LeBron James has ‘zero’ concern after Cavaliers’ lopsided Game 1 loss

14 Comments

BOSTON (AP) LeBron James has made Boston’s TD Garden his personal playground during the playoffs in recent years.

The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the Eastern Conference finals with a 9-3 record against the Celtics in games played at the Garden over the last four years, including six straight wins.

James’ 979 postseason points against Boston were the most by any player against any opponent in the last 50 years. And his 21 playoff wins against the Celtics were also the most against them during that span.

But none of that mattered Sunday in Boston’s dominating 108-83 win over Cleveland in Game 1 , in which James committed seven turnovers while being held to just 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

It would be solid night for most NBA players, but was pedestrian by the super-human standard that LeBron has set for himself this postseason, at times single-handedly carrying the Cavs to victories.

But he was clear that his concern level down being 1-0 was “zero.”

“I didn’t go to college, so it’s not March Madness,” he said. “You see ways you can get better throughout the series. But I’ve been down 0-1, I’ve been down 0-2. I’ve been down before in the postseason.

“But for me, there’s no level of concern no matter how bad I played tonight with seven turnovers, how inefficient I was shooting the ball. … We have another opportunity to be better as a ballclub come Tuesday night and we’ll see what happens.”

James said the Celtics deserved credit for the defensive strategy they employed against him, which started with Marcus Morris challenging him from outset, limiting him to 2-of-6 shooting in the first quarter as Cleveland fell into a 36-18 hole.

“I think they had a great game plan in Game 1, and he was the start of it,” James said. “He was my matchup and I think they did a great job of communicating throughout the whole game, knowing where I was and all of my teammates was. (Celtics coach) Brad (Stevens) did a great job.”

“We have an opportunity to look at some film tomorrow and see ways they was making us uncomfortable.”

The Celtics showed James several different looks throughout the game, switching as many as five different players on him.

Morris, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes all took turns guarding James at times. Boston frequently sent a double team when he got the ball in the post. It forced him to settle for jump shots early and limited his ability to get to the rim.

That in turn kept James from creating shots for his teammates. For the game Cleveland was outscored by 18 points with James on the floor.

“We are just going to try to make it as tough for him as we can,” Rozier said. “The other guys, obviously, (Kevin) Love and J.R. Smith, we don’t want to give them open looks. … That has been a big emphasis the last couple of days. We did a good job of that and we just have to keep it up.”

When the Cavs did finally show a little momentum, cutting Boston’s lead to 14 at the end of the third quarter, the Celtics responded with a 7-0 run at the start of the fourth.

James was asked afterward what happened during that flurry and he responded with a verbatim recitation of each play , down to Tatum’s coast-to-coast layup off a Eurostep move in the lane.

When he was finished James leaned back in his chair, spread his arms and wryly said, “There you go.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
0 Comments

Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.