Lethargic LeBron and bumbling Blatt: How the Cavs lost Game 1 to Chicago

The Chicago Bulls took a 1-0 lead in their second round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, stealing home court advantage and setting up something close to a must-win game for the Cavs in Game 2.

At the heart of the Cavs’ loss was a lackadaisical, curiously careless performance from their leader LeBron James.

James put up 19 points on 9-for-22 shooting with six turnovers – his lowest output since a 2-for-10 night in Game 5 of last year’s Conference Finals. He appeared to lack focus and a sense of urgency.

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Doc Rivers on the edge: 30 of the best sweaty and stressed Doc faces

Doc Rivers

Since taking the Los Angeles Clippers head coaching job, Doc Rivers has appeared to be constantly on edge.

There are few more common League Pass sights than that of Doc’s shiny, angry, stressed-out face as he screams at officials or barks out instructions to a team that has disappointed in clutch moments more often than not. Indeed, he may well be the sweatiest, angriest head coach in the league.

He is TV gold, a bundle of mostly negative emotion that the cameras cut to at every opportunity – always ripe for a screenshot. At times it looks as if his eyes are ready to pop out of his head. At others he merely looks ready to break down and cry. I worry for his mental state.

“I don’t complain much,” Doc noted after the Clips lost Game 5 of their first round series with San Antonio on Tuesday – apparently with no hint of sarcasm.

Of course, he is in fact one of the biggest serial complainers in the league. It is the team-wide culture of whining and ref-baiting that makes the Clippers the technical foul league-leaders and one of the most detestable squads in the league for many neutrals.

With his team on the brink of elimination tonight in San Antonio, what better time than now to enjoy 30 of the best sweaty-and-stressed Doc screenshots?

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NBA Finals, Game 1: screenshot diary

The Finals are here and it’s the Heat/Spurs rematch we anticipated all year long. A Game 1 screenshot diary is a must.

Pre-game

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Remember when the NBA used to get adults to sing the national anthem?

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Duncan and Sean Marks stroke hands, and we’re ready to go. Little known fact: six of Marks’ 11 starts as an NBA player came with the Heat.

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The end of the road for the vexing ’13/14 Pacers

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Mercifully, the Indiana Pacers’ season came to an end last night as the Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.

The 2013/14 Pacers will go down as one of the most perplexing, frustrating and disappointing teams in NBA history: a team that began the regular season 33-7 and ended it losing 13 of 21 games; a No. 1 seed that nearly lost in the first round to a 38-44 team missing its best player and was finally blown out by 25 points in their final game of the season.

They became frankly unbearable over recent weeks and months. Let us celebrate them no longer being in our lives.

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In appreciation of Boris Diaw, difference maker and historically good role player

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Gregg Popovich surprised everyone by starting Matt Bonner in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals last night, but it was back-up Boris Diaw whose fingerprints were all over the Spurs’ 117-89 victory. Let us appreciate his role-playing brilliance.

Diaw put up 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes but as is usually the case with the Frenchman, the stats do not fully reflect his impact on the game. San Antonio outscored the Thunder by 19 with him on the court. He was in constant motion, spreading the floor, attacking off the dribble and putting his teammates in positions to succeed.

He was masterful in the second quarter when the Spurs broke the game open.

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Poor defense dooms LeBron, Heat as Pacers take 1-0 lead

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The Indiana Pacers took a surprising 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals last night. What went wrong for Miami?

Defense is clearly where the game was lost for the Heat. Giving up 107 points to the Pacers is something they have not done since Josh McRoberts and Mike Dunleavy Jr. graced Indy’s starting lineup.

Their Game 1 porousness started with none other than LeBron James, who had several of the kind of halfcourt defensive lapses that close inspectors of his game have become accustomed to seeing this season.

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Toronto Raptors fans are elite (and Oklahoma City Thunder fans are not)

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Five nights in to the 2014 NBA Playoffs, Toronto gets the award for best home fans so far.

For Games 1 and 2 against the Brooklyn Nets, Raptors fans inside and outside the Air Canada Centre behaved like a great sports crowd should. They were passionate, aggressive, supportive, spontaneous, and above all, loud.

This is a rare occurrence in North American sports, where pumped-in arena music, jumbotron-prompted chants and Kiss Cam rule the day.

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How good is Indiana’s Paul George?

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The unheralded 10th pick in the 2010 Draft out of mid-major Fresno State, Paul George was not tagged by many as a future superstar. Yet this season, his third in the league, George broke out with regular season averages of 17.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists, and led the Indiana Pacers to a 49-32 record. Named an All-Star for the first time, George earned the Most Improved Player award and a place on both the All-NBA Third Team and the All-Defensive Second Team.

His meteoric rise was punctuated in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals as he delivered the dunk of the playoffs, blowing by LeBron James with unseemly ease and finishing over Chris Andersen at the rim.

Just as impressive as George’s ability to attack the basket is his defense. Using his elite athleticism and length, George is able to defend the game’s great perimeter scorers one-on-one without the need for a double team. During the regular season, he held both Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant to 38% shooting when matched up against them. In the Conference Semi Finals he flustered Carmelo Anthony with his 6’10” frame and held the league’s leading scorer to 40% shooting.

This series, he is trusted by the Pacers to limit James to tough shots—perhaps the toughest task in basketball. On the final play of Game 2, George used his foot speed to keep the MVP out of the lane and force him into a turnover to seal the Pacers’ victory.

Certainly, it helps that George is backed up by an elite rim protector in Roy Hibbert, the anchor of the Pacers’ league-best defense. Hibbert’s ability to block and contest shots deters opponents from entering the paint, and allows George to be more aggressive in pressuring the ball on the perimeter. Yet George’s two-way talents are essential to the Pacers’ success and are highly coveted in a league based more than ever on athleticism and wing play.

Though he lacks the natural pure scoring ability of a Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter, George can consistently affect the game in a greater variety of ways than they ever did. An elite perimeter defender, one of the best rebounders at his position, and good enough offensively to be a top-two scoring option on a contending team, George will certainly command max contract money when he signs his next contract, and the Pacers will not hesitate to pay him. The list of current small forwards superior to George is a short one: 1) James; 2) Durant; 3) Anthony. Indeed, George’s ascent has rendered teammate Danny Granger, a 24 ppg scorer just three years ago, expendable.

George’s game has plenty of room for improvement, particularly offensively. He is yet to develop a back to the basket game, and his shooting needs a lot of work. His field goal percentage this year was just 41.9%. He shot the sixth most threes in the league with 469 attempts, but connected on only 36.2% of them—worse than any other player who shot more than 420 threes and is not named J.R. Smith. Moreover, he is still finding his comfort level as a lead ball handler; earlier in the season, Frank Vogel banned him from attempting to split double teams off the dribble due to the number of turnovers he was committing.

Alas, fans comparing George to Scottie Pippen should probably calm down a little. He is more comparable at this stage to Luol Deng, whose third year stats were comparable—nay, slightly superior—to George’s: 18.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 51.7% shooting (the ‘06/07 Bulls also finished with 49 wins). George’s superior length and athleticism give him a higher ceiling than Deng ever had, however.

At 23 years old, it is safe to assume that George will continue to improve and fill in the holes in his game. In Indiana, under the tutelage of Frank Vogel and Brian Shaw, and on a team that both emphasizes defense and requires his scoring in order to succeed, George is in the perfect situation for his own personal growth. We can expect George to become a 20 ppg scorer and amass a slew of All-Star Game and All-Defensive Team appearances throughout his career. Look for George to be a marquee player for the next decade.