JR Smith Says Warriors Have Player Who ‘Keeps Kicking People in the Nuts’

When asked about potentially “dirtying up the game” to knock the Golden State Warriors off-kilter in the NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers guard JR Smith singled out a Warriors player for dirty tactics Saturday.

According to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, Smith seemed to allude to Warriors forward Draymond Green making contact with players below the belt on multiple occasions during last year’s playoffs:

The Cavs fell 113-91 in Game 1 of the Finals to the Dubs on Thursday.

The Cavaliers struggled to contain Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry in Game 1, and while Smith acknowledged that physicality could help Cleveland moving forward, he disagreed with the notion of not playing a completely clean game.

Smith’s comments came after Cavs forward Richard Jefferson said earlier in the day that the team didn’t need to change its approach in Game 2.

Per Sports Illustrated, Jefferson pointed to the fact that Cleveland held Golden State to a modest 42.5 percent shooting in Game 1:

Smith is among the Cavaliers players who performed below their usual standards in Game 1, as he attempted just four shots and finished with three points.

Cleveland will have an opportunity to even up the series when it faces the Warriors in Game 2 on Sunday in Oakland, California.

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Richard Jefferson Says Cavaliers Don’t Need to Change Game Plan to Win Game 2

With his team coming off a 113-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson doesn’t think the squad needs to make any changes for a better result in Sunday’s Game 2.

Per Sports Illustrated, Jefferson explained to reporters the Cavs’ mindset heading into the series’ second contest:

This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

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J.R. Smith Says If Cavaliers Stick to Game Plan Warriors ‘Can’t Beat’ Them

The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t execute up to their high standards in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but J.R. Smith is confident his team can bounce back if it tidies up some problem areas. 

“If we take care of what we have to take care of, it doesn’t matter if they’re the ’96 Bulls,” Smith told reporters Saturday, according to Sports Illustrated. “… We would win. We just got to worry about us, understand that no matter what we do, if we do what we’re supposed to do, they can’t beat us.” 

   

While Smith’s statements are broad in nature, the Cavaliers have some specific things they need to fine-tune if they want to avoid another blowout Sunday night. 

First and foremost, the Cavaliers have to take care of the ball. In Game 1, they committed 20 turnovers compared to 15 assists. They also allowed 14 offensive rebounds. 

Combine the giveaways with the boards, and the Cavaliers gave the Warriors far too many extra possessions. That was evident in the final shot totals, which favored the Warriors 106-86. 

The Cavs also have to play a more disciplined, physical style of defense after they let the Warriors walk into the lane and allowed 56 paint points—a handful of which came on dunks. 

But even if the Cavaliers do make necessary tweaks, a comfortable win likely won’t be in order. 

Although the Warriors nabbed a 22-point victory in Game 1, they only boasted two double-figure scorers (Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry) and shot 42.5 percent from the field as a team. 

Factor in some likely progression to the mean from Klay Thompson (six points, 3-of-16 from the field) and Draymond Green (nine points, 3-of-12 shooting), and the Cavaliers will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to avoiding a 2-0 series deficit. 

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LeBron James Says Warriors ‘Rank Right Up There’ Among NBA’s Best Teams Ever

LeBron James joined the chorus singing the praises of the Golden State Warriors on Saturday when he said they “rank right up there” as one of the best NBA teams ever. 

“I’ve seen a lot of great teams, and they rank right up there,” he said, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver. “They work well together. They have some guys that could actually lead a franchise without anybody else by themselves. They put you in tough positions defensively and offensively, so you have to be able just to keep your composure, stick to the game plan and try to execute as best as you can for sure.” 

ESPN’s Arash Markazi relayed video of James’ comments: 

James expressed a similar sentiment in the aftermath of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 113-91 Game 1 loss when he focused on how Kevin Durant (38 points) helped transform the Warriors into something of an unstoppable force. 

“I mean, you take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and in the postseason, and then in the offseason you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball IQ like that, that’s what stands out,” he said, according to Fear The Sword’s Chris Manning

Like James, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue praised the Warriors after they downed the defending champions and made a strong opening statement. 

“They’re the best I’ve ever seen,” Lue said, according to CBS Sports’ Sean Wagner-McGough 

When Game 2 tips off Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC), the Cavaliers’ task will be to make the Warriors look mortal. And if Game 1 was any indication, that figures to be a daunting proposition. 

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Bob Myers Says Warriors Will Address Jerry West, Clippers Rumors After Season

Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers told reporters Saturday the team will address Jerry West‘s status with the franchise once the NBA Finals are over. 

“We’re going to deal with all that at the end of the season,” he said, according to Slam Magazine

West, 79, joined the Warriors front office in 2011 and has been operating as a special advisor to management. 

Myers’ comments come after ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported May 31 that the Los Angeles Clippers are “actively courting” West to join their front office as they get set to enter a summer when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will likely be unrestricted free agents after opting out. 

Citing sources, Stein reported West has already discussed a possible role with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and head coach Doc Rivers. 

On May 27, Warriors owner Joe Lacob told the Mercury News‘ Tim Kawakami the Warriors wanted to keep West in the fold even though his contract is expiring at season’s end. 

“We want him back,” Lacob said. “We love him. He’s been a great contributor to the organization, someone I consider a personal friend as well. We would love him back (beyond this season), and we’ve made that known.”

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Dion Waiters to Decline Contract Option with Heat, Test Free Agency

Dion Waiters‘ one season with the Miami Heat was a success, so he will test free agency this summer looking to capitalize on it. 

Chris Haynes of ESPN.com reported Waiters’ decision to opt out of his deal with the Heat. 

Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald confirmed the news.

Waiters spent last summer looking for a team that would give him a chance to show off his scoring prowess. He signed a two-year, $5.9 million deal with the Heat in July that included a $3.028 million option for 2017-18, per Spotrac

At the time he agreed to the deal with Miami, Waiters offered a detailed explanation behind his decision on Instagram (h/t Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel): 

“I didn’t do it for the money… I did it for the opportunity to go out & ball & have fun. Everything else will take care of its self!!! I just felt like it was the best situation for me…& my family. I could have waited & got wat I wanted. But I rather be happy then miserable at the end of the day!!! Meaning Yu can have everything & still not be happy.”

Waiters was limited to 46 games in his first season with the Heat, though he was effective when healthy. He ranked third on the team with 15.8 points per game, the second-best mark of his career, and shot a career-high 39.5 percent from three-point range. 

By today’s NBA standards, Waiters’ salary for next season was a bargain. He was going to be making less money than last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Ben Simmons, who has yet to play in an NBA game due to injuries. 

Even as he found an opportunity to get more time in the spotlight with Miami, Waiters has a better chance to cash in and play a lot next season. It’s a smart business decision and one that should end well for him in free agency. 

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Cavaliers vs. Warriors Game 2 TV Schedule, Live-Stream Guide for 2017 NBA Finals

The 2017 NBA Finals certainly have a familiar feel to them through Game 1.  

Like a year ago, the Golden State Warriors defended Oracle arena in emphatic fashion, trouncing the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-91 in a blowout meant to set the tone for the rest of the series.

If only it were so simple.

Where this series is dramatically different isn’t hard to figure out (hint: it starts at Kevin and ends at Durant) by any means, but whether the difference creates a Warriors revenge tale is much harder to discern.

No matter how it pans out, this has the feel of a seven-game series, so here’s a look at the schedule:

  • Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday, June 4, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
  • Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland, Wednesday, June 7, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
  • Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland, Friday, June 9, at 9 p.m. on ET ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
  • Game 5 (if necessary): Cleveland at Golden State, Monday, June 12, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
  • Game 6 (if necessary): Golden State at Cleveland, Thursday, June 15, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN
  • Game 7 (if necessary): Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday, June 18, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, streaming on WatchESPN

Even if it didn’t turn out to be a close game, there was entertainment galore in Game 1.

Fans got to see, in no particular order, LeBron James slam through another 40 minutes, Deron Williams miss every shot he took over 19, Kevin Love revert to his usual self with a 4-of-13 mark from the field, Klay Thompson once again settle into his non-factor role with just six points and someone such as JaVale McGee play critical minutes while flexing the superior depth of Golden State.

Got all that?

Mostly, though, it was the Kevin Durant show.

The Warriors hired Durant to be a Cavaliers assassin and—no matter how some might feel about him leaving Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City—he’s stressed the necessary mentality while sparring with the best player on the planet. 

James guarding him or not, Durant dropped a game-high 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting and added eight rebounds and assists apiece, polishing off a LeBron-esque number. As he was quick to tell the media, he’s the X-factor because the Cavaliers were so focused on the deep ball.

“I felt like in transition they were running out to the three-point line,” Durant said, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver. “We’ve got the best three-point shooters in the world on our team, so obviously teams want to take away our three-pointer. I just tried to be aggressive to the rim and loosen them up a bit.”

And honestly, the Cavaliers played right into Durant’s hands, as LeBron himself helped point out after the loss, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): “We did a great job of covering the 3-point line but other than that they played a hell of a game.”

The next question is easy: Where do the Cavaliers go from here? Every player just landed on the wrong side of the plus-minus scale in Game 1, according to ESPN.com, while every member of the Warriors—literally everyone who suited up for a minute—landed in the positive, led by Stephen Curry at +20.

For Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue, the answer first pertains to the miserable 20 turnovers his guys fired off Thursday night, which goes hand in hand with better transition defense.

“I thought a lot of (what went wrong) can be corrected. It’s a different dynamic when Kevin Durant is pushing the ball in transition and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on the wings, we got spread out in transition. We have to do better…,” Lue said, according to NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin.

None of this is to suggest the Cavaliers don’t have schematic adjustment options available. Playing say, Iman Shumpert more and forcing Durant to beat them with his jumpshot more than his drive is one. So is overcommitting and funneling the ball to someone like Thompson, who has notably faded to the background and has hit more than three triples in a postseason game once this year, meaning Thursday’s 0-for-5 mark from deep wasn’t exactly a shocking development.

The other side, of course, is the Warriors will have counters ready. And no schematic adjustments matter when an isolation-heavy offense sees LeBron turn it over eight times and Kyrie Irving four times to Golden State’s four overall.

Even though this all sounds dire for Cleveland, it seemed the same last year, though to a lesser degree. There’s no time like the present for Lue and LeBron to dream up a way to modernize and adapt what looks like an outdated approach after riding it through a laughable Eastern Conference.

For the Warriors, the key is weathering the adaption storm, which obviously didn’t work a season ago. Durant aims to change that, which could mean more passing and less scoring. Shifting some of those 38 points to his eight assists moving forward shouldn’t be too much to ask if it comes with a ring, though, right?

Such are the interesting dilemmas facing both sides heading into Sunday evening, where Cleveland’s ability to change will foreshadow the rest of the series. Maybe not as much as normal based on what happened last year, but enough to make this series just as entertaining.

            

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified. Odds via OddsShark.  

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