J.R. Smith takes selfie at podium after Cavaliers advance to Finals


J.R. Smith on the national stage of the Finals is going to be so much fun.

After an 18 point performance in the Cavaliers’ Game 4 rout of the Hawks, Smith got a podium game. He was up there with LeBron James and Tristan Thompson, and while Thompson was prattling on about offensive rebounds, Smith decided to take a selfie.


A post shared by JR Smith (@teamswish) on

Just J.R. being J.R. And if he keeps knocking down shots in the Finals, it all will seem eccentric and not crazy.

Cavaliers complete sweep of Hawks, advance to NBA Finals


The Hawks gave the Cavaliers everything they had in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but still came up short in an overtime loss thanks to an incredibly brilliant performance from LeBron James.

Once Game 4 began, with Cleveland looking to close out the series at home, it was clear that Atlanta simply had nothing left.

The Cavaliers steamrolled the Hawks 118-88 to win the Eastern Conference crown, and advance to the NBA Finals.

While Cleveland will be experiencing its first trip to the championship round since 2007, this is beginning to be a regular occurrence for LeBron — he’s the first player (along with teammate James Jones) to make five straight Finals appearances since several members of the 1966 Boston Celtics.

James dragged his team to victory in Game 3, but didn’t need to do nearly as much of the heavy lifting in this one. He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but didn’t play the entire fourth quarter due to the lead never dropping below 22 points.

Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, and looked sharp in scoring nine first-quarter points and 16 overall in just under 22 minutes of action. Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov continued their punishment of the Hawks’ front line, and J.R. Smith rained down jumpers to finish with 18 points off the bench.

Atlanta’s 60-win season is something to be celebrated, and injuries are largely to blame for the disappointing way that the Hawks saw things come to a close. Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver were out entirely before the series was through, and DeMarre Carroll, while still on the floor, was never the same after the Game 1 knee injury he suffered.

The question for the Cavaliers now becomes whether or not the team is skilled enough to rise to the challenge of battling the best team in the West, which is likely to be the Golden State Warriors, who have been dominant on both ends of the floor all season long.

But as we’ve seen throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs for going on the last five seasons, having LeBron James in the starting lineup is more than enough to give whatever team he happens to be playing for a legitimate fighting chance.

NBA: No Game 5 suspension for Dwight Howard, flagrant-1 for hit on Andrew Bogut stands as called


Al Horford was ejected from the Hawks’ Game 3 loss to the Cavaliers for this.

J.R. Smith was ejected and suspended two games for this.

Dwight Howard received only a flagrant-one foul, with no ejection, for this.

One of these things is not like the others, but the NBA ruled that Howard’s hit on Andrew Bogut wasn’t as severe, and therefore won’t be subjected to any additional punishment.

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

The NBA’s review of Dwight Howard’s contact with Andrew Bogut concluded that it did not rise to the level of excessive because Howard was trying to free himself from a tie-up with Bogut, president of basketball operations Rod Thorn told CBSSports.com Tuesday.

“It was a very close call as far as I’m concerned,” Thorn said. “As Bogut is holding his arm down, Howard tries to extricate his arm. He doesn’t hit him with his elbow, by the way. He hits him with the back of his hand, maybe a touch of the wrist. To me, it was unnecessary, but I didn’t think it was excessive.” …

“Having been here forever and having done this stuff for a long time, I just try to look at each situation as it comes up,” Thorn said. “Obviously, we have all of the information from everything we’ve ever done before, plus tape and video of everything we’ve done before to fall back on. As far as the name of the player, I’ve never let that enter into it.”

This was extremely similar to the hit Smith was suspended for, but evidently, the league saw it differently.

The fact that Howard will be available for Game 5 is good news for Rockets fans, but most everyone else will view the ruling as being extremely inconsistent.

LeBron James closing in on Michael Jordan as best ever, Cavaliers teammates say


LeBron James had 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 win over the Hawks last night – and it wasn’t the best playoff game of his career. Not even close.

LeBron has been great long enough to produce many masterful performances, and that should get him into the discussion as the best ever.

Michael Jordan, deservedly, holds that title right now. What’s keeping LeBron from overtaking him?

Kendrick Perkins, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“The only thing that he’s missing is a couple more championships and then it’s a wrap,” Kendrick Perkins told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “Right now we have arguably the best player to ever play the game. I’m just saying man. I’m not taking anything away from Jordan, but all he’s missing is titles. A couple of more titles and that’s it.”

J.R. Smith, via Haynes:

“That’s one hell of a debate. Honestly, in my opinion, if it’s not Jordan then it’s him,” J.R. Smith told NEOMG. “It used to be no question. It was a landslide. It was Jordan. Now, you have to consider my boy.”

Perkins and Smith, teammates of LeBron, are biased.

They’re also correct.

Jordan is the best player of all time, because he accomplished more than LeBron has. But LeBron is just 30, and he has plenty of time to catch up. LeBron is already right there with Jordan in terms of production per season.

Will LeBron eventually pass Jordan? I’ve gone back and forth at different points in LeBron’s career. It’s close to a tossup now, which says a lot about LeBron.

Jordan set an incredibly high standard. But it’s not insurmountable, not for someone as great as LeBron.

Al Horford on Matthew Dellavedova: ‘I did think he went at me’


Matthew Dellavedova fell into Al Horford’s knees, and Horford responded by dropping an elbow on the Cavaliers guard.

That got Horford ejected from the Hawks’ Game 3 loss.



Tom Withers of the Associated Press:

Horford felt Dellavedova had dived at his legs.

“I did think he went at me but I should have handled it better,” Horford said. “Shouldn’t have gotten caught up in that and it’s something I’ll definitely learn from. The game before I got hit in the knees and it just kind of played over again.”

Horford was one of several Hawks irritated by Dellavedova, who had knocked Hawks guard Kyle Korver out for the postseason with a similar play in Game 2.

“You’re always upset when you lose one of your teammates,” Horford said. “He’s (Dellavedova) a player that plays hard but there’s got to be a line at some point. He’s got to learn. He’s only been in this league for a couple of years but he’s got to learn that at the end of the day, it’s a big brotherhood here. Guys look out for each other and I don’t think it was malicious but he’s got to learn.”

Dellavedova defended his actions, saying he was only trying to get the ball.

“I would obviously disagree with that, I was boxing him out,” Dellavedova said. “You can see from the baseline view that he’s pulling my arm.”

I don’t know whether Dellavedova intentionally went for Horford’s knees or not. Neither does Horford.

But Horford’s overreaction shows he believed Dellavedova did.

That was clearly influenced by Kyle Korver’s injury, which is not fair to Dellavedova. Korver dove for a loose ball, putting his knees directly over the ball:

Dellavedova is not to blame there.

He might have been somewhat reckless on last night’s play, and not that it’s excusable, but a single somewhat reckless play this series does not justify Horford’s actions.

Yes, Dellavedova also baited Taj Gibson into an ejection with a dirty leg lock last round:

Even Dellavedova’s teammate, J.R. Smith, called the play dirty. The NBA eventually gave Dellavedova a technical foul for it.

But these two incidents don’t make a pattern, and trying to shoehorn the Korver play into the discussion doesn’t make one, either. Dellavedova has been on the national stage for only these playoffs, and that’s a pretty small sample. If there’s evidence of him repeatedly playing dirty and/or reckless prior, I haven’t seen it.

Obviously, opponents will – and should – be on high alert with Dellavedova in the future. But Horford jumped the gun with his retaliation.