Cavs’ Love on loss to Bulls: ‘A lost opportunity like that, it should hurt’

On Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls(23-33), the Cleveland Cavaliers(20-36) got a little taste of playoff basketball. Cleveland, who was 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the 10th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs coming into this game, hoped to gain some ground. 

Chicago was without their leading scorer Zach LaVine(health and safety protocols) and had lost five straight, so it appeared that Cleveland had a great chance to get the victory.

However, the Bulls got 25 points from Nikola Vucevic and defeated the Cavaliers 106-96 at United Center to snap their five-game losing streak. 

All five starters scored in double-figures for Cleveland, led by Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, who both had 22 apiece.

Cleveland led 49–47 at halftime, but things fell apart in the third quarter. The Cavaliers were outscored 33-21 in the quarter and allowed the Bulls to shoot 60% from the field. Chicago would lead by as many as 16 points in the third and would take an 80-70 lead into the fourth.

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes the third quarter is what sunk the Cavs.

“To me, the third quarter was most important,” Bickerstaff said after the game. “We dug ourselves a hole. We didn’t come out with the energy that we needed. Too many lackadaisical errors and mistakes… We gave them too many opportunities tonight.”

Garland added on Cleveland’s third-quarter woes: “We’ve been dealing with this all year. We still haven’t figured a way to turn up our energy in the third quarter.”

Cleveland did battle back in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to three with just over three minutes left in the contest. Kevin Love had an opportunity to tie the game but missed a three with just under three minutes to go. Chicago went on a 10-3 run to close out the game.

Love has played in and won many meaningful games in his career, including winning a Game 7 in the 2016 NBA Finals. According to Love, games like this will hurt but will be good for the young Cavaliers.

“I want it to be painful for them,” Love said. “A lost opportunity like that, it should hurt… You want it to be learning experiences, and sometimes those learning experiences can pull on your heart and be very painful. It’s a major factor for growth.”

Cleveland will travel to Detroit to play the Pistons on Monday night before returning home to face the Bulls on Wednesday night. 

Mavs’ Carlisle on playing without Doncic against Indy: ‘He’s an MVP candidate, so you’re going to miss a guy like that in a lot of ways”

The Dallas Mavericks(23-20) were without their best player, their All-Star, Luka Doncic(back tightness) on Friday night as they hosted the Indiana Pacers(21-23), and without Doncic, who leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists per game, it was a struggle.

Dallas trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half, and it was an uphill climb from there. Dallas did cut the lead to four in the fourth quarter, but Indiana went on a 14-2 run to put the game away and defeat the Mavericks 109-94.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with 22 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists, and Malcolm Brogdon added 22 points and six rebounds.

After the game, Mavericks head Rick Carlisle discussed playing without Doncic.

“He’s (Doncic) an MVP candidate, so you’re going to miss a guy like that in a lot of ways,” Carlisle said. “We had enough talent and guys available tonight to win this game; we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We didn’t defend well. We didn’t put defense as a priority in the first half. In the second half we did, we made a significant amount of progress, but it was too late. Hopefully, Luka [Doncic] will be able to play tomorrow night — we’ll see. If not, it’s going to be next man up again.”

Without Doncic in the lineup, Kristaps Porzingis stepped up for the Mavericks. In a season-high 38 minutes, Porzingis finished with 31 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds. 

“I just wanted to play my game,” Porzingis said. “I wanted to be aggressive but also involve everybody and make sure we were playing good basketball. But yes, tonight I felt like so many little things didn’t go our way.”

Earlier in the season, Porzingis was on a minutes restriction, and he lobbied to play more minutes, and according to the four-year player, he enjoys playing big minutes.

“I felt good,” he said. “I am the kind of player that always wants to play more minutes and be out there and help the team.”

With the season-high 38 minutes on Friday night, it should be interesting to see if Porzingis will play on Saturday night as the team begins their five-game road trip in New Orleans to face the Pelicans. If not, Dallas could be without both Doncic and Porzingis, which could make for a tough night in New Orleans.

Notes:

Before the game, Mavericks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Donnie Nelson discussed the acquisition of J.J. Redick and Nicolò Melli, who Dallas acquired from New Orleans before the trade deadline in exchange for James Johnson, Wes Iwundu, and 2021 second round pick and cash considerations.

Nelson on Melli:

“I think if you look at the success of Maxi Kleber, you can see a little bit of a path [to success] there. He’s a guy that can clearly make the long-ball, he’s a great teammate, can swing a little bit [between] a little 4 [and] a little 5. He’s going to have an opportunity to come here and fight for some backup minutes. I was visiting with Luka [Dončić] yesterday and he obviously has memories of him in Europe and a great deal of respect, so we think he’s going to be a really nice addition for us.”

Nelson on Redick:

“I think JJ [Redick] obviously is no stranger to playoff intensity and big shots in big moments. To put another shooter next to Luka [Dončić] is really important for us.”

Nance Jr. on Sexton, Garland: ‘It was a complete performance for those guys tonight’

The backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland came through for the Cavaliers on Wednesday night. Garland scored 18 of his career-high-tying 25 points in the first half, and Sexton scored 11 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers(15-25) defeated the Celtics(20-20) 117-110 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to snap their four-game losing streak. 

“They were both awesome in terms of looking for their own shots and in looking to get us our shots,” Larry Nance Jr. said about Sexton and Garland. “It was a complete performance for those guys tonight.”

Sexton and Garland scored almost half the team’s points(54 points) last night, and when those two are flowing, Cleveland is tough to beat. 

“I just really wanted to come out aggressive,” Garland said after the game. “Last night, I was not as aggressive as I usually be, so I just wanted to come out and play my game and be more aggressive.”

Rookie Isaac Okoro also came up big for the Cavaliers, especially in the fourth quarter. Okoro scored seven points of his 15 points in the quarter, including an emphatic jam, plus the foul that pretty much put the game away.

According to Garland, who got the assist on that play, he knew Okoro would do something special when he got the ball. 

“When I gave it to him, I knew he was going to punch that,” Garland said. “That was the backbreaker right there. “That got the crowd up on their feet. That got us up on our feet. We knew it was game after that. We just had to get a couple of stops, and it was over with.”

Cleveland continues their four-game homestand on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs, who the Cavs will play for the first time this season.

Home has been good for Cleveland of late. The Cavs are 3-1 in their last four games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, scoring at least 110 points and shooting over 50% from the field in every contest over that stretch.

Blue Coats are one game away from an NBA G League title

The Delaware Blue Coats got revenge against the Raptors 905 on Tuesday night, and more importantly, Delaware is one game away from winning an NBA G League title. 

Behind 76ers two-way contract player Paul Reed, who posted a double-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, and Isaiah Joe’s 24 points, the Blue Coats defeated the Raptors 905, 127-100 in the G League semifinals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. 

Delaware will meet the Lakeland Magic on Thursday at 4:30 pm ET(ESPN2) in the NBA G League Finals.

The Blue Coats dished out 36 assists against Raptors 905, their highest assist total for any game this year, including the regular season. Delaware also had 17 steals as a group, which is also a season-high mark.

Toronto 905 routed the Blue Coats 138-107 in the regular season, and they evened the score against them on Tuesday, and they will have the same opportunity against Lakeland, who defeated the Blue Coats 115-107 in the regular season.

“The thing is lining up pretty good, where Toronto got us pretty good in the middle of the season, and we had a chance to kind of redeem ourselves here,”  Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said. “Lakeland got us. We played a poor first half in the regular season. Now, we got one chance to play for the most important one at the end.”

Just as they did to start the season when they won seven straight, Delaware is playing some good basketball right now, and having Joe, who is on assignment from the 76ers, around elevates this team. He’s a weapon, and if he continues to shoot at this level(12 three-pointers made in the last two games), the Blue Coats will probably capture their first G League title.

Photo: Juan Ocampo (NBAE via Getty Images

Blue Coats remain undefeated after defeating Long Island

The Delaware Blue Coats (6-0), the NBA G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, defeated the Long Island Nets (2-4), 130-127, on Friday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. The Blue Coats made a G League season-high 21 three-pointers (14 in the first half) for the second straight game and remain the league’s only unbeaten team.

Jared Brownridge paced the Blue Coats with a game-high 29 points (9-13 FG, 7-11 3FG, 2-3 FT) in 33 minutes off the bench. His seven three-pointers are tied for the most in a single G League game this season. 76ers two-way contract player Paul Reed delivered his sixth consecutive double-double to begin the season with 23 points (9-12 FG, 3-3 3FG, 1-1 FT), 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks in 26 minutes before fouling out.

Jordan Bone came off the Delaware bench to score 21 points on 6-13 shooting from the field, 3-5 from three-point range and a perfect 5-5 from the free-throw line. 76ers two-way contract player Rayjon Tucker tallied 18 points (6-10 FG, 2-4 3FG, 2-2 FT), three rebounds and a game-high-tying seven assists in 33 minutes as a starter.

Six Blue Coats scored in double figures for the third straight game. Defensively, they recorded a season-high 10 blocked shots. Justin Robinson and Ivan Rabb joined Reed with three blocked shots each.

Long Island also had three players post 20-plus points, led by Jeremiah Martin’s 25 points (9-16 FG, 1-2 3FG, 3-3 FT), eight rebounds and game-high-tying seven assists. Brooklyn Nets two-way contract player Reggie Perry notched a double-double with 24 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in a team-high 33 minutes. BJ Johnson scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half.

The Blue Coats shot .622 (28-45) from the field and .667 (14-21) from three-point range in the first half en route to a 76-57 halftime lead. The Nets later outscored Delaware 37-24 in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT: The Blue Coats will take on the Austin Spurs on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. The Spurs are 5-1 heading into their Saturday night matchup against the Westchester Knicks. The Delaware-Austin game on Sunday can be seen locally on DETV Channel 28 and heard on Rowan Radio 89.7 WGLS-FM.

Photo: Chris Marion (NBAE via Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas on playing in NBA: ‘The world knows I got what it takes’

NBA free agent Isaiah Thomas led the way for Team USA with 19 points on Friday night as they defeated the Bahamas 93-77 in FIBA AmeriCup in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The game was the USA’s fifth in FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying play, which the USA will close out against Mexico tomorrow, Feb. 20, at 5 p.m. EST (live on ESPN+).

The 32-year-old Thomas, who played last season with the Wizards, is looking to use these games with Team USA to show teams in the NBA that he can still get it done. After the game, Thomas, who also had six turnovers, discussed his performance.

“I think I played okay. I mean, I’m my biggest critic,” Thomas said. “I felt like I could have done so much more. But you know, I was in foul trouble a little bit. The turnovers are way too high, so I got to limit those. But I’m also getting used to that new ball. I’ve been playing with one ball for the last 10 years. So, it’s a little different, but I just have to adjust, continue to stay aggressive, continue to make plays, and, like I said, most importantly, it’s about getting the win.”

Health has been an issue for Thomas over the years. Thomas dealt with a hip issue, but according to the two-time All-Star, he’s healthy and can help an NBA team.

“The world knows I got what it takes,” Thomas said. “So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy. My skill didn’t go anywhere. It was just about getting 100% healthy, which I am right now. So, this is definitely a showcase for me, not just for myself, but for, you know, everybody on this team to showcase that, you know, they can play and be able to get jobs around the world. So, you know, individually. Yes, I’m showing that, you know, I’m 100% healthy. I’m moving and I’m myself.”

It was good to see Thomas back on the court, and hopefully, he can get another shot in the league.

Teams will continue to play games in the FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying final window through Feb. 21, after which the top three teams from each of the four groups will earn a berth into the FIBA AmeriCup 2022. With five wins, the USA is assured of its berth into the FIBA AmeriCup 2022, which will serve to qualify teams from the Americas zone for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Photo: FIBA AmeriCup

Sexton is confident that Cleveland can be successful on their west coast trip

The Los Angeles Clippers(17-6) are a championship-caliber team and have hopes of winning an NBA title this season, and at this point, the Cleveland Cavaliers(10-12) are a team that is looking to grow. The difference in where these teams are in terms of development was on full display on Wednesday night.

L.A.’s two stars came up big. Paul George was 13/20 from the field, including 8/9 from three-point land, and finished with 35 points, and Kawhi Leonard added 24 as the Clippers defeated the Cavs 121-99 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Cleveland trailed 52-49 at the half, but George went off in the third quarter. He scored 15 points, including four threes, and before you knew it, Cleveland trailed by 14 at the end of third quarter. While Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff felt his team could have played better defensively, he had to give George credit.

“I think we did give up too many uncontested threes in the second half and give Paul George a lot of credit; he made a lot of contested threes in that half as well.”

The Clippers lost to the Nets on Tuesday night, so Bickerstaff knew that Cleveland was going to get the Clippers’ best effort.

“Very good team(Clippers), there’s no doubt about that,” Bickerstaff said. “Coming off a loss, they were going to come out and give us their best shot, and we didn’t defend the three-point line well enough to give ourselves a shot. On the offensive end, we didn’t generate enough threes to give ourselves an opportunity either.” 

Cleveland now has a tough stretch coming up. They have a two-game set at home against the Bucks, and then they head out West for a five-game road trip, which includes games against the Suns, Clippers, and Nuggets. According to Collin Sexton, who led Cleveland with 27 points against the Clippers, the Cavaliers have what it takes to succeed.

“We got a tough stretch of games coming up. We just gotta make sure we win them. We gotta make sure we go (get) these next two and just try to get both them. We got a nice little set of games on the west coast. We just gotta make sure we get each and every game that we can… We definitely have a good stretch of games, but I feel like they are very capable games that we can win.”

Boban on Mavs’ loss to Rockets: ‘I think we looked like a team that is not energized’

On Saturday, the Dallas Mavericks(8-8) appeared to be a tired team against the Rockets(6-9). Dallas trailed by as much as 16 points in the first quarter and trailed by 11 at the break.

The Mavericks would make a run in the third quarter and cut the lead to three, but Houston would dominate from there and push the lead to 21, and Dallas would fall to the Rockets at home 133-108.

DeMarcus Cousins led Houston with 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 assists. This was his second double-double of the season, and Eric Gordon contributed 33 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Luka Doncic had a team-high 26 points for the Mavericks.

Dallas was on the second night of a back-to-back, and their game against the Rockets was the fifth game in seven nights for Dallas, but that was no excuse, according to Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle.

“We don’t have any excuses,” Carlisle said. “Didn’t play well enough. The energy was a factor. We were able to get it up in spurts, but we weren’t able to sustain. They had more juice. We obviously miss KP [Kristaps Porzingis] and the other four guys, but everybody is going through something right now. Houston is missing a couple of their good players, too. We’re off tomorrow. We need a restful day tomorrow, and then it’s another busy week next week.”

Again, Dallas was without Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, and Josh Richardson due to health and safety protocols. Also, they were without Kristaps Porzingis due to rest. 

Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds on Saturday night, felt the team did not have enough energy against the Rockets.

“I think we looked like a team that is not energized,” Marjanovic said. “I feel that because the schedule was so tough, with back-to-back games and being on the road, we come back here, and then we go back on the road… We expect the guys back as soon as possible, and we need to continue to play how we know how to play.”

Based on the schedule, we will continue to see games like this in the NBA, where teams look sluggish, and teams just look very bad. It happens, and now Dallas has to regroup and play four games in seven days, starting on Monday at home against Denver.

Cavs’ Garland on loss to Pacers: ‘We just have to start the game with more energy’

For the Cavaliers, the first quarter has been an issue in the last two games. Against the Knicks on Tuesday night, Cleveland trailed by 14 after one and could not recover, and on Thursday afternoon against the Pacers, the Cavaliers trailed by 11 after one. It was an uphill battle the rest of the way, as Indiana(4-1) defeated Cleveland(3-2) 118-99 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Domantas Sabonis led the way for Indiana with a team-high 25 points and 11 rebounds.

This was Cleveland’s first game of a six-game road trip, which continues on Saturday in Atlanta against the Hawks. In their three wins, Cleveland had the lead or was tied after the first quarter. However, in their two losses, they have trailed by double digits after the opening stanza. Cleveland has been outscored by 25 points in the past two games in the first quarter.

“In these last two games, we’ve allowed the first quarters to impact us throughout the game,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game. “Again, you go back and look at it. We had open shots; we had shots that we didn’t take, and we had bunnies at the rim that we didn’t finish. That carried over into other things.” 

Collin Sexton, who had a game-high 28 points against Indiana, felt the team was not playing together in that first quarter.

“First quarter, I felt like the offense got stagnant. We wasn’t going by our principles, and that’s sharing the ball and feeding the post… We wasn’t playing together. That’s first and foremost. We wasn’t playing together. You can tell. Everybody was like, ‘swing, swing.’. Passing up open shots. We need guys to shoot those open shots every time.”

Darius Garland, who poured in 22 points, including 5-7 from three-point range, believes the team has to come out with more energy.

“We just have to start the game with more energy, set the tone,” he said. “We were on our heels a lot at the end of the first half of the game… We just got to start the game better. That’s all.”

After the game, Bickerstaff kept the team in the locker room a little longer than usual, and he explained why.

“Things are easy when things are good. Things become a little more difficult when things are hard, and our response to that is important,” he said. “We just wanted to have a discussion about that, about the grit we need to play with all the time, about the confidence we need to play with all the time, and believing in what we are doing and believing in ourselves through the good times and bad times.”

Cleveland has a young basketball team, and unfortunately, what comes with that is inconsistency. The Cavaliers have to get back to what made them successful, sharing the ball, creating turnovers, and making open shots. We’ll see if that back to that against the Hawks on Saturday. 

Notes:

Andre Drummond recorded his fifth straight double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

 

 

 

 

Derrick White signs extension with Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs have signed guard Derrick White to a contract extension, the team announced on Monday.

According to ESPN’s, Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $73M extension.

White is a guy who the Spurs will count on to get the team back into contention and a player who has grown his game since coming to the league. The 26-year-old White posted a career-high 11.3 points along with 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 24.7 minutes last season while ranking second among all NBA guards in total blocks (59) and second in the league in charges drawn (30).

White played very well during the NBA Restart in Orlando. In seven games, White averaged 18.9 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.3 rebounds in 29.8 minutes while shooting 39.3 percent from three-point range on 8.0 attempts per game. 

For his NBA career, White has appeared in 152 NBA games, averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 23.3 minutes while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from long range.

Entering his fourth season with San Antonio, White was also a member of the USA Men’sMen’s National Team at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. San Antonio originally selected White in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft (29th overall).