Cavaliers at Thunder

The new-look Cleveland Cavaliers are off to a great start, and the fresh influx of players seems to be rejuvenating the team. The Cavaliers will try to earn their second win with Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill and Rodney Hood on board when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

Cleveland overhauled the roster at Thursday’s trade deadline and finally got the new players on the court together Sunday at Boston, just in time to demolish the Celtics in a 121-99 victory. “It started with George and his on-the-ball pressure and him just running the team,” LeBron James told reporters. “And then the three guys came off the bench. Jordan was — he’s ready to score at any time, but his composure was great. Rodney plays with so much poise, and Larry was just controlling the perimeter, setting great pick-and-rolls. Got him a lob, got him a dunk, so it was a good start for the new guys, a good start for all of us with our revamped team so far.” The Thunder revamped their team over the summer with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and Anthony both sat out Sunday with ankle injuries, but George was able to lead the way in a 110-92 win over Memphis.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Oklahoma

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (33-22): Hill, Clarkson and Hood combined to go 8-of-14 from 3-point range and Cleveland shot 53.6 percent from the floor against a Boston team that leads the NBA in field-goal percentage defense. “I thought our spirit was different,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “I didn’t know what the outcome would be. But I knew we would compete and play hard. Move the basketball and move bodies. Those guys are flying around, and it was good to see.” James was happy to play distributor for his new teammates and finished with 10 assists.

ABOUT THE THUNDER (32-25): George recorded 33 points and eight assists with Westbrook, Anthony and Andre Roberson (knee) out on Sunday. “It was fun to go out to battle with those guys, I think more so just doing it together with three of our soldiers down,” George told reporters. “It was fun to take on this challenge, to stay with that winning spirit here regardless of who’s in or who’s out.” Westbrook and Anthony were late scratches in each of the last two games and remain day-to-day while they continue treatment.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers SG JR Smith is 14-of-24 from 3-point range over the last four games.

2. The Thunder tied a franchise record with 16 made 3-pointers on Sunday.

3. Oklahoma City cruised to a 148-124 win at Cleveland behind 36 points from George on Jan. 20.

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Posted in NBA

Cavaliers at Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are mired in an eight-game losing streak and shook things up in a big way by acquiring Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers. It is unknown whether or not Griffin will make his club debut in Tuesday’s home against the Cleveland Cavaliers but the Pistons will be counting on the five-time All-Star to help spring a turnaround.

Griffin, who is in the first season of a five-year, $171 million contract, is averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 33 games. Detroit shipped forward Tobias Harris, guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick for Griffin, center Willie Reed and forward Brice Johnson. Meanwhile, Cleveland is seeking its first three-game winning streak since mid-December and had dropped 10 of 13 games before beating the Indiana Pacers on Friday and posting a 121-104 win over the Pistons on Sunday in the front end of the home-and-home set. “For the most part, throughout 48 minutes, this is one of the best games we’ve had obviously as of late,” forward LeBron James said after his team finished Sunday’s game with a decisive 26-9 run. “Every game is something to build on. I think this was another positive note to that.”

TV:
 8 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Ohio (Cleveland)

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (29-19): Point guard Isaiah Thomas has been a poor fit with Cleveland in his first 10 on-court appearances and he didn’t see any action in the fourth quarter on Sunday when his team was rolling over the Pistons. Thomas, of course, is still working on getting back into top shape after hip surgery that preceded being part of the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. “Just getting my legs back,” Thomas, who is averaging 15.3 points on 39.3 percent shooting, told reporters. “Getting my rhythm back. Like I continue to say, it’s going to take time, but that’s always positive to see flashes with me moving and cutting like I’m used to doing. So I’ll build on it, keep working, and it will come.”

ABOUT THE PISTONS (22-26): Detroit has been shopping Bradley, who has largely been a disappointment, and began discussing a deal with the Clippers for Griffin six days ago. The string of losses – the Pistons have lost 12 of their last 15 – certainly sped up the club to trade now as opposed to waiting closer to the Feb. 8 trading deadline and could be a sign fourth-year coach Stan Van Gundy knows he might not be invited back if the team misses the playoffs. Griffin immediately becomes the offensive focal point for a team that has struggled since losing point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle) in the game before the 3-12 slide began.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Cavaliers won the past three meetings by an average of 25.7 points.

2. Third-year F Stanley Johnson, who is averaging 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds, will replace Harris in Detroit’s starting lineup.

3. Cleveland reserve SG Dwyane Wade is expected back after a two-game absence due to the death of longtime agent Henry Thomas.

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Posted in NBA

Cavaliers at Spurs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are spiraling in the wrong direction with nine losses in 12 games and attempt to shake out of their doldrums when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. The Cavaliers were blasted 148-124 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and the points allowed matched the worst in franchise history in a regulation game.

Cleveland has lost by margins of 34, 28 and 24 over the past six games and the defensive effort against Oklahoma City was lacking with the Thunder scoring at least 33 points in every quarter. “It’s embarrassing. It’s not acceptable,” point guard Isaiah Thomas told reporters. “We can only go up from here, that’s the only positive about that. We’ve got to really look in the mirror, look at ourselves and get some pride.” The Spurs own the best home record in the NBA at 19-3 but dropped a 94-86 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday while committing 20 turnovers as a 14-game home winning streak reached an end. “It happens a little too much with our team,” center Pau Gasol told reporters afterward. “We get a little bit out of whack. We don’t execute, we’re a little sloppy at times and we pay the price.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (27-18): Forward LeBron James needs just seven points to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points but the perennial star is more interested in figuring out his team’s porous play. Speculation regarding the status of coach Tyronn Lue has arisen and that deeply concerns James, who doesn’t see Lue as the problem but stopped short of giving his coach an endorsement. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with our team,” James told reporters. “I have no idea what conversations have been going on. Me personally, I’ve been trying to stay as laser-sharp as I can to keep my guys ready to go out and play. Obviously, it hasn’t resulted in wins, but I got to stay as fresh mentally as much I can with the struggles. I can’t worry about job securities and trades and things of that nature.”

ABOUT THE SPURS (30-18):
 San Antonio also hasn’t played as sharp as its reputation in a season in which star forward Kawhi Leonard has played in just nine games due to a quadriceps injury that is reportedly causing issues between Leonard and the organization. Coach Gregg Popovich decided to shake things up on Sunday by moving veteran point guard Tony Parker (12 points and five assists in 20 minutes on Sunday) to the bench and starting Dejounte Murray, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. “A little different, so I guess we’re figuring where we need certain things (with Parker) coming off the bench to start the game,” Spurs shooting guard Danny Green told reporters. “Trying to get a happy medium of getting some fast pace, slower pace, getting it inside, working outside, but turn the ball over a little less, move it a little bit better.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Spurs won both of last season’s meetings, including a 103-74 home romp.

2. Cleveland C Kevin Love (illness) is expected to play after leaving after three minutes against the Thunder.

3. San Antonio backup SG Manu Ginobili (thigh) is questionable after missing the past three games.

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Posted in NBA

Warriors at Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ latest meltdown comes just as the team is preparing to host the rival Golden State Warriors on national TV on Monday. The Cavaliers will try to put their internal griping aside and get some stops on the defensive end against the Warriors, who are enjoying a string of 12 straight road wins.

The Cavaliers were blasted by a total of 62 points in losses at Minnesota and Toronto before going into Indiana on Friday and building a 22-point lead in the first quarter only to fall 97-95. “We have enough talent here to get over that hump and make good things happen,” forward Kevin Love told reporters. “But right now it’s just tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel but it is there and, this being my fourth year here, we will get out of it and we will get better.” The Warriors, who beat the Cavaliers 99-92 on Christmas Day, are battling through their own rough stretch of schedule and nearly squandered a 27-point halftime lead at Toronto on Saturday before holding on to earn a 127-125 win on the second night of a back-to-back. “Obviously, we wanted to extend that, keep that lead, but they’re a good team, and it’s hard to win on the road in the NBA,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson told ESPN.com. “It doesn’t matter who you play, and they have a great home crowd. A win is a win, especially on a back-to-back.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE WARRIORS (35-9): Golden State got point guard Stephen Curry (ankle) back from a two-game absence on Saturday and watched him collect 24 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Curry, who sat out the meeting with the Cavaliers on Christmas with an ankle injury, was the only player that might have been well-rested in Toronto, which marked the Warriors’ third game in four nights and seventh in 11 days. Kevin Durant played in each of the last three games but is not showing any fatigue while shooting 64.3 percent from the floor and 58 percent from 3-point range in that span.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (26-16): Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue cryptically talked to reporters about the need to get rid of “agendas” on the team after a 133-99 loss in Toronto on Thursday but was trying to look at the positives after the loss in Indiana. “It was a great effort,” Lue told reporters. “With (Dwyane Wade) out and (Isaiah Thomas) out. Guys may have been a little tired, but I thought we fought and played with the right purpose, defensively especially. We’ve just got to continue to build off that.” Thomas, who is sitting out back-to-backs after coming off a hip injury, is expected to play on Monday and is hoping for a better performance after going 2-of-15 for four points at Toronto.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers SG JR Smith is 4-of-22 from the floor, including 1-of-12 from 3-point range, in the last three games.

2. Warriors SF Omri Casspi (back) sat out the last two games and is day-to-day.

3. Golden State took six of the last seven from Cleveland, including a five-game win in the NBA Finals last spring.

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Cavaliers at Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off one of their worst performances just in time to face one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers will try to solve their defensive woes in time to stop DeMar DeRozan and company when they visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Cleveland dropped six of its last nine games and was embarrassed 127-99 at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, and Isaiah Thomas simplified the team’s issues. “We’ve just got to play harder,” Thomas told ESPN.com. “We’ve got to play harder on both ends, we’ve got to push the pace offensively, we’ve got to pressure up defensively and take teams out of what they want to do. Teams are doing whatever they want to us at that end of the floor. I think if we do that then that will be half the battle. We’ll fix things on offense, but defensively we’ve just got to play harder, be more physical, take away what teams want to do.” The Raptors had a five-game overall winning streak and a 12-game home surge come to an end with a 90-89 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday. “We always focus on the last few possessions, but the stuff was building up, the lack of ball movement, spacing, cutting, playing with force, we didn’t do it,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (26-14): Cleveland star LeBron James is playing at his usual MVP form this season but suffered through one of the worst games of his career on Monday, when he scored 10 points — his lowest total since 2007 — and registered a plus-minus of minus-39 — the worst mark of his career. James, who insisted “I don’t give a damn about no damn plus-minus,” was coming off a performance at Orlando on Saturday in which he collected 33 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and six steals. Power forward Kevin Love, who scored 27 points in that win over the Magic, managed just three points on 1-of-7 shooting at Minnesota.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (28-11): Toronto was playing without point guard Kyle Lowry on Tuesday after he suffered a back injury late in Monday’s win over Brooklyn, and the difference in the offense was noticeable. “I mean, the whole game is completely different without Kyle. It’s everything. Everything,” DeRozan told reporters. “You can kind of tell with our ball movement wasn’t all the way there like it normally be when Kyle’s out there. Like I said, he’s a general on the floor. He sees things when they need to be called.” Lowry, who averaged 20.5 points in four regular-season games against the Cavaliers last season, had x-rays come back negative and is considered day-to-day.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PF Serge Ibaka was suspended one game after an altercation with Miami’s James Johnson on Tuesday.

2. Cavaliers SG Kyle Korver is 13-of-22 from 3-point range over the last four games.

3. Cleveland swept Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring.

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Posted in NBA

Kyrie Irving Trade Rumors

LeBron James wants to silence the rumors

LeBron James briefly emerged from his silence on social network Tuesday to ensure he was not behind the rumors of a forthcoming Kyrie Irving departure.

“No info, people! Booo, find another source, I take advantage of the summer, do the same, “he tweeted in reference to two articles.

In the first article, Slam magazine ensures that “King James” wants the Cleveland Cavaliers to meet Irving’s request to be exchanged.

The second cites information from the ESPN television channel that the triple champion of the NBA would like to “correct” Irving if the two players meet face-to-face in the same room.

Irving, the Cavaliers’ star-studded playmaker, created a huge surprise by asking to be traded to another team where he would have more responsibilities because he does not want to play with James, who is ubiquitous on the field and outside.

The information, revealed last week by ESPN, has not been confirmed by the Cavaliers or Irving, but since then, other newspapers and media have revealed that Irving had made this request soon after the end of the season.

The Cavaliers prepared for the eventuality of Irving’s departure by recruiting for a season and a $2.1 million contract Derrick Rose, the former Chicago star, whose career is disrupted by repeated injuries since receiving the NBA Best Player Trophy (MVP) in 2011.

Irving, 25, has played the last three NBA finals with Cleveland against Golden State and won the NBA title in 2016. He spent his entire career in Cleveland, which had him sign a five-year contract guaranteeing him $94 million dollars in 2014 before announcing a few days later the return of “King James”.

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2017 NBA Finals Preview

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors

If it feels like we’ve been waiting for Warriors-Cavaliers III all season, you’re right. One of the most anticipated clashes in NBA history is almost here and FanPicks.com will provide the NBA finals daily fantasy basketball contests all week. After trading championships the last two years, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meet again to settle their difference in the NBA Finals. The Dubs have run through the postseason undefeated, while the Cavs have only dropped one game.

Where LeBron James might have been able to take breaks in the past against Harrison Barnes, he now has to stay locked and loaded at all times opposite Kevin Durant. The big guy setting screens and going goon for Golden State is no longer a leaping Australian (Andrew Bogut) but rather a ground-bound Georgian (Zaza Pachulia). The scrappy Cavs second unit of old has been supercharged with aging All-Stars in Kyle Korver and Deron Williams.

Heads-2-Heads

Starting Point Guard: Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving

This is what you’re likely thinking:

Stephen Curry is the two-time defending MVP. He’s probably the greatest shooter of all time. He might be one of the best ball-handlers and passers the NBA has ever seen. This is no contest!

That may be true for most point guards opposite Curry, but not for Kyrie Irving. To whatever extent the former has dominated during the regular season, the latter has been more reliable (if not more impactful) in the postseason matchups. Over their eight previous Finals games against one another, Irving has scored more points, shot better from the field, made more defensive plays—including eight blocks at Curry’s expense—and turned the ball over far less frequently while notching nearly as many rebounds and assists as Curry has.

For all that Steph has done to separate himself from the competition through the bulk of the last three seasons, his signature explosiveness has yet to truly translate to the sport’s grandest stage. They’ve each scored 30 points or more three times in the Finals, but only Irving has topped 40—and hit a game-winner, at that. Keep in mind, too, that Curry has scored fewer than 20 points in a Finals game five times to Irving’s one. Granted, the Cavs don’t lean nearly as heavily on Irving as the Dubs have on Curry. Both have also been beset by injuries; Irving’s busted kneecap in Game 1 of the 2015 Finals knocked him out of the rest of that showdown, while Curry’s leg and ankle issues appeared to limit him throughout last year’s series.

Starting Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson vs. J.R. Smith

In broad strokes, Klay Thompson and J.R. Smith aren’t all that different on the court. They both stand in the 6’6″, 6’7″ range, carrying between 215 and 225 pounds on their expansive frames. They’re both streaky shooters who can turn a quarter, a half or a game with a few flicks of the wrist. Smith, to his credit, has in recent years shown both an ability and a desire to lock down his opponents the way Thompson has throughout his own rise to stardom.

Thompson is a more consistent defender than Smith, and though he’s been cold throughout these playoffs (14.4 points on 38.3 percent shooting, 36.4 percent from three), Thompson’s track record of explosive success suggests he’s the better bet of the two to be a bona fide game-breaker. But if there’s any area in which Smith may prevail, it’s in taking (and making) difficult shots—the sort that, with proper timing and placement, can swing a series.

Starting Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James

It’s been five years since Kevin Durant, then with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and LeBron James, then with the Miami Heat, faced off in the Finals. Back then, Durant outshot and outscored James, but lost the series in five while LeBron dominated in rebounds, assists and supporting cast. Much has changed for these two all-timers since their last championship showdown. No longer need Durant work so hard to create shots in isolation, now that he’s a cog in the Warriors’ finely tuned scoring machine. As was the case during the regular season, his playoff scoring is down from his OKC days, but his shooting percentages are through the roof.

James, too, has been a picture of efficiency during Cleveland’s postseason run. His 32.5 points per game are the second-highest mark of his career, and his attendant field-goal percentages (56.6 percent overall, 42.1 percent from three) would both be personal bests. He has done just that, with 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks to boot. Durant is no slouch beyond scoring (7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.9 combined steals and blocks), but for all his otherworldly ability, his command of the court still pales in comparison to James’ iron-fisted jurisdiction.

Starting Power Forward: Draymond Green vs. Kevin Love

Kevin Love isn’t exactly Superman for the Cavaliers, but Draymond Green may be his Kryptonite. Last year, Love nearly averaged a double-double while shooting 44.6 percent from three during Cleveland’s romp through the East. This time around, his numbers were remarkably similar across the board.

Against the Warriors, though, Love may be the closest thing Cleveland has to an Achilles heel. During the 2016 Finals, Golden State, with Green at power forward, held the Cavaliers’ stretch 4 to 8.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting (26.3 percent from three) and 6.8 rebounds while picking on him for his poor pick-and-roll defense. If not for Cleveland’s squeaker-of-a-win in Game 7—and the importance of Love’s 14 rebounds and late-game defense on Curry therein—we might be talking about a different third wheel playing with James and Irving right now.

Once upon a time, Green could’ve been trade bait for Love. Now, he’s not only one of the NBA’s premier defenders, but also arguably the most irreplaceable Warrior. He’s continued his run as Golden State’s primary playmaker (7.2 assists), rebounder (8.7 boards), shot-blocker (2.1 blocks) and thief (1.9 steals) while stunningly emerging from a season-long shooting slumber to lead his team—which also employs Curry, Thompson and Durant, in case you’ve forgotten—in three-point accuracy (47.2 percent). This time around, Green won’t be saddled with the sort of baggage (i.e., technical fouls) that dragged down him and the Dubs during the previous Finals. Then again, neither is Love guaranteed to miss a game (and be at all limited thereafter) by a concussion the same way he was last June.

Starting Center: Zaza Pachulia vs. Tristan Thompson

Salaries and national origins aside, Zaza Pachulia and Tristan Thompson aren’t so different. They’re both screen setters and rebounders, finishers and mixer-uppers, bigs who do the dirty work so their superstar teammates can thrive on the strength of their skills.

Both have also drawn unwanted attention in these playoffs for seemingly unsavory play—Pachulia for his hard closeout on San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Thompson for his Olynyk-esque yank on the arm and shoulder of Boston’s Amir Johnson. Pachulia, though, is more interchangeable than indispensible. The 33-year-old, who missed Games 3 and 4 against the Spurs with a right heel contusion, has averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game while splitting duties at center with David West, JaVale McGee and Draymond Green.

In the East, Thompson has been nothing short of beastly. With Khloe Kardashian reportedly out of the picture, the 26-year-old has terrorized opposing frontcourts to the tune of 9.2 points on 60.0 percent shooting with 9.3 rebounds (4.2 on the offensive end)—not including the countless other loose balls he’s gotten his hands on in some capacity. Size-wise, Pachulia has about two inches and 30 pounds on his Cleveland counterpart. But what Thompson lacks in height and bulk, he more than makes up for in superior speed, agility, hops and, above all, durability.

Wild Card: Ian Clark vs. Channing Frye

At some point in this series, at least one of the head coaches—be he Tyronn Lue in Cleveland or Steve Kerr’s interim replacement Mike Brown in Golden State—will have to dig deep into his bench for reinforcements. In Golden State’s case, Ian Clark has been that secret weapon. The Belmont University grad has shot at a 50/40/90 clip—52.4 percent from the field, 40.0 percent from three and 93.3 percent from the free-throw line, to be exact. He’s played in each of the Warriors’ 12 games, scoring 7.5 points in 14.6 minutes, but hasn’t played any high-leverage minutes.

Neither has Channing Frye, who’s contributed 7.8 points in 13.0 minutes by draining 52.6 percent of his 3.5 three-point attempts per game. But Frye didn’t appear in Games 3 and 4 against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, and probably wouldn’t have set foot in Game 5 had it not been a blowout from the beginning. Nor is he likely to feature much in the Finals against the Warriors. He certainly didn’t last June, when he earned three straight DNPs in Games 5 through 7 after getting gouged across the board by Golden State in the first four meetings.

Odds are, the Dubs haven’t forgotten how to exploit the 34-year-old Frye, even if Steve Kerr isn’t the one pulling strings from the sideline. The Cavs can take their chances with him if they so choose. The Warriors, on the other hand, won’t have to sweat it if they need Clark to sop up minutes, say, when Steph Curry encounters foul trouble.

Posted in NBA

Playoffs 2017

NBA Conference Finals Preview

In the end, the top two teams from the East and the top two from the West punched their way into the final four still vying for that golden trophy. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers could make history by facing each other in the NBA finals for the third straight year. Only the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics can spoil that outcome. The Spurs and Warriors already met for Game 1 of their conference final with Golden State recording the victory. They are set to square off Tuesday night and FanPicks offers this fantasy basketball contest right here. Here is the NBA conference finals preview:

 San Antonio Spurs (61-21) vs. Golden State Warriors (67-15) 

Season matchups (2-1 SAS)

The San Antonio Spurs were on their way to a shocking win in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals until star small forward Kawhi Leonard went down with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter and the Golden State Warriors responded with a big rally. Leonard will be on the sidelines for Game 2.

The Spurs led by as much as 25 points and were up 23 when Leonard landed on Golden State center Zaza Pachulia’s foot after attempting a jump shot with 7:53 left in the third quarter, forcing him out of the game for good. Leonard scored 26 points in 24 minutes before leaving the opener.  The Warriors immediately went on an 18-0 run and outscored San Antonio 58-33 after Leonard’s exit en route to a 113-111 triumph. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge tried to pick up the slack while posting 28 points but missed a tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The Spurs can look to recent history when starting a game without Leonard after crushing the Houston Rockets 114-75 with the star on the bench in the clinching game of the conference semifinals.

 

 Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)  vs. Boston Celtics (53-29) 

Season matchups (3-1 CLE)

Powering to a pair of sweeps in the first two rounds, the Cavaliers meet a Celtics team that had to go the distance against Washington to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2012. James is in this round for the seventh straight time, having last been stopped short of the NBA’s final four when the Celtics beat the Cavs in the 2010 East semifinals. Love has averaged a quiet 13.8 points in the post-season but should be eager to pick it up against a Celtics team that knocked him out of the 2015 playoffs when he became tangled with Olynyk and dislocated his shoulder. Horford is averaging 16.1 points on 64 per cent shooting, while Olynyk scored a playoff career-high 26 in the Game 7 clincher Monday.

Cleveland rang up 116.3 points per game against Boston this season. LeBron James led the Cavs with 29.3 points per game in the 4 matchups between the two teams. The first three games were decided by six or fewer before the Cavaliers rolled to a 114-91 victory in Boston on April 5, a win that at the time had the defending champions in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage. But the Celtics did manage to rebound and earn the top seed in the East. Isaiah Thomas averaged 29.5 points for the Celtics vs. the Cavaliers.

Posted in NBA

NBA Playoffs 2017

Second Round Preview

Round number 2 is already under way, so lets get to it (Play now).

 Washington Wizards (49-33) vs. Boston Celtics (53-29) 

Season matchups (2-2 Tie)

The backcourt in this semifinal takes center stage in perhaps the most interesting of the four second round series in these NBA playoffs. Talk about this year’s Boston squad begins with Isaiah Thomas, who punches far above his weight class and has been stellar all season long. That will present a big challenge for the Wizards, who have a pretty similar makeup thanks to their All-Star backcourt. John Wall rightfully gets all of the headlines in D.C. but don’t discount the x-factor his wingman Bradley Beal plays each game in terms of scoring and defending. While both the Wizards and the Celtics had a few early stumbles initially in the playoffs, they quickly righted the ship to close out tough first round opponents and move forward to this one.

It seems highly unlikely that either Wall or Thomas wind up with this year’s MVP but they’ve had the kind of seasons where their candidacy should rightfully be taken quite seriously. Now we get to see the pair face off in what should be a meeting of two of the best backcourts in the league. If you’re looking for scoring in bunches, big-time transition three-pointers and some underrated play down in the paint, this is certainly the series for you.

 Houston Rockets (55-27) vs. San Antonio Spurs (61-21) 

Season matchups (3-1 SAS)

The consensus seems to be that the MVP race in the NBA came down to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets point guard James Harden, but San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard might be the best player in the Western Conference playoffs. Leonard averaged 31.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting, six rebounds and two steals in the six-game win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and consistently attacked the basket, leading to a 59-of-61 effort from the free-throw line.

Harden’s Rockets ousted Westbrook’s Thunder in the first round, but it’ll get more challenging now against Greg Popovich’s squad and system. But there’s no doubt about it that MVP favorite Harden is the focal point for the Rockets to win against the Spurs. He averaged 33.2 points, seven assists and 6.4 rebounds in the five-game, first-round win over the Thunder but went 13-of-41 from the floor over the final two contests while dealing with an ankle injury.

 Toronto Raptors (51-31) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) 

Season matchups (3-1 CLE)

The Toronto Raptors took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the sixth game of the Eastern Conference finals last spring and get another crack at the defending champs one round earlier this spring. The second-seeded Cavaliers breezed to a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round while the third-seeded Raptors needed six to turn away the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors developed a stronger defensive identity with the acquisitions of P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka during the regular season and limited the Bucks to an average of 86 points while winning the final three games of the first-round series. The Cavaliers are not as strong on the defensive end and became the first team since the 1995 Houston Rockets to sweep a first-round series while allowing their opponent to score 100 or more points in each game.

 Utah Jazz (51-31) vs. Golden State Warriors (67-15) 

Season matchups (2-1 GSW)

The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 and have been waiting since Wednesday to find out their next opponent. They now have their answer in the Utah Jazz. Throughout the season, the play of the Jazz has been one of the welcome developments in the Western Conference, which has been dominated by the Warriors and Spurs as of late but have seen the door squeak open a tad thanks to a host of intriguing contenders. While Utah has been labeled a dark horse by some this postseason, a series win over the Clippers in which it overcame a number of issues has proven that this young team is firmly in the mix to make some noise in the second round.

Unfortunately the Jazz draw Golden State, who has been dealing with its own issues left and right but remain the best team in basketball by a good margin. Health has kept the Warriors from being the juggernaut everybody expected when the team was first being assembled, but make no mistake, they’re the prohibitive favorite in this series and this postseason for a reason. While many want to concentrate on the high-flying ways of their MVPs or the deadly shooting from the outside, this is a complete team that competes on both ends of the court to turn the occasional close game into a blowout.

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Friday NBA Rundown

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Brooklyn Nets (15-56) vs Washington Wizards (43-28)

Wizard point guard John Wall was just 6-of-21 shooting against the Hawks but still contributed 22 points, 10 assists and four steals for his 46th double-double of the season. Brooklyn is enjoying its best success with four victories in its last seven games, and Brook Lopez has fueled the run. The center fell one point shy of his seventh straight 20-point performance in the win over the Suns and is averaging 24.6 during the stretch.

Cleveland Cavaliers (46-24) vs Charlotte Hornets (32-39)

Cleveland finally got its full roster healthy in Denver with shooting guard Kyle Korver (foot) returning from a seven-game absence and is more concerned with ironing out rotations and getting the defense locked in prior to the playoffs than going after the No. 1 seed. Charlotte rallied to beat Orlando 109-102 on Wednesday behind reserve center Frank Kaminsky, who scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-4 shooting.

Detroit Pistons (34-38) vs Orlando Magic (26-46)

Ish Smith replaced Reggie Jackson in the Pistons starting five for the first time since December 2. Smith finished with nine points and seven assists, while Jackson had six points and a minus-14 rating in just 20 minutes off the bench.  Orlando had a great chance to match its longest winning streak of the season against Charlotte but struggled to make plays and hit shots when it mattered most, a typical outcome for a team headed for its fifth straight season without a playoff berth. Terrence Ross led the way with 19 points.

Denver Nuggets (34-37) vs Indiana Pacers (36-35)

All-Star forward Paul George admitted that Indiana was playing like a lottery team on the road and a playoff team at home before Wednesday’s game, and then he scored 35 points while only one other Pacers player reached double figures in the loss. Denver crushed Indiana 140-112 at home on January 12 while shooting 57.8 percent from the floor. Nuggets reserve swingman Will Barton is averaging 22.2 points on 52.9 percent shooting over the last five games.

Phoenix Suns (22-50) vs Boston Celtics (46-26)

Isaiah Thomas has topped 20 points in eight consecutive games for the Celtics, beginning with a 35-point effort in a loss to the Suns on March 5.  Point guard Tyler Ulis drained the 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the host Suns a 109-106 victory over Boston.

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Wednesday Fantasy Basketball Previews

The NBA rundown examines Wednesday Fantasy Basketball matchups (Enter contest) to get you ready for your cash drafts.

Pacers vs Magic

The Indiana Pacers ripped off three wins in four days to close out last week and are starting to show improvement on the defensive end. They are aiming for a fourth straight victory.

Timberwolves vs Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers just finished off LeBron James’ first losing month since 2006 with a 7-8 January and are searching for answers after dropping a 104-97 decision at the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.

Raptors vs Celtics

The teams enter February separated by a half-game in the East and within shouting distance of first-place Cleveland, but they aren’t necessarily trending in the same direction. The Celtics have the chance to achieve their first five-game winning streak of the season.

Knicks vs Nets

The New York Knicks hope to have star forward Kristaps Porzingis back in the lineup. Porzingis (illness) was a late scratch prior to Tuesday’s 117-101 loss at Washington, joining guard Derrick Rose (ankle) among the sidelined New York starters.

Hawks vs Heat

The Atlanta Hawks caught a break in the schedule with a much-needed two days off after batting to a 142-139 victory over the New York Knicks in four overtimes on Sunday. The Miami Heat are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference having won their last eight games.

Pelicans vs Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are struggling to put together a 48-minute effort at both ends of the court. They have dropped three games in a row, including a 113-109 setback at Boston on Monday in which they allowed Isaiah Thomas to score 24 points in the fourth quarter.

76ers vs Mavericks

It no longer matters if star rookie Joel Embiid is in the lineup, the Philadelphia 76ers believe they can win no matter who is on the court. Embiid is dealing with a left knee contusion and is not expected to join the 76ers on their two-game road trip this week, which begins against the Dallas Mavericks.

Grizzlies vs Nuggets

Mike Conley is fresh off the highest-scoring game of his career and the point guard looks to post another stellar outing. He poured in a career-best 38 points as Memphis improved to 2-1 on its six-game road trip with a 115-96 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Bucks vs Jazz

The Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz will both be trying to emerge out of their respective slumps when they meet in Salt Lake City. The Jazz followed up a six-game winning streak with losses in three of the last four games, including a 102-95 setback against Memphis on Saturday in the team’s sixth game in nine days.

Clippers vs Suns

The Carmelo Anthony trade rumors keep lurking around the Los Angeles Clippers and their recent swoon isn’t going to do anything to halt the speculation. The Clippers dropped four of their last five games. The latest loss was an embarrassing 144-98 beat down at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

Bulls vs Thunder

The Chicago Bulls have experienced plenty of tension over the past few weeks and now will spend tons of time with one another on the road. All-Star Jimmy Butler and veteran Dwyane Wade scorched their teammates after one poor effort last week, only to have Rajon Rondo chastise the duo for a lack of leadership in an Instagram post.

Hornets vs Warriors

The Golden State Warriors hope to see All-Star point guard Stephen Curry back on the court versus the Charlotte Hornets. Curry is recovering from a bout with the stomach flu that caused him to miss Sunday’s game against Portland and he is listed as questionable to play against the Hornets.

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Friday Fantasy Basketball Matchups

FanPicks.com has your NBA daily rundown to get you ready for live fantasy basketball matchups.

Kings vs Pacers

The Sacramento Kings are displaying signs of life during an eight-game road trip. They aim for a third consecutive victory in Indiana. Sacramento improved to 2-2 on the excursion with a stunning 116-112 overtime win over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Nets vs Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to slump and dropped six of their last eight games. Cleveland lost its last three games and the latest setback was a dreadful 116-112 home overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Magic vs Celtics

The Boston Celtics avoided a four-game losing streak with one of their biggest wins of the season and will play nine of their next 12 games against teams that entered Thursday with a losing record. They snapped their three-game slide with a 120-109 home win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Bucks vs Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ meltdown over the last two weeks seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Toronto Raptors to jump up and claim the top spot into the Eastern Conference, but instead they’ve gone into a funk as well. The Raptors will try to snap a season-long five-game slide against Milwaukee Bucks.

Hornets vs Knicks

The New York Knicks are apparently intent on getting star forward Carmelo Anthony out of town, though he seems to be the least of their problems at the moment. They’ve won 4 of their last 18 games.

Heat vs Bulls

Dwyane Wade’s old team is visiting just as his new team seems to be coming apart.

Spurs vs Pelicans

The San Antonio Spurs hope to have star small forward Kawhi Leonard back Friday night. Leonard missed the past two games with a left hand injury after a tremendous roll in which he scored 30 or more points in six consecutive contests.

Wizards vs Hawks

The Washington Wizards are quietly making a steady climb up the standings in the Eastern Conference and are winners of nine of their last 11 games.

Rockets vs 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers are expecting star center Joel Embiid(knee) to return to the lineup. The center missed three games in a row but the surging 76ers are proving they can survive without his emerging talents, knocking off the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks in a back-to-back earlier this week.

Grizzlies vs Trail Blazers

Memphis center Marc Gasol is on a tear and he aims to top 20 points for the sixth consecutive game. He established career bests of 42 points and five 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 101-99 over the Toronto Raptors.

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Wednesday Fantasy Basketball

FanPicks.com has an NBA  rundown to get you ready for live fantasy basketball contests.

Kings vs Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers are mired in a funk and LeBron James is getting mighty antsy about it. Cleveland dropped five of its last seven games, including Monday’s 124-122 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Rockets vs Celtics

The Rockets have been exchanging wins and losses for the past seven games (3-4) and five of the results have been decided by at least 13 points.

Heat vs Nets

The Miami Heat picked up a signature win and found a third star to compliment Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside in a 105-102 triumph over the NBA-best Golden State Warriors on Monday. The Heat will try to push their season-best winning streak to five straight against the Brooklyn Nets.

Hawks vs Bulls

The Atlanta Hawks steamrolled over the Chicago Bulls for three quarters on Friday. They are now set to meet for a third time this season. Chicago’s reserves played a dominating fourth quarter to significantly close the gap as Atlanta claimed a 102-93 decision.

76ers vs Bucks

The Philadelphia 76ers continue to make stunning strides and look to lasso their 10th victory in 13 contests versus the Milwaukee Bucks. The 76ers will be without star center Joel Embiid (knee) for the second straight night, but his absence didn’t prevent the club from posting a 121-110 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

Raptors vs Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have had plenty of time to stew over their most lopsided home loss of the season. Legs should be fresh for their matchup with the Toronto Raptors. The Canadian team is coming off a 108-106 home loss to San Antonio on Tuesday and have lost three straight on the second half of back-to-backs.

Thunder vs Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans managed to earn a win without All-Star forward Anthony Davis on Monday but would prefer to have their best player available on Wednesday. Davis would serve as the last line of defense against Russell Westbrook’s drives to the basket.

Warriors vs Hornets

The Golden State Warriors haven’t dropped back-to-back regular-season games since April 2015 and will put that streak on the line against the Charlotte Hornets. The Warriors had their latest winning streak end at seven straight in a 105-102 setback at Miami on Monday.

Knicks vs Mavericks

The New York Knicks finally managed to pull out a close game on Monday, though it probably never should have gotten tight at the end in the first place. The Knicks will try to build a lead and maintain it throughout the fourth quarter this time versus the Dallas Mavericks.

Lakers vs Trail Blazers

The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off the worst loss in franchise history. They were routed 122-73 by the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, and the 49-point margin of defeat marked their second 40-point loss during a stretch in which they have suffered six defeats in the last seven games.

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