It was never going to be an easy year for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their best player, LeBron James, left for the Los Angeles Lakers, and although management wanted to try to keep a modicum of talent on the roster, any kind of success looked difficult to obtain.
JR Smith wants to be traded, Kevin Love has already undergone surgery, and reports this week are that Kyle Korver requested a trade back in the summer because he did not feel he was a part of the Cavaliers’ dysfunction.
On Sunday, a report from The Athletic said that Cavaliers veterans are not exactly high on the No. 8 overall pick from June’s draft, Collin Sexton.
Via The Athletic:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that when you hear a Cavs veteran talk about younger players not knowing their role, or knowing how to win, or what to do on the court, they mean Sexton. Throughout the organization, the line on Sexton is that he does not “know how to play.”
At one point during Saturday’s game, veteran starting point guard George Hill told Sexton he’d teach him how to play defense. Only, there is little confidence in the locker room that Sexton will listen to him. Remember when I wrote during the preseason that the Cavs’ players loved Sexton? Well, that was true then. And they don’t think he’s a bad guy now. They know he’s 19 and he only played one year of college ball. They still think he’s a nice kid. But they see his deficiencies, they know he’s going to be on the court, and they’re discouraged when after these losses, he doesn’t seem bothered by them.
It takes time for rookies to get up to speed in the NBA, but the most worrying concern is perhaps the last line in that paragraph. If Sexton doesn’t see the need to get better, or doesn’t appear to have a drive the way that veterans need him to, it could create a larger rift between the rookie and the older guys on the team.
It’s extremely early in the Sexton’s career, so there’s no need for panic. The guy is 19, after all. But this is the kind of thing you would expect to come out of Cleveland, and will be something to keep an eye on as the season goes on.
After turning the ball over late in the fourth quarter, James Harden meandered near halfcourt as the Jazz pushed for a fastbreak layup. But that put him in perfect position to receive a long inbound pass after Utah scored. Harden caught the ball and whipped it ahead Kenneth Faried, who dunked to give Harden a triple-double-clinching assist.
You’ll have to forgive Harden for not hustling back on defense. He did most of his heavy lifting far earlier.
By late in the first quarter, Harden created 28 points (17 scored, 11 assisted) to the Jazz’s 13 total points. The Rockets never looked back.
Houston crushed Utah 118-98 in Game 2 Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead. It seems the Jazz – who lost Game 1 by 32 points and a 4-1 second-round series in this matchup last year – have no answer for the Rockets, particularly Harden.
Harden finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He was a game-high +24.
Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in red. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in blue. This Houston-Utah series is in silver. This Bucks-Pistons series is in cream.
Teams that outscored their opponents by at least 50 in the first two games have never lost a best-of-season series. The Rockets, +52, might have built an insurmountable advantage.
Especially the way the Jazz guard Harden. They’re trying to overplay him but wind up just giving him lanes into the paint. The talented guard is picking them apart.
Until Utah solves that, secondary matchups won’t matter. Houston is content winning through its superstar.
The Pistons fought harder. Luke Kennard moved into the starting lineup and provided a spark. Detroit defended more actively.
But the result was largely the same: A Bucks blowout.
Milwaukee routed Detroit 120-99 in Game 2 Wednesday. Following a 35-point Game 1 victory, the Bucks have outscored the Pistons by 56 points in the series. Every team to outscore its opponent by at least 50 in the first two games of a best-of-seven series has won it.
Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in green. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in red. This Milwaukee-Detroit series is in cream.
The Pistons can’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). With Kennard (Detroit-high 19 points) starting for defensive specialist Bruce Brown, the Pistons also couldn’t contain Eric Bledsoe (27 points). Khris Middleton (24 points) provided his usual steady production.
Meanwhile, without Blake Griffin, Detroit lacks a difference-making star. Andre Drummond (18 points and 16 rebounds) had nice individual moments but was -32 (another terrible plus-minus for him).
The Pistons are just overwhelmed by the superior Bucks, and it’s hard to see that changing.
In what had been a tight game, the Pacers built a four-point lead over the Celtics with four minutes left in the third quarter. From there:
Irving scored 37 points and dished seven assists, leading Boston to a 99-91 Game 2 win Wednesday. The Celtics now lead the first-round series 2-0. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 93% of the time.
The Pacers just can’t muster enough offense – not against this sound Boston defense. Indiana went nearly nine scoreless minutes in the fourth quarter. Even after ending that drought, the Pacers’ final five possessions: miss, miss, miss, turnover, turnover.
This is why the Celtics got Irving. His ability to create shots sets them apart in these slogging playoff games.
Jayson Tatum added 26 points. But Al Horford struggled while playing through illness. Marcus Morris shot 0-for-8. Jaylen Brown didn’t really get going.
This wasn’t the prettiest game for Boston, but because of Irving, it was a win.
LeBron James couldn’t even influence the Lakers into the playoffs.
But as a businessman and philanthropist, his reach is only growing.
LeBron remains the NBA’s biggest star. He’s still an elite player (when healthy), and his name resonates with casual fans and even non-fans. Add his off-court interests – more accessible to him in Los Angeles – and his importance can’t be denied.
That’s why LeBron made TIME’s 2019 list of 100 most-influential
Warren Buffett wrote about LeBron:
I’ve been impressed with his leadership skills, his sharp mind and his ability to stay grounded. People in LeBron’s position get tugged in different directions and have a lot of chances to make bad decisions. He’s kept his head, and that’s not easy.
There is so much on LeBron’s plate – production, acting, his school, even basketball. His ability to handle it all is incredible.
Having such varied interests might not lend itself to LeBron dominating on the court. But it makes him even more deserving of this list.