108-100 in their season opener Oct. 16 and had won the last three matchups, trailed 60-46 at halftime with just 11 assists to 10 turnovers but opened the third with a 13-2 run to get within 62-59.

While Golden State dropped 10 of its final 17 games last season, the Warriors hadn’t endured a four-game losing streak during the regular season since dropping four in a row from Feb. 26-March 2, 2013. They also lost six straight just before that in February `13.

OKC’s Terrance Ferguson returned from a two-game absence as he welcomed a baby, then went down at the 5:41 mark of the first with a sprained left ankle and didn’t return.

 

LeBron James, Lakers prevail in Cleveland after controversial late call

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LeBron James got a warm welcome before the game. He got another standing ovation during the game. And he got favorable officiating late.

Just like old times in Cleveland.

LeBron returned with the Lakers and escaped with a 109-105 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday. With 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, he did all he could to top his old team. But an odd call also benefited Los Angeles.

With the Lakers up two late, LeBron missed a jumper, and the rebound went out of bounds. Officials ruled it Los Angeles ball with 22.9 seconds left. Per the NBA’s new offensive-rebound shot-clock rule, the shot clock goes to 14 seconds “after the offensive team gets possession of the ball after it goes out of bounds immediately following a missed field goal or free throw that hit the rim.” That seemed to apply here. Yet, the Lakers inbounded with the shot clock off, so the Cavs were forced to foul.

Ultimately, I’m not convinced it mattered, because LeBron split from the line. Is there a huge difference in win expectancy between the Cavaliers getting the ball down three with 19.6 seconds left (what actually happened) and defending down two with 22.9 seconds left and 14 seconds on the shot clock (what probably should have happened)? It seems not.

Besides, this game was more about sentimentality than result, anyway. Sure, a win over LeBron would have been satisfying during a lost season. But Cavaliers fans settled for a nice ovation to LeBron during intros and another with his tribute video:

This game was far closer than 2010, when LeBron returned to Cleveland with the Heat and routed the Cavs. This game was also far, far, far tamer.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, it seems everyone is happier to walk away with limited drama.

Kyrie Irving: ‘F— Thanksgiving’

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There’s a theory Kyrie Irving resented the way LeBron James‘ political opinions always drew attention and Irving’s didn’t. The biggest folly of the situation? Irving’s flat-earth takes were the only non-basketball thing he said that resonated.

But Irving seemingly hit on more meaningful discourse tonight.

After the Celtics’ loss to the Knicks, Irving addressed tomorrow’s holiday.

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

Irving has Native American roots and a strong connection Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I suspect that informs his opinion on Thanksgiving.

The history of Thanksgiving is more complex than the fairytale many of us were taught in school. Agree or disagree with Irving’s point of view, his remark presents a great opportunity to learn more about different perspectives.

Anthony Davis gets 5×5, but misses game-tying free throw

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When going to the line for multiple free throws, NBA players typically shoot better on each successive attempt.

Anthony Davis bucked that trend at the worst possible time.

With the Pelicans down three and 2.5 seconds left, Davis drew a foul on a 3-pointer. He sunk the first two free throws then missed the third, allowing the 76ers to escape with a 121-120 win.

Davis deserves credit for getting New Orleans so close. Before Davis drew the foul, Jrue Holiday missed a wayward quick-two attempt. Davis stole Ben Simmons‘ attempt to keep the ball in bounds and got up the 3-pointer the Pelicans should have been attempting all along.

After swishing the first two free throws what went wrong for Davis? Maybe it was the curse of Jahlil Okafor. The former 76er subbed in for New Orleans before the third free throw, working the loud Philadelphia crowd into even more of a frenzy.

I’m not sure Davis’ final steal should count, as Simmons might not have had possession. But if it holds up, Davis will have a rare 5×5 – at least five points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

For now, it’s the first 5×5 since Draymond Green‘s in 2015 and first 5×5 in a loss since Andrei Kirilenko’s in 2003.

Here’s every 5×5 since 1983-84 (as far back as Basketball-Reference records go):

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