Superhuman LeBron James finds his kryptonite as Celtics take Game 1

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There’s some kind of synergy in the way Game 1 went for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Boston Celtics. For years in Ohio, LeBron James has been surrounded by teams that simultaneously achieved higher than their worthiness while being constituent of parts amounting to more than their sum.

This year’s squad in Cleveland is certainly that.

Sure, LeBron has dragged some truly dreadful rosters to the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers. The 2006-2007 squad comes to mind as James towed the likes of Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, and Eric Snow to the final round. But this year in Cleveland is the other kind of Cavaliers roster, one with stars and hopeful youngsters that didn’t quite seem to mesh together well enough to help LeBron the way they should.

Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and others have been up and down throughout this second stint with the Cavaliers for LeBron, and indeed from game-to-game during these playoffs. Several of those players your favorite team would be delighted to add, perhaps as the missing piece. Together, they were squashed by the Celtics on Sunday by a score of 108-83.

Yes, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals went to the Celtics as they continued their almost offensively team-oriented play. Reflected against the Cavaliers’ individual play, Boston dominated the way they have throughout the playoffs.

Four of the Celtics’ five starters scored in double figures, and Boston dominated the assist margin against the Cavaliers 27-18. Brad Stevens, who has been given massive credit for both his strategic game planning and in-game tactics, formulated a defensive structure to force the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 88.9, allowing an effective field goal percentage of just 38.4 percent. Boston scored 17 points off of 10 Cavaliers turnovers.

Thanks in large part to Boston’s defense, the Cavaliers offense looked completely shook. James didn’t even lead the team in scoring after averaging 28 points per-game over the past 10 contests. The King scored just 15 points to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds — although LeBron did not have any offensive rebounds. Love scored 17 on five-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics in scoring with 23 points, adding eight rebounds and one assist. Marcus Morris had 21 points and 10 assists as he helped slow down LeBron. Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart contributed off the bench despite not scoring much to make a dent.

The series isn’t over but the worry for Cleveland was that the Celtics would find a way to do something nobody has done since Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers and that’s slow down James. LeBron’s dominance has covered for poor play by the rest of his team all postseason long, and if Stevens and Boston can figure out how to keep him contained they can expose the rest of the Cleveland roster.

Game 2 is in Boston on on Tuesday, May 15 at 5:30 PM PST.

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.

PBT Extra: LeBron, Cavaliers even series but Celtics far from dead

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If you want to make the case that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat of the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping two games at home, you’re in a good space. It’s a best-of-three and Cleveland has the best player on the planet on their side.

However, I still like the Celtics to hold on and win in seven.

I get into it in this PBT Extra, but the Celtics looked like a team that figured things out in the final three quarters of Game 4 (they just couldn’t make up for a disastrous first quarter), and they still have two games at home.

Either way, this feels like a series going the distance.

Did the Warriors deal Rockets a knockout blow in Western Conference finals?

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The Warriors beat the Rockets by 41 (!) in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday.

Biggest playoff win in Golden State franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss in Houston franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss ever handed to any team as good as the 65-17 Rockets.

“At the end of the day, it’s one win,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by 40 or if you win by one.”

Maybe it matters more than Green is letting on.

Golden State was the 17th team to -win a playoff game by more than 40 points. Of the previous 16, 15 – including the last 14 – won the series:

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The only exception came in my favorite playoff series of all-time, the best-of-three 1956 Western Division semifinals:

  • Game 1: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115
  • Game 2: Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75
  • Game 3: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115

So, teams to win a playoff game by more than 40 are 15-0 in best-of-seven or best-of-five series. Will the Rockets buck the trend?

They can make adjustments. Maybe Houston’s strong regular season – better than any above blown-out team’s – indicates a rare capability to recover from this. Andre Iguodala‘s injury hurts Golden State. Teams sometimes make historic comebacks from blowouts, including against the Warriors.

But that Golden State ran toppled the Rockets so decisively in Game 3 suggests the Warriors are hitting a gear Houston won’t keep up with.

Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell receive, Jayson Tatum one vote shy of, unanimous All-Rookie first-team selections

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The 76ers’ Ben Simmons, Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma were locks for the All-Rookie first team.

The final seemingly up-for-grabs spot? It went to the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen, and it wasn’t close.

Here’s the full voting for All-Rookie teams (first-team votes, second-team votes, total voting points):

First team

  • Donovan Mitchell, UTA (100-0-200)
  • Ben Simmons, PHI (100-0-200)
  • Jayson Tatum, BOS (99-1-199)
  • Kyle Kuzma, LAL (93-7-193)
  • Lauri Markkanen, CHI (76-21-173)

Second team

Others receiving votes:

The first team matches our choices.

Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson are the only selections I’d quibble with. Those two were just so destructive with shooting efficiency and defense. To be fair, they were pressed into larger roles than they were ready for on bad teams. But if the goal is picking the rookies who had the best seasons (what I aim to do), Smith and Jackson didn’t cut it.

However, some voters give more credence to long-term potential, and Smith and Jackson both have plenty of that. Other voters are drawn by bigger per-game numbers, which Smith and Jackson produced in their larger roles. So, it’s minimally surprising they made it.

That one first-team vote for Jackson, though? That’s odd – and it was enough to get him on the second team by one voting point over Heat center Bam Adebayo.