NBA Sitrep – Fresh faces for Cavs, the fall of Porzingis and every other non-Cleveland trade

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Cavs hit Control-Alt-Delete

The 2018 trade deadline was seemingly quiet, so Koby Altman dialed up the phone and decided to spice things up a little.

What followed was an avalanche of trades resulting in a complete roster rebuild in the middle of February.

Only six other teams in the last ten years have dealt away six players in the same month as the trading deadline.

Cleveland became number seven and has given LeBron the pieces for what could possibly be his last title run with the Cavs.

Clarkson, Nance, Hood and Hill all made their Cavs debut against Boston today and the immediate results were promising.

The Cavs trounced the Celtics 121-99, but more impressive was the enthusiasm and energy displayed throughout the game.

George Hill had 12 points, Nance provided a spark off the bench, Hood dropped 15 and Clarkson left LeBron in raptures on the bench with his entertaining 17-point outing.

LeBron sat for the entire fourth quarter for the first time since late November in a clash against Miami.

Yes, it was only one game. But for a franchise that was limping towards the All-Star break broken and bruised, it was a much-needed dose of hope.

The after-thought trades

The Cavaliers held a monopoly over trade deadline talks, but there were numerous other deals that slipped through the cracks before the Thursday deadline.

Elfrid Payton and his hair made their way to the Suns for a 2018 second-round pick. The former first-round pick made his Phoenix debut on Sunday and finished with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a loss to the Nuggets.

Emmanuel Mudiay joined Payton as another first-round point guard to find a new home before the trade deadline. Mudiay made his debut for his new club today, scoring 14 points and dishing out 10 assists for the Knicks.

https://twitter.com/theknicksblog/status/961679601238986755

Jameer Nelson joined the Pistons, who also secured James Ennis from the Grizzlies. Former Clippers Brice Johnson and Willie Reed both departed Detroit, Johnson to Memphis and Reed to the Bulls.

Dante Cunningham joined the Nets, Noah Vonleh was shipped to Chicago and Sheldon Mac joined the Hawks as we start scraping the bottom of the trade deadline barrel.

Isaiah Thomas impressed in his debut game for the Lakers, scoring 22 points, dropping six assists and four three-balls along the way.

Thomas’ former teammate, Dwayne Wade received a standing ovation from the Miami faithful as he returned to his former playground.

Who shot Bambi?

You could almost hear a pin drop inside Madison Square Garden as Porzingis lay in agony, slamming his fist into the hardwood.

https://twitter.com/TheRenderNBA/status/961048066622197761

An MRI confirmed the worst, Porzingis has torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

He was having a career year, averaging 22.7 points and an NBA-high 2.4 blocks per game for the Knicks faithful.

With their captain fallen, the Knicks slight playoff dreams seem crushed along with the hearts of their loyal fans.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 5

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Utah Jazz are flying up the standings behind a nine-game winning streak that has seen them knock off contender after contender. The Pistons, Raptors, Spurs, Pelicans and Trailblazers have all fallen to the Jazz, who also just happened to hand the Warriors a 30-point thumping. The Jazz have the second best defensive rating in the league over their nine-game winning streak and are using their defensive calling card to make a genuine late push for the playoffs.

Slider

The New York Knicks are 0-2 without Porzingis and are have slumped into a six-game losing streak. Unfortunately, the Knicks are likely to struggle for the remainder of the season with Porzingis looking on from the sidelines. It’s time to hand the keys to Frank Ntilikina and attempt to unearth another young talent to play alongside Kristaps when he returns next season.

Heat Check

Paul George

vs. Warriors – 38 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 three-pointers made

vs. Lakers – 29 points, 9 rebounds, 5 three-pointers made

vs. Grizzlies – 33 points, 8 assist, 3 steals, 5 three-pointers made

Is Paul George the best two-way player in the NBA right now?

It’s a contentious question, but George’s recent stretch has seen him dominate teams on both ends of the floor with a ‘Kawhi’ like tenacity. Westbrook may be the OKC’s Batman, but George is the perfect Robin to challenge the Warriors in the playoffs. The Thunder have handled the Warriors comfortably in both their regular season matchups, which is largely due to George’s ability to guard every Warrior on the floor. The Thunder may still be having a roller-coaster season, but George has certainly found his groove after struggling early days.

Highlights

Dunk of the Year. Giannis is just absurd.

He actually just jumped clean over a 6-foot-6 Hardaway.

It’s been a big week for Zach LaVine, who not only led the Bulls to a win over his former team, but also did this to Jakarr Sampson.

Moments after blocking Jimmy Butlers game-winning attempt, LeBron showed him how it was done with this step-back dagger.

Now would be the time to look away Julius Randle.

Here comes the Bam!

Whoopsie Watch

Cedi Osman with the wide open …

Someone is getting the dreaded call to Mark Cubans office this week.

No chair is safe around an angry Robin Lopez.

NBA Sitrep – Cavs slumping, KD passes 20,000 plateau and the NBA hits London

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

The Cavs lost all three games last week in ugly fashion, while they have now lost seven of their last ten.

It was the first time in LeBron’s career that his team has lost by 25 or more points in back-to-back games as the Timberwolves (127-99) and Raptors (133-99) piled on the pain for Ty Lue and his men. Safe to say that LeBron wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s effort.

LeBron then missed a game-tying layup, and stepped out of bounds, as the Cavs fell to the Pacers 95-97.

The Cavs will look to halt their skid against the Warriors tomorrow in the Finals rematch.

Kevin Durant became just the second youngest player (behind LeBron) to break the 20,000-career points barrier.

With Curry out injured (ankle) and Thompson resting, Durant took just one half to tally the 25 points required to reach the milestone against the Clippers.

However, KD’s night was spoiled as the Clippers beat the Warriors for the first time since 2014 behind Lou Williams 50-point outburst.

The Bulls and Knicks played out an expected Double Overtime thriller at Madison Square Garden, with Lauri Markkanen dropping 33 points and Porzingis countering with 24 and a huge dunk to send the game into double OT.

The Bulls eventually walked away with a 122-119 win in the arguably the unlikeliest classic of the season so far.

The Celtics overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the 76ers in the eighth NBA game played in England.

Led by Kyrie Irving (20 points) & Jaylen Brown (21 points), the Celtics romped home to stun the 76ers 114-103 and notch their seventh straight win.

J.J Redick was the leading scorer for the 76ers, while Embiid shot just 6-17 from the field. Simmons major highlight was his hip and shoulder on Marcus Morris.

Sliders and Risers

standings

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Lakers have won four games in a row. I repeat, four games in a row! They have now crept up to 12th in the West and the lid is officially off. According to most Lakers fans a late playoff push is still on the cards, Lonzo Ball is charging up the Rookie of the Year ladder and LeBron spent another weekend checking out schools in LA.

To bring reality back into the situation, three of the four wins did come against the Hawks, Kings and Mavericks.

Slider

The New York Knicks faint playoff hopes are fading away after losing their last three games and eight of their last ten. This week they lost to the Bulls in double OT, to Minnesota by 10 points and to New Orleans by 5.

Heat Check

Anthony Davis

vs. Detroit – 30 points, 10 boards, 1 block

vs. Portland – 36 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks

vs. Knicks – 48 points, 17 boards, 3 blocks

The numbers speak for themselves. Even while he missed the game vs Memphis with an ankle sprain, his three performances were incredible even by his lofty standards.

Honorable mention: Lou Williams – averaged 35 points over his four games last week. Read more about his case for an All-Star appearance here.

Highlights

There were a plethora of clutch shots and game winners across the league last week.

Richardson put the Heat on the high-side against the Jazz in one of their seven wins on the trot.

CJ Williams (Who?) sunk the game winning three against the Hawks. Pretty much sums up the entire season for Atlanta.

One week, two game winners for the resurging Heat who currently sit in the 4th seed in the East.

Please put Larry Nance in the dunk contest.

LeBron said no siree to Tyus Jones.

But Tyus Jones took no chances the second time around. It was just the second dunk of his career. Fair to say its probably his favourite.

The battle of the seven-foot freaks didn’t end well for Giannis.

Whoopsie Watch

Durant may have cracked the 20,000 career points mark last week, but these weren’t two of them.

Caris LeVert with the laser pass to the third row.

At this point, I no longer have the words to describe Lance Stephenson.

LeBron or bust for Cavaliers?

Eerie defence chants engulfed Oracle Arena as the shot clock wound down. James faked a drive to the basket before letting it fly over Iguodala’s outstretched hand. It was the shot that James wanted, but unfortunately for Cleveland it was also the shot Golden State wanted.

James jumper would clank off the rim, as would Shumpert’s desperation circus shot. Golden State hit back with a 10-2 run in overtime to crush Cleveland and take a commanding lead in this years NBA Finals.

While Game 1 had the hallmarks of a thrilling contest, there are numerous underlying issues for the Cavaliers going forward.

The question on everyone’s minds coming into the finals was how will Golden State defend against James? How do you stop a rampaging freight train, who averaged 30.1 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists in the conference finals.

Golden State employed the “don’t let anyone else beat us” tactic and somehow it worked. James may have had 44 points, but Golden State effectively shackled the rest of the Cleveland line-up.

The majority of James possessions resulted in a one on one isolation plays or post ups. Golden State rotated their defenders to keep James guessing and denied him from finding his rhythm.

They dared James to shoot from mid range and the perimeter, and shoot he did. James let 38 shots fly, which was 68% of Cleveland’s total shots for the game. James made 18 of his attempts, which considering the defence is acceptable. However the effect on his teammates output was catastrophic.

The entire Cleveland outfit, minus James, managed just 21 baskets. Only three more than James made on his own. J.R. Smith and Shumpert combined for 5-19 shooting while Jones and Dellavedova failed to find the bottom of the net in their combined twenty-six minutes of game time.

Irving battled manfully and arguably outplayed Curry before succumbing to injury. While Irving was hopeful for a return to the series, scans have confirmed that he has fractured his left knee cap.

The alarm bells are ringing in Cleveland as the Aussie, Dellavedova prepares to play considerable minutes in Irving’s absence. “Delly’s” spirit and drive cannot be questioned, however in Game 1 he looked lost against Curry and this poses as a dangerous matchup for the Cavs.

When the Cavaliers offence is flowing, James is as much a facilitator as a scorer. There are not many six foot eight small forwards in the league who can pin point teammates like James can. His vision may be his most undervalued asset and has been a lethal weapon throughout the post season.

However with Golden State refusing to double team James until the last second, they are effectively taking away his ability to set teammates up. In his 46 minutes on the floor, James only managed six assists for the game. When James eventually did find a teammate, Golden State’s elite close out speed made every shot a contested one and the impact was profound.

Through the first three rounds, 32% of J.R. Smith’s, Shumpert’s and Irving’s combined 3-point attempts were contested. In Game 1 against Golden State, that figure skyrocketed to 45%.

As a result of this pressure, the trio shot a combined 1-10 from beyond the arc on contested shots. Without a hand in their face, they shot 6-12 from deep. In a game that went down to the wire, the extra effort to close out on Cleveland’s shooters was pivotal to Golden States success.

Cleveland can’t rely on James to single handily defeat the Warriors, however the Cavs offence is not the only problem. The Warriors post season slogan “Strength in Numbers” is more than just a catchphrase, it’s the backbone of the Golden State team.

Not many teams in NBA history can claim to go ten players deep, but Golden States bench is defying history every night. In Game 1 the Warriors bench outscored Cleveland’s bench 34-9 and more importantly out-rebounded them 19-6.

The Cavaliers one clear advantage is this series is on the glass. Tristian Thompson has been a revelation this post season and Mozgov is no slouch either. Add James imposing figure to the picture and Bogut is under extreme pressure to secure rebounds.

When the starting units are in the Cavs regularly get multiple looks at every possession and the Warriors look vulnerable. When the bench units are in, its an entirely different story.

Throughout history basketball experts have proclaimed that “jump shooting teams can’t win championships”. In the heat of the playoffs the fast pace, long range offense will inevitably crack under the pressure. Unfortunately for the experts, the Golden State Warriors are raining threes on their parade.

The series is by no means over, any team that features LeBron James cannot be written off. However with Irving gone for the series, the odds are stacked in the Warriors favour. If the Cavs are to find life they need James to facilitate for his teammates and throw a different look at the Warriors.

The scariest part for Cavalier fans, the Splash Brothers (Curry, Thompson) only shot 33% from deep in Game 1. Daring James to shoot may have worked for the Warriors. But if the Cavs let the Splash Brothers find rhythm, its lights outs Cleveland.