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NBA Milwaukee Bucks Matthew Dellavedova

Scrappy Dellavedova Screens Getting On Raptors Nerves

By Frank McLean

The gamesmanship has started in the Toronto Raptors-Milwaukee Bucks series and it only took one game. Scrappy Matthew Dellavedova has been getting on the Raptors nerves.

The fact that the Bucks, who experts kept telling us should be swept four straight games, beat Toronto 97-83 would be enough. But now it’s Dellavedova and the illegal screens was he was allegedly running to set up Giannis Antetokounmpo.

This is why Dellavadova has a job in the NBA, his ability to set screens to let scorers do their things. This is what he did in Cleveland the first three years of his career, setting screens to make it easier for LeBron James.

It’s not for his offensive skills, he only averaged 7.6 points a game for the Bucks during the regular season, what he brought to a young developing team is his tough physical grinding game.

The Cavaliers sure miss him. James was complaining that the Cavaliers needed a playmaker. The problem was the guy he needed was traded to Milwaukee in the off season in a sign and trade for the draft right to Albert Miralles.

In Toronto on Monday at practice the Raptors let it be known that he was running some illegal screens in game one.

“He did set 18-screens and we did look at them,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was saying during his daily session with the media. “A lot of them weren’t legal.

“Now we’ve got to make sure we counter that and make the officials make a decision. The officials were saying that we’re not hitting (the screens) or running into them. We’ve got to make sure we have a confrontation, because he’s one of the great screen-setters in the league, just like John Stockton was. There’s no disrespect by saying that.

“It’s a respect factor for Dellavedova that he does set hellacious screens. You look at them in slow time, and believe me, they’re moving, they’re grabbing, they’re holding. He has set a precedent with it and they’re not calling it. We’ve got to make sure we set screens the same way, and now we show the officials those videos.

“It’s a credit to him that he sets screens that way and gets away with it.”

Meanwhile back in Milwaukee the Bucks were working out before they boarded their plane to head to Toronto for Tuesday’s game. Dellavedova spoke about an hour before Casey made his comments in Toronto. He talked about how it’s all about playing physical in the playoffs.

“I think in the playoffs, my game is suited to that,” Dellavedova said. “Where there’s a lot on the line, it’s going to be even more physical. If you want to win, you’ve got to put your body on the line.”

Dellavedova, who is from Australia, said the type of game he plays is typical of what you see all the time in international basketball.

“Internationally the game is a lot more physical,” Dellavedova added. “The way they set screens, if you go under a screen internationally, the big man is going to roll you down in to the paint, so you really can’t go under any screens. Often times when I go back and play with Australians in the summertime, it’s a lot more physical.

“All people set illegal screens in the NBA. If you follow it to the letter of the law, the rule is that your feet have to be inside your shoulders. I mean big men are always kind of setting it wide. That’s just how it is.

“You have to be smart and adjust to what the refs are calling.”

Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, who was as a tough a guard to ever play in the NBA, admires his small 6’4 guard.

“It’s tough when you have a small, a point guard, that sets screens, as many as he sets in a game,” Kidd said. “He knows he’s going to get hit, being able to absorb that hit and he does it a lot. It can wear on you, but I think he’s someone who can take a hit. He understands sacrifice and his teammates appreciate that.”

We don’t know yet who the NBA will assign to referee game two. It will be interesting to see who they are and will they be paying attention to possible illegal screens.

The mind games have started, we got ourselves a series.

 

 

   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.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo

Raptors Must Stop The Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo.

By Frank McLean

Thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, their neighbours down the hall at the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Raptors got an extra day to figure out how to stop “the Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo.

That’s because the Maple Leafs took to the ice Monday night instead of the Raptors as they hosted game three of their first round battle with the Washington Capitals.

Antetokounmpo scored 28-points, a playoff career high in game one, leading his team to the upset win and P.J. Tucker, an NBA veteran who played his first playoff game in his long career on Saturday, says the Raptors have to guard the paint against the 6-foot-11 forward.

“We got to shut the paint down, the paint is gold in this series,” Tucker said. “It’s protecting the paint even more I’m going to sound repetitive, but it’s the same thing because he’s going to try to get to the paint. We’re trying to give him the shot, but he’s not going to take it, he’s going to try to get to the paint. For us, it’s defending the paint.”

Both the Bucks and the Raptors were working the paint hard in the first half. The Raptors outscored the Bucks 32-22 in the first 24-minutes but in the final 24-minutes of the game the Raptors forgot to drive to the hoop, but the Bucks didn’t and outscored the Raptors 18-4.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said that they played a game like it was in the middle of the regular season and not a postseason game.

“It wasn’t like they jumped out to a big lead or anything like that, but in the minutes where it was important we didn’t do a good job of getting back in transition,’’ Casey said. “DeMar (DeRozan) drives to the basket or Kyle (Lowry) drives to the basket and now it’s five on four or one on two or three.

“We need all five men or four men back to guard him (Antetokounmpo) and out of that make sure we are in scramble mode and have our scramble rotation in and we didn’t do a good job of that.”

There was a point in the game in the third quarter where there was a small window where maybe you thought the Raptors could pull ahead.

Antetokounmpo picked up his fourth foul and Bucks coach Jason Kidd decided to sit him to keep him from getting that fifth foul. Instead of the Raptors getting on a run of their own, the Bucks went on an 11-5 run without their best player on the floor.

As usual you don’t get any excuses from Casey when his team loses. He credited the Bucks for just flat out beating them in game one.

“They did a good job,” Casey said. “They beat us. They outworked us. They out-physical-ed us, they out-screened us in every area that you could possibly talk about and that’s what we showed the guys on film.

“To win in this league we have to play at another level. You can’t play on a regular-season level. You have to screen in playoff form, you have to cut in playoff form, you have to run in playoff form, and we didn’t do that long enough. We did it in some parts of the game, but not long enough.”

Traditionally the Raptors do much better in game two’s of a playoff series and the first order of business Tuesday night will be to find a way to stop the “Greek Freak”.

 

 

   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 Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Raptors Serge Ibaka Was Injured In Game One Vs The Bucks

When it happened the Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka just lay there on the hardwood after attempting a jump shot in Game One as the Bucks ran back down the court and he didn’t move until the play stopped. It looked bad at the time. Anything from an ankle to a knee or worse as Ibaka had to be helped up and it took more than one serious attempt to get him on his feet.

Somehow he managed to finish the game, but eventually Ibaka had to admit he was injured on the play.

“Tough, it would be tough,” Ibaka said when asked if he could have played on Monday. “Don’t really think (I could play). But I’ve been there before, this is not the first time I’ve sprained an ankle. I did it before, things can be changed and tomorrow I can be 100 per cent.

“It’s getting better, better than two days ago. It’s day-by-day. Actually I woke up today a lot better, I’m walking perfect, so hopefully tomorrow I’m going to wake up and feel more better and be ready to go.”

The best news may in how Ibaka finished Game One playing on what we now know was a bad wheel. With the Raptors going a 4-17 ice-cold shooting in the fourth quarter, Ibaka, the lone starter to hit a shot, scored 5 points on 2-3 from the field.

There is an element of toughness to Ibaka. If he has anything to give, the Raptors will get it on Tuesday.

 

 

 

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 DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Game Two Belongs To The Raptors

As bad as Toronto has been at Game Ones in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, currently at 0-9, this team has, more often than not, found the next contest more to their liking and against Milwaukee on Tuesday, Game Two at the Air Canada Centre belongs to the Raptors and they had better deliver.

“It’s like deja va all over again,” Kyle Lowry said. “It’s the first to four. That’s what it is and we just have to go out there and take care of Game Two.”

Going from a bad NBA Lottery Team when Raptors head coach Dwane Casey first arrived to a playoff team and recently an Eastern Conference Finals contender happened faster than expected, but those expectations can’t be rolled back now.

Making the playoffs has become nothing special, so unlike the last three years, even the crowd at the Air Canada Centre showed up late and sat on their hands until they were told to do something. It felt like a regular season game in the building.

“The expectation of our program, where we started is definitely where we are now and it’s not going to end,” Casey said. “Each year you try to improve, get better, go further. The expectations have changed more so.”

After getting smacked in the mouth three years in a row on the opening afternoon of the NBA playoffs by a lower seeded team, one could be forgiven for thinking Lowry and DeMar DeRozan would have been ready for the physicality, intensity and often unfriendly whistle of the postseason.  But after a solid second quarter where the Raptors took a 5 point lead, Lowry shot 1-7 and DeRozan shot 1-8 and the pair only scored a single point in the fourth quarter as Milwaukee pulled away.

“The second half was abysmal,” Casey said. “We didn’t play with any pace, any movement. All of that led to tough shots, challenged shots.”

The Bucks were very physical with both of the Raptors All-Stars and a regular season whistle likely would have allowed them to live at the line in the second half, but the Bucks, with two rookies in their starting lineup, played as aggressively as the referees would allow and the Raptors didn’t respond in kind.

“They played hard longer than we did,” Casey said. “I thought they played with more force for longer than we did.”

Fortunately for Toronto, stepping up in Game Two is something this team and their stars has done before.

The Raptors came back in Game Two against the Nets in 2014 behind a 30 point effort from DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas stepped up with a double-double 15/14.  Last year against the Pacers Lowry had the near triple double with 18/7/9 and Valanciunas stepped up big again with 23/15 in the victory.

It’ll take a big game from from at least one of the Raptors All-Stars and someone else to pull out a Game Two win over Milwaukee.

“We missed a lot of shots we normally make,” DeRozan said. “We have to understand that we can’t let that affect us.”

“I just have to play better,” Lowry said. “No if ands or buts about it. I have to play better.”

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in Game One was the Bucks didn’t do anything the Raptors weren’t prepared for. Toronto had faced the Bucks four times this season, gone 3-1 and knew exactly what to expect from this long lanky team and their star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I was expecting everything,” DeRozan confirmed. “It’s on us, we don’t have any excuses. They have one (win) and it’s on us to take advantage of the next game at home.”

“They did everything we expected and they did it well,” P.J. Tucker said. “We missed shots. We didn’t get back on defense.”

And the Bucks are under no delusions that the Raptors can’t play better.

“They are a very talented team,” Bucks head coach Jason Kidd said. “Going through the process of the good and the bad, you look at DeRozan and Lowry, the core has been together so they’ve seen everything and understanding that, they’re very talented and they’re well coached. Casey is going to have these guys ready to go.”

Game Two at home belongs to Toronto. It’s up to them not to give it away.

 

 

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 DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Lowry And DeRozan Stumble In Game One Again

Game One of the NBA playoffs hasn’t been friendly to the Toronto Raptors All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and things didn’t go any better this year against the underdog Milwaukee Bucks in the usually friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre. The duo stopped scoring heading into the final frame and the Bucks walked off with the 97-83 win. This is the fourth opening playoff series in a row the Raptors duo of Lowry and DeRozan have failed to win Game One at home.

“We expected it,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said about the Bucks defense. “Spacing, how we were attacking the pick and roll, we were expecting it. Couple of times they blocked a shot at the rim, but you have to expect that. Now the next time has to be in the dunker area to drop it off. All those things we didn’t execute.

“There is no excuse. I don’t know if we played hard enough to deserve to win, I thought they outplayed us. They played hard longer than we did. I thought they played with more force for longer than we did.”

Lowry shot 2-11 for just 4 points and DeRozan was 7-21 for 27 points on the night, but the pair combined to score just 1 point in the fourth quarter as the Raptors were outscored 22-13 over the final 12 minutes.

“We miss a lot of shots that we normally make,” DeRozan said. “We didn’t get over 20 (points) in the quarters in the second half. That’s not like us. We shot 36 percent. We got to understand that we can’t let that affect us.”

However, failing to score in Game One of the playoffs is nothing unusual, over the past four years. Lowry is averaging 11 points on 27.5 percent shooting and DeRozan 17.5 points on 28.8 percent from the field, significantly below their playoff averages of 18.7 points and 21.5 points respectively prior to this game.

“I have no clue,” DeRozan said about the Raptors Game One problems. “If I had an answer maybe we would have pulled it out tonight.

“We got to understand, we make it hard on ourselves.”

The Raptors found the length of the Bucks challenging, but like in prior Game Ones, it was the elevated physical play and loose playoff whistle that seemed to catch them off guard and that was a surprise that shouldn’t have happened considering this is the fourth time they’ve been thru this.

“I thought the guys did a really good job of using their length,” Bucks head coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought they competed. I thought (rookie) Thon (Maker) made some great plays there in the third quarter, blocking shots when Lowry got to the basket or DeRozan got to the basket.

“I thought Moose (Greg Monroe) did a great job too in the pick and roll, knowing they were going to put him in the pick and roll and he was up for it this evening.”

The Bucks did compete and outplay their hosts in three of the four quarters. With two rookies in Kidd’s starting lineup, that shouldn’t have happened and shouldn’t be repeated in Game Two on Tuesday night in Toronto.

“They did everything we expected and they did it well,” P.J. Tucker said. “We missed shots and gave them a bunch of fast break points. We already knew that’s what they thrive at. We didn’t get back on defense and that turned into them getting a win.”

The NBA playoffs are underway, but for the fourth season in a row, the Raptors didn’t hear the starting gun and dug themselves yet another hole to climb out of.

Leading scorers:

Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo 28 points, Malcom Brogdon 16 points.

Raptors: DeRozan 27 points, Serge Ibaka 19 points.

Bucks bench outscored the Raptors bench 28-19.

 

 

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 DeMar DeRozan Serge Ibaka Kyle Lowry 2017 collage

At 0-8, Game One Has Been Rough On The Raptors

By Frank McLean

Make no mistake, Game One has been a huge hurdle for the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs. Over the history of the franchise, the Raptors are 0-8 in the first game of an opening series, losing to the Knicks twice, the Nets twice, the Pistons, Magic, Wizards and Pacers. It always seems like this team is behind the eight ball in the postseason.

Losing Game Ones at home has been especially painful as you are giving away your hard earned home court advantage, a big reason why a feisty Indiana Pacers were able to take the Raptors to seven games in their first round match-up last year.

Winning Game One is the challenge this year and head coach Dwane Casey is well aware of it.

“I think that’s our challenge in Game One,” Casey said. “We get so hyped up, there’s such a big, a lot of talk or whatever about the game, I don’t know if we overthink the situation and not just play basketball. I think the experience from last year is a huge help, and we thought that from the year before. Again, we’ve just got to go out there and do it and not overthink it.”

Game One wasn’t kind to the Raptors in the second round or the Conference Finals last season either, losing to the Heat in overtime at home and the Cavs on the road. The only Game One win the Raptors can lay claim to is a second round victory over the 76ers back in the Vince Carter era, but Toronto lost that series in Game Seven.

However, the Raptors are excited for the opportunity to go for another long post season run this year. In fact as soon as the final buzzer went Wednesday night in Cleveland in their last game of a long and grinding 82-game schedule and they hopped their charter back to Toronto, they felt it on the plane that now the games are going to be a different animal.

On Thursday, DeMar DeRozan was telling the media about that plane ride home.

“We felt it last night being on the plane and coming back with everyone just excited,” DeRozan said. “Everyone couldn’t wait to get in here (to Thursday’s practice). I came early, a couple of the guys came early just to get some work in. Just get completely locked it and embrace this feeling.”

It’s the fourth year in a row the Raptors have made it to the postseason. When you talk to fans and listen to them vent on sports radio it’s expected now that this team get to the playoffs every year and after making it to Eastern Conference Finals nothing less will be accepted. Things are a far cry from last April when the plea was, ‘please let’s just win a first round series for once.’

Kyle Lowry shares the feelings of the fans, his expectations are just as high. He wants a championship.

“The expectations should always be the same,” Lowry said. “They’ve always been the same for me. Try to win a ring.

“You don’t just get to the playoffs to get to the playoffs. My expectations are always chasing the ultimate prize. You play all regular season for the ultimate goal, to hold up that trophy.

“It’s always amazing and fun to make the playoffs and it’s a testament to how hard you worked during the regular season. It’s a little different. Now we’re supposed to make the playoffs. When we got there the first time, it was like … Well, let’s go out and play hard. Now we have to execute.”

Lowry is right, if the Raptors execute, they will be fine as their opponent is a Milwaukee Bucks team with little playoff experience and with home court advantage, Toronto is the heavy favorite.

It’s well past the time the Raptors started the playoffs off right with a win in Game One at home.

 

 

   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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Milwaukee Bucks Malcom Brogdon and Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry by Larry Millson

Young Bucks Are An Easy Opponent For The Raptors

By Frank McLean

Well it’s here for the fourth season in a row, the Toronto Raptors have made the post season and will open up at home with the Milwaukee Bucks in game one of their best-of-seven first round series.

When you look at this series it seems to be a rather, with no disrespect to the Bucks, an easy match-up and a rather easy route to the second round against an expected opponent named the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s of course if the Indiana Pacers don’t pull of the upset of upsets against the defending NBA champs.

The Raptors have beat the Bucks 12-times in their last 14-regular season meetings and won this year’s season series 3-1 outscoring the Bucks 105.8-96.5, so you can understand why fans in Toronto are smiling and thinking this is going to be a cakewalk.

However, two years ago Toronto’s first round match-up with the Washington Wizards was supposed to be a mismatch in the Raptors favor. Instead they were eliminated four straight, but that’s a lesson reasonably fresh on the Raptors minds and one these young Bucks have yet to experience.

When you look at the Bucks they are a young rebuilding franchise who finished sixth in the east at 42-40. They don’t have the deep roster yet to be considered a legitimate contender like the Raptors, but they do have a rising star in Giannis Antetokounmpo …aka “The Greek Freak”.

He is a six-foot-11 small forward with a wingspan of someone in the neighborhood of seven-three. And pardon the pun, the native of Greece has the body of a Greek god. His hands, they have been measured at 12-inches from the tip of his thumb to his small finger.

He averaged nearly 23-points and 9-rebounds a game during the regular season, so as you can imagine everything the Bucks do centers around Antetokounmpo.

“He’s a freak of nature for an athlete,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “He reminds me so much of a young Magic Johnson as far as his length, his size, the way he can pass the ball and lord forbid he gets consistent on his jump shots. But his length and his ability to see the floor, his willingness to pass, he enjoys passing, and then his one-step from the top of the key to the rim laying it up or dunking it. That’s why he’s a freak. He’s totally different than anything else in our league.”

But when you talk about the Bucks Casey is aware that you can’t forget the other 12-players their head coach Jason Kidd will dress on Saturday.

Casey was very glowing in his comments about shooting guard Khris Middleton whom he calls the Bucks X-factor.

“Middleton has added another shooter to that group,” Casey said. “He stretches the floor out and him being a shooter, he has created more space for Antetokounmpo, so that is something that you have to be respectful of because he is the X factor.

“He stretches the floor out in transition, shooting the three, one-on one he’s an excellent iso player, so now do you put your best defender on him or do you put your best defender on Antetokounmpo? So he gives them another dimension offensively.”

The Bucks do have one player with recent championship experience and that’s Matthew Dellavadova who got it with the Cavaliers last year, but other than that this roster is not nearly as deep as the Raptors.

You know playoff games are officiated at a much tighter standard than in the regular season. The young Bucks don’t have the depth on their bench like the Raptors and with their second leading scorer, Jabri Parker (20.1 ppg) out for the season, if any of the Bucks starters get into foul trouble early in a game it could put them into an even deeper hole.

The Bucks do look like an easy opponent for the more experienced Raptors as long as they don’t forget the lessons of two and three seasons ago. You can’t take any team for granted in the playoffs. Raptors in 5.

 

 

   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 Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

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.