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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.

Devin Booker to play in Suns’ opener Wednesday

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Devin Booker — the Suns’ newly minted max contract player — had been working hard to recover from off-season hand surgery in time for the opening of the season (the original timeline after surgery had him missing the first week or two of the season).

Looks like he made it, according to coach Igor Kokoskov, via Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

Booker is young, 21, and hopefully he just healed quickly. There is no reason to rush Booker back here, the Suns need to approach this season with a long-term view, not thinking win now.

This is going to be an interesting young Suns team with Booker, rookie Deandre Ayton, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Mikal Bridges, and now with some veteran voices in Trevor Ariza and the newly added Jamal Crawford in the locker room. This team is not playoff bound in the West, but nightly they will be improved and not a pushover.

Portland, NBA community react to passing of Paul Allen

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For 30 years, Paul Allen has owned the Portland Trail Blazers. In that time the team made the NBA Finals a couple of times, was a model of consistency making the playoffs 23 times, and providing a city unforgettable memories filled with some of the biggest personalities and best players in the game.

Allen passed away Monday, losing his battle to cancer. He was just 65 years old.

It has led to an outpouring from the entire NBA community, especially around Portland.

“Paul Allen was the ultimate trail blazer – in business, philanthropy and in sports,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “As one of the longest-tenured owners in the NBA, Paul brought a sense of discovery and vision to every league matter large and small.  He was generous with his time on committee work, and his expertise helped lay the foundation for the league’s growth internationally and our embrace of new technologies.  He was a valued voice who challenged assumptions and conventional wisdom and one we will deeply miss as we start a new season without him.  Our condolences go to his family, friends and the entire Trail Blazers organization.”

Russell Westbrook listed as out for season opener vs. Warriors

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No Russell Westbrook. No Andre Roberson. Maybe no Steven Adams.

This is not what the NBA had in mind when they sent Oklahoma City to Golden State for the second game of the NBA’s opening night doubleheader on national television. But, that’s the reality due to injury.

Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on right knee back on Sept. 12 and it was expected to be re-evaluated around the start of the season. However, with the marathon of the NBA season about to start no way the Thunder were never going to rush him back, national television and the Warriors or not. While it’s less than ideal, getting it dealt with and missing training camp and a few games is better than to risk something worse during the season (or miss a month of the season in a Western Conference where there is little margin for error because of the depth of quality teams).

The Thunder called it “maintenance,” but this is Westbrook’s fourth surgery on that knee, although it’s the first in more than four years. His issues with this knee date back to the 2013 playoffs when Patrick Beverley crashed into it and tore the meniscus.

Westbrook is about to turn 30, has some heavy-usage miles on that body, and just signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension.

Alvin Gentry: Pelicans wouldn’t trade Anthony Davis for anyone – ‘not even Beyonce’

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Pelicans star Anthony Davis said he’s the best player in the NBA.

His coach, Alvin Gentry, agreed then expanded.

Gentry:

If you don’t want to call him the best player, I call him the most valuable. Because if you can trade him for anybody, then he is the most valuable guy. Not that we would ever consider that. Don’t you guys take some kind of spin and put it on top. There is no one in the league that we would trade him for. There is no one out of the league. Not even Beyonce. If we wouldn’t trade him for her, then he’s probably untouchable.

I’d trade Davis for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s also in the MVP race, even younger and locked up an extra season.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden are better, older and locked up for longer than Davis. I’d probably trade Davis for LeBron or Curry, though not Harden.

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum are worse, younger but also locked up for longer than Davis. I probably wouldn’t trade Davis for any of them, though the additional team control makes it worth considering.

Really, Davis is already at the point – as few as two years from unrestricted free agency – trade speculation hits high gear. The possibility of him leaving New Orleans high and dry in 2020 is too great to ignore.

As far as Davis for Beyonce… I guess it depends on your priorities.