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It happens every spring: LeBron James forced to carry Cleveland Cavaliers

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James recovered quickly from his neck strain. There’s still too much stress on his back.

He’s carrying the Cavaliers. It’s a springtime tradition.

As has been the case for much of his 15-year career, James has had to perform at an extraordinary level throughout these playoffs, most recently in Cleveland’s Game 2 loss at Boston.

Bouncing back after taking a blow to the jaw from Jayson Tatum’s shoulder that violently twisted his head and sent a chill down the spines of Cleveland fans, James finished with 42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

It was not enough, however. His teammates failed him and the Cavs fell into a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference finals.

Kevin Love (22 points, 15 rebounds) helped, so did Kyle Korver (four 3-pointers) and Tristan Thompson (8 points, 7 rebounds). But too many other Cavs ranged from mediocre to awful.

If Cleveland is to even the series at home, that has to change starting in Game 3 on Saturday.

”We have to ramp it up,” said J.R. Smith, who didn’t score in Game 2 and committed a critical flagrant foul. ”We’re playing too slow. We’re making ‘Bron play hero ball, which is tough to do, especially in the Eastern Conference finals. We got to help him. With that said, we have to give him an opportunity to make him feel confident to give us the ball so we can make the right plays. We got to help him and he’s got to help us.”

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said James ”did everything” in practice Thursday, but the 33-year-old had left the floor by the time media members were allowed in for interviews. James was spotted in the fitness and training area inside the facility.

Lue said the Cavs spent time breaking down video of the two losses. There was plenty to dissect.

Cleveland has had puzzling defensive lapses, and Lue said there were up to nine instances in Game 2 alone where communication breakdowns led to easy baskets or open shots for the Celtics.

On offense, Lue feels Smith and point guard George Hill, who have been outscored 72-12 in two games by Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, need to be more aggressive and attack the basket.

Smith believes it’s simpler than that.

”Make shots, that’s the only thing we can do,” said Smith, who is 2 for 17 and 0 for 7 on 3-pointers in the series. ”I mean obviously we can do more on the defensive side, but our main focus is to make shots right now when we get it. If we don’t have them, try to make the next-best play. Right now ‘Bron and Kev are working overly hard, trying to carry us. We just got to step up and do our job.”

But talking a good game is one thing, playing one is another. The Cavs don’t have time for speeches or excuses. With their season inching toward danger, results are all that matter.

Hill didn’t record an assist in 28 minutes in Game 1 and had three points in Game 2. He missed time in the opening round against Indiana with back spasms and has been puzzled by his drop-off after playing so well in Cleveland’s sweep over Toronto.

”I’m trying to figure it out myself,” he said. ”I think a little bit of just trying to be more involved offensively, trying to be more involved defensively, not waiting until a play is possibly called and things like that to go do it. I’ve just got to be more assertive, I’ve got to play with that edge like I did in the second series

”There’s no one to blame but myself. You’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do better?”’

The Cavs know they need to be more physical after the Celtics took the fight to them in Boston.

Lue raised some eyebrows following Game 2 when he described Boston’s players as ”gooning up” the series. Lue explained he wasn’t being critical.

”It’s not a bad thing to goon it up,” he said. ”Like, they’re taking hard fouls, they’re being physical. They’re playing playoff basketball. So that’s all I meant by it.”

Thompson said he loves that Boston is playing ”hard and chippy.” But he knows if the Cavs don’t ease the burden on James, this fight could be over sooner than expected.

”Other guys have to contribute and other guys have to step up,” Tristan Thompson said. ”Of course, it’s a huge luxury having LeBron on our team. At the same time, we have to be ready to play and we have to do our job.”

And get off James’ back.

Via NBA.com

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Houston Rockets to wear patches to honor Santa Fe shooting victims

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HOUSTON (AP)  — The Houston Rockets will wear patches on their jerseys to honor the victims of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

The patches will read: “Santa Fe HS.” It’s one of several tributes the team plans following Friday’s shooting. Eight students and two teachers died at the school, located 30 miles from downtown Houston.

The school’s high school choir will perform the national anthem. There will be a moment of silence and a video tribute before tipoff.

Santa Fe’s senior class and administrators have been invited to attend the game as guests of owner Tilman Fertitta. The Rockets also will honor first responders on the court.

Proceeds from Thursday night’s charity raffle will go to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund.

Via NBA.com

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Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis headline 2017-18 NBA All-Defensive first team

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NEW YORK – Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year finalists Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans lead the 2017-18 NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Gobert was voted to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the second year in a row, as selected by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.  The 7-1 center from France earned 192 points, including 94 First Team votes.  Davis, a two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection, makes his debut on the First Team.  The 6-11 forward/center received the second-most points (163) and First Team votes (73), behind Gobert.

The two big men are joined on the NBA All-Defensive First Team by Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (136 points), Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (105) and Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington (90).  All three players are All-Defensive selections for the first time.

The NBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of 76ers center Joel Embiid (90 points), Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (86), Boston Celtics forward/center Al Horford (85), San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (80) and Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Jimmy Butler (79).  Like the First Team, the Second Team has three first-time All-Defensive selections: Embiid, Horford and Murray.

Embiid is the third finalist for the 2017-18 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, joining Gobert and Davis.  The winner will be announced at the 2018 NBA Awards presented by Kia on Monday, June 25 on TNT (9 p.m. ET).  The second annual NBA Awards, honoring this season’s top performers, will take place at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif.

Players were awarded two points for each NBA All-Defensive First Team vote and one point for each Second Team vote.  Voters selected two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, choosing players at the position they play regularly.  Players who received votes at multiple positions were slotted at the position where they received the most votes.

Complete voting results by media member will be posted at pr.nba.com the night of the NBA Awards presented by Kia.  Click here for the list of 100 media voters for the 2017-18 NBA All-Defensive Teams.

2017-18 NBA All-Defensive First Team

Robert Covington, 76ers: The former NBA G League Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game MVP led the NBA in deflections and was tops in defensive win shares among players who appeared in at least 70 percent of their teams’ games.  The 76ers’ defensive rating, which ranked third in the NBA, was 99.0 when Covington was on the court and 107.4 when he was off the court – a difference of 8.4 points per 100 possessions.

Anthony Davis, Pelicans: A 2017-18 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award finalist, Davis led the NBA in blocked shots for the third time (2.57 bpg).  He also finished fifth in the NBA in defending the rim (minimum 250 field goals defended), allowing opponents to shoot only 52.4 percent at the basket.

Rudy Gobert, Jazz: Opponents shot 10.0 percentage points worse than expected on shots fewer than 6 feet from the basket against Gobert.  Utah ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating by allowing 101.6 points per 100 possessions – a number that improved to 97.7 points per 100 possessions when Gobert was on the court.

Jrue Holiday, Pelicans: New Orleans allowed 9.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with Holiday on the court than when he was off the court, the biggest difference for any Pelicans player.

Victor Oladipo, Pacers: A 2017-18 Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award finalist, Oladipo averaged a league-leading 2.36 steals per game.

2017-18 NBA All-Defensive Second Team

Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves: Butler averaged a career-high 1.97 steals per game, fourth best in the NBA.  

Joel Embiid, 76ers: Opponents shot 7.8 percentage points worse than expected on all field goal attempts when Embiid was the closest defender, the NBA’s best such mark (minimum 200 shots defended).

Draymond Green, Warriors: The 2016-17 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year was one of four qualifying players to average at least 1.30 steals and 1.30 blocked shots per game.

Al Horford, Celtics: An NBA All-Star for the fifth time, Horford helped Boston lead the NBA in defensive rating with 101.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.

Dejounte Murray, Spurs: In his second season, Murray ranked second among point guards in defensive rebounding percentage (22.0), behind the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (25.4).

Below are the voting results for the 2017-18 NBA All-Defensive Teams.  The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP.

2017-18 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM

Position | Player | Team 1st Team (2 Pts.) | 2nd Team (1 Pt.) | Total Points| All-Defensive Selections

Center | Rudy Gobert | Utah | 94 | 4 | 192 |  2 (two 1st)

Forward/Center | Anthony Davis | New Orleans | 73 | 17 | 163 | 3 (one 1st, two 2nd)

Guard | Victor Oladipo | Indiana | 58 | 20 | 136 | 1

Guard | Jrue Holiday | New Orleans | 39 | 27 | 105 | 1

Forward | Robert Covington | Philadelphia 27 | 36 | 90 | 1

2017-18 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM

Position | Player | Team 1st Team (2 Pts.) | 2nd Team (1 Pt.) | Total Points | All-Defensive Selections

Center | Joel Embiid | Philadelphia | 4 | 82 | 90 |1

Forward | Draymond Green | Golden State | 26 | 34 | 86 | 4 (three 1st; one 2nd)

Forward/Center | Al Horford | Boston | 24 | 37 | 85 | 1

Guard | Dejounte Murray | San Antonio | 32 | 16 | 80 | 1

Guard/Forward | Jimmy Butler | Minnesota | 20 | 39 | 79 | 4 (four 2nd)

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (All-Defensive First Team votes in parentheses): Chris Paul, Houston, 74 (20); Paul George, Oklahoma City, 69 (22); Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee, 43 (15); Kevin Durant, Golden State, 31 (7); Klay Thompson, Golden State, 24 (8); Josh Richardson, Miami, 22 (3); Marcus Smart, Boston, 18 (5); Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City, 17 (3); Jaylen Brown, Boston, 16 (5); Ben Simmons, Philadelphia, 16 (5); P.J. Tucker, Houston, 13 (2); Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 7 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 7 (1); Danny Green, San Antonio, 6 (2); Luc Mbah a Moute, Houston, 5 (1); Ricky Rubio, Utah, 4 (2); Andre Drummond, Detroit, 3; Gary Harris, Denver, 3; LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio, 2; Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland, 2; Avery Bradley, LA Clippers, 2 (1); Steven Adams, Oklahoma City, 1; Will Barton, Denver, 1; Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee, 1; Ed Davis, Portland, 1; Derrick Favors, Utah, 1; LeBron James, Cleveland, 1; DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers, 1; Damian Lillard, Portland, 1; Donovan Mitchell, Utah, 1; Fred VanVleet, Toronto, 1.

Via NBA.com

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L.A. Clippers, Doc Rivers agree to contract extension

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The L.A. Clippers today announced that the team has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Doc Rivers. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Doc is one of the top coaches in the NBA, coming off one of his finest seasons since joining the Clippers,” said L.A. Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer. “We trust Doc to lead a competitive, tough, hard-working team while upholding a culture of accountability expected to resonate throughout the organization.”

Under Rivers’ direction, the Clippers have earned the NBA’s fifth-best record (259-151, .632) across his five-year tenure. Upon joining the team in 2013, he led L.A. to its best record in franchise history (57-25, .695) and a second straight Pacific Division title. L.A. has reached the postseason in four of Rivers’ five seasons with the team. Rivers is the winningest coach in Clippers franchise history by both total victories (259) and winning percentage (.632). Despite coaching an NBA-high 37 unique starting lineups throughout the 2017-18 season, Rivers’ squad was in playoff contention until the final homestand of the season, finishing with a 42-40 record.

“I am proud of the success we have had here over the last five seasons, but there is more work to be done,” said Rivers. “We are coming off a year where our team battled through many challenges and much adversity, proving deep talent and even greater potential. I am looking forward to getting back to work on the court to develop our players and compete with the NBA’s elite.”

Entering his 20th season as an NBA head coach, Rivers is one of just two active coaches (Gregg Popovich) to win at least 800 games and his 846 career regular season wins are 14th-most in NBA history and second-most among active coaches. The 1999-2000 NBA Coach of the Year, Rivers led the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship, and has earned two Eastern Conference Championships and seven divisions titles. A 13-year NBA veteran and former Clippers point guard (1991-92), he coached in Boston from 2004-2013 and prior to that, led the Orlando Magic from 1999-2003.

Via NBA.com

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