Is going home enough for Cavaliers to turn series around?

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OAKLAND —The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a different team at home this year in the playoffs.

They have won eight in a row. The Cavaliers’ offense is 7.9 points per 100 possessions better in Quicken Loans Arena, and their defense is 7.4 per 100 better. At home, the Cavaliers shoot 37 percent from three (31 percent on the road) and they outscore opponents by 8 points per 100 (they get outscored by almost that much on the road).

Is that enough to make these 2018 NBA Finals a series? There still seemed to be a spark in the Cavaliers’ locker room after Game 2, is that enough to ignite the fuel on a home court?

Or are these Cavaliers defeated already? Are we in for a repeat of 2017, when the Cavaliers came home down 0-2 to the Warriors, got 39 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists from LeBron James, and still lost to go down in an insurmountable 0-3 hole?

“We have to make sure that we really bring it in Game 3, because, I mean, that’s really the game right there,” Kevin Love said. “This is a team that you don’t want to be down 0-3 against. We know that…

“Home-court advantage is, can be a real thing. I mean, you look at how good the Warriors are here at Oracle, it’s the same for us at home” Love continued. “We feel like we feed off of our crowd. We really get up to play at home. You know, we know that come Wednesday we’re going to have to be better.”

Cleveland does have to be better, but they have been at home in the postseason. At home the Cavaliers’ role players have been the big difference — they have hit shots, particularly threes. Through the first two games of the Finals, the Cavaliers have shot 19-of-64 from three (29.7 percent). Get that up near their playoff home court average of 37 percent and things look better.

Overall, the Cavaliers have played with better energy and just looked more comfortable at home. Which may be good, but LeBron James doesn’t want his team to lean on that.

“We want to continue to be uncomfortable. Just because we’re going home doesn’t mean we can relax,” LeBron said. “This is the last team in the world you want to relax against. They’ve proven they can win on someone else’s floor, no matter if it’s through adversity as people may call it like when they were going through the Rockets series or whatever the case may be. They’ve proven they can win on someone else’s floor and do it in any fashion, in any way.”

Golden State has won on Cleveland’s court, including Game 3 last year, or closing them out to win a title in 2015’s Game 6.

The Cavaliers were not bad in Game 2 (outside of J.R. Smith) but the Warriors brought their “A” game, the ball was flying around, Stephen Curry started raining threes in the fourth (five in the quarter, an NBA Finals record nine for the game) and Cleveland’s defense had no answer. If the Warriors are focused they are too much for the Cavaliers, but we know the Warriors don’t always feel challenged. If the Warriors bring their “B” game — as they did in Game 1 — they will fall in Cleveland.

Plus, the Warriors have had no answer for LeBron, who has averaged 40 points, 10.5 assists, and 8.5 rebounds, shooting 55.8 percent, through the first two games.

“It’s going to be a tough task,” Green said of winning in Cleveland. “You know, with a team going back home, you look at this and J.R. (Smith) shot 2-for-9. Some of the shots he missed, he’s going to make those at home. You know, you can go down the list and kind of say that about everyone.

“So I think it will be very important for us to be locked in from the jump on the defensive side of the ball and not giving those guys easy shots. They’ve got a great crowd and they really feed off of it. So just being locked in on the defensive side of the ball from the jump ball, it will pay dividends for us going into Cleveland.”

One thing both teams know well — being down doesn’t rattle LeBron and the Cavs.

“This team has been down 2-0 in the last series and came back to win it,” Klay Thompson said. “It’s nothing to feel happy about being up 2-0. This team plays great at home, and we expect their other guys to play even better at home, too, not just LeBron.

“So we’re not going to relax at all because this team has been down and out before and counted out by the media, and we’re not going to focus on that. We’re just going to focus on what we can do to win Game 3.”

Kobe Bryant said he traveled by helicopter to spend more time with kids

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Kobe Bryant was such a superstar, his method of transportation to and from practice – helicopter – became a sensation.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday. In an old interview, he described why he traveled by helicopter.

Kobe Bryant on The Corp:

Traffic started getting really, really bad. Right? And I was sitting in traffic, and I wound up missing a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. And these things just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. And so that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes. And that’s when it started. So, my routine was always the same. Weights early in the morning, kids to school, fly down, practice like crazy, do my extra work, media, everything I needed to do, fly back, get back in the carpool line, pick the kids up. And my wife was like, “Listen, I can pick them up.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I want to do that.” Because you have road trips and times where you’re not – you don’t see your kids, you know? So, every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car, I want that.

The irony and tragedy of Bryant and his daughter dying in a helicopter crash is just gut-wrenching.

Grizzlies call up Josh Jackson from minor league

Josh Jackson
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A few months ago, the Grizzlies thought so little of Josh Jackson, they didn’t even bring him to training camp. He remained on an NBA contract. Memphis gained no roster or salary-cap flexibility. The Grizzlies planned to send him to their minor-league affiliate, but the Hustle hadn’t yet opened their training camp. There was nowhere else for Jackson to be. The Grizzlies just didn’t want him around.

Now, Jackson will get his chance on the parent club.

Grizzlies:

The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Jackson still has a lot to prove with his maturity, professionalism and production.

But this is an opportunity – for Memphis to showcase him before next week’s trade deadline and for Jackson to showcase himself before unrestricted free agency next summer.

Grayson Allen is injured. Jae Crowder is also banged up. Jackson could actually receive playing time.

Kobe Bryant’s death a unique tragedy

Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson – one of the NBA’s brightest stars – stood behind a podium, smiled and shook the world. Johnson had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers, he announced. Confusion, speculation and, most prominently, grief followed. Everyone thought he’d die. Charles Barkley said, “It’s kind of like somewhat of a death of a brother.” Larry Bird called it “probably the toughest day I’ve had since my father passed away, and I’ve been very depressed and sort of been out of it.” Pat Riley called for a moment of silence before a game.

More than 28 years later, Johnson mourned Kobe Bryant.

Bryant’s death yesterday was the tragedy everyone believed Johnson’s diagnosis to be. Sudden. Crushing. Unbelievable. All the same emotions came pouring out. Except this time there was no mistaking the finality.

Johnson has continued living, thriving, inspiring. He’s a renowned businessman, beloved celebrity and fantastic ambassador for basketball. It’s the type of retirement expected for Bryant, because why wouldn’t it be?

The NBA has grown accustomed to its titans aging gracefully. Unlike baseball, the NBA hasn’t existed long enough for multiple generations of old-timers to pass away. Unlike football, the NBA doesn’t subject its players to such traumatic physical tolls.

Just two MVPs in all of NBA history had died, Wilt Chamberlain (age 63 in 1999) and Moses Malone (age 60 in 2015), and those deaths felt far too soon.

Bryant was only 41.

Just four All-Stars died younger. Don Sunderlage was in a car crash at age 31 in 1961. Maurice Stokes suffered a head injury during a game, became paralyzed then – after teammate Jack Twyman cared for him for 12 years – died at age 36 in 1970. Pete Maravich had a heart issue while playing pickup basketball at age 40 in 1988. Reggie Lewis suffered a heart attack during what should have been the midst of his career at age 27 in 1993.

Lewis – like Len Bias (who died of a cocaine overdose at age 22 in 1986) and Drazen Petrovic (who died in a car crash at age 28 in 1993) – never got to fulfill their potentials. That creates its own kind of anguish.

There is no analogue to Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s accomplishments – one MVP, five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and 18 All-Star appearances – place him among the very greatest of all-time greats. No player anywhere near that stature had ever died anywhere near this young.

Bryant could be charming and ruthless, sometimes simultaneously. His play and conduct earned him loyal fans and harsh critics. The never-ending Kobe debates seemed only to inflame the passion of his supporters.

Few adored him like fellow NBA players. They admired his skill and determination. He responded by mentoring many. It’s difficult to overstate just how cherished Bryant was in this league.

Few understand the cold realities of the NBA like Austin Rivers. He grew up with his father, Doc Rivers, frequently gone playing and coaching. As a result, they aren’t particularly close. Now an NBA player himself, Austin speaks of their distant relationship with far more acceptance than wistfulness. He’s too focused on competing to do much else.

Yesterday, Austin cried on the court:

Then, explained how little he cared about the Rockets losing a basketball game:

Others shed tears in arenas around the country. The NBA could have cancelled yesterday’s games. Playing while grieving proved difficult for many.

There was just no good way to handle the loss. Mere moments of silence felt insufficient.

The Spurs and Raptors began their game yesterday with shot-clock violations in honor of his No. 24. Other teams exchanged a shot-clock violation and eight-second violation in honor of his other number. Trae Young wore No. 8.

Other tributes popped up around the world. Bryant was a global icon.

He was also a loving father. As incredibly wide as this tragedy lands, it also cuts unimaginably deep. Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, also died in the helicopter crash.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018, Bryant just lit up when discussing her:

Bryant’s death is devastating – for those touched closely and, because of its unparalleled nature, even those not. Nobody was ready for this.

It’s a punch in the gut. The basketball world – which expanded far larger than imaginable in 1991, when Johnson made his announcement, because of people like Bryant – remains in a daze.

In wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Kendrick Perkins seeks forgiveness from Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins
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Kevin Durant once called Kendrick Perkins his favorite teammate of all-time.

A couple weeks ago, they were beefing on Twitter,exchanging barbs that didn’t look as friendly as previously.

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has Perkins reflecting.

Perkins:

Good for Perkins. Amid all the sorrow, Bryant’s death creates an opportunity for people to re-assess their priorities. Grudges almost always aren’t worth it.