Cavaliers return home, seek first series win over Celtics

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers have survived so much this season.

They’re one loss from facing a scenario no NBA team has survived — being down 0-3 in a playoff series.

The Eastern Conference finals shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday with the Boston Celtics holding a 2-0 lead. History is already way, way in the Celtics’ favor.

Of the 300 teams to take 2-0 leads in best-of-seven series, 281 won the series.

Then again, of the 19 teams who’ve made the comeback, two were piloted by LeBron James.

So, unless the Celtics steal Game 3, this series isn’t over. But the Cavs have their heels on the edge of history’s cliff.

“We’re down 0-2. No need to panic,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I mean, we played a Game 7, so I mean, that’s the danger. The danger’s not like we come out and don’t play well tomorrow and lose, it’s over. We still have games to play.”

The Cavs did indeed already play a Game 7 in the playoffs — avoiding elimination by beating the Indiana Pacers in the first round. The Celtics faced the same situation in the opening round against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Boston has won both games in the conference finals by double digits — including a 107-94 victory in Game 2. James posted his fifth triple-double with 40 or more points (42) in that game, and the Cavs still lost.

Jaylen Brown has scored 23 points in both games of this series, and overall Boston’s starting backcourt (Brown and Terry Rozier) has outscored the Cavs’ starting guards 72-12.

But Boston is just 1-4 on the road in this postseason, with statistical drops in just about every major category when playing away from TD Garden.

The Celtics are also a young team missing its two best players (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward). The Cavs aren’t what they once were (remember, Irving used to play for them), but organizationally they are the three-time defending conference champs.

“Like what happened in previous games, what happens in the future is all out the window,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s just about what happens in that 48-minute segment. Our guys know that. We’re going to have to play really hard. We’re going to have to play really connected.

“Obviously, with all they’ve accomplished over the last two years, they’ve been tremendous on the road and at home, but especially at home. It’ll be a heck of a challenge.”

The Cavs are 5-1 at home in the 2018 playoffs, with two buzzer beaters from James to steal two games. James steered the 2007 Cavs back from an 0-2 hole to beat the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals, and James and Irving co-piloted the Cavs from deficits of 0-2 and 1-3 in the 2016 Finals to stun the Warriors.

Only four players remain from the 2016 championship team — James, Kevin Love, JR Smith, and Tristan Thompson — and Kyle Korver represents the only other current Cavs player on the 2017 Finals team that lost in five games to Golden State.

And yet this veteran group lost its composure in the second half of Game 2, blowing an eight-point halftime lead and missing all eight 3s in the fourth quarter.

“Going to the Finals a bunch of years in a row, when things don’t go the way you want them to it’s like, ‘Man, why didn’t that work?'” Korver said. “And this year there’s been a lot of turnover.

“We just have to learn how to — not learn how to, we know how to — we have to be focused on just playing through (mistakes), staying positive.”

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

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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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
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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
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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
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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.