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.

Manny Pacquiao says he has thought about buying part of NBA team when he retires

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At age 40, Manny Pacquiao is not retiring. Even if you and some boxing pundits think he should. Tonight (Saturday) he fights Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is expected to pull down about a cool $26 million for his trouble. If you’re getting paid like that, why retire exactly? He has said he wants to fight another five years or so.

After that, he’d like to buy part of an NBA team.

That’s what he told TMZ in a pre-fight interview.

He said he has thought about buying a piece of an NBA team after he retires. Pacquiao, a basketball nut who uses the sport as part of his training, owns an entire semi-pro league — the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — in the Philippines (one of the most basketball-crazy nations on earth). Pacquiao said he thinks his experience with that league would help him as an NBA owner, that some of the skills will translate, which is likely true. Pacquiao said it’s about finding the right opportunity.

Forbes estimates that Pacquiao will have earned, after Saturday’s fight, more than $500 million in his career. Various websites estimate his net worth in the $200 million range. He’s got the money to jump in as a part owner.

In an NBA that loves personalities and characters — and one always trying to gain more traction in Asian markets — don’t be shocked if this happens someday.

Once Pacquiao retires.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.