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NBA Los Angeles Lakers D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle & Jordan Clarkson

Lakers, Knicks, Pelicans And Jazz Are Better Than Their Records

The top teams of last season remain the top teams through the first full month of this year, so after April maybe nothing changes, but last year’s Lottery Teams in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Utah and New York look a lot better and the early signs point to the Lakers, Pelicans, Jazz and Knicks being playoff teams this season.

As of the end of November NBA teams have played 16 to 20 games and the early rust or lack of chemistry has started to fade. The revamped Warriors and the consistent Cavaliers remain the best in the league with the Clippers, Spurs and Raptors not so far behind. These five sit atop their respective conferences and are the only teams in the Association with winning records against opponents with a .500 record or better.

Expanded NBA Standings 11-30-2016

This early in the season the NBA standings can be misleading as teams will not have all faced the same level of competition, so one way to level the playing field is to look at records against opposition that are .500 or better.

The big changes atop the conferences are the better than expected start from the Clippers who aren’t underperforming this year and the modest, but expected, decline by the Thunder sans Kevin Durant. However, the Thunder are just one of two teams with a .500 record against winning clubs, the other team being the surprising Lakers.

Only those wearing purple and gold colored glasses had pegged the Lakers as a playoff team prior to this season and their youth may yet betray them, but the 9th place Lakers (10-10) are 6-6 vs teams with a .500 record or better and the losses that have kept them below the playoff line were against the Mavericks (3-14), Timberwolves (5-13) and the improving Pelicans (7-12).

In contrast to the Lakers, the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers are above the playoff line thanks to a very soft schedule and going 8-2 against sub .500 teams.

The oft injured Pelicans dug themselves a deep hole to start the season by going 0-8, but they’ve started digging themselves out by starting to win against .500 or better teams. They’ll need to stop losing to the sub .500 crowd (1-5) like the recent loss to the Mavericks, but this team should soon be a lot better than their 7-12 record.

The Knicks currently reside in 9th place in the East, right where some of us thought they’d end up, but they’ve had a tough schedule to start the season and going 6-8 versus teams that are .500 or better and 3-1 against sub .500 clubs suggests this is a playoff team if injuries don’t derail them.

The NBA is just starting to round the quarter pole of the season, so a lot of things can still happen to improve or decimate a team’s fortunes, but the early trends suggest that while the top of the league may be stagnant, there could be big changes to the rest of the playoff picture before this is over.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

LeBron James Promise To Cleveland Becomes A Reality

By Frank McLean

Back in 2010 LeBron James was considered “persona non grata” in Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio. He had made the dumbest decision in his life by holding his own one hour television special on ESPN called “THE DECISION” where he told the world that as a free agent he was taking his talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat.

Two years ago he came home with the mission to bring a professional sporting championship to Cleveland. A city which last had a championship winner in the original Cleveland Browns who won an NFL championship in 1964, which was so long ago this Championship was three years before the merger with the AFL created the Super Bowl.

In sporting terms, this was the “stone age”.

Down three games to one in this year’s NBA Finals James literally willed his team to the title.

He scored 41 points in Games Five and Six, and in Sunday night’s clincher he pulled off a triple double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

In no uncertain terms he pulled a Michael Jordan, he refused to lose. As a result he also won the Finals MVP for a third time.

He fulfilled his promise to the people of Cleveland that he made in a letter published two years ago in Sports Illustrated. He came home to win a championship. He had said it would be “hard to deliver and would be a long process.”

Oh yes, it was a long two years.

James has been accused of being the team’s real General Manager. When the Cavaliers fired their head coach of a year and a half David Blatt midway through the season after they had already acquired 31 wins, it looked like James had his hands all over the change at the time. However, Blatt’s replacement Tyrone Lue proved that he was running the show in an incident when James tried to take over the huddle during a timeout in a game and Lue supposedly said “shut the bleep up.”

So I think the notion he was running the show was a little out of line.

The thing that amazes me about James is that when things go wrong for the teams he has played for, Cavaliers or Heat, he gets the blame for it even though he is putting up the numbers.

During this year’s Finals James was taking flack for being just 2-4 in previous NBA Finals and after the Cavaliers had lost the first two games of the series, the fact he was headed towards a 2-5 mark was being used to blame him for previous teams’ failures.

One person in the NBA who can’t understand this is current Warriors executive Jerry West. West in his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers was 1-8 in the Finals, always losing to the Boston Celtics.

“With him, the negativity that surrounds him, honestly, to me, I think is so unjust and so unfair,” West said in interview during the Finals to ESPN. “Take him off of the team and see how these teams do. That’s all you have to do. Take him off. And it frustrates the heck out of me when I see some of these players who play this game at an enormously high level get criticized because their teams quote, ‘Can’t win the big one.’ The damn guy gets his teams there every year. He wins. For people to criticize him, I think that’s why he really resonates.”

And that in a nutshell is why the Cavaliers are the champions today.

The four years James was in Miami, the Cavaliers were a pitifully bad Lottery team, with him they are champions.

James fulfilled his promise to make the city of Cleveland a winner again. He also proved that maybe he is really the MVP of the league and the best player in the game.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


NBA Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr

Is The NBA Helping LeBron James Again?

Other NBA teams have been feeling the frustration Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is currently experiencing for over a decade now. Where is the supposed respect from the referees for star players like Stephen Curry when LeBron James is opposite them?

In Game Six of the NBA Finals, the two-time M.V.P. Curry fouls out with over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter on a series of questionable and ticky-tack fouls. If the NBA is trying to support the conspiracy theorists assertion that the league is scripted like WWE, they are feeding the fire, especially after suspending Draymond Green for Game Five to give the Cavaliers a chance to regroup.

“(Curry) had every right to be upset,” Kerr said. “He’s the MVP of the league. He gets six fouls called on him – three of them were absolutely ridiculous. He steals the ball from Kyrie (Irving) clean at one point. LeBron (James) flops on the last one. (Referee) Jason Phillips falls for that for a flop. As the MVP of the league, we’re talking about these touch fouls in the NBA Finals.

“Three of the six fouls were incredibly inappropriate calls for anybody, much less the MVP of the league. I am happy (Curry) threw his mouthpiece. He should be upset.

“It’s the Finals and everybody is competing out there and there is fouls on every play. It’s a physical game and I just think Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the way we run our offense – we’re running, we’re cutting thru the lane, we’re a rhythm offense. If they are going to let Cleveland grab and hold these guys constantly on their cuts and then you are going to call these ticky-tack fouls on the MVP of the league to foul him out, I don’t agree with that.”

No one is asserting that Curry didn’t foul anybody in Game Six, not even Curry himself, but the fouls that took him out of the game were suspicious to say the least.

“The last two fouls I had I thought were – I didn’t think I fouled either Kyrie or LeBron,” Curry said. “I’ve never been ejected before.”

LeBron James and the Cavaliers have enjoyed an extremely friendly whistle throughout the entire playoffs and their opponents should be forgiven for believing games against Cleveland feel like five on eight much of the time. However, complaining about it has only made things worse and the league seems to want to send a message about not pointing out the obvious.

After Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey made the reasonable and obvious complaint about the very aggressive Cavs only being called for 10 personal fouls in a game – specifically just one foul in the fourth quarter. The extremely friendly whistle was the only thing keeping the Cavs close in Toronto. Casey’s reward? The expected $25,000 fine and ZERO fouls called on Cleveland in the first quarter of Game Four to go with ZERO trips to the free throw line in the first half. Message Sent! Not sure that’s the image the NBA should be trying to create for itself though?

It is expected that both Kerr and Curry will be fined after Game Six by the league and there is already noise about suspending Curry for throwing his mouthpiece. Although, if the NBA suspends Curry, they may as well put an asterisk on anything the Cavaliers accomplish in the Finals as it will have become easy to assert the fix was in.

The real thing to watch in Game Seven is if the NBA officials look to hit the Warriors stars with two or three quick ticky-tack or imagined fouls in the first half to shift the momentum of the game in Cleveland’s favor. It feels like they’ve been doing that all series.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

In Defense of The Cavs LeBron James

By Ethan Stern, FULL COURT PRESS RADIO

Listen to any radio show across America and you’ll likely hear some Hot Takes™ about how LeBron James is done, LeBron can’t play, it’s all LeBron’s fault, but just pause for a second. It’s absurd to think that this series is somehow LeBron James’ fault. It’s easy to fall back on the unreasonable yet fashionable argument that if LeBron was so great, the Cleveland Cavaliers should win the series against the Golden State Warriors easily.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made in that regard when you compare LeBron and the Cavaliers to last year’s finals, where Kevin Love missed the entire series and Kyrie Irving missed five of the six games, but Love has been ineffective at best, and so far the only game the Cavaliers have won was the game that Love was ruled out for. Irving is another defensive sieve, and there perhaps the Cavaliers strengths that carried them through their dominant run through the playoffs don’t work against the Warriors.

One of the more glaring criticisms of LeBron is that he has been settling too much for his jump shot. Of course, this was never mentioned before when he hit it more consistently, but there’s not much he can do against Golden State’s defense.

With Klay Thompson’s defensive improvement over last year, the Warriors now have four players who can guard LeBron on a consistent basis with Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who shouldered the load in last year’s finals. Most teams are lucky if they even have one player who can competently guard LeBron over the course of a game. Having so many versatile wing defenders is a total rarity in the modern NBA, as modern teams struggle to fine the coveted “3 and D” wing. Ignoring the Warriors defensive intelligence and knowledge of when to switch and when to help, this is a nightmare series for LeBron offensively.

Coaching the playoffs is a completely different beast from the regular season. What worked over 82 games may not be best for the playoffs, and adjustments over the course of a series are crucial. The Cavaliers’ rookie head coach Tyronn Lue was going to be overmatched against Steve Kerr and his superstar assistants, Ron Adams and Luke Walton, but to the extent that he has been is astounding.

The Cavs defense hasn’t struggled, so Lue can be credited for at least preventing the Warriors from reaching their season average of 114 points in all four games, but it’s the Cavs offense that had been firing on all cylinders prior to the finals that has been the issue. It’s good that Lue has tried so many different lineups, but each time the Cavs game plan was relatively similar, which ruins the point. The Cavs are sticking to their slow yet unmethodical offense, trying to ooh and ah the crowd with dribbles from a stagnant offense. Playing slow against the Warriors is a sound strategy to try and take them out of their rhythm, but if the offense you generate is so inefficient, it’s moot.

Lue’s lack of coaching acumen culminated in his game four post-game presser, where he was asked why he sat Tristan Thompson so much in the fourth quarter, to which he responded, “I’m not sure. I’ll have to look at the tape.” If Lue is unable to recall why he made a coaching decision less than an hour ago, it doesn’t reflect well on the Cavs’ chances to make a historic comeback.

Meanwhile, on the other bench, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has adjusted his rotations to account for the Cavaliers strengths, even inserting James Michael McAdoo, a “he don’t play” kind of guy, to gain some extra quickness at the big positions. Kerr has adjusted his offense to counter the Cavs different lineups, as the Cavs have tried taking away the three, taking away the rim, doubling Curry and Thompson, switching, not switching, and still exceeding 100 points in each of their wins.

This of course, is all completely overshadowed by the fact that the 2016 Golden State Warriors are one win away from being the greatest team of all time. Any argument that LeBron should magically show up and beat this team is so ill-conceived for this fact alone, though I’m not sure if it’s more disrespectful towards LeBron or towards this Warriors team. As great as LeBron is, how many players at any point of their career were on a team that could even challenge the Warriors? LeBron is a borderline top five all-time player, but just enjoy the Warriors; we may never see this again.

 

Ethan Stern writes for FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Ethan here.
Reprinted with permission.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Charles Barkley Strongly Defends Warriors Draymond Green

When the Warriors Draymond Green swung his hand back towards the Cavaliers LeBron James’ privates, did he do anything outside of the unwritten rules of the game? Not according to current NBA analyst and retired NBA star player Charles Barkley. Barkley strongly defended Green’s actions as acceptable and appropriate in this case.

On Bleacher Report Radio, Barkley said,

When a guy steps over you, you have a moral obligation to punch him in the balls because that is really disrespectful to step over a guy. You are supposed to pop him in the jack if he steps over you like that. That’s a perfectly fine response (to) a guy who does that.

Now you got to act like you didn’t try to do it, I will admit that. You got to act like you didn’t mean to do it, but I told Draymond (Green) that when somebody steps over you they are doing that intentionally to rub it in your face. They are deliberately trying to punk you in that situation.

It is really hard to find anything wrong with what Barkley said.

 

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 


 

NBA Golden State Warriors Draymond Green

Was Warriors Draymond Green Suspended For ESPN Ratings?

By all the measures that actually count, this year’s NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers is a dud. It only took one game for the National TV audience to know the 57-win Cavs were badly overmatched by the history-making 73-win Dubs. The NBA TV ratings for the Finals have been in free fall since Game One as reported by Sports Media Watch.

Since Game 1 scored 19.2 million viewers, the most for an NBA Finals opener since 1998, viewership has declined for each successive game — dropping to 17.5 million for the Warriors’ 33-point Game 2 win, 16.5 million for the Cavaliers’ 30-point Game 3 win, and 16.4 million for Friday’s game.* The last three games of the series have earned a lower rating and viewership than any of last year’s six games.

This is bad news for ESPN and they’ve been desperately flaying around for anything to save Game Five and hopefully extend this series at least one more game. Courtesy of LeBron James, they got their controversy and they’ve been selling the possible suspension of Draymond Green hard since the end of Game Four. Even if the Dubs put the Cavs away at home on Monday as expected, now at least there’s a chance the game will be competitive and someone will stick around to watch it.

As is perfectly obvious from the video, the entire situation that has gotten Green suspended for Game Five was orchestrated by James 100 percent.

The referees refused to get involved. Even after James threw Green to the ground in response to being blocked by a moving screen and could/should have been assessed the flagrant foul which would have stopped the subsequent series of events in their tracks. Then James further escalates the situation by deliberately walking over Green and pushing his privates over Green’s head. James made no attempt to walk around or back up as Green tried to get back up off the court James had just thrown him down on. Where’s the ‘T’ for that move? … and play merely continued as if nothing had happened.

About a minute later, the referees didn’t even have the stones to call a foul on James as he held Curry on a in-bounds play and tossed him around like a rag doll. At the very least that was two shots and the ball for fouling before the ball was in play.

Yes the game was over with three minutes to go, but it was the failure to acknowledge that James fouls as much and as hard (or harder) as anything he receives that caused the escalation of events and then let it continue.

The official explanation from the NBA is weak.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has been assessed a Flagrant Foul 1 upon league office review, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

In accordance with NBA rules, Green will serve a one-game suspension without pay for accruing his fourth Flagrant Foul point of the 2016 postseason. He will serve his suspension Monday, June 13 during Game 5 of The Finals at Oracle Arena.

The incident occurred when Green made unnecessary contact with a retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James with 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ 108-97 win in Game 4 of The Finals at Quicken Loans Arena.

Under league rules, any player who accumulates four flagrant foul points over the course of the playoffs will be automatically suspended for one game, and every additional flagrant foul will result in either a one-game suspension (for a Flagrant Foul 1) or a two-game suspension (for a Flagrant Foul 2).

“The cumulative points system is designed to deter flagrant fouls in our game,” said VanDeWeghe. “While Draymond Green’s actions in Game 4 do not merit a suspension as a standalone act, the number of flagrant points he has earned triggers a suspension for Game 5.”

James has been assessed a technical foul upon league office review for his role in the altercation, which included a physical taunt.

There is no acknowledgement of James use of excessive and unnecessary force on either of Green or Curry. The only interpretation left is James can physically beat up whomever he chooses and if his opponent retaliates, they’ll be subject to league rules and punishment.

The ruling would have been a whole lot easier to accept if James was assessed a flagrant foul for his hit on Green and a flagrant or a technical for his manhandling of Curry, but the NBA chose not to. Green hasn’t exactly been an angel in these playoffs, but James knew exactly what he was doing at the end of Game Four, so if the retroactive call made two days after the game had ended looked fair and balanced, there wouldn’t be much to say about it.

As it stands, it looks like VanDeWeghe bowed to pressure from ESPN to save the Finals TV ratings and make the incident and suspension appear as one-sided as possible. It might work too. At least now there’s something to talk about besides how overmatched the Cavs are.

Note, as expected the NBA also announced,

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of officiating, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Lue made his comments during the postgame press conference following the Golden State Warriors’ 108-97 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 4 of The Finals on June 10 at Quicken Loans Arena.

No one in the NBA can call out the referees without cutting a check.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Losing Again Is Hitting Cavs LeBron James Hard

The Cavaliers LeBron James is not a dirty player. Sure he plays a physical style and it’s beyond obvious the referees give him a lot more latitude to bang on opponents without a foul call or yell in their (opponent or referee) face without a tech than anyone else in the NBA, but his usual response to being down in a game is to play harder. In Game Four at the Q against the Warriors with another loss almost in the books, James lost it and could have (should have?) been tossed.

 

 

With the Warriors up by 10 points and less than three minutes to go in the game, Draymond Green sets a moving screen on LeBron James to free up Stephen Curry. The two tangle and James tosses Green to the ground. No calls either way.

Then James deliberately steps over Green and Green lifts his back up between James legs and not surprisingly to two look like they are ready to throw punches, but play continues so they both run into the paint to challenge for the potential rebound. Again the referees turn a blind eye. The really sad part here is the ESPN analysts suggesting Green was hitting James in the “privates” and James needed to do this earlier – maybe they’d be happier watching watching the NHL Stanley Cup instead?

“I felt he stepped over me. You’re not just gonna step over me like that,” Green said on the NBA TV broadcast. “There’s many routes you can take, don’t just step over me like that. We had our words, it is what it is. I don’t care who you are, I’m not gonna back down from you.”

In the post Green tries to move James further under the basket and James responses with his arms up around Green’s head. The referees finally call a double foul, but as Green walks away, James has to be restrained by Channing Frye. He lost it and his excuse just doesn’t fly.

“Draymond said something that I don’t agree with,” James explained after the game. “I’m all cool with the competition, I’m all fine with that, but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard. Being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family, things of that nature, just some things go overboard, and that’s where he took it.”

In fairness to how the NBA game is called, the referees know Green is two techs or one flagrant foul away from a one game suspension and James just doesn’t get tossed, so that fact this situation was allowed to escalate shouldn’t have been a surprise, but James losing his mind was.

At the end of the game James was covering Stephen Curry on a pretty meaningless inbounds play and while the never give up attitude and hustle is appreciated, trying to haul the much smaller and quicker Curry to the ground with a handful of jersey when he finally broke free was pure frustration. Of course the referees just ignored this too. Suggesting the in your face conversation with the referees looking on was just “competitive conversation” isn’t right. It was more like how is James still in this game with all the crap he’s been pulling in the last three minutes?

Once again James has been the best player in the NBA Finals and once again it isn’t going to be enough. Now down three games to one, the Cavaliers are in miracle territory as far as winning an NBA Championship this season and James knew it with three minutes to go in what is very likely his last home game of the season. Losing again is hitting James hard.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

 


 

Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry

Warriors Stephen Curry Getting Unfairly Roasted While Playing Hurt

The Golden State Warriors and M.V.P. Stephen Curry aren’t making any excuses, but perhaps they should be. Playing thru injuries, the NBA’s most exciting long distance shooter has been getting roasted in social media for his sub par performances during this year’s playoffs.

The good news is the Dubs have been able to put up points when needed without his usual lofty production. “Strength in Numbers” has been more than a slogan.

Curry missed Games Two and Three against the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs after turning an ankle. He had shot 5-7 from three-point range in Game One, but on his return eight days later he shot 1-7 from three and suffered a Grade 1 MCL strain (knee injury). In hindsight he came back way too soon and his team didn’t need him to, quickly and easily putting away the eighth place Rockets.

Sports Injury Clinic describes a Grade 1 MCL strain as,

For a grade 1 MCL injury there may be mild tenderness on the inside of the knee over the ligament. There is usually no swelling. When the knee is bent to 30 degrees and an outward force applied to the lower leg to stress the medial ligament, pain is felt but there is no joint laxity. A grade one tear consists of fewer than 10% of the fibres being torn.

A mild MCL injury or grade one sprain should take 3 to 6 weeks to make a full recovery.

As much a pro athletes are idolized and sometimes feel that they are indestructible and indispensable, they are still human. These types of injuries take time to heal. Curry only missed the next four games and came back before two weeks had passed. His play showed he wasn’t fully ready.

Curry put up points in those last two games against Portland, but like the Houston series, the Warriors would have easily moved past the second round without him. Then he struggled – solely by his own very high standards – as his team went down three games to one in the Conference Finals to Oklahoma City before leading his team back with three 30+ point games in a row shooting over 47 percent from three-point range for the huge comeback series win.

Now in the NBA Finals the regular season M.V.P. is only shooting 40 percent from three and averaging just 16 points per game. It seems obvious his usual mobility and extraordinarily deep range isn’t quite there. Maybe he should have taken that extra week or two off to rest his knee longer, but now just over six weeks since his injury we’ll never know if it would have made that big of a difference.

Curry has even been taking shots from the media. After Game Three, SI’s Ben Golliver wrote,

Curry, meanwhile, wasn’t at the heart of anything except the blooper reel. The same bugaboos that plagued him in Games 3 and 4 in Oklahoma City—incredibly careless turnovers, rushed shots—came roaring back in Cleveland.

Curry didn’t even try to defend what happened on the court.

“It was all me,” Curry said afterward, owning up to his poor play. “They were playing aggressive defense and they came out with a big punch. I didn’t do anything about it or play my game, and for me to do what I need to do to help my team, I have to play a hundred times better than that.”

Hopefully Curry can play better, but there are no guarantees about how much more he has to give. We do know Curry has already canceled plans to play for Team USA at the Olympics. The following statement was released by Curry after Game Two of the NBA Finals:

“After a great deal of internal thought and several discussions with my family, the Warriors and my representatives, I’ve elected to withdraw my name from the list of eligible players on Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil. I recently informed Jerry Colangelo of this decision.”

“My previous experiences with USA Basketball have been incredibly rewarding, educational and enjoyable, which made this an extremely difficult decision for me and my family. However, due to several factors – including recent ankle and knee injuries – I believe this is the best decision for me at this stage of my career. It’s an incredible honor to represent your country and wear ‘USA’ on your chest, but my primary basketball-related objective this summer needs to focus on my body and getting ready for the 2016-17 NBA season.”

If there was any doubt that Curry has been playing through pain before, announcing plans to not play in the Olympics this early should have removed any doubt. Virtually no young athlete willingly misses out on a chance to win a Gold Medal for their Country. Skip the obvious financial benefits from the increased endorsements, the personal pride of being recognized as one of the best in the world while representing your nation is almost overwhelming.

No one should be expecting Curry to complain. His team is deep enough to compete against the best with or without him and it’s not like he hasn’t been contributing. The competition, the defense, the games are supposed to be tougher in the NBA Finals and playing on a leg at less than 100 percent should be expected to impact on things like shooting and mobility. Getting roasted in the media and social media for not scoring 30 points per game when your team is up two games to one in the Finals does seem a bit much though.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Golden State Warriors Andrew Bogut

Dubs Prepare A Block Party For The Cavaliers In Game 2

Welcome to your block party Cleveland. If the Cavaliers thought things couldn’t get any worse in Golden State after Game One they were sadly mistaken. Andrew Bogut set the tone with 4 blocked shots in a 4.3 minute span during the opening quarter of Game Two as the Warriors turned the Cavs aside 9 times and held them to 35.4 percent shooting from the field in the 110-77 laugher.

Cleveland kept the game close for the first 16 minutes, but after that everything started going Golden State’s way. To no one’s surprise both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson found their shooting touch after an off night in Game One, both shooting 4-8 from three-point land in a contest no one from the NBA winningest team ever had to play big minutes in. The overmatched Cavs had given up by the end of the third quarter.

It was the kind of game you might expect when a 73-win team faces a 57-win squad on home turf. Everyone the Warriors put on the court was effective and even the deep bench saw minutes in this one. The home team shot 54.3 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three and outrebounded their opponent by 12.

Somehow, for the second game in a row, the Warriors managed to keep the Cavs from shooting their usual 30+ three-point attempts or connecting on the ones they did throw up. In two games now, the Cavs are firing 10 fewer three-pointers per game than they did in the first three playoff series and instead of nailing over 40 percent, it’s been a discouraging 27.3 percent clip. If Cleveland can’t find a way to hoist more threes and hit them at a reasonable rate, this series won’t be coming back to Oracle after Game Four.

Draymond Green had a big scoring night, going 11-20 from the field for 28 points. Someone might want to actually guard the three-point line when he has the ball, he did shoot 38.8 percent from deep during the regular season.

To make matters worse, Kevin Love was hit in the head with an elbow and eventually was subject to the NBA’s concussion protocol. It looked like a solid blow, so if player safety is a top priority, it should come as no surprise if Love is out for a couple of weeks, but everyone will likely just have to wait a day or two for a final determination.

The best news Cleveland got out of this is the next two games are back home and in an NBA playoffs where blowouts have been frequently followed by comebacks – especially when returning to one’s own building, the Cavs have to be drawing some solace.

All the Warriors did was protect home court – rather dramatically. All the Cavs have to do is eke out two wins at Quicken Loans Arena and this series will start to seriously resemble the one they just took from Toronto. (Except the Cavs are the underdogs this time.)

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Cavs Must Empty The 3-Point Clip To Beat The Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are full measure for their historic 73 win regular season, ignore the preseries hype about the 57 win Cavs, it isn’t going to be easy for LeBron James and company to steal the NBA Finals away from the better team. Cleveland’s best hope is to do what got them here and that’s to empty their three-point clip of every shot they can find.

If the journey to the Finals has proven anything in these playoffs it’s you can’t win without superior three-point performances. The four Conference Finals teams hoisted almost 1900 three-balls before their respective series concluded, the winners taking and making more than anyone else in the postseason.

Capture Warriors Cavs stats

Stats source: Basketball-Reference.com

Surprisingly, the Cavaliers have been taking and making more three-pointers than even the long bomb happy Warriors in the playoffs. Almost 4-in-10 Cavs shots have been from three and they’ve been hitting them at an incredible 43 percent clip. At least they were until running into the Dubs in Game One of the Finals.

Both the Cavs and Warriors have played excellent three-point defense during the postseason and both teams only shot 33.3 percent from three in Game One. However, the Cavaliers went away from what has been successful for them in the playoffs and only took a quarter of their usual shots from deep and tried to beat Golden State by going inside. That was a mistake.

As dangerous as Golden State is from beyond the arc their midrange game is deadly as well and where the Warriors have shown they can defend the two-point shot effectively, the Cavaliers haven’t. Cleveland has been giving up over 51 percent shooting from two-point range to opponents in the postseason and the Warriors torched them for 56.7 percent from inside the arc in Game One.

Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue has been suggesting his team needs to pick up the pace, but that would be playing into the strength of the fastest paced team in this year’s playoffs. The Cavs have played at the fifth slowed pace in the postseason so far, ramp up to anything resembling the relative light-speed the Dubs are used to and Cleveland will be unleashing an avalanche of turnovers – Cavs turnovers specifically.

Lue needs to get his team back to what works for them. Cleveland has to find more three-point shots. His Big Three of James, Love and Irving took 13 threes in Game One, just 3.2 less than their combined average, but Smith and Frye only hoisted 4 threes between them and they should be north of 10 combined.

Smith and Frye are the Cavs best three-point threats, Lue has to find a way to get these two more shots, a lot more shots if he’s to give his team a chance to upset the Warriors. It’s no time to be shy now, empty that three-point clip Cavaliers and you just might beat the Warriors at their own game.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 



 

Toronto Raptors fans

In Toronto We Believe

As Jurassic Park outside Gate 5 of the Air Canada Centre was filling up 3 hours before game-time, the Toronto Raptors were preparing for their third elimination game in as many series hoping to make history by playing in a Game Seven two days from now. Been there, done that, they were ready.

“No pressure,” Bismack Biyombo said in the locker room immediately before Game Six. “Just excitement of getting out there and playing the game.

“It’s just getting out there and having fun and taking care of home. Confidence!”

Battle tested and ready for their biggest test of the season, the Raptors know they have their passionate fan base behind them. Game on.

It’s loud in here.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Are In A Win-Win Situation At Home

At this point there is no way to put a dampener on the Toronto Raptors season. Game Six at home in the Eastern Conference Finals against the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers who have the highest payroll in the NBA is nothing but a win-win scenario. Win and they are taking LeBron James to a Game Seven where anything goes. Lose and the fans will cheer their Raptors off the court in recognition of the best season in franchise history.

“This is new territory for our team,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “Where we are, Conference Finals. We are ahead of our process right now.”

Can that ‘our goal was to go as far as we could this season’ mantra that has recently been coming from everyone associated with the team, this season was a success when Toronto got out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half. No past or present Raptors player, coach, manager, executive, staff or ball-boy can claim to have been associated with a Raptors team that has done more or even come close and it isn’t over – yet.

“We’ve been here before,” Casey said. “If you look at all of our series, if you watch all of our series, we’ve been here before. Unfortunately in the Miami series we’ve been here, Indiana series we’ve been here, with our backs against the wall and unfortunately and fortunately we bounced back in those situations and we are here at home. We’ve played well here at home. We are playing against one of the best teams in the NBA right now and our guys take solace from being at home, understanding we’ve been here before and we can bounce back and I have faith that we will bounce back.”

There is a lot of excitement associated with Game Six. The city wants to see what can happen with a team that has successfully challenged the number one seed in the East with the support of their fans at the Air Canada Centre. The crowd outside of the ACC in Jurassic Park is expected to be especially large, boisterous and overflowing down the street. The square outside of Gate 5 will be open early for fans starting at 5:30pm, three hours before game-time.

The Raptors have already taken two games from the team that was talking about a 16-0 playoff run not long ago. They have nothing to apologize for if they don’t make it to the NBA Finals and they have given basketball fans in Toronto something they haven’t enjoyed – well ever – hope. This team still has a chance to advance, but as importantly, if president and general manager Masai Ujiri can take a sad-sack lottery team to the Eastern Conference Finals in just three seasons, think what he can accomplish in the future.

Win or lose in Game Six, the Raptors have already won this season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola

Raptors Scola And Patterson Sent Cavs Love To The Bench

Can we just stop the ‘I’m missing open shots’ excuse already and give credit where credit is due. The Raptors Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson have tag-teamed the Cavs Kevin Love into two terrible games in Toronto that saw the All-Star relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter by head coach Tryonn Lue.

Neither Love nor Lue could accept the fact that Love just couldn’t get anything going against the opposing Raptors bigs and kept going back to the same well in the post only to be turned away again and again.

“I thought in Game Three they did a great job of just being physical with (Love), trying to push him off his spots because he’s a great post player,” Lue said prior to Game Four. “It’s been tough for him in this series, but we’re going to get him going and he’ll be ready tonight, so look for a heavy dose of Kevin.”

It was more of the same in Game Four. The veteran Scola is bigger and stronger than Love and the more Love tried to overpower Scola in the paint, the more frustrated he got. When Patterson was subbed in, Love went right back into the post only to increase his level of frustration.

“Luis is probably the most decorated player on our team as far as winning championships, world championships,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said prior to Game Four. “He’s probably the most experienced player. He’s a veteran. He’s been there before. The moment is not going to bother him. He’s started I don’t know how many games for us this year, so he gives us a lot. A ball mover, he’s smart. So he gives a lot as far as a player is concerned and it’s not a mystery. He has a better matchup in this series with Love and Frye.”

Scola is giving Toronto absolutely nothing in terms of scoring, but he’s been making Love look bad at the start of games and keeping one of the Cavs ‘Big Three’ and most important scorers off the scoresheet is a lot more important than his own offense. Then Patterson has been coming in and continuing the pressure.

Patterson isn’t about to say anything to discourage Lue’s approach with Love or Love’s desire to attack in the paint and why would he? If the Cavs ‘Big Three’ become a ‘Big Two’, the Raptors should win this series.

“They are posting up KLove and KLove is getting great looks,” Patterson said. “KLove is getting opportunities to score the ball, but for us, for anybody, we want to be physical without fouling and watch him and make every single catch tough and difficult and whenever the person does shoot the ball, we want to contest to the best of our abilities. Whether they make it or not, as long as we carry out our defensive principles that’s all that matters and KLove is just missing shots.”

That’s the angle I’d run with as a Raptors player too. Keep on attacking the paint Love, Scola or Patterson is waiting for you.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Dwane Casey

Improbable Raptors Have Beat The Cavs And The Referees

By Frank McLean

What was considered improbable five days ago has happened, the Toronto Raptors have tied their Eastern Conference Final with the Cleveland Cavaliers at two games apiece.

The two wins the Raptors pulled off at home in the looney bin known as the Air Canada Centre has shown once again the resilience of these players that started in training camp in October and has extended to the first four games of what is turning into an epic Eastern Conference Final.

The fact that the Raptors in the last two games have not only had to play the Cleveland Cavaliers but the National Basketball Association referees and the feudal system that they operate on makes it even more amazing.

We take you back to the fourth quarter of Game Three Saturday night when the Raptors did not go to the free throw line once in the entire fourth quarter.

Afterwards in his postgame comments Raptors head coach Dwane Casey made it known three times that officials need to be consistent in their calls and he couldn’t understand how a team could not go to foul line for an entire quarter.

As a result of his comments the league fined Casey $25,000 for expressing an opinion that was not appreciated.

So what happens in the first half of Game Four?

The Cavaliers did not get whistled for a personal foul in the entire first quarter and they did not get a personal foul called against them until four minutes or so into the second quarter. The Raptors did not get to attempt a free throw in the entire first half, which going back to the fourth quarter of Game Three, meant they went three straight quarters without seeing the free throw line.

This is the way the NBA game officials operate. As far as I’m concerned the crew led by Monty McCutchen was sending a message to stop the bitching and that we can fix you.

Now I’m not saying they were trying to fix the game in Cleveland’s favor, but what I’m saying is that from what I have seen in the 21 years covering the league is that these guys – if they don’t like you – will try and to use their influence to effect the outcome of the game.

Let’s be honest here, if you think any team in the NBA, no matter what their won-loss record, can go three quarters without fouling anyone, then you believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

Now things got better in the second half, as the Raptors shot 14-19 from the free throw line, but it was the best scoring night ever from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combining for 67 points that meant the old Raptors are back.

What also has helped is that the Cavaliers three-point shooting has come back down to earth. In Games Three and Four, they were a combined 27-82 behind the arc.

Also Kevin Love’s disappearance, going 5-23 in Games Three and Four, and not playing in the fourth quarter Monday either because he was hurt from stepping on a referee’s foot or because he has just stunk for someone on a $100 million contract?

Regardless of what has been thrown at them, the Raptors have taken advantage of Cleveland’s mistakes they have used it to win two games in a row.

However, Cleveland still has the home court advantage, so the Raptors have to win a game in Northeast Ohio and they haven’t won a game in Quicken Loans Arena this season.

Which means that they probably have to do it Wednesday night and they will likely have to do it against both the Cavaliers and the NBA’s inconsistent officiating.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers Tyronn Lue

Stephen A. Smith Apologizes, Says Cavs Can’t Win Now

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith just can’t believe it. The Toronto Raptors have stormed back on their home court to tie the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers at two games apiece. Maybe someone should have shown him the highlights and stats from the two teams regular season games? This series was always going to be close.

“I can’t even put into words how stunned I am,” Smith said. “I can’t believe what I saw. I got to be a man of my word and just apologize to Canada, all Canadians everywhere because I certainly thought this was going back to Cleveland 3-1 with the Cavs closing this series out on Wednesday night.”

Don’t apologize to Canada Stephen A., apologize to the Raptors players, coaches and organization. They always believed they could defend home court and you didn’t say anything here to put things right with them.

“Kyle Lowry was absolutely unstoppable tonight, I don’t understand why,” Smith said. “DeMar DeRozan was unstoppable when it counted, I don’t understand why considering that LeBron James had been on him a couple of times.”

Well that pretty much trashes any value to the earlier apology. If you had watched them at all during the regular season, you’d have known Lowry and DeRozan were the highest scoring duo in the Eastern Conference averaging 44.7 points per game. They averaged 46 points per game against Cleveland. It’ll be in your media notes somewhere or it should be.

Lowry and DeRozan combined for 52 points against the Cavs on Saturday in Game Three and upped that to 67 points in Game Four on Monday. No one in Toronto is shocked that these two All-Stars can pile up the points, impressed sure, but stunned, no. Why should an NBA “Expert” like Smith fail to understand?

The fact Cleveland had trouble making shots over the past two games just might be because Toronto had the lowest points allowed of any team left in the playoffs heading into the Conference Finals. These two teams were only one game apart in the regular season standings, anticipating an easy series defies logic. Not that any logic seems to have played a part in this long winded apology/explanation/analysis.

“To literally wondering whether or not (Cleveland) can win this series if they end up losing Game Five, because can they come back to Toronto and win Game Six?” Smith said. “I don’t know if they can right now.”

As neither team has been able to win on the other’s home court this season, the Cavaliers are 3-0 in Cleveland and the Raptors are 4-0 in Toronto, Smith is right. If Cleveland loses Game Five, they are in a heap of trouble, but so far neither team has shown any indication they can go into the other’s building and come out on top.

Neither the coaches nor the players have any real answers as to why they are playing so much better at home and conversely, so poorly on the road in this series. They can only give credit to the fans.

“I don’t know,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said after Game Four. “I guess it’s a home court advantage. They have a great home crowd. That crowd gives them energy just like our crowd gives us energy.”

One thing for sure, the Cavaliers players are likely to be just as ticked off at Smith after his extended apology to Canada as the Raptors players were when he dismissed their chances and the Raptors players aren’t going to feel like Smith is suddenly showing them any level of respect even now.

An “apology” that tosses some more fuel on fire might be good for what the fans get to watch over the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals though. We should thank him for that.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and JR Smith

No Sweep For You Cleveland Cavaliers

By Frank McLean

Down two games to nothing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and with seemingly the whole world against them, ok maybe the entire basketball media in the United States was still pissed that they did not an Eastern Conference Final with their god Lebron James against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors came home and pulled a win out of their hat with maybe their best performance of the playoffs 99-84.

The Raptors are now 7-2 at home in these playoffs. It’s where they have played their best basketball in these playoffs.

“Specifically, our guys have performed better, with more confidence, for whatever reason, a little bit more juice”, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was saying before the game. “I’ve never put a number on it, but I just feel like just reaction time, enthusiasm, whatever it is, it just seems to be more here, especially in the playoffs. I think we perform much better here at home.”

Led by Bismack Biyombo’s all-time Raptors record of 26 rebounds and DeMar DeRozan’s 32 points, the Raptors hustled all over the floor with the ball and without it.

They have grabbed a little of the momentum back in this series. They also stopped the Cavaliers attempt at going for a perfect 16-0 record to win a championship.

The Cavaliers sweeping Detroit and Atlanta and winning the first two in this one were just one win away from tying the 1989 and 2001 Los Angeles Lakers who won their first 11 games to start the post season.

BUT… and there is a big but, the lack of consistency that comes from the NBA game officials reared its ugly head in this game. Saturday’s crew was headed by veteran Ken Mauer, along with Marc Davis and Pat Fraher who also have been in the league a long time as well.

It seems like they have been told to focus on Kyle Lowry. Lowry had two quick ticky-tac fouls assessed to him in the first quarter, then in the second he is given a foul which everyone saw was committed by Terrance Ross thus taking Lowry out of the game for pretty much the whole first half.

The amazing part is that Lowry was still able to put up 20 points playing only 32 minutes in the game.

It seemed like the referees wanted to decide the game themselves rather than let the two teams do it.

“I just know our guys are resilient,” Casey after the game. “They’re playing through a lot, playing through a lot of physicality, getting hit and fouled. We shot zero free throws in the fourth quarter, zero. That’s frustrating, but our guys played through it, so that shows a sense of toughness, a sense of togetherness. People have written us off all year.”

Three different times in his postgame comments Casey made sure to say that we have the best officials in the world and it’s a tough game to officiate, but we have to have consistency in the calling of the game.

You can tell right there that Casey was trying to plant a subliminal message to the three officials who the league will assign to work Monday night’s fourth game. The NBA head office took notice, so, not surprisingly, Casey received a $25,000 fine for sending that message and he won’t know if it paid off until after Game Four.

What irks many players, coaches, the media and fans is the way NBA referees operate in their own feudal system in the way they treat star players compared to the peasants who fill out the rest of the roster.

LeBron James did not get called for a single personal foul in the first half. You can’t tell me or anyone watching that James did not commit a foul in the first half, but that’s the way it is in the NBA and it’s been like that for years. James didn’t even get fined for the Flop Heard Around the World when he flew backwards like he’d been shot when he thought DeMarre Carroll had hit him. It was his own player who lightly touched his face by accident and James tried to sell the call as if he’d been slugged.

The Raptors have made sure this Eastern Conference Finals will not be a four game sweep and they will be heading back to Cleveland for Game Five Wednesday night. We’ll know after Monday’s fourth game if the series will be tied 2-2 or if the Cavaliers will have the hammer coming home up 3-1.

One thing for sure, in Game Three the Raptors showed they were the team that deserved to be here, sticking it to everybody else who really didn’t want them to go this far in the playoffs.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Cavs Dahntay Jones Suspended, Raptors Coach Casey Fined

With respect to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, Kiki VanDeWeghe, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations announced the following disciplinary actions on Sunday.

Cavaliers guard Dahntay Jones has been suspended one game without pay for striking Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo in the groin. The incident occurred with 17.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Raptors’ 99-84 win over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21 at Air Canada Centre. Jones will serve his suspension on Monday, May 23 during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

 

 

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of officiating. Casey made his comments during the postgame press conference following the Raptors’ 99-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21 at Air Canada Centre.

 

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Toronto Fans Spur Raptors To Huge Home Win

Home court matters in professional sports, but it only matters if the local fans make it matter and in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto’s fans made their impact felt as they spurred the Raptors on to a huge 99-84 home win over the visiting Cavaliers.

“We get nights like this often now and it’s fun,” Kyle Lowry said. “We need it. We want it. I don’t know if the fans know how much we appreciate it, but we really do appreciate it and we want them to be as loud as they possibly can.

“I think it affects other teams and it gives us that energy. We know we make a big run or we make a big shot or Bis(mack Biyombo) gets a block and he goes and does his little thing they love it. We feed off that positive energy.”

Bismack Biyombo has been a talker and emotional leader for Toronto all season and no one feeds off the energy of the home crowd more than him. The Raptors center set a franchise high with 26 rebounds in Game Three and gave his team a lot of energy.

“We understand (Biyombo) feeds off the crowd, but he’s also a huge impact off the glass,” LeBron James said. “He gives them a lot of energy. The guy just stays in his lane. He definitely gave them a boost tonight.”

“(Biyombo) fed off the energy of his team and of the crowd,” Kevin Love said. “He was impressive on the glass.”

Biyombo tries to play the same way on the road as he does at home, but his stats and his impact is just greater at the Air Canada Centre.

“I play the same ways,” Biyombo said. “It’s just that when you are home its there are a lot of fans that are involved. The fans are involved and if you go back and watch in Cleveland, Cleveland was very physical in Cleveland and when we come here and as we get physical our crowd gets involved and we stay with the game.”

The crowd pumps up Biyombo, Biyombo pumps up the crowd and that energy affects his teammates. There is no substitute for playing harder  than your opponent.

” (Biyombo) gives that confidence,” Lowry said. “It gives us the energy. It gets the crowd into it and the crowd gets us into it. We feed off that energy.”

“They came out and played hard,” Tristan Thompson said. “We knew that and we expected that especially coming home with the crowd so energetic.”

The Raptors are going to need another huge effort from their fans if they are to take Game Four on Monday and knot this series up at two games apiece. Lowry, Biyombo and their teammates are expecting nothing less.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Raptors Want Justice For Low Blow To Biyombo

Something happened at the end of Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, something usually associated with a bad loser. After setting a franchise record with 26 rebounds, Bismack Biyombo slowly crumpled to the floor after what appeared to be a low blow from the 35-year-old veteran Dahntay Jones just before time expired on the 15 point Raptors home victory.

Biyombo had to be helped up after several minutes and assisted to the locker room.

“I got hit in an area that I wasn’t to get hit on,” Biyombo said after the game. “A private area. Whenever the league has a chance, probably want to take a look at that. That’s all I can say on that one.”

The comment brought some laughter from the media and Biyombo, but it wasn’t funny. That looked like a dirty play from a long-time veteran who should have known better. It’s going to be hard to argue the incident was an accident.

It shouldn’t take long for an official response from the NBA.

As an active aggressive center, Biyombo takes a lot of abuse as he fights for rebounds and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is starting to boil over about the complete lack of foul calls his player is getting.

“He’s one of the top rebounders in the league and no telling how many times he gets hit and fouled under there without being called,” Casey said. “Again, I’m going to say this, I think he gets hit almost on every rebound and putback there is and he just doesn’t get calls.

“There’s one play where they almost have a brawl (and Biyombo) gets killed on that play. I don’t know if he’s getting hit because of how physical and tough he is, but he’s getting cracked.”

It has looked like it’s been open season on Biyombo in this series, but that final blow at the end of Game Three. Something like that crosses every line.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 


Defend Territory Toronto Raptors NBA Playoffs 2016

Raptors Look To Their Home Crowd To Beat The Cavs

The Toronto Raptors enjoy a significant home court advantage inside the Air Canada Centre and outside Gate Five in Jurassic Park. It’s loud inside and it’s loud outside, so loud in fact that even the Raptors have struggled with the noise level in every Playoff Game One at home in the Dwane Casey era. Visiting teams can’t help but notice the crowd impact.

Jurassic Park Toronto Raptors

“Have you been here before?” DeMar DeRozan responded incredulously to a media inquiry this morning.

There will likely be an even higher level of electricity in the air and overwhelming noise inside the building and outside Gate Five for the first ever Eastern Conference Final game held in Toronto. The Raptors will need every advantage to beat the Cavs.

“I think being at home will help us,” Casey said after practice on Friday.

“We got our home crowd energy to feed off,” DeRozan said. “Understanding we’ve been great at home and we’ve kind of been in this position before. Probably not at this magnitude, but understanding that this is an opportunity for us to go home where we are comfortable at.”

Despite their Game One record in the postseason, the Raptors have played significantly better at home when the pressure is on. In the last two series, they had to win Game Five and Game Seven at the ACC to advance and they dominated after bad Game Four and Game Six losses. They have been here before, just not in an Eastern Conference Final.

“We’ll make shots tomorrow,” Lowry said on Friday. “We are going to be at home. We are going to play better. We got pride. We are going to play hard.”

The Raptors will give their all in front of their home crowd. The only question at this point is, will it be enough?

“Every game we get an opportunity to play is a must-win-game from here on out,” DeRozan said.

Toronto has to take both Game Three and Game Four at the ACC to get back in this series. It’s a steep hill to climb, but they’ve beaten the Cavaliers in Toronto twice before this season with the help of some fabulous crowd support. It’s just another opportunity with much higher stakes.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.