N.B.A. Finals 2018 Live: Warriors vs. Cavs Game 4 Updates


3rd Quarter: A Quick 6-0 Run Has the Warriors Rolling

Cleveland couldn’t score on the opening possession of the second half and then after the Cavaliers twice kept Golden State’s offensive possession going with fouls, Klay Thompson hit a floater in the paint for his first two points of the game.

A steal from Draymond Green led to the versatile big man being fouled to prevent an easy dunk, but that didn’t matter as Stephen Curry hit a long 2-pointer to push the Warriors’ lead to 13 points and then it pushed to 15 when a Curry miss turned into an improbably put-back by JaVale McGee who fought for the ball inside with Tristan Thompson.

The 6-0 run to start the quarter forced Ty Lue to call a timeout. The Cavs came out of halftime looking terrible on both ends while piling up three fouls in less than two minutes on the court.

Marc Stein: After an acrobatic tip-in, dare we ask: Are we sure JaVale McGee isn’t in the Finals M.V.P. race? A more serious question: Have the Third Quarter Warriors arrived? With the Warriors’ lead up to 15, Cleveland has already reached a critical juncture in this second half in terms of extending its season.

Halftime Reading: Kyrie Irving Still Doesn’t Know if the Earth is Round or Flat

New York Times culture reporter Sopan Deb interviewed Kyrie Irving about his new movie “Uncle Drew,” and the Boston Celtics guard (and former Cleveland Cavalier) continued to talk in circles about his previous statements regarding Earth being flat. “Can you openly admit that you know the Earth is constitutionally round?,” Irving asked Deb. “Like, you know that for sure? Like, I don’t know. I was never trying to convince anyone that the world is flat. I’m not being an advocate for the world being completely flat. No, I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s fun to think about though.” You can read Sopan’s interview with Kyrie here.

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LeBron James went to the floor after being hit in the face in the second quarter.

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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Halftime: Curry Stays Hot, and the Warriors Lead, 61-52

Stephen Curry is making up for his awful Game 3 in a huge way. He hit a deep 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in the first half to stretch Golden State’s lead to nine points and he has his team in great position to secure the first sweep in the N.B.A. finals since 2007.

It was a series of runs for both teams in the first half, with solid adjustments from both coaches pushing their teams in spurts only to fall back a bit. Golden State’s hot start from 3-point range largely faded, but with Cleveland still struggling from the field (39.1 percent) the Warriors were able to maintain their lead by just taking what was given to them on offense and playing hard on defense, with big contributions from JaVale McGee, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

Curry leads all scorers with 20 points, and is 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and LeBron James is leading the Cavaliers with 16 points and five assists.

The biggest knock on Golden State has been Klay Thompson’s foul trouble, which has led to several possessions in which Curry has ended up having to guard James, but with the Warriors just about to enter their favorite quarter, a nine-point lead is a huge advantage.

Marc Stein: Golden State raised many eyebrows by keeping so many centers on its playoff roster, but you don’t hear much of that noise any more. Not with a 3-0 series lead and not with JaVale McGee having such a consistent impact for the Warriors against Cleveland. (And, no, I never expected to type such a sentence.)

“It felt like a JaVale series — which was the case with our opening-round matchup with San Antonio but not so much with New Orleans and Houston,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said before the game. “It’s just a feel for personnel and how we’re going to be guarded.”

McGee was +17 in the first half in 11 minutes. He leads the Warriors in that category in the first half.

2nd Quarter: Iguodala and Curry Keep Warriors in the Lead

Jordan Bell scored twice inside and Draymond Green played some terrific defense, but after Stephen Curry couldn’t get a shot off before the shot-clock expired, Andre Iguodala got the ball back with a savvy defensive play in which he exaggerated contact with LeBron James. He then hit a 3-pointer on the other end, showing the full skill set that the team was so clearly missing in the Western Conference finals.

A Curry layup was answered by a J.R. Smtih 3-pointer, and then after a Curry miss, an Iguodala foul off the ball gave James a pair of free-throws, one of which he made.

Stephen Curry hit a contested 3-pointer from deep, and even though Cleveland is repeatedly getting to the line, they are falling behind again, down five with 2:50 to play in the half.

2nd Quarter: Cavs Take the Lead

Jeff Green started the second quarter with a 3-pointer and after a miss by Stephen Curry, the Cavs got a great hustle play from Larry Nance who followed LeBron James to the hoop and picked up James’s missed layup for an easy basket.

Draymond Green scored easily inside but after wasted possessions by both teams, James powered his way to the basket through Curry and not only made the short shot but got a free-throw courtesy of a David West foul.

West made up for the foul on the other end with a nice left-handed put-in off an assist from Curry but a few possessions later Nance blew past the entire Warriors defense from a big dunk.

Golden State’s shooters had gone largely cold and Cleveland had continued to press inside, narrowing the deficit to three. Then they took over with two free-throws by Kyle Korver — courtesy of Klay Thompson’s third foul — and a big dunk from LeBron James. The 14-4 run to start the second has given them a one-point lead, and Cleveland took a timeout to see if they can further capitalize on this momentum.

Marc Stein: The Cavs have fallen into a double-digit deficit twice — but they’re not going away. Cleveland got back into this game by suddenly rotating to open shooters with some real intent. The Warriors’ clean looks are dwindling. For such a “boring” series, doesn’t the score always seem close?

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Stephen Curry scoring in the first quarter.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

End of 1st Quarter: Warriors Keeping Cavs at Arms Length

The Cavaliers once again got the game within four points thanks to some hustle plays from LeBron James and J.R. Smith and another 3-pointer from Kevin Love.

With Stephen Curry and Draymond Green sitting down for a rest at that point, and with Klay Thompson already on the bench with foul trouble, the hopes of a Cleveland run took a bit of a hit when Nick Young, perhaps Golden State’s worst player in these finals, hit a wide-open 3-pointer. A midrange jumper by Kevin Durant, some terrific defense by Shaun Livingston and another 3-pointer by Andre Iguodala and Golden State’s lead was back to 11.

In the final minute of the quarter, there was a flurry of activity on both ends, but the only score came on a tough layup from LeBron James, which left Cleveland down nine going into the second.

Cleveland didn’t let a few big runs from Golden State push them completely out of the game, but with the Warriors’ shooters appearing to have cured their woes, the early-going of this game heavily favors the series ending tonight. For that to not happen, James is going to need to show way more offense and he needs to do it quickly.

Marc Stein: The Warriors have won five consecutive playoff games despite falling short of their well-chronicled nightly goal of completing 300 passes. We won’t have the full passing picture until after the game, but they are surely on pace to get back into the 300s tonight given how crisply the ball is moving. Golden State had seven assists on 13 made baskets in the opening quarter. Six 3s for the visitors hasn’t hurt, either.

1st Quarter: Warriors Find Stroke From 3-Point Range

After the timeout, Andre Iguodala got the Warriors going again with a wide-open corner 3-pointer. Golden State then got 3-pointers from Stephen Curry and Draymond Green as well, taking advantage of any open shots they can find (Curry created his himself by just stopping in transition to shoot) and when a Kevin Durant dunk pushed the Warriors’ lead back to 24-13, Tyronn Lue again called a timeout.

Considering Golden State’s poor shooting in Game 3, they were no lock to focus on the deep ball in Game 4, but they appear to have retained their confidence in their shooters. And if Cleveland is going to leave Iguodala and Green open all game, those veterans will take advantage of the situation.

1st Quarter: Cavs Get Back Into the Game

Another block from Kevin Durant helped set the defensive tone and then Stephen Curry hit a ridiculous circus 3-pointer in which he seemed to be looking for contact more than he was looking for a basket (but he got the basket anyway). Tristan Thompson broke the Cavs’ scoring drought with a tip-in, and after Klay Thompson picked up his second foul of the game with a charge on J.R. Smith, the Warriors brought in Andre Iguodala.

A one-shot technical for Kevin Love courtesy of a defensive 3-second violation got the Cavs to six points and then LeBron James floated a short jumper over JaVale McGee for his first points of the game. A 3-pointer by Kevin Love had brought the Cavs all the way back to a two-point deficit and that forced Steve Kerr to call a timeout to try to figure out where his team’s hot start went.

1st Quarter: Warriors Off to a Fast Start

Kevin Durant is off to another good start, sinking an 11-footer on one end and blocking a shot on the other. Some solid work inside by JaVale McGee and Stephen Curry helped get Golden State off to a 10-3 lead, which forced Tyronn Lue to call a timeout to get the Cavs reset. In last year’s Game 4, the Cavs rode an explosive first quarter to a dominant win, but thus far they have looked tentative on offense and J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer is their only make of the game.

Marc Stein: Six easy points for Stephen Curry early — two layups, two free throws — has to help him shake off thoughts of that 3-for-16 nightmare in Game 3. The Cavaliers frankly look short on juice early. Not promising omens for the home fans.

1st Quarter: J.R. Smith Hits an Early 3-Pointer

After winning the tip, the Warriors went into a half-court offense and, following a miss by JaVale McGee, they took an early two-point lead with a put-back from Stephen Curry. Misses by both teams set up an open 3-pointer for J.R. Smith and he found the net in what the Cavs have to be hoping is a big game for the struggling shooting guard.

LeBron James Is Carrying the Cavaliers in a Historic Way

During this season’s playoffs, James has accounted for nearly a third of his team’s box-score statistics.


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N.B.A. Finals 2018 Live: Cavs vs. Warriors Game 3 Updates


The Warriors are leading the game by two points, but Cleveland seemed to endure Golden State’s largest blow without crumbling, and especially at home this seems like a winnable game for them with a decent fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant is dominating with 34 points, but he will need some help from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson if he is going to hold off Kevin Love and James.

Marc Stein: Game 6 of the Western Conference is Klay Thompson’s favorite game — and Game 3 of the NBA Finals is Kevin Durant’s favorite. Remember the series-turning dagger Durant hit over LeBron James in Game 3 of the 2017 Finals? Durant enters the fourth quarter of this Game 3 with 34 points on 17 shots. The Cavaliers have to feel fortunate to only be trailing by two points entering the fourth quarter — especially with LeBron’s movement potentially hampered by that ankle he twisted in the first half.

3rd Quarter: Andre Iguodala Returns

Andre Iguodala came back into the game after injuring his right leg in the first half, but the Warriors are at least temporarily without Stephen Curry, who headed back to the locker room for an unspecified reason. The Cavaliers have been beaten up in this quarter, but after Rodney Hood sank a 14-footer with 2:42 left in the third, Golden State called a timeout to try to regroup and come up with a way to get back on an offensive run.

3rd Quarter: A Flurry of 3-Pointers

After a timeout, the Cavaliers once again had a frustrating offensive possession where they couldn’t score despite repeatedly getting the ball into LeBron James’s hands. But they took advantage of a rare Kevin Durant miss when James ran the court and tossed the ball in with a layup to stop the bleeding.

That started a run in which Cleveland got 3-pointers from George Hill and J.R. Smith, while Golden State got them from Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Durant pulled down his 13th rebound on a LeBron James miss, and then he fed Draymond Green for a huge dunk that got the Warriors’ lead back up to five. Tristan Thompson snuck a hook shot over JaVale McGee’s outstretched fingers, but Durant answered with a turnaround jumper that gave him 34 points for the game.

The scary thing about the sequence as far as Cleveland is concerned is that they were playing extremely well on both ends, but somehow are still down five points.

3rd Quarter: Warriors Take the Lead

A run of nine consecutive points by Golden State was broken up by Kevin Love making a free-throw courtesy of a 3-second violation by JaVale McGee. That seemed to wake up Cleveland, who then forced a turnover and got a great finish on a layup by Tristan Thompson, who was fouled on the play but couldn’t connect on his free-throw attempt.

But the Warriors have owned the third quarter all season, and they didn’t allow the momentum to swing. McGee got into double-figures with a 1-footer, which put Golden State back on top, and Kevin Durant blocked a shot by LeBron James to put the Warriors back on offense. After a foul, Draymond Green fed Kevin Durant for an easy two points, and on an ensuing possession Green put Golden State up by five with a layup. Ty Lue once again called a timeout, frustrated with a game that was starting to slip away. The Warriors are up 17-6 in the quarter so far.

3rd Quarter: Warriors Turn on the Jets

The Cavaliers finally got their first free-throw attempt in the first minute of the second half, and LeBron James made it. That was about the only good thing in the start of the half for Cleveland, as the Warriors got six quick points from JaVale McGee and a long 3-pointer from Kevin Durant. The 9-3 run has Golden State tied with Cleveland, 61-61 with 10:13 left in the third. The swing in momentum forced Tyronn Lue to try to break things up with a timeout. The offensive explosion for the Warriors was certainly helpful, but it was also announced that Andre Iguodala had injured his right leg in the half and was not certain to return. Iguodala had been out with a left leg injury, so this something new for him to work through.

Halftime: Kevin Durant Keeps Warriors in the Game

In the final minute of the half, Cleveland got a dunk from Larry Nance but couldn’t capitalize on LeBron James having the ball under a basket thanks to some terrific team defense from Golden State. Then, with 0.8 seconds left in the half, Kevin Durant knocked down a long 3-pointer to make it 58-52 at the half.

Durant had been attacked some in recent weeks for forcing isolation plays when the team has typically relied more on passing the ball to set up open looks. He played their way in Game 2, but seems to see the writing on the wall in Game 3. His personal aggressiveness is one of the few things preventing this from being a blowout. He had 24 points and eight rebounds in the half, absolutely propping up his struggling teammates. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have combined to shoot 3 of 15 from the field for 7 points.

The Cavaliers, thanks to a much more balanced approach, have three players scoring in double-figures, with Kevin Love’s 15 points leading LeBron James’s 14 and J.R. Smith’s 10.

The question now is if Golden State has one of its big third quarters in store for the Cavaliers, or if Cleveland can continue to thwart those adjustments with adjustments of their own as they did in the first two games of the series.

Marc Stein: When the Cavaliers turned their Eastern Conference finals series with Boston around after falling into a 2-0 hole, it started in Game 3 with Cleveland’s 17 3-pointers at home in that must-win game. In tonight’s Game 3 of the N.B.A. finals, Cleveland rung up six first-half 3s, but the hosts will have to get hotter to counter the ridiculous Kevin Durant show we’re getting. Kevin Love’s 15 points and 10 rebounds have been huge for the Cavaliers after Love was just 1-for-9 on 3-point attempts in the first two games off a direct LeBron James pass.

Two massive disparities jump off the halftime stat sheet. The visiting Warriors have attempted 13 free throws to Cleveland’s … zero? The Cavaliers, meanwhile, hold a 28-16 advantage on the boards. Can’t wait to see where Durant (24 points already) and LeBron (14 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds) end up.

2nd Quarter: Cavs Closing Out the First Half

A charging call on LeBron James ended up being turned into a blocking foul on the defense, but unlike in Game 1, when it benefited the Warriors, this time it was changed in favor of the Cavs. Just as important, the Cavaliers took advantage of the extended possession by getting a layup from the rejuvenated Rodney Hood.

Golden State has not been able to get into its ball-movement offense at all, settling for a series of bad jumpers and dunk attempts, and even with Kevin Durant getting a difficult jumper, and turning it into a 3-point play with the ensuing free-throw, they trail by 7 points with less than a minute left in the half.

2nd Quarter: Draymond Green Out With Foul Trouble

Kevin Love extended Cleveland’s lead to 13 points with a 3-pointer in the last four minutes of the first half, and while the Warriors quickly cut it back to 8, the Cavs kept pushing. After they got it back to 10, they managed to induce Draymond Green’s third foul of the game, sending the key cog in the Golden State attack to the bench for what will almost certainly be the rest of the half.

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Kevin Love shooting a layup in the first quarter.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

2nd Quarter: Kevin Love Keeps Cavs Ahead

Kevin Love stretched Cleveland’s lead to 10 points with a 3-pointer that barely beat the shot clock, and then he outfought the Warriors for a rebound on the defensive end. He then took advantage of a loose ball on offense, picking it up and laying it in to extend the lead to 12. It was a sequence where Love looked like the superstar that he has often been in his career, even if it has become a somewhat rare sight this season as he worked his way through some injuries. The power forward had a double-double with 20 or more points in each of the first two games of the series, and he’s already up to 12 and 9 in this game.

2nd Quarter: LeBron James Shakes Off Injury

LeBron James turned his right ankle slightly on an offensive play and was unable to head back on defense, but he did not come out of the game. A few moments later he was backing toward the basket with the ball and helped set up J.R. Smith for a huge 3-pointer. It was the type of sequence you wouldn’t expect to see from any player other than James, who seems almost impervious to the effects of injury. On Cleveland’s next possession, James threaded his way to the hoop right past the rookie Jordan Bell, scoring easily, and forcing Steve Kerr to burn another timeout.

James is now up to a game-high 14 points, clearly having taken the reins back from an offense that was doing well, but not well enough to create much separation from the Warriors.

Marc Stein: Shaun Livingston made his first 11 shots in these N.B.A. finals. Even more surprising: It was a blocked shot from the scarcely-used Rodney Hood that ended Livingston’s unblemished run.

2nd Quarter: LeBron James Starts to Assert Himself

LeBron James deferred to his teammates in the first quarter, but early in the second, with the lead slipping away, he showed some aggressiveness in getting to the basket, and even when he missed the shot, he got his own offensive rebound and put the ball in for 2 points. Cleveland got a long 2-pointer from Rodney Hood, and a layup by James to put the lead back up to seven points when Steve Kerr had seen enough and took another timeout. The roles thus far are essentially reversed of where they had been in the two games in Oakland, with the Warriors constantly playing catchup. And Stephen Curry isn’t helping so far, with as many fouls (2) as he has points.

End of 1st Quarter: Warriors Battle Back

We knew the rest of the Cavaliers’ roster would contribute more with the game in Cleveland, but the fact that the team got off to such a strong start while LeBron James had just 6 points in the first quarter was somewhat stunning.

Cleveland looked like they might run up a huge lead, especially with the Warriors not getting their first 3-pointer until there were less than two minutes left in the period, but consecutive 3-pointers by Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant got Golden State back into it. The game was actually tied with 10 seconds left in the quarter when Jeff Green connected from 3-point range to give his team a brief 29-26 lead, which was brought back to 29-28 after a pair of free-throws from Durant with 1 second left.

The Cavaliers are undoubtedly happy to be ahead, but it still seems like a wasted opportunity that they were not able to capitalize more on Golden State’s slow start.

Marc Stein: The Warriors missed their first six 3-pointers, Draymond Green teetered on the edge of an early ejection … and Golden State trails by a whopping one point. After a quarter. Nerves are suddenly tangible along with the noise at The Q.

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Draymond Green (23) and Tristan Thompson both received technical fouls in the first quarter.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

1st Quarter: Draymond Green, Tristan Thompson Get Early Technicals

Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson each received technical fouls after an argument, which will leave them little room for error as the game progresses, as another technical would result in their ejection. For Green, who is known to argue with referees all game, the decision could certainly alter his approach. Coach Tyronn Lue called a timeout with 3:38 remaining in the quarter, and despite Golden State having somewhat recovered from an atrocious start on offense, they still are trailing the red-hot Cavaliers by 8 points.

Marc Stein: Green racked up only three technical fouls in the first three rounds of the playoffs. But with two in this series already, he’s suddenly just two more technicals away from a one-game suspension.

1st Quarter: Stephen Curry Has Two Fouls

Kevin Durant sank a mid-range jumper to end Golden State’s cold streak on offense and after a turnover, Draymond Green finished a fastbreak all by himself with a dunk. They seemed to be righting the ship a bit when Stephen Curry was whistled for his second foul of the game. He is staying in the game so far. Even Andre Iguodala checking into the game midway through the quarter didn’t seem to yield immediate results as the wing was immediately hit with a foul call.

Marc Stein: Maybe we have to stop saying that LeBron James has no help. The crowd here at The Q is clearly sick of all the sweep talk and making some quality noise. The Warriors have won four finals games here over the years — but they never enjoy visits to this building. Draymond Green in particular is already on the edge.

1st Quarter: A Near-Perfect Start for Cavs

Cleveland is showing far more effort in the early minutes of the game, with Steve Kerr calling a timeout with 7:57 remaining in the first quarter to try to settle his team down. The Cavs are fighting for offensive rebounds, playing aggressive defense, making the shots the Warriors give them and benefiting from Golden State’s shots not falling yet. Beyond JaVale McGee having a terrific dunk and a solid block attempt of a shot attempt by Tristan Thompson, there is little good on the Warriors’s side to cite so far.

1st Quarter: LeBron Alley-Oops Himself

With early 3-pointers by both Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, the Cavaliers seemed to be showing early that they were planning on getting more of LeBron James’s teammates involved. In all, the first 10 Cleveland points came from players other than James, with the streak finally broken when James threw an alley-oop to himself off the backboard to give the Cavaliers an early 12-4 lead. It is hard to imagine a better start for the Cleveland offense.

Marc Stein: In the second half of Cleveland’s Game 4 rout in the 2017 N.B.A. finals, LeBron James flung the ball off the backboard underhanded from behind the free-throw line and dunked home the ball off the glass. In Wednesday night’s must-win Game 3 of the 2018 N.B.A. finals, attacking the other basket, LeBron did it again. Ridiculous.

Lebron James Passes To Himself For Dunk Off Board – NBA Finals 2017 Video by TheHoopDoctors

1st Quarter: Kevin Love Starts With a 3-Pointer

Tristan Thompson won the tip for Cleveland and Kevin Love immediately hit an open 3-pointer, and Game 3 of the finals is underway.

Game 3 Starting Lineups

The starting lineups for Game 3 are the same as they were for Game 2, with Andre Iguodala coming off the bench for Golden State.

Warriors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, JaVale McGee

Cavaliers: George Hill, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson

Top Story Lines for Game 3

• LeBron James’s 80 combined points in the first two games of the series have made him an incredible one-man show for the Cavaliers. Kobe Bryant isn’t so convinced that James does not have enough to work with. In a Q. and A. with The Times, Bryant said “I don’t understand how, in order to talk about how great LeBron is we need to [expletive] on everybody else. That’s not OK. Those guys have talent. I don’t buy this whole thing that he’s playing with a bunch of garbage.”

While Coach Steve Kerr of the Warriors is known for the occasional one-liner, Coach Tyronn Lue delivered a great one in his pregame news conference. When asked who would be a key player for the Cavaliers tonight, Lue responded “LeBron James, I guess.”

• James and Curry may be huge rivals on the court, but off it they seem to have formed an alliance in terms of how they will deal with President Trump. On Tuesday they both talked about how there will be no need for the president to invite either team to the White House after the finals are over.

N.B.A Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the players’ stance during the ABC broadcast of the game and he supported the players even if he lamented them being forced into such a situation.“My reaction is sadness, frankly,” Silver said. “A bit of resignation. But I don’t think it should take away from the fact that these players in our league and our coaches are speaking out on issues that are important to them and important to society.”

• There are reports that the Warriors will be bolstered tonight by the return of Andre Iguodala. The versatile bench player who had moved to the starting lineup earlier in the playoffs, is a vital cog for the team’s offensive rhythm and for its defensive strategy. The question now is if the bone bruise in his left knee is sufficiently healed for him to be effective in a defensive assignment against James.

• Golden State’s Stephen Curry has not quite kept pace with James in terms of overall production, but with averages of 31 points, 8.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds a game so far in the finals, momentum is building for him to potentially win his first Finals M.V.P. award should the Warriors capture their second consecutive title. Curry has downplayed his interest in the award, but his fourth quarter explosion in Game 2 following an altercation with Cleveland’s Kendrick Perkins showed a competitive fire that is rarely on public display from Curry. With the series moving to Cleveland, the question now is if he can continue to succeed without the benefit of his home court.

• The game officials have been the subject of some intense debates during the playoffs, and they will be engaging directly with fans during the game via the National Basketball Referees Association’s official Twitter account. A team of referees will be answering questions and weighing in on calls during the game.

• The Warriors are hoping to get the injured Andre Iguodala back either for tonight or for Friday’s Game 4. The versatile bench player — who had moved to the starting lineup earlier in the playoffs — is a vital cog for the team’s offensive rhythm and for its defensive strategy. If the bone bruise in his knee is sufficiently healed, it could allow Golden State to put him on James in hopes that he can slow the superstar down just enough to lessen Cleveland’s chances of an upset. For now, Kerr is describing Iguodala as “likely” to play.

• Things have yet to quiet down for J.R. Smith following his enormous gaffe at the end of regulation of Game 1, with the moment still being picked apart. Smith did not exactly atone for the poor decision with stellar play in Game 2, but the streaky shooter is always a threat to go off at home, and spacing the court some for James with a big night from 3-point range by Smith would go a long way to evening the odds.

• If things weren’t awkward enough between the Cavaliers and Isaiah Thomas, their former guard went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Monday to participate in a parody of a game show called “Generation Gap: NBA Edition” against the Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. As part of the skit, he announced “I’m like the Cavs, I’m going to get swept.”

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On Pro Basketball: LeBron James: The Strange Thrill of a One-Man Show


James looked utterly alone — and perhaps that was fitting after another game in which he had done everything he could to lift his team to a win: 29 points, 13 assists, 9 rebounds. In the first game of the series, his effort was even more striking: 51 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds.

The losses did not diminish the artistry of his performance, though. Instead, they only seemed to underscore the beauty of his labor, without the glory that comes with actually winning any games.

James, of course, is a comeback master. In 2016, his team was down 3-1 against the Warriors and he hauled them back, with a much stronger crew around him, to win the series in seven games.

This series resumes Wednesday night in Cleveland, a home court where James makes magic happen.

Yet, as he makes his eighth straight appearance in the N.B.A. finals, his trip through the playoffs this spring has had a different feel to it. Rarely, if ever, has one of the league’s supreme players — perhaps any league’s — chased a championship with less help.

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LeBron James has upended the notion of basketball as a team sport by almost single-handedly powering the Cleveland Cavaliers through the playoffs. Yet two losses in the finals against the Golden State Warriors gives his dazzling athletic performance a futile air.

Credit
Ben Margot/Associated Press

“It’s my job to make sure that we’re as laser-focused as possible, do my job and continue to instill confidence in my teammates until the last horn sounds,” James said. “That’s my job. That’s my responsibility. That’s my obligation, and I need to continue to do that.”

The results so far are not entirely the fault of James’s backups. His challenge is even more daunting because the Cavaliers are facing one of the deepest, most talented teams in N.B.A. history. The Warriors have the luxury of starting four All-Stars. After James opened the series last week by scoring 51 points, his coach Tyronn Lue was reminded by a reporter that James usually plays even better after losses.

“So that means he has to score 60 now, right?” Lue asked, deadpan.

That James even dragged this team to the finals could be considered one of his greatest achievements, which is saying something after three championships. Before the season even started, Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers All-Star point guard, demanded a trade. He landed with the Boston Celtics. Several personnel moves followed that left the Cavaliers largely bereft of top-level talent.

All the tumult has only fueled speculation about James’s future. He can declare for free agency after the season. But he is revered in Northeast Ohio, where he grew up and played high school basketball in Akron.

He was anointed a future superstar and drafted right out of high school in 2003 by the Cavaliers. He left Cleveland in 2010, outraging fans, to join the Miami Heat, where he fulfilled his desire for a championship in 2012 and won another the following year.

After returning to Cleveland for the 2014-15 season, he made good on his pledge of delivering the franchise’s first championship in 2016. So if he were to leave again this summer, perhaps fans would be more understanding. Also, how much can one man reasonably expect to do by himself, even if that man is LeBron James?

“I marvel at him every single year,” Rick Carlisle, the coach of the Dallas Mavericks, said in an interview before the start of Sunday’s game. “Every year, his skills become more refined. There’s a greater economy of movement. He plays every angle so precisely. For me, it’s uncharted territory seeing a guy do this at this stage of his career.”

Other greats — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, to name a few — were obviously just as essential to their teams. But Russell played alongside fellow Hall of Famers like Sam Jones and Bob Cousy. Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Jordan had Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

James has Kevin Love, a perennial All-Star, but Love has been up and down in the playoffs, and the Cavaliers have gotten minimal production from their guards.

Even as the Cavaliers overhauled their roster this season (more than once), James tried to compensate by leading the league in minutes played. He appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career.

In an apparent attempt at team building early in the postseason, he splurged on matching suits for his teammates to wear to arenas. When he was not moonlighting as the team’s stylist, James was hitting game-winning shots against the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs, saving the season more than once.

Against Golden State, James absorbed a blow to the face in Game 1 and has been playing with blurred vision in his bloodshot left eye ever since. Still, he continues to lead the Cavaliers’ offense at one end, while defending the Warriors’ Kevin Durant at the other. He ought to take the court in a hard hat.

James’s teammates are aware of what is being said — and written — about them. One of them, J.R. Smith, inspired a viral GIF of James’s pained expression after Smith had made a gaffe that deprived the Cavaliers of the possibility of a game-winning shot in Game 1.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “It’s a gift and a curse. You play on his team, and you’re playing with the best player in the world and you get to witness some great historic things and be a part of it. Then, on the other side, if you don’t help that person win, they’re looking at you, too.”

James wound up playing 44 minutes in Game 2, and only took a seat on the bench once the game was out of reach. His teammates combined to shoot 27 of 70 from the field. He brushed aside a question about possible fatigue.

“I think I only got tired once tonight,” he said.

Since the start of the playoffs, James has been averaging 34.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9 assists a game while sinking 54.4 percent of his field-goal attempts. Against the Warriors, he has somehow managed to elevate his play by averaging 40 points, 10.5 assists and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point range.

The last time the league saw someone take on such a disproportionate workload was — surprise! — LeBron James in 2015, when Irving injured his knee in the first game of finals. James tried to carry the Cavaliers the rest of the way, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, but the Cavaliers fell to the Warriors in six games.

Before that, it was probably Allen Iverson, the rocket-powered point guard who steered the Philadelphia 76ers into the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. Iverson did not have an All-Star cast around him, especially late in the season. Larry Brown, who was the team’s coach at the time, joked in a telephone interview that the team had been so affected by injuries that he went searching for reinforcements at the Y.M.C.A. Iverson averaged 35.6 points during the series, which the Lakers took in five games.

“I don’t compare anybody with Allen,” Brown said, “because every day, every game that he played, he would do something remarkable. But I look at LeBron now, and he makes so many of the right plays, and he makes it all look so simple. The sign of greatness is playing on the biggest stage in the biggest games, and then raising your game. That’s what he seems to do.”

On Sunday, the Cavaliers wore matching outfits again: gray suits with short inseams and black boots. But James mixed up his look after the loss, opting for a navy blue sweatshirt under his blazer and suit shorts. He bit into an apple as he made his way outside, where his teammates waited for him on an idling bus.

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N.B.A. Finals 2018: Warriors Roll Over Cavs in Game 2


The series now shifts to Cleveland, with the heavily-favored Warriors in firm control even if the games have been far more competitive than most pundits predicted.

Here’s how the Warriors won Game 2:

4th Quarter: Cavs Clear the Bench, Down 18

The Cavaliers called yet another timeout after Stephen Curry found Kevin Durant for a huge dunk which extended Golden State’s lead to 18 points. The game is effectively over with 5:15 left to play unless LeBron James can somehow find a gear that even he might not consider possible.

The Cavaliers largely gave up with 4:09 left in the game, sending in bench players like Cedi Osman, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood to see if any of them can get some confidence from a good stretch at the end of what has turned into a mild blowout. After 43 minutes, LeBron James is on the bench with 29 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds.

Marc Stein: Can’t argue with the Ty Lue’s decision to surrender with 4:09 to go and the Warriors up by 18. LeBron didn’t look thrilled with it as he exited the game, but it’s time to give the likes of Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman a taste of this series — and save LeBron from himself. He needs a rest.

4th Quarter: Curry’s 4-Point Play Pushes Lead to 16

Stephen Curry hit a shot-clock-beating 28-footer to extend Golden State’s lead to 14 points, further pushing the momentum in the Warriors’ favor. With Cleveland having just one more timeout, there was nothing Ty Lue could do to slow things down.

The Warriors got yet another 3-pointer from Curry with 5:44 remaining, and he pushed the lead to 16 points after a free-throw earned thanks to a foul by Kevin Love on the shot attempt.

4th Quarter: No Rest for the King

Marc Stein: More problems for the visitors: LeBron James’ next second of rest in this game will be his first. He hasn’t missed a dribble of game action yet with 8:11 remaining in regulation. In related news: Cleveland was down to one timeout remaining with 10:11 to go in regulation. Expect a very weary LeBron James in his post-game press conference.

4th Quarter: Curry Time?

LeBron James got the scoring started in the fourth quarter with a wide-open 3-pointer, but Stephen Curry shook Larry Nance’s coverage and immediately answered with one of his own. Golden State got a stop and Curry hit a corner-3, pushing the lead to 13 points and forcing Tyronn Lue to take another timeout to try to slow down the two-time M.V.P. It is Curry getting loose that usually sets off the Warriors’ big third quarters, so if he is going to start doing that in the fourth, Lue needs to do anything he can to figure out a way to break the rhythm.

Marc Stein: Kevin Love and George Hill have been functional. LeBron has been LeBron James. But it’s going to take more than that in this building for the Cavaliers to win. Golden State has already succeeded in one of Steve Kerr’s main missions in this Game 2: making LeBron work harder for everything. You can see the toll it’s taking on him every time they show a shot of James on the bench.

End of 3rd Quarter: Cavs Keep it Close

Golden State’s ball movement of the first half largely disappeared late in the third quarter in favor of Kevin Durant isolation plays, but a driving Durant found a wide-open David West for a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining in the quarter, and the veteran connected, extending Golden State’s lead to 11. It was West’s first 3-pointer of the playoffs.

While the Cavs got a Kyle Korver free-throw courtesy of a bad foul by Jordan Bell which narrowed it to 10 points, they couldn’t capitalize on maintaining possession of the ball thanks to a hustle play by Bell.

A double-digit lead at home seems fairly safe for the Warriors, but they definitely lacked for intensity in the third quarter. With a tireless LeBron James sure to come at them with everything he has, this game isn’t over yet.

3rd Quarter: Klay Thompson Surges to 20 Points

There had been fear that even if Klay Thompson started that he would not be able to play much in Game 2 as he worked back from a high-ankle sprain and some serious bruising on his left leg, but he has played 26 minutes so far and is tied with Kevin Durant for a team-high 20 points.

But Thompson’s surge hasn’t been able to give his team any real breathing room thanks to Kevin Love having really picked things up (he’s up to 20 points on 14 field-goal attempts) and the Cavaliers getting solid scoring contributions from four players instead of just two.

Golden State’s rebounding advantage in the first half has evaporated. The Warriors will need to figure out what is going wrong in the quarter when they normally dominate. Their lead may still be at 8 points, but Cleveland seems to be getting stronger, at least for the time being.

3rd Quarter: Lue Gets Game’s First Technical Foul

Cleveland got Golden State’s lead all the way down to 5 points with a Kevin Love 3-pointer, but after a Jordan Bell free-throw it was back up to 8. Tyronn Lue picked up a technical after a non-call on what he thought was a foul of LeBron James by Stephen Curry (Curry gave James no place to land and James fell out of bounds). Curry sank the one shot afforded by that to stretch the lead to 9. The Cavaliers truly can’t catch a break in a game where they are doing everything they can to keep themselves in it.

3rd Quarter: LeBron Closing in on Triple Double

The Cavaliers are not going away. A 3-pointer in transition by Klay Thompson got the home crowd fired up (and put the Warriors up by 11), but LeBron James answered with a 3-pointer of his own. Stephen Curry missed a corner-3 and Tristan Thompson dunked the ball home, forcing Golden State to take a timeout with their lead down to 6.

James is picking up the pace, with 20 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, and even if Jeff Van Gundy is mocking the stats obsession in the N.B.A. on the ABC broadcast, the fact that James has been right in that range in nearly every finals game for the last two years — he averaged a triple-double for the entire finals last year — is remarkable.

3rd Quarter: Love and Hill Heating Up

The Cavaliers have to be excited about Kevin Love’s two 3-pointers early in the half. George Hill hit another 3-pointer, but after yet another big dunk by JaVale McGee the Warriors lead is at 10. This definitely isn’t a vintage Warriors third quarter so far, but they are maintaining a solid lead even as Cleveland shows more energy.

3rd Quarter: Can the Cavs Keep Up?

The second half got underway with Tristan Thompson getting a layup almost immediately. Kevin Love, who had been off in the first half, hit a 3-pointer, and while Kevin Durant hit a pair of free-throws, a dunk by Thompson had Cleveland off to a 7-2 run to start the half.

Marc Stein: The Cavaliers have a 15-6 edge in free throw attempts and are trailing by 13 points entering Golden State’s beloved third quarter. I am not feeling optimistic about their comeback chances.

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Stephen Curry and George Hill battling for a loose ball in the first quarter.

Credit
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Halftime: LeBron Needs Some Help

At halftime, Golden State is leading 59-46. The key stats for the first half were the Warriors having 18 assists and 24 rebounds, looking much better on both offense and defense than they did in Game 1.

Draymond Green is playing remarkable defense regardless of his matchup, and the Big Three of Warriors scoring (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant) has combined for 39 points, with Curry having 16 points, 12 of which came off 3-pointers.

The decision to start JaVale McGee has paid off with 8 points, Shaun Livingston has 8 points off the bench and David West looks revitalized in his first chunk of action in quite some time.

That teamwide effort to fix the problems of Game 1 has made another terrific performance by LeBron James (15 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) mostly irrelevant, though Cleveland has gotten a very good performance from George Hill, who is making up for his missed free-throw in Game 1 with 12 first-half points.

If Golden State has one of its signature third quarters locked and loaded, this could turn into a real blowout.

Marc Stein: Don’t sleep on the very savvy minutes that Golden State got in the first half from Shaun Livingston and David West. The Warriors, in general, are playing their kind of game with 18 assists on 25 made baskets. The hosts are just getting too many contributions from too many people for LeBron and Co. to keep up.

[What’s the secret to the Warriors’ third-quarter success? See what they told us by clicking here.]

2nd Quarter: ‘Wizards Lineup’ Working for Warriors

JaVale McGee came back on the court and immediately made an impact with a hook shot for 2 points. A few possessions later, he had a huge dunk following a Cleveland turnover. The Warriors have their 2011 Wizards lineup on the court, with both McGee and Nick Young, but the entire team is attacking this game in a way they haven’t in quite some time and their ball movement has been better than it has at any point this offseason.

With just over three minutes remaining, the Warriors have a 13-point lead and the Cavaliers may be running out of adjustments, especially with LeBron James not finding it nearly as easy to score.

Marc Stein: We are a spoiled basketball public. LeBron James has 13 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists — and everyone in the building with a press pass is wondering: What’s wrong? Is it the eye? Is he gassed? Either alibi would be understandable, but don’t forget this one: He doesn’t have enough help!

2nd Quarter: Old Guys Get it Done for Golden State

It took less than two minutes of game clock for Cleveland to get the lead back down 4 points, but a tough offensive rebound by David West helped set up a mid-range jumper by Shaun Livingston, and then the veteran West had a huge block on defense which was followed by a Livingston layup. The old guys for Golden State are contributing a lot to this game.

After a Stephen Curry 3-pointer with 6:11 to play in the half, the Warriors were up to an 11-point lead and Tyronn Lue had to burn another timeout. It is not that Cleveland hasn’t been resilient tonight, and it’s not that they haven’t made solid adjustments, but the Warriors are rebounding better, shooting better and are having a much easier time than they did in Game 1.

2nd Quarter: Warriors Go on a Run; Durant Has 2 Fouls

The second quarter started with a Cleveland miss and a Kevin Durant make on a mid-range jumper. While neither team looked nearly as smooth in the quarter’s first few minutes, a Klay Thompson 2-pointer with 9:12 left put Golden State up by 9 points. A timeout is an opportunity for Tyronn Lue to snuff out this 8-2 run, which Cleveland suddenly desperately needs.

Marc Stein: Hard to get too worked up about Kevin Durant’s two early fouls when he’s made his first five shots from the field and runs a fast break that leads to a Klay Thompson corner 2-pointer.

End of 1st Quarter: Warriors Lead, 32-28

As the buzzer rang ending the first quarter, the Warriors were leading the Cavaliers by a score of 32-28, with an offense that featured a lot more ball movement and a lot less dribbling than they have shown in recent games. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have 7 points each and Kevin Durant has 6, which thus far is enough to negate another strong effort by LeBron James, who has 10.

Golden State shot 15 of 23 for the quarter and more important, they were not nearly as beaten up on the boards, with 10 rebounds to Cleveland’s 8. It helps when you don’t miss your shots.

The fact that Cleveland is still fairly close considering all of that could portend a tightly-contested game the rest of the way. It feels like the rest of the Cavaliers are more involved than they were in Game 1, but that’s mostly a mirage. James has scored or assisted on 22 of Cleveland’s 28 points.

Marc Stein: Have to believe that the Cavaliers are thrilled to be trailing by a mere 4 points after a quarter when Golden State shot 15-for-23 from the field. LeBron is comfortably on a triple-double pace already. The King, giving us his best Scott Skiles, has 5 assists already.

1st Quarter: J.R. Smith Shrugs Off the Crowd

J.R. Smith isn’t taking the bait from a crowd at Oracle Arena that has been mocking him all game. He hit a big 3-pointer on one end of the court and then got a steal on the other.

As of the Warriors’ first timeout with 4:34 left in the quarter, Cleveland trails 21-17 and is staying in this game even though Golden State is a ridiculous 10 of 12 from the field. If the Cavaliers can maintain this intensity when the Warriors start missing some shots, the score could turn around quickly.

Marc Stein: J.R. Smith’s short memory isn’t all bad. He clearly forgot the score at the worse possible time late in regulation in Game 1, but it has to help when it comes to coping with the after-effects of that blunder. The crowd here at Oracle Arena gave Smith a standing ovation during introductions — and just serenaded him with an M.V.P. chant at the free-throw line — but Smith isn’t playing timid so far. He’s already gotten one 3 to go down.

1st Quarter: Cleveland Adjusting to Warriors’ Hot Shooting But Still Trailing

Coach Tyronn Lue showed good instincts with his timeouts in Game 1, with the Cavaliers often cutting off a potential run once they got back onto the court. They were clearly more competitive coming out of his first timeout tonight. George Hill hit a 3-pointer, LeBron James turned around a 3-point play and the Warriors actually missed a shot for the first time tonight. Even with the decent adjustments, Cleveland is trailing 19-14 with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.

1st Quarter: Warriors Take Early Lead With Easy Baskets

The Warriors are getting to the basket very easily so far, with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant facing almost no resistance on layup attempts to go with JaVale McGee’s earlier dunks. Golden State’s first 10 points came in the paint which is a fairly different strategy, but they are playing to the defense. They changed it up on their sixth shot, with Klay Thompson pulling up from 3-point range and making it easily.

At the first timeout, Golden State is leading 15-6 and looking far more energetic than Cleveland on both ends of the court.

Marc Stein: Did someone trick the Warriors into thinking it’s the third quarter already? The hosts got to the rim so easily on their first five possessions; Cleveland looking very much like the league’s 29th-ranked defense early. Also: For all the grief JaVale McGee gets at his shakiest, his presence often (bizarrely) energizes the Warriors’ stars.

1st Quarter: Javale McGee Makes Early Impact

JaVale McGee easily won the tip and Golden State took a quick 4-0 lead thanks to two dunks from their new starting center. The move away from Kevon Looney is working well so far.

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N.B.A. Finals 2018 Live: Cavs vs. Warriors Game 1 Updates


4th Quarter: Warriors Get Hot at the Right Time

It had been a terrible shooting stretch for the Warriors, but they have suddenly woken up. Draymond Green had not been hitting wide-open jumpers in recent games, but the power forward sank a 3-pointer, giving Golden State a lead with just under five minutes to play. After a turnover, Stephen Curry also connected from deep. Suddenly the Warriors are leading the game by six, almost daring the Cavaliers to prove they can rally once again.

Marc Stein: No one is ever going to feel sorry for Golden State when the Warriors have four all-stars. But they surely can’t wait to get Andre Iguodala back. The hosts are rather fortunate to be up six heading into the final 4:37.

4th Quarter: Cavs Take the Lead

The Cavaliers are now leading 92-91 after LeBron James crossed the 40-point barrier for the eighth time this postseason. With Golden State missing shots and James only looking stronger, this game is wide open.

4th Quarter: 3-Pointers Pull Cavs Within Reach

After Klay Thompson’s free-throws, the Cavaliers got 3-pointers by Jeff Green and Kyle Korver and it’s suddenly a 1-point game, which prompted Steve Kerr to call a timeout to try to kill Cleveland’s momentum. James has been his typical dominant self, and is the primary reason the Cavaliers are in the game, but the difference between previous series and this one is that his teammates seem to be contributing to the effort in a big way.

Marc Stein: Warriors staffers have been insisting to me for 48 hours that this series would not be the cakewalk that so many of us media know-it-alls have been forecasting. I should have listened. The game is totally being played at Cleveland’s tempo. Say this for all of the Cavs’s flaws: With LeBron leading the way they know how to function in this environment.

4th Quarter: Do Cavs Have Enough to Come Back?

LeBron James had closed the gap to four points with an emphatic dunk, but Kyle Korve got called for a foul on a 3-point attempt by Klay Thompson, and after Thompson sank all three shots the lead is back to seven. The Cavaliers have not wilted at any point, and James continues to do whatever he wants on offense, so this game is far from over.

End of 3rd Quarter: Cavs’ Support Team Steps Up Again

LeBron James spent the last minute of the third quarter getting some rest on the bench and his teammates once again handled themselves well, outscoring the Warriors 3-2 in just over a minute. The fourth quarter is set to begin with Golden State leading 84-78.

Marc Stein: LeBron James has to take a seat on the bench at the end of the third quarter after following up his 11-for-13 start by missing six of eight shots. Was that rest enough to give LeBron gas for a finishing kick? Kevin Love (16 points) is the only other Cav in double figures.

3rd Quarter: Durant Heating Up for Warriors

Kevin Durant is starting to look comfortable and is up to 19 points, repeatedly pulling up for jumpers that would be impossible for a player without his height. The combination of a few big shots by him, a 3-pointer by Klay Thompson and dunk by Kevon Looney has Golden State up 82-75 with just over a minute left in the third quarter. It’s not exactly the dominance the Warriors showed in the third quarter against Houston, but they are suddenly building a bit of a distance. It will be interesting to see if Cleveland can once again answer the scoring run with one of its own. Thus far they have proved more than capable.

3rd Quarter: Cavaliers Storm Back

The Cavaliers are not falling into the trap of letting Golden State run away with the game. The early 10-3 run by Golden State in the quarter is a thing of the past, with the teams tied 73-73 after LeBron James and Stephen Curry traded 3-pointers. With just under four minutes to play in the third. LeBron James is up to 36 points.

Marc Stein: We’ve played more than half of this third quarter and the Cavaliers are still here to tell about it. Cleveland has slowed the pace nicely: LeBron really is a basketball savant. It’s 68-68 and Oracle Arena is in shock.

3rd Quarter: Javale McGee Stays Busy

McGee, who was off to a strong start in the half, got the ball under the basket with no one in front of him. The 7-foot-1 center turned, elevated and seemed to forget to bring the ball up. By the time he thought to it was too late and he had his shot blocked — by the rim. It was a play that could seemingly only happen to McGee, who nevertheless had 4 points in six minutes of work.

Marc Stein: JaVale McGee giveth … and JaVale McGee taketh away. Will leave it to Ben Hoffman to describe what McGee just did there. Because I am struggling for words.

3rd Quarter: Warriors Pick Up Where They Left Off

JaVale McGee started the second half and has instantly made an impact. His hectic defense against LeBron James (it wasn’t pretty) proved effective on one possession and then he scored consecutive baskets on the offensive end. The fan favorite has helped the Warriors start the half on a 10-3 run.

Marc Stein: JaVale McGee — Mr. Vertical Spacing — is having an impact already. Another quality adjustment for Steve Kerr’s coaching ledger.

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Stephen Curry celebrating with teammates after hitting a 3-pointer to end the first half.

Credit
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Halftime: Curry’s Buzzer-Beater Ties it Up

Stephen Curry got the ball in his hands with just seconds to play in the first half and he launched a 38-footer that would have been a ridiculous attempt from any other player in the N.B.A. but was basically a layup for him. The ball found its home as time expired and the Warriors went into halftime tied with the Cavaliers, 56-56.

If a monster third quarter for Golden State is coming, then Cleveland is in trouble. The Cavaliers were terrific in the first half, getting a typically-gargantuan performance from LeBron James, who had 24 points and 4 assists. They also got 12 points from Kevin Love, and they even outscored the Warriors while James took a short rest. But they are going into halftime having lost what was at one point an 11-point lead, and with the Warriors typically hitting their stride coming out of halftime, that could be a major issue.

Curry has looked as strong or stronger than he ever has in a finals game, with 18 points and six assists, while Kevin Durant has not displayed his typical dominance, with 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting.

Marc Stein: Dare I say LeBron is milking that shot to the face just a touch. But he’s up to 24 points in a near-flawless first half — flawless until the flammable Stephen Curry got loose for a 38-footer at the buzzer. 56-56 all at intermission!

As Ty Lue noted in his media address Wednesday, Golden State’s favorite quarter is Cleveland’s worst. How the Cavs cope in the first six minutes here is key. The problem: Stephen Curry is already dialed and the third quarter hasn’t started yet.

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LeBron James shooting in the first half.

Credit
Ben Margot/Associated Press

2nd Quarter: Green’s Hard Foul Puts James on the Floor

Draymond Green picked up his third personal foul of the game in a hard collision with LeBron James under the basket in which Green’s left hand hit James directly in the face, resulting in James being on the court for a few moments to collect himself. Green received his fourth technical foul of the postseason and headed to the bench.

2nd Quarter: Even With James on the Bench, Cavs Execute

Coach Tyronn Lue clearly had a plan with that timeout. LeBron James came out of the game for a rest with the score 44-40 in Cleveland’s favor. An immediate 3-pointer by George Hill, a steal followed by a Larry Nance Jr. dunk and a midrange shot by Kevin Love had it 51-40 before Klay Thompson ended the run with a 3-pointer. By the time James checked back into the game with 3:07 remaining, Cleveland had outscored Golden State by a score of 7-5 in his absence which is something the Cavaliers are almost never capable of doing.

2nd Quarter: It’s All Offense So Far

The timeout appeared to reset the Warriors, who went on a quick 5-2 run that forced Cleveland to take a timeout of its own. The little burst included Klay Thompson hitting a 26-foot 3-pointer, showing no ill-effects from the collision earlier. LeBron James is up to 20 points already on 8 of 9 shooting and has chipped in with four assists as well.

2nd Quarter: Warriors Have No Answer for LeBron James

The Warriors, trailing by seven points, called a timeout with 7:48 remaining in the quarter. The most notable problem on Golden State’s end is probably Kevin Durant not making an impact, with only 6 points in 13 minutes. But the far bigger problem is Golden State not being able to slow down LeBron James at all without Andre Iguodala out. He has been able to do anything he wants offensively. The Warriors need to do something to break his rhythm because expecting him to wear out like James Harden did in the Western Conference finals is not a good strategy against the tireless James.

Marc Stein: Where is the Golden State defense? Translation: Where is the Golden State focus and effort? The Warriors just held the Houston offensive juggernaut under 100 points in five straight games. But they’re not playing with anything close to the same level of focus. Might they be waiting for the third quarter? (For the record: I am NOT feeling the suit shorts LeBron wore when he strolled into Oracle Arena tonight. And, yes, I secretly dream of writing for the NYT Style section.)

2nd Quarter: Cleveland Winning Battle of the Boards

The early second quarter has been much of the same, with Cleveland continuing to push the ball offensively and make Golden State pay for any missed shot on the other end of the court. The rebounding advantage is currently 13-7 in Cleveland’s favor and they are exerting their size advantages all over the places leading a 5-point lead.

Marc Stein: Feel-out game? LeBron is just feelin’ it. Period. He’s 6 for 7 from the field after finally missing an elbow jumper.

2nd Quarter: Klay Thompson Returns

Klay Thompson came back to the Warriors’ bench with just over a minute left in the first quarter and the crowd in Oakland exploded in huge cheers for the popular shooting guard. He was back on the court for the start of the second quarter but came up well short on a 3-point attempt.

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Stephen Curry driving to the basket early in the game.

Credit
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

End of 1st Quarter: LeBron James, Kevin Love Lead Cavs

Both teams are playing hard on both ends of the court, both are shooting better than 55 percent from the field, and a spirit of competitiveness is alive in Oracle Arena as the Cavaliers have repeatedly been able to answer any basket by the Warriors. At the end of the first quarter they lead, 30-29.

LeBron James leads all scorers with 12 points while Stephen Curry has 11. In a huge development for the Cavaliers, Kevin Love is just behind those leaders with 9 points on 4 of 7 shooting.

The question going forward is if this quick pace is something Cleveland can keep up with all game. Throughout the playoffs, Golden State’s opponents have tended to get worn out in the second half.

Marc Stein: LeBron James has often described Game 1 as his “feel-out game.” But there’s much less need for feeling things out when you’re playing the same team in the finals for the fourth consecutive June. An aggressive James has 12 points after a quarter, and those underdogs from Cleveland just recorded a 30-point opening quarter against the supposed invincibles.

1st Quarter: Cavs Keeping Pace With Warriors

Cleveland has continued to keep pace with Golden State, not letting what could be a backbreaking play, like Nick Young managing to score off an inbound pass with just 1.5 seconds left on the shot clock, break their spirit. They have gotten strong play from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, supporting LeBron James more than we have seen in the previous few series.

Klay Thompson is being taped with a left lateral contusion on his leg and is expected to be available to return. His being out of the game for any length of time undoubtedly hurts the Golden State offense, but with Stephen Curry in a shooting groove, the length of time Thompson is out will have more of an effect on defense. Young can play better defense than some people may think, but he’s definitely a downgrade from Thompson.

Marc Stein: Lateral leg contusion — NOT words Golden State wants to hear these days when the same injury has sidelined Ande Iguodala for the past five playoff games. But ESPN’s Doris Burke says Klay is expected to return. And Thompson is known for being ultra durable.

1st Quarter: Klay Thompson to the Locker Room

Klay Thompson has come out of the game after a collision with J.R. Smith with 6:17 left in the first quarter. Smith appeared to slip and, in the process, awkwardly twisted Thompson’s left leg. Thompson is headed back to the locker room to be examined.

Marc Stein: That J.R. Smith takedown of Klay Thompson had some shades of Sergio Ramos vs. Mo Salah in the Champions League final. The intent wasn’t there on J.R.’s part — accidental slip. But it might have the same effect depending on how seriously Thompson is hurt. Smith couldn’t control his footing because of the slip … but he also didn’t exactly have a play on the ball. Another entry in J.R.’s reckless postseason.

1st Quarter: Scoring Comes in Bunches Early

A deep 3-pointer and a driving layup by Stephen Curry, an alley-oop to Kevin Durant and a 16-footer by Klay Thompson had the Golden State offense humming along at a solid clip early in the first quarter, but Cleveland held strong thanks, unsurprisingly, to LeBron James and Kevin Love, and the Cavaliers were leading 15-12 at the game’s first break in action.

Golden State has been aggressive on both ends of the court, forcing a few turnovers, but Cleveland has just pushed the ball steadily toward the basket and has worked to keep the Warriors off their rhythm. Just before the break in action, Golden State was breaking across the court for what would have been a mismatch on offense and Cleveland broke it up with a smart foul. For all of the talk of the mismatch, the veteran Cavaliers do not look the least bit scared so far.

Marc Stein: Let’s see if this pace is something Cleveland can really continue to keep. The Warriors are far better conditioned to run up and down this way. The Cavaliers are humming offensively but they typically flourish in this building when the game is grind-y.

They’re also getting no stops early (as feared).

1st Quarter: First Points Scored by LeBron James

Tristan Thompson won the opening tip over Kevon Looney and the Cavs moved the ball around quite a bit before Kevin Love missed an opening mid-range jumper. Golden State lost the ball on a turnover and LeBron James put in a layup for the first two points of Game 1. The 2018 N.B.A. finals are officially underway.

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Doris Burke Has Game


She is particularly obsessed with the end of close games, when she will rewind plays three or four times to make sure she has properly digested them.

By the time she arrives at the arena for a morning shoot-around, Ms. Burke usually has something fairly specific she wants to nail down. On this day, she was interested in defense — specifically, how the Bucks planned to stop Mr. Simmons. Before long, Ms. Burke bee-lined to the Bucks’ 27-year-old assistant coach, Josh Broghamer, who would not have looked out of place at a high school rec league.

Mr. Broghamer seemed almost surprised by the attention. He described how the Bucks planned to pressure Mr. Simmons far away from the basket to make it easier for his defenders to get around screens (essentially stationary blockers) that the Sixers might set.

“How much are you changing schemes?” Ms. Burke asked, alluding to the concept of changing defensive tactics midgame.

“I don’t know that we’re changing schemes,” he said. “But you have to get back and play D.”

You could watch Ms. Burke make her way through game day and forget that a woman, and not one of the dozens upon dozens of men from over the years, was doing this job.

Still, there are some challenges that only she must deal with.

After lunch and a little downtime, she changed into her broadcast attire and caught a car back to the arena. She had set aside more than an hour for her makeup session before a 5:45 p.m. interview she planned to tape. But because of some confusion over where the makeup artist would meet her, the process took a little longer than usual. At 5:35, Ms. Burke had to hustle to a locker room on the other side of the building, where Phil Dean, her producer, and the play-by-play man, Mark Jones, were idly passing the time. Mr. Jones had left the hotel an hour later and looked smart in a gray suit and fuchsia tie.

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Ms. Burke typically builds in an hour for her session with a makeup artist before doing her on-camera interviews.

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Mark Makela for The New York Times

(And Ms. Burke must endure an additional indignity: “Is anybody in here? Hello?” she called out as she walked around the corner to a bathroom.)

There are also subtle ways that men treat her differently. “I’ve had more coaches in pregame meetings apologize for cursing,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I swear like a pirate. You don’t have to worry about that.’”

Even some who work closely with her can have the occasional blind spot.

In February, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that it would give Ms. Burke its top honor for writers and broadcasters. A colleague who’s a play-by-play announcer, Mike Breen, promptly sent her a congratulatory text saying she set the standard for women in basketball broadcasting.

When he next saw her, he apologized. “I needed to take out the word ‘female,’ and say she’s the best broadcaster in the business,” Mr. Breen said. “I’m an idiot for using it.”

From Big East to Big Time

In 2003, ESPN approached Ms. Burke with a proposition: How would she like a spot on the network’s top men’s college basketball broadcast?

Ms. Burke, an all-Big East guard at Providence College in the mid-1980s, had been calling games since 1990, when she gave up a career as an assistant coach in order to start a family. She had progressed from calling women’s college games on radio to men’s games on television, even men’s and women’s pro games. By the late 1990s, she was doing dozens of broadcasts each year.

But the offer came with a catch: Ms. Burke would have to work the sideline — conducting interviews and doing short bits humanizing the players — while the broadcasting fixture Dick Vitale did the color analysis.

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At the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, a few hours before game time, Ms. Burke and Mr. Jones prepared for player interviews.

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Mark Makela for The New York Times

Mark Shapiro, then an ESPN executive vice president, told Ms. Burke that it could be a serious reporting job, not fluff. “There was a notion that sideline reporting was a chance to showcase diversity,” he told me. “The men would be in the booth, and if there’s a place for a woman broadcaster, it’ll be on the sideline. Making the stereotype worse was that sideline reporters needed to be pretty. It was ridiculous. It was overdue to be called out.”

Still, Ms. Burke was hesitant. She had always thought of herself as an analyst. “My whole push was I wanted to do all basketball,” she said.

Other female analysts had the sense that there was a double standard. A man hoping to become an analyst on a major broadcast would typically start off doing less visible jobs and land higher-profile analyst assignments as he progressed. Former N.B.A. players like Tim Legler and Mark Jackson largely followed this path. Female analysts, on the other hand, often seemed to be diverted to the sideline at a certain point — and many stayed there for years.

“I had seen so many women get pigeonholed,” said Kara Lawson, a former University of Tennessee and W.N.B.A. star who started her career as an analyst in the early 2000s.

Ms. Lawson, who became the full-time analyst for the N.B.A.’s Washington Wizards in 2017, said she had rejected numerous offers to work the sideline over the years. “The basketball guys are not doing years of sideline,” she said. “I saw myself as one of them.” (TNT has used former men’s players on the sideline in special “players only” broadcasts since 2017.)

Ms. Burke’s solution to the problem was, in effect, to work two or three jobs at once. She appeared in dozens of games as a sideline reporter, then dozens more each year as an analyst, frequently for regional coverage on lesser ESPN channels.

By the early part of this decade, she had made it by any reasonable measure: She was the regular sideline reporter for the N.B.A. playoffs, including the finals; a regular analyst on ESPN for some of the highest-profile men’s and women’s college games; and an occasional N.B.A. game analyst.

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Ms. Burke behind a player getting help with pregame preparations. “The older I’ve gotten, the more I have paid attention to disparities, or what I consider to be different treatment,” she said.

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Mark Makela for The New York Times

But the pace of the work was preposterous. “It was three separate jobs,” her adult daughter, Sarah, told me. “The anxiety came with ‘I was so focused on the N.B.A. the past six days, I haven’t had a chance to see this one team’ — going into the game with that kind of pressure.”

Ms. Burke, who is divorced, could have been forgiven for wondering when she would finally get a promotion that allowed her to focus on the premier telecast: men’s professional sports.

Andrea Kremer, a longtime ESPN reporter who now works for HBO “Real Sports” and the NFL Network, said she believed there was a failure of imagination among male broadcast executives. She recalled having lunch with a top ESPN executive nearly 10 years ago, when the network was on the verge of filling its analyst opening on “Monday Night Football.”

“He was saying, ‘ We’re going to go unconventional and blow everybody away,” Ms. Kremer recalled. The executive swore her to secrecy and then revealed the name: Jon Gruden, at the time a former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I was laughing,” she said. “Really? If you want to be unconventional, I’ll tell you who to put in the booth. Put me or Michele or Suzy or Pam” — that is, the longtime sideline reporters Michele Tafoya, Suzy Kolber and Pam Oliver.

Susan Bordo, a gender and women’s studies professor at the University of Kentucky and the author of “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton,” said another element was mostly likely at work: Women tend to be viewed favorably when they’re in a supporting role but suspiciously when they’re seen as trying to advance themselves.

The sideline reporter role “provides a certain comfort that the gender roles are in place,” Ms. Bordo said.

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Ms. Burke “has the gift for making the complex simple,” the Dallas Mavericks’ coach, Rick Carlisle, said.

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Mark Makela for The New York Times

She speculated that, in the same way that many women were able to have accomplished political careers when they succeeded their deceased husband in office, it would be easier for a woman to succeed as an analyst after many years in a supportive sideline role.

“Some women are going to do better in the public imagination when they’re seen as having been devoted wives first,” she said.

For most of her career, Ms. Burke said, she often felt something ranging from indifference to icy skepticism, even outright hostility from certain fans. A picture mocking her swollen eyes, after a brutal travel schedule, once circulated on the internet.

But about three or four years ago, much of the skepticism began to melt. “The reception toward me is fundamentally different,” she said. “It is so fundamentally different when I walk into a building.”

In 2016, the video game NBA 2K, which is beloved by players, promoted Ms. Burke from sideline reporter to color analyst. “I will say they enhanced my body parts in that game,” she said. “I have a fairly significant backyard, but they enhanced it slightly.”

Then, in September, life imitated PlayStation. When a regular position in ESPN’s analyst rotation opened up, Ms. Burke, with a nudge from her friend and colleague Jeff Van Gundy, called ESPN’s lead N.B.A. producer to express interest in the job.

The producer couldn’t give her an immediate answer but did not play especially coy. “I think by the end of the day we’ll have some good news for you,” he said.

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New Coach? New Players? Prayers? How to Fix the Knicks (and Nets)


Marv Albert, radio and television voice of the Knicks for many years before moving on to NBC and now Turner Sports.

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The Knicks need to be better at defense to turn their fortunes around. Courtney Lee demonstrated his technique against Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic.

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Nicole Sweet/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Start playing defense. It is rumored to be an essential part of basketball.

No matter what pieces they add, they need to play defense. They are a very bad defensive team. We see that now. My two rings (he says, holding up his two diamond-studded championship rings) are symbolic of defense, man. We play defense in spurts: 46 minutes, 45 minutes, you have to do it for 48 minutes to be victorious. And we have some good players.

—Clyde Frazier, a two-time N.B.A. champion with the Knicks. Yes, kids, it really did happen twice, long ago.

OK, Jeff Hornacek is out. But think really hard about that new coach, because there is probably more losing to come.

And after deciding who is their guy, what are the expectations for him? Because you can bring in another guy, your guy, but with that roster, and with Porzingis’s injury, nothing’s going to change for a while. So you’d better be sure the guy you choose is ready to deal with more losing — the way Brett Brown dealt with it in Philadelphia — and you are ready to not overreact when the fans and media start complaining about whoever is the coach, which is going to happen in New York. And then you have to figure out if you’re ready to give Porzingis — and his body does scare me, especially the legs — a max deal before he has come back healthy. You can’t have a plan until those questions are answered.

— Butch Beard, the point guard for the 1974-75 N.B.A. champion Warriors and a Knicks player, assistant coach and broadcaster in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also head coach of the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the mid-1990s, so you get to hear him again if you keep reading.

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Some wonder if change for the Knicks will start with Jeff Hornacek departing as coach.

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Kathy Willens/Associated Press

It’s not just the coach, it’s gaps in the roster. Keep developing players in the G League.

A lot of people were saying get rid of Hornacek, but the Knicks don’t have a viable roster to compete, plain and simple. Their star player goes down or their second-best player goes down and the Knicks go in the toilet. It happened when Tim Hardaway Jr. went down and it happened when Porzingis went down. The team can’t function. So until you put the players on the court that are right for the coach, you’re not going to succeed.

One of the things the Knicks are doing which is positive is developing players in the G League. Developing players that can actually contribute or that become good trade assets — like Trey Burke — that’s something we weren’t doing before. I was campaigning for us to get Trey Burke on the Knicks because he’s a guard that can get in the lane and create.

— Leon Robinson, who attends a lot of games and has acted in films such as “Cool Runnings” and “Above the Rim.”

Sometimes the only thing to do is pray.

“On bended knee I pray above to da basketball gods to deliver us back to da glory years of da Orange and Blue. Amen.”

— Spike Lee

How the Nets Can Do Better Than 12th Place

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Kevin Love of the Cavaliers lost the ball as he collided with Nets forward DeMarre Carroll in March.

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Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The Nets already are kind of good. Until the fourth quarter.

They’ve done about as good a job as you can do starting out with nothing. Being left with nothing or starting out with nothing — however you want to look at it — they’ve found ways to come up with some talent after the franchise lost all of those first-round picks in that deal with Boston.

With a break here or there, they would have had 30 wins this season because they’ve lost so many heartbreaking games down the stretch in the fourth quarter or overtime. Win a couple of those and they’re at 30 wins, which is way more than people would have predicted at the beginning of the season.

The toughest thing, I think, in a situation like the Nets are in, is to stay the course and not deviate. Philadelphia was getting killed for a while there. Everybody was making fun of the Process. The Process looks pretty good right now, doesn’t it? You just had to wait through it.”

— Mike Fratello, a former N.B.A. head coach and current Turner Sports analyst, who also served as the longtime color analyst on Nets TV broadcasts.

There’s a wow factor coming, in a good way.

They need to put shooters around their point guard and build some depth. They’re really a young team. But those guys, I’m telling you it’s one of these types of teams that the minute they start to really make some hay, you’re going to turn around and go ‘Wow.’ They aren’t going to win the division next year, but they’re definitely making some strides internally. Sometimes you can’t see success because we are looking at wins and losses from the outside, but internally it’s almost like what Philadelphia did: you have to wait it out, pick up some top draft choices and coach them up. All of a sudden, you win 50 games.

— Nancy Lieberman, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a coach for the Big3 league.

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The Brooklyn Nets, even without the injured guard Jeremy Lin this season, were usually pretty good. Until the fourth quarter.

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Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Keep flying under the radar, which has not really been a problem for this team. And build a better roster, which has been a problem for this team.

The best thing the Nets can do is continue to stay out of the limelight, which goes against the grain of what they’ve always been trying to do because their main problem in their entire existence has been being second-class citizens in their own market. They’ve never had a real fan base. The one thing you can’t say or write anymore is that the arena isn’t worth a damn — I love watching games at Barclays. Same thing with the franchise. Within a few years, if they have any luck building a team, it’ll probably be worth $2 billion. From where they were in Jersey, that’s real progress. So stay under the radar, let all the pressure be on the Knicks, and build your team.

— Butch Beard, a former N.B.A. player and broadcaster, was head coach of the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the mid-1990s.

The Nets have a hopeful fan. He has had season tickets for four years. He really roots for the Knicks, but supporting the Nets …

… is something to do and it’s fun. It’s just to be a part of something. And these season tickets are cheaper than with the Knicks. I will always love the Knicks. I am a New York basketball fan. The key is the Nets are trying to build on draft picks, but I think they need to try to do some trades. They have to be able to bring in a superstar. This is a beautiful facility, but a lot of these guys want nice practice facilities out in the country. This whole thing can turn around if we bring in a LeBron. You’ve got Jay-Z. We need a franchise player. I think the Nets will make the playoffs before the Knicks will ever make the playoffs.

Victor Batine, 55, Queens

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On Pro Basketball: Can Winning Become Rollicking Fun Again for the Warriors?


There are very rational explanations to account for the cloud that suddenly hangs over the league’s overwhelming preseason favorites heading into the start of the 2018 playoffs.

Stephen Curry, the two-time M.V.P. guard, played in only one of Golden State’s final 17 games after suffering a knee sprain just as he’d recovered from a sprained ankle. Curry’s absence, combined with a nagging flurry of injuries around him, rendered the Warriors’ last dozen or so games meaningless; catching Houston in the race for the West’s No. 1 overall seed was, realistically, out of reach. Those factors inevitably combined to chip away at the Warriors’ intensity, discipline and focus and, by season’s end, dropped them from their customary top-five slot in defensive efficiency all the way down to No. 9.

Golden State’s hope is that a return to high-stakes basketball, after grinding through a seemingly interminable regular season to get there, will usher this team back to its usual standards and thus back to its happy place. But a measure of gloom, for all the rationalizations, has been hard for the Warriors to shake as Saturday’s Game 1 against the pesky San Antonio Spurs — sans Curry — draws near.

For the past few years, Golden State seemed to be the one powerhouse impervious to the seminal claim of Pat Riley, the legendary coach and executive, that winning or misery were the only state-of-mind options for the N.B.A. elite. It was just two short years ago that the Warriors defied conventional wisdom and relentlessly chased a record 73 wins in the regular season, finding great enjoyment in their quest amid the incessant chatter of naysayers who insisted that the extra gas guzzled to get there would lead to a fatal fuel shortage in the postseason.

This, however, is Year 4 of Golden State’s run as the N.B.A.’s modern-day version of the Beatles. Kerr remembers how mentally draining it was just to drag through three seasons like this as a player, specifically as a teammate to Michael Jordan before Jordan’s second retirement from the Chicago Bulls. He has, for months, been warning anyone who would listen about how hard it would be to keep this group consistently plugged in — even with a shot to win the first back-to-back titles in the Warriors’ evolution.

Kerr was right. Bliss is not a given, even with a roster like this.

How joyful can the Warriors really be, for that matter, when the prime supplier of their let-it-fly frolic — Curry — is out of the lineup?

The only real surprise here, according to the former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, is that the Warriors dodged such a malaise for as long as they did.

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“I was amazed that they found a way to remain the joy engine they were for the previous three years of the run,” said David Griffin, the former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager.

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Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

“It’s very predictable,” said Griffin, who has been working as an analyst for NBA TV and Sirius XM Radio as he awaits his eventual return to front-office work after his own tension-filled stint in charge of the Cavaliers.

“I was amazed that they found a way to remain the joy engine they were for the previous three years of the run. But when you have the shortest turnaround in league history and hear all off-season that you can’t be beaten, you’re going to have to battle complacency.

“They have been together longer than any other group and have been grinding longer mentally than everyone other than Cleveland. It all compounds further when you endure injuries and turmoil.”

None of this, of course, is exclusive to the Warriors. Griffin’s old team practically bathes in torment, perhaps because LeBron James, after spending four years in Miami, seems to have adopted the Riley way as his own.

Over in Houston, meanwhile, the Rockets general manager Daryl Morey inspired a lengthy story this week in The Houston Chronicle about his inability to stomach watching games in person, even though he assembled the Rockets squad that just won a franchise-record 65 games and has been picked in some corners to unseat Golden State as the Western Conference champion.

In the wake of the Chronicle story, I asked Morey why it’s so hard for even the best teams to have fun. It is sports, after all.

“I’m not sure how to explain it well,” Morey said. “The only analogy I can think of is how people feel when they are close to something they have worked for and wanted for a very long time. It is stressful. Add in that the odds are long every year, and you get pain as the dominant feeling.”

No one, mind you, is ever going to feel sorry for a juggernaut like the Warriors, after two championships in the past three seasons and given the talent Myers has assembled. That’s especially true when San Antonio has only had the All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard in uniform for nine games all season and when the two biggest threats to the Warriors besides Houston — Oklahoma City and Utah — are on the Rockets’ side of the playoff bracket. Golden State may not have Curry back until Round 2, and it faces uncertainty about the reliability of its bench, but it will only have to face one of those three troublesome teams to get back to a fourth successive N.B.A. finals.

Not that the Warriors can dare to assume anything. They haven’t played well enough in the season’s second half, and certainly haven’t been healthy enough, to avoid being questioned, psychoanalyzed and doubted like never before in this four-season stretch. And just imagine what happens if Leonard makes an unexpected comeback in this series.

So for his own reassurance, Myers turns to Kerr.

“Steve’s probably the best person in the world to try to navigate a team through what we’ve experienced, because he’s actually lived it as a player,” Myers said. “To be honest, I’m always asking him what we should expect.

“But the reason sports generates so much passion is because we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s not scripted. Nobody can spoil the movie for you because nobody knows how the movie is going to end.”

Even if you ask the director.

“All I got from Steve at the start of the season was kind of a preview,” Myers said. “I asked him what this movie was going to look like, and he said, ‘Well, I can tell you it’s a drama with a lot of twists and turns.’ I’ve kind of leaned on that, and now here we are.

“I get to watch the movie now. It’s about to start.”

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Andre Ingram Got a Cup of Coffee and Turned it Into a Shooting Show


“They know me very well, they’ve seen me the last couple years, so they know what I do and they know how I play,” he said of the Lakers in a telephone interview shortly before the game. “That’s the goal: Be who I am.”

Ingram’s call-up comes at the tail end of a fifth consecutive playoff-less season for the Lakers, a team of promising young stars that is patching a roster together after a slew of injuries. But that hardly takes away from the fact that, after 384 games in the N.B.A.’s minor league and a brief stint in Australia, Ingram ascended to basketball’s highest level.

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Ingram set a career record for 3-pointers in the N.B.A.’s development league before finally getting the call to join the Lakers.

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Joe Murphy/NBAE, via Getty Images

When the news came out that Ingram had been called up, Jeff Jones, who coached Ingram at American and is now the head coach at Old Dominion, immediately began receiving texts from a large network of former players and coaches, each of whom had come into contact with Ingram over the years. Jones said the group, which includes the N.B.A. veteran Cory Alexander, was in disbelief that Ingram’s day had finally come.

“It couldn’t happen to or for a better person,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think I could adequately describe what a quality human being Andre Ingram is, and has been, going back to when we were recruiting him when he was a high school kid in Richmond, Virginia.”

Kieran Donohue, who was an assistant at American before joining Jones at Old Dominion, raved about Ingram on and off the court, and summed up the group’s feelings in three words: “Everybody loves Andre.”

For two games, or a “cup of coffee” in the old parlance of minor league baseball, the Lakers will be treated to an aging gunner who owns a remarkable career mark of 46.1 percent from 3-point range (Stephen Curry’s career mark is 43.6 percent). Ingram, who developed into a shooter at the pro level after having been a more traditional scorer in college, can be streaky, but he has a tendency to catch fire from outside, as evidenced by his win over Fredette in that 3-point contest in 2016 — which included a stretch of hitting 13 consecutive 3-pointers.

2016 NBA Development League Three-Point Contest Video by nbagleague

Ingram’s other statistics have been fairly modest, but he said he should not be labeled just a shooter, which he proved with plenty of hustle even in defeat on Tuesday. But people wanted a shooting show, and Ingram obliged, fulfilling his pregame prediction: “If we get some daylight, we’re going to let it go.”

Ingram is not the oldest rookie in N.B.A. history — that distinction most likely belongs to Pablo Prigioni of Argentina, who played his first N.B.A. game at 35 years 169 days — but he is an anomaly even among his minor league peers, who tend to bounce from league to league, because he has stayed remarkably loyal to the N.B.A.-run development league. His only professional experience beyond that league came in a two-game stint with the Perth Wildcats of Australia’s National Basketball League in 2016.

Jones said that he was one of numerous voices in Ingram’s life over the years encouraging the player to seek more money by playing overseas rather than in the development league. But Ingram’s persistence was something to be reckoned with, and he believed staying as close to the actual N.B.A. as possible was his best way of eventually playing in the league.

“He’s one of the most determined individuals that I’ve ever met,” Jones said. “This is the path he wanted to take, and he’s made it work for him.”

Now that he has finally realized his dream, Ingram is trying to enjoy the moment. The bigger thoughts on what this means for his career can come later.

“I’m most looking forward to just getting up and down a couple times,” he said before the game. “After that, it’s basketball. Everything else is what you’ve been doing your whole life.”

But he did add that any thought of this being some sort of a career-capper for him was unfounded.

“In no way do I look at this as the end of something,” he said. “Quite the opposite.”

If Tuesday was any indication, he has plenty left in the tank.

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Notre Dame 61, Mississippi State 58: Notre Dame Tops Mississippi State With Buzzer-Beater to Claim Title


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Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey, right, attempted a shot against Mississippi State on Sunday. The Irish went on to win its second ever N.C.A.A. women’s basketball title in dramatic fashion.

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Tony Dejak/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Notre Dame won its second N.C.A.A. women’s basketball title on Sunday with a championship run that once seemed unlikely yet ultimately became unstoppable.

With a stirring display of resilience, the Irish overcame a dispiriting series of knee injuries this season and persevered until the players hoisted the championship trophy with a 61-58 victory over Mississippi State at Nationwide Arena.

Arike Ogunbowale hit a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to give Notre Dame the championship.

Absent four players who had sustained anterior cruciate ligament tears, Notre Dame (35-3) remained insistent and aspirational with deft shooting, voracious offensive rebounding and exquisite interior passing.

It was the first title for Notre Dame and Coach Muffet McGraw since 2001 and ended a frustrating series of defeats in the championship game that had come against Texas A&M in 2011, Baylor in 2012 and Connecticut in 2014 and 2015.

Mississippi State (37-2), meanwhile, lost in the national championship game for a second consecutive season.

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