June 7, 2018, 12:45 am
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ early 13-point lead, it turns out, wasn’t close to big enough. Kevin Durant made sure of that. Behind an effortlessly masterful performance from the reigning Finals MVP, the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers 110-102 at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night, coming within a single victory of their second consecutive title.
Game 3 was a throwback of sorts for Durant, who took the reins for Golden State from the opening tip as his star teammates struggled. He scored 43 points on 15-of-23 shooting overall, 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and 7-of-7 at the free throw line, good for a laughable true shooting percentage of 82.4. Durant drained pull-up triples, made hay from the post and generally abused the many overmatched defenders unlucky enough to cover him – from whatever spot on the floor he wanted. He also did a lot more than score, finishing with 13 rebounds and seven assists, and helped force LeBron James into an uncharacteristically average shooting night.
— NBA (@NBA) June 7, 2018
James’ numbers, to be clear, were stellar. He had 33 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and two blocks on 13-of-28 from the field, which would be a spectacular line for literally any player throughout league history – especially considering the dire circumstances of potentially falling behind three games to none. But through years of postseason brilliance, perhaps cresting over the last seven weeks, James has made sure the basketball world expects something close to his absolute best, and he didn’t provide it on Wednesday night. Clearly lacking confidence in his jumper, James ended up going just 1-of-6 from three and didn’t take a single shot from mid-range. He was also a pedestrian 9-of-15 from the restricted area, missing several makeable attempts, including a pair of uncontested layups in the second quarter.
Despite Durant’s utter brilliance, Cleveland should still consider Game 3 a missed opportunity. The home team jumped out to a 14-4 lead behind sweet shooting from Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, and led 50-37 with 4:06 left before halftime after Golden State cut their deficit to one by the end of the first quarter. Finally, the Cavaliers’ supporting cast gave James enough help to steal a win against an objectively superior foe. Love scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Smith needed 14 shots to score 13 points, but fared markedly better on both ends of the floor than he was over the first two games of the Finals, playing with notable edge and intensity. And Rodney Hood, dusted off for rotation minutes after falling out of the rotation in the second round, was a revelation, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks on 7-of-11 shooting.
Combined with Cleveland’s 9-of-31 shooting from deep, though, Durant’s singular night and several impactful efforts from role players helped the Warriors make up for the struggles of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers totaled just 21 points on 27 shots, and made only three of their 15 3-point attempts. Though Curry’s labors were especially evident, his fingerprints were still all over Golden State’s win. The Cavaliers elected to trap him when Love was involved in ball-screen situations, forcing the ball from Curry’s hands and letting the Warriors play the numbers game from there – one they would win over and over.
Golden State posted a 116.6 offensive rating and doled out 27 assists in Game 3. Draymond Green had 10 points and nine assists, often functioning as a point guard when Cleveland’s newfound aggression defensively made Curry, and sometimes Durant, give up the ball. JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell were the biggest benefactors of that development, each scoring 10 points on an array of above-the-rim finishes. Shaun Livingston continued his highly-efficient Finals, with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, while Andre Iguodala‘s return from a nagging left knee contusion ended with eight points, two rebounds and multiple big defensive plays down the stretch.
It was Golden State’s superstars, however, who put the Cavaliers away for good. After Cleveland retook the lead on a pair of free throws by Love with 3:11 left in the game, Curry, who’d scored just by that time in the action, ran off five straight points over 20 seconds, first on a backdoor layup from Green and then a pull-up triple in transition following a steal by Iguodala. James’ three, his only long-range make, pulled his team within a single possession less than a minute later. But Durant, who had already grabbed the lead back from Cleveland on three separate occasions in the final stanza, splashed a three of his own from a very familiar spot on the floor the next trip down, putting Golden State up 106-100 with 49.8 seconds left.
KDTREY! ??? pic.twitter.com/m1IaARjJd7
— NBA (@NBA) June 7, 2018
It’s been almost exactly one calendar year since Durant, in another Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena, pulled up from left center and drilled 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of James, bringing the Warriors all the way back from a crunch-time hole. Golden State is up 3-0 again, and Durant, based on Wednesday’s game, is the biggest reason why. Don’t count on history repeating itself on Friday night, though.
Last year, the Cavaliers had the horses, and inevitable sense of belief that comes with them, to stave off elimination by blowing out Golden State in Game 4. They don’t this time around, and this series has already shown that an all-time performance from James isn’t enough to beat the Warriors. That Golden State won on the road in a game it allowed 15 offensive rebounds and Curry and Thompson failed to make their normal box-score is a harbinger of what’s to come, too – another championship for the Warriors.
That’s not surprising. For Cleveland and Golden State, though, it won’t make that long-awaited result any less frustrating or gratifying.
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:15 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
On a call with the Board of Governors on Friday, Adam Silver and the league office confirmed July 31 as a target date for the resumption of the NBA season, according to a report from Shams Charania.
We have to imagine that this is just one of the possible options on the table, as the league still has much to figure out. Charania adds that the league has four scenarios for the return: 16 teams move directly to the playoffs, 20 teams engage in group/stage play, 22 teams have games to determine seeding with a play-in tournament, and all 30 teams reconvene for a 72-game season with a play-in tournament. It's seemed unlikely that we'll have a full 30-team return given the stated priorities for player safety. There are still tons of logistical hurdles to clear but the NBA is getting its ducks in a row for a potential return.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 9:06 pmAndre IguodalaSF, Miami Heat
Andre Iguodala returned to South Florida after living in California since the NBA season was suspended.
Iguodala returning to the market where his team is could mean that he believes team workouts will begin soon. However, there is no official timetable on when team workouts will begin and Jimmy Butler has yet to return to Miami.
Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:52 pmZach LaVineSG, Chicago Bulls
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and are in talks with city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.
The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.
Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:08 pmLuka DoncicPG-SF, Dallas Mavericks
Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.
This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter