Cavaliers’ anger over loss turns on referees after reversed block call on LeBron

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OAKLAND — Much of the post-loss blame game around the Cavaliers — from media and fans — turned on J.R. Smith and his brain fart to end all brain farts.

Not the Cavaliers’ players — they are angry with Ken Mauer and the officiating crew.

Angry is an understatement. Livid is closer. Filled with the rage of 1,000 white-hot suns is pretty spot on.

Let’s set the scene: Cleveland was up two with 36 seconds left in the game when Kevin Durant drove the lane. LeBron James slid over in front of him, and Durant was called with the charge.

However, then the referees — led by Ken Mauer and Tony Brothers — reviewed the call and overturned it, giving LeBron a blocking foul and Durant two free throws.

The Cavaliers lost it in that moment, and never quite got over it. Instead of Cleveland getting to eat up some clock and make it a two possession game, Durant knocked down two free throws and tied it up. The Cavaliers eventually lost Game 1 in overtime. After the game, the Cavaliers were far more focused and angry about the reversed call.

The NBA added the charge/block situation to the list of reviewable calls in the final two minutes of the game a couple of years ago. However, it is almost always just about whether a player was in or out of the restricted area.

Mauer explained the overturned call this way after the game:

“The reason for the trigger is that we had doubt as to whether or not James was in the restricted area. When over at the table, we then are allowed to determine whether or not he was in a legal guarding position. It was determined he was out of the restricted area, but he was not in a legal guarding position prior to Durant’s separate shooting motion. So we had to change it to a blocking foul.”

Upon review, it did look like a blocking foul on LeBron (although in real time it was one of those bang-bang NBA plays that can be called either way).

What frustrated LeBron — and his teammates, and Cavaliers’ nation on Twitter — was the reason for the review in the first place. LeBron was not close to the restricted area. Even in real time that was clear, so why did the officials decide this needed a review? The sense is the referees just wanted another look at it so they used the restricted area as an excuse.

“I thought I read that play just as well as I read any play in my career, defensively,” LeBron said in a very measured tone after the game. “I seen the drive, I was outside the charge line, I stepped in, took the contact. It’s a huge play. It’s a huge play… I knew I was outside the charge line, and I knew I took the hit. I don’t know what else to say…..

“We were told they were reviewing if I had my feet outside the line. And when I knew that, I was like, ‘okay, that’s going to be our ball.’ I knew I was outside the charge line, so that’s what the communication was to us. We were over on the sideline, drawing up a play, you know, to try to execute, try to go up a couple possessions.”

A frustrated and dejected Tyronn Lue after the game didn’t understand where the referees were coming from either.

“I guess the rule is you can review — you can review the call if it’s inside or outside the restricted, is the rule that I know,” Lue said. “And, I mean, they called a charge, right? And LeBron was clearly four feet outside the restricted area. So it doesn’t make sense to go review something if — the review is if he’s on the line or if he’s close to the charge circle, that’s the review. He wasn’t close. So what are we reviewing? Either call a blocking foul or call an offensive foul.

“For our team to come out and play their hearts out and compete the way we did, man, I mean, it’s bad…. And then tonight in The Finals on the biggest stage, when our team played well, played our (butt) off, man, it ain’t right. It ain’t right.”

In the moment, the Cavaliers never quite got over it, and then they compounded their mistakes in the end.

The Warriors, not shockingly, thought the referees got it right. And to a man they said they were aware that the officials can decide more than just if a guy is in or out of the restricted area.

“The blocked charge thing, last year in the regular season same play happened to me,” Durant said. “It was a block. They called it a block, and they went and reviewed it and changed it to a charge. So I knew once it was 30 seconds to go that they could review that situation. There were a couple, like goaltending and block/charge a couple years ago, they put those rules in that you could review them. Just like you can review out of bounds calls. So I knew that. I knew he was late on the drive, and I knew I had my man beat and he came over a little late.
So when they called the charge, I was surprised, but I’m glad they reviewed it.”

The Cavaliers have until Sunday to try to shake both the call and the loss off.

Maybe they do. Or maybe this is a punch to the gut from which they will be staggered for a little while longer.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.