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LeBron James has earned confidence following Game 1 loss

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The Celtics dominated the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday.

Dominated.

Boston built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, led by at least 14 the rest of the way and cruised to a 108-83 win. The Celtics bottled up LeBron (15 points on 5-of-16 shooting, nine assists, seven rebounds and seven turnovers). Cleveland got outscored by 32 with him on the floor – tied for his worst-ever plus-minus in a playoff game.

Afterward, LeBron sounded as if he were just toying with Boston.

“Game 1 has always been,” LeBron said, “a feel-out game for me.

“I have zero level of concern at this stage. I didn’t go to college, so it’s not March Madness.”

The NBA playoffs aren’t single-elimination. But every game carries significant weight in a best-of-seven series. Should LeBron be so dismissive of what the Celtics accomplished in Game 1?

He has earned the right to be.

LeBron has won just 61% of his Game 1s, his worst mark of any game in a series:

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That’s especially astounding, because LeBron’s teams are usually good enough in the regular season to secure home-court advantage and open series at home. (Game 1 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals was in Boston.) The Cavs and Heat have played 66% of their Game 1s with LeBron at home.

With a simple baseline of expecting LeBron to win at home and lose on the road, Game 1s are the only time he loses more than expected:

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Of course, LeBron’s frequent deep playoff runs means he usually turns it around after a Game 1 setback.

Teams that lost Game 1 of a best-of-seven series have won it just 23% of the time. LeBron’s teams have won 56% of the time.

Here are the 16 times LeBron’s teams previously dropped Game 1, including the nine series victories:

  • Cavaliers lost to Pistons in 2006 second round
  • Cavaliers beat Pistons in 2007 conference finals
  • Cavaliers lost to Spurs in 2007 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers lost to Celtics in 2008 second round
  • Cavaliers lost to Magic in 2009 conference finals
  • Heat beat Bulls in 2011 conference finals
  • Heat beat Thunder in 2012 NBA Finals
  • Heat beat Bulls in 2013 second round
  • Heat beat Spurs in 2013 NBA Finals
  • Heat beat Pacers in 2014 conference finals
  • Heat lost to Spurs in 2014 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers beat Bulls in 2015 second round
  • Cavaliers lost to Warriors in 2015 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers beat Warriors in 2016 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers lost to Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers beat Pacers in 2018 first round

So, LeBron can taunt the Celtics a bit by calling what they hope is their breakthrough victory just “a feel-out game.”

It’s harder down 1-0 than up 1-0, and LeBron has shown cracks this season. There’s no guarantee he digs himself out of this hole.

But he, more than anyone, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

After four-dunk game, Klay Thompson texts former teammate Zaza Pachulia to call him out

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Klay Thompson had 31 points and was 5-of-8 from three Tuesday night in Golden State’s thrashing of Denver to take over the top spot in the West.

Thompson’s destruction of the Nuggets’ defense was so complete he had the very rare four dunk night.

Last season, Thompson had a bet with former Warriors center Zaza Pachulia about which of them would dunk first on the season (and which one would have the most dunks). That came up again Tuesday — and Thompson texted Pachulia during the middle of his media scrum to say he is now up 11-1 in the dunk race this season.

The Warriors were back to having fun Tuesday night, and when they play with that joy they are unstoppable.

Kelly Oubre misses two FTs as Pacers fans chant ‘John Wall hates you’ (VIDEO)

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The Washington Wizards are a dysfunctional organization with a roster that doesn’t seem to like each other very much. They’ve made some changes, including sending Kelly Oubre to the Phoenix Suns exchange for Trevor Ariza.

Meanwhile, John Wall is out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a Haglund’s deformity and an Achilles tendon injury in his left heel. That’s somehow left the Wizards in better shape, with guys like Bradley Beal netting triple-doubles.

But for Oubre? It’s not been so great.

On Tuesday as the Suns got set to take on the Indiana Pacers, fans in the Hoosier State decided to troll Oubre while he was at the free-throw line.

Via Twitter:

Oubre is a career 78 percent free-throw shooter, so him missing two in a row is a bit of an anomaly. Even further, that Oubre let the crowd get to him is pretty wild.

Hopefully he can move on from the Wizards’ stink, although playing for the organization in Phoenix might not be the best way to do that.

Three Things to Know: Any questions? Warriors take over first in West after routing Denver

Associated Press
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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) Any questions? Warriors take over first place in West after scoring 51 points in the first quarter, routing Denver. Injuries. A lack of depth. Infighting. Disinterest that has led to them dropping big games on national television. These Golden State Warriors are not the same, they are in real tr…..

Oh, forget it. They are who we thought they were.

Despite all of the drama and fixation — bordering on obsession in some quarters — on what is wrong in Golden State this season, the team is 30-14 and has taken over first place in the West with an emphatic thrashing of the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night, 142-111.

That win included an NBA-record 51 point first quarter with the Warriors shooting 10-of-14 from three (and putting up an offensive rating of 212.5 (points per 100 possessions).

The Warriors didn’t slow down much the rest of the game, check out this shot chart.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each had 31 points, Kevin Durant added 27.

When the Warriors hit some early threes, get a few easy buckets, and get to play downhill and have fun, it becomes an unstoppable avalanche. That’s what rolled over Denver Tuesday. When you look back at the Warriors’ high profile losses — to the Raptors on national television, to the Lakers on Christmas Day — the games were more of a grind, a slog, they felt more like work and the Warriors just get bored with that in the regular season. They don’t care, and it shows.

But when they care, they remind everyone who has the Larry O’Brien Trophy and how hard it will be to take it from them.

The Nuggets contributed to their own demise, this was not a team that looked ready to defend with energy from the first tip. In transition, the Nuggets were slow to match up. When Curry would make a cut to the corner, defenders were a couple of steps slow going with him and we all know what happens when Curry has space. Denver’s defensive switching was sloppy. While the Nuggets on the season have a top-10 NBA defense, that has slid to the second worst in the NBA in the last 10 games. Denver is in a defensive rut and that will come back to bite them against more than the Warriors if they don’t turn it around.

2) How did that Jimmy Butler trade work out? Sixers rout Timberwolves in the first meeting of teams since the trade. The Minnesota Timberwolves have been better without Jimmy Butler — they have gone 17-13 with a +3.7 net rating since former coach/GM Tom Thibodeau finally realized Butler’s antics were destroying his team and shipped the All-Star off to Philly. Karl-Anthony Towns has led the resurgence, returning to his All-NBA level of play.

You would know none of that if you watched the what Butler’s Sixers did to the Timberwolves Tuesday night.

On a night the Timberwolves should have shown up with some fight, they rolled over. It made what Butler said as he torpedoed the Minnesota season look prophetic.

While Butler’s return was the storyline coming it, it wasn’t what keyed the win. Joel Embiid owned KAT, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds while holding Towns to 14 points, leading Philly to a 149-107 destruction of Minnesota. Embiid was trash talking after the game on social media.

So was Butler, who had 19 points on the night and said after the game “It was everything that I thought it would be.” Butler helped spark an 83-point first half from the Sixers, this game was over early. For all the questions about the fit of Butler, Embiid, and Ben Simmons, things looked a lot better in Philly than they did when Butler was calling out Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Minnesota played terribly, particularly on defense where they looked like they had never seen a dribble hand-off before. You can say it was a flat outing, something that happens over the course of 82, but they looked more like a team that was intimidated. They made Butler look right.

Ryan Saunders needs to figure out how to get his guys back on track and back in the playoff chase in the West, where the Timberwolves remain 2.5 games out of returning to the playoffs with a lot of work to do.

3) Atlanta continues it’s improved play, routs Oklahoma City 142-126. While nobody was looking, the Atlanta Hawks have been playing pretty good basketball — they are now 8-7 in their last 15 games, with an average NBA offense and a just slightly below average defense in that stretch (not great for most teams, but a vast improvement for the Hawks).

They capped off that run of good play Tuesday with a 142-126 win over Oklahoma City. Rookie point guard Trae Young had 24 points and 11 assists, and he has started to show some chemistry with Kevin Huerter, who finished with 17 points of his own.

The Thunder have the best defense in the NBA on the season, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions, but in the last five games that has slipped to 119.7 per 100 (28th in the league in that stretch). Teams have bad stretches over the course of 82, but the Thunder are built on defense and they can’t afford for this run to last much longer.

Jimmy Butler posts Instagram trolling Andrew Wiggins after Sixers beat Wolves by 42

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Jimmy Butler is nothing if not petty. The Philadelphia 76ers guard scored a whopping 19 points As they took on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. The Sixers beat Minnesota, 149-107, in a historic beatdown.

Of course, Butler left the Timberwovles under inauspicious circumstances in late 2018, and the narrative has long been that the 29-year-old star has thought Minnesota’s young stars were soft. That included Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, who appear to be doing a sight better now that both Butler and Tom Thibodeau is out of Minneapolis.

Still, the big win over his former team was something Butler couldn’t shy away from relishing on social media immediately after the game. In a post to his Instagram, Butler captioned a photo of him looking through a blurry Wiggins with the caption, “Looking right through the past.. to the future!”

Via Instagram:

Oof.

Things aren’t much clearer for Butler in Philadelphia given some rumored conflict between him, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid, but his entertainment value remains through the roof.