Does beating Warriors make Cleveland Cavaliers the NBA’s Best Team?

Draymond Green, LeBron JamesLast night featured one of the most-anticipated games of the 2014-15 NBA season, with the Cleveland Cavaliers hosting the Golden State Warriors. All eyes were on this contest because Golden State featured the league’s best record at 44-10, while Cleveland is hitting their stride after winning 17 out of their last 19 games.

This matchup was potentially a 2015 NBA Finals preview, and if the results are any indication – a 110-99 victory by Cleveland – the East should do very well in the Finals. Okay, so that’s putting the cart ahead of the horse, but the Cavs have even more momentum going forward after this huge victory.

The same can be said of LeBron James, who scored a season-high 42 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Golden State. He came out strong right from the gate after scoring 24 points in the first half, and he continued attacking in the second half too. Kyrie Irving pitched in 24 points, along with a 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line.

Golden State’s star players, on the other hand, didn’t fare quite so well. Stephen Curry ended with 18 points on 5-of-17 shooting while Klay Thompson added 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. David Lee came off the bench to lead the Warriors with 19 points.

cleveland-cavs-beat-warriors-1One thing became immediately clear after this game: for the first time since the season’s start, Cleveland is truly back in the discussion for serious title contenders. Furthermore, LeBron has made himself a strong MVP candidate with his best performance of the year against the NBA’s top team. King James easily outplayed one of the strongest MVP contenders, Curry, while continuing the excellence that started when he came back from an 8-game layoff in January. Of course, if LeBron falls short of the MVP award, he can still sleep at night knowing that he’s already earned 4 of them.

His bigger dream at this point is definitely bringing Cleveland its first NBA title. And this seems like a very realistic goal when considering that the Cavs continue climbing in the Eastern Conference standings. They’re currently half a game ahead of Chicago in the Central Division, while maintaining the number-three seed. They also sit just a game behind Toronto for the East’s second seed. Cleveland likely won’t catch Atlanta for the top seed, but if they keep playing like this, will it really matter? Moreover, is there another NBA team that can beat them?

If the Warriors hope to answer yes to this question, they’ll need a stronger defensive effort in the future. This shouldn’t be a problem because, coming into last night’s contest, they ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency. However, they couldn’t contain a red-hot start from the Cavs, who put up 32 points in the first quarter and 61 by halftime.

James lighting up Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes was a big reason for this offensive outburst. But four other Cavs ended up in double digits too, meaning there’s no shortage of options on the Cleveland roster. Of course, there are over three months of basketball left to be played, so it’s a little early to anoint the Cavs as the automatic champion.

Golden State Warriors Betting: Hot Start attributed to Steve Kerr’s Coaching

golden-state-steve-kerrWhile the Golden State Warriors were expected to have a good team coming into the 2014-15 NBA season, few expected a sizzling 16-2 start – one and a half games better than any squad in the league right now. So what’s the difference between the team that finished 51-31 last season, and the one that’s on pace for a 73-9 record? To hear those inside of the Warriors organization speak, it definitely seems to be Steve Kerr’s coaching coupled with the fact that Mark Jackson no longer heads the team.

Many were puzzled when Golden State fired Jackson since he not only won 50+ games, but was also popular among the players. Furthermore, they wondered what the Warriors were doing replacing him with Kerr, who’d never coached anywhere before. Looking at recent comments by co-owner Joe Lacob and Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, it is definitely the coaching change.

joe-lacob-warriorsLacob speaking at the Western Association of Venture Capitalists/National Venture Capital Association

“Right now, (Kerr) looks great. I think he will be great. And he did the one big thing that I wanted more than anything else from Mark Jackson he just wouldn’t do, in all honesty, which is hire the very best.

Carte blanche. Take my wallet. Do whatever it is to get the best assistants there are in the world. Period. End of story. Don’t want to hear it. And (Jackson’s) answer….was, ‘Well, I have the best staff.’ No you don’t. And so with Steve, very, very different.

You can’t have a staff underneath you that isn’t that good. And if you’re going to get better, you’ve got to have really good assistants. You’ve got to have people that can be there to replace you. We all know this from all of our companies. It’s…Management 101. A lot of people on the outside couldn’t understand it when we (fired Jackson).

Part of it was that he couldn’t get along with anybody else in the organization,” Lacob said. “And look, he did a great job, and I’ll always compliment him in many respects, but you can’t have 200 people in the organization not like you.”

mark-jackson-stephen-curry-three-point-contestUnlike most owners, Lacob certainly doesn’t mince words in his assessment of Jackson, who refused to change up his coaching staff. And it seems like Lacob has a point, given that assistants Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman were black eyes on last year’s team. Scalabrine was demoted to D-League coaching duties over a “difference in philosophies” with Jackson. As for Erman, he was fired after the organization discovered that he had been taping numerous conversations around the office and locker room.

Beyond the company that Jackson kept, another nail in the coffin might have been his inability to get the most out of the team’s talent. More specifically, he wasn’t getting the most points out of one of the NBA’s more-dangerous offensive teams. Former lottery pick Harrison Barnes more or less explained this when speaking about why he’s doing so much better in 2014:

harrison-barnes-warriors“It’s hard when you get the ball in an iso situation and you have a set defense in front of you,” Barnes said. “Very few players in the league can do that. You look at the best – Durant, Melo, those guys – look at what percentage they shoot. And that’s the best of the best, so you can imagine where I’m at. I’m like at 15, 20 percent on isos. To get me with the ball moving, getting me in different spots, playing off other people, that’s more of a strength for me right now. Going straight isos, that wasn’t a strength for me.”

Barnes is shooting 51.0% from the field and 40.5% from the 3-point line – both markedly better than last year, when he hit just 39.9% of his shots. Whether this is the refuted proof we need to show Kerr is the dominant coach over Jackson remains to be seen. However, the current results definitely speak for them self.

Clippers look like Strong Contenders Again after Sterling Ban

clippers-favorites-againA few days ago, we discussed how difficult it would be for the Los Angeles Clippers to battle through the dark cloud hanging over their heads after Donald Sterling’s racist remarks. Later that day, they went on to lose Game 4 by a score of 118-97.

Okay, so not exactly the prediction of the year, given that they were playing a tough Golden State team on the road, in addition to the turmoil. But with threats of boycotts and questions of if Doc Rivers would return to the franchise next season, it didn’t look good for L.A.

Luckily, Adam Silver acted swiftly in handing down a lifetime ban to Sterling yesterday afternoon after the disgraced owner admitted that it was his voice on the tape. Additionally, he’ll be fined $2.5 million – the maximum possible by the NBA.

“The hateful opinions voiced by that of the man [on the tape] are those of Donald Sterling,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.” I’m personally distraught the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations.”

In addition to the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine, NBA owners will now vote to decide on whether Sterling should be forced to sell his team. Seeing as how 75% of the owners need to vote Sterling out, it’s almost a given that he’ll have to sell. Silver echoed this sentiment by saying, “I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him.”

It looks like justice will be served following Sterling’s embarrassing comments. And this already bodes well for the Clippers, who are looking like strong contenders for the Western Conference crown. This team played with a lot of emotion last night, en route to a 113-103 victory over the Warriors.

clippers-favorites-again-1With fans waving signs that read “We are One,” L.A. rode this support to the win, powered by DeAndre Jordan’s 25 points and 18 rebounds. Now the Clips are back in control of this series and they just need to win one more game to move on to the conference semifinals.

So with the cancer that is Sterling about to be gone, is L.A. a serious contender for the NBA title? We certainly wouldn’t count them out, especially now that they’re playing for themselves and their faithful fans.

More importantly, they could have home court advantage in the semifinals. Currently, the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies are leading the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-2 in their series. Assuming Memphis can win at home, this would pit the Clippers against a team with less offensive firepower and see four out of a potential seven games played in L.A. So if you’re often interested in betting on the Clips, now could be the perfect time.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The key takeaway from all of this is that the NBA did the right thing in getting rid of a vile owner. And it’ll be interesting to see who wins the impending bidding war to buy the franchise, which is expected to sell for over $1 billion.

Will Donald Sterling’s Racist Remarks ruin Clippers’ Playoff Chances?

donald-sterling-racist-commentsIf you are somebody who’s been betting on the Los Angeles Clippers all along in their playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, then you’ve no doubt got to be worried. After all, the Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, has lit the NBA on fire with his racist comments, which were released on tape by TMZ.

Sterling made the comments to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, after she posed for a picture with NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. The Clippers owner was angry that Stiviano, who’s half black herself, would publicly link herself to African-American people through pictures and social media outlets. Here’s a look at some of the choice comments that TMZ posted on their website:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

“…Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

There’s already been plenty of outrage over the audio tape as the NBA investigates the matter. Johnson, who was the target of this rant, says that Sterling “shouldn’t own a team anymore.” He adds, “I was really upset. You can’t understand how hurt I was, and I was also hurt for all African-Americans and all minorities.” Keep in mind that this is somebody who claims to have previously been friends with Sterling.

LeBron James tweeted, “There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s just no room for him.” Even President Barack Obama chimed in by saying, “What ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk.” Obama added that he hopes the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, “will address this.”

donald-sterling-racist-comments-1Based on the public scrutiny that Sterling’s comments have already been through, it’s little surprise that the Clippers themselves thought of boycotting today’s home playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. Head coach Doc Rivers says that there was actually a 45-minute team meeting held to discuss whether or not L.A. would take the court against Golden State. Some of the players were in favor of the boycott, but Rivers ultimately decided that they should still play Game 4.

“We needed to talk about it because everyone else is,” Rivers said, regarding the meeting. “We needed to talk about it and all things came up. We heard all the stuff and boycotts and all that stuff. All those things are things you can do. We choose to play and we’re going to play tomorrow. A boycott was brought up because I’m sure 20,000 people have suggested it. But honestly, I’m completely against that and they were, too.”

One thing that helped Rivers and the team come to a decision on playing is the fact that they don’t know if the recorded cell phone conversation is 100% real or altered. Sterling has accused his girlfriend of embezzling $1.8 million, and she’s since vowed “to get even.”

Regardless of if the tape is 100% authentic, one has to consider the major implications that this situation will have on the outcome of the Clippers/Warriors playoff series. Certain members of L.A. were adamant about not playing Game 4 and building on their 2-1 series lead. So how are they going to be completely focused on X’s and O’s when there’s a very good chance that their owner is a huge racist.

Rivers hit upon this by saying, “In a weird way I think Golden State is having a ball right now because we’re not talking about them. The fact that I spent 45 minutes in a meeting instead of watching film did not make me happy, if you know me at all. It is real life. You have to deal with it.”

Another point worth mentioning in all of this is if the Clippers even care about winning this series. Provided it’s truly his voice on the tape, Sterling clearly doesn’t see African-Americans as equals. So do his players want to win, advance to the conference semifinals, and make more money for a guy who merely considers the black players on his team to be employees?

Whether or not Sterling’s racist remarks do indeed have a negative impact on the Clippers’ playing ability, it’s certainly not reflected at many land-based and online sportsbooks. In fact, our line at GTBets.eu still favors the Clippers at -2, while many Vegas sportsbooks are giving L.A. between a -2 and -2.5 line.

Stephen Curry vs. Mark Jackson Three-Point Contest features Big Surprise

mark-jackson-stephen-curry-three-point-contestA clip recently surfaced of the Golden State Warriors having fun at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. And the highlight of this fun: a three-point contest between All-Star Stephen Curry and his coach, Mark Jackson.

Actually, this doesn’t sound like much of a contest at all because Curry is one of the deadliest sharpshooters in the NBA, boasting a career 43.9% shooting average from behind the arc. His shooting form is just as pretty as his numbers suggest.

Jackson, on the other hand, has a few things working against him. For starters, it’s been a decade since he last played an NBA game. And although he wasn’t totally inept from the three-point line when he did play, Jackson was a mediocre 33.2% shooter from downtown. And as for his shooting form, well, the former Pacers guard’s ugly push shot leaves a lot to be desired.

So, with the background now set, would you believe that Jackson actually dominated his young padawan in this three-point contest? As can be seen in this clip, Curry shot a very disappointing 6-for-15 from three different spots on the court. Meanwhile, Jackson showed that he can be very proficient when given all day to shoot as he went 9-for-10 during the challenge – sweeping all three spots in the process.

Jackson did have a small advantage in that he got two years of practice at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court (then-Conseco Fieldhouse practice court) in the late 90s. However, it’s still an impressive showing from the old veteran. Curry took the beating in stride, joking afterward about how this was like a regular season college game, and he would turn things on if there was an NCAA Tournament-style three-point contest among the Warriors.

He’s no doubt got more competitive things to worry about with Golden State battling for playoff positioning in the tough Western Conference. The 36-24 Warriors are currently the sixth seed in the West, four-and-a-half games behind the fifth-seeded Rockets (40-19) and fourth-seeded Clippers (41-20). However, they’re only half a game ahead of seventh-seeded Phoenix Suns and eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks.

What Impact will the Andre Iguodala Trade have on the Warriors?

andre-iguodalaFormer Denver Nuggets small forward Andre Iguodala was already set to sign a 4-year, $48 million deal with the Golden State Warriors through free agency. However, he went to his new club via a three-team trade instead. This deal, which also involves the Utah Jazz and Nuggets, allows all three teams more roster and salary cap flexibility. Here’s a look at what all three parties got in the deal:

Golden State Warriors – Receive Andre Iguodala from Denver and guard Kevin Murphy from Golden State.

Denver Nuggets – Get guard Randy Foye from the Jazz along with a $9 million trade exception (for Iguodala) which they can use any time next year.

Utah Jazz – Receive Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush, and their $24 million in expiring contracts from the Warriors. Utah also gets Golden State’s 2014 and 2017 first round picks as well as 2016 and 2017 second round picks. Additionally, Denver sent the Jazz a 2018 second round pick.

Moving past the salary cap implications and trade exceptions of this deal, Iguodala is definitely the big news here. In his lone season with Denver, the 6’6″ guard/forward helped his team return to relevancy as they went 57-25 during the regular season – a 19-game improvement from the previous year.

The Nuggets rode into the playoffs on a high note, having grabbed the third seed in the Western Conference. However, they were bounced out of the first round by the sixth seed, Golden State. This certainly wasn’t Igoudala’s fault as he averaged 18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.3 APG and shot 48.3% from the three-point line.

andre-iguodala-1During the regular season, he put up numbers of 13.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.4 APG and 1.7 SPG. Statistically, Iguodala has had better seasons during his career. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story here because the Arizona product’s impact on the Nuggets was huge.

Aside from helping Denver boost their win total, Iguodala was a true lockdown defender with the ability to shut down point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. Some even argue that Iguodala is the best wing defender in the league – LeBron James included.

The 29-year-old is also one of the NBA’s best passers from the wing, as evidenced by the 5.4 APG he averaged for Denver last year. With his excellent ballhandling skills, it was basically like the Nuggets had two point guards on the floor in Iguodala and Ty Lawson.

Now he’s bringing these same attributes to a young Golden State team that’s already on their way up. Iguodala should fit in very nicely with star point guard Stephen Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, power forward David Lee, wingman Harrison Barnes and center Andrew Bogut. Assuming Bogut and Lee can stay healthy in 2014, the Warriors have a truly complete starting five, with Barnes and Carl Landry providing some nice minutes off the bench.

andre-iguodala-2Curry and Iguodala’s chemistry should be excellent right away. The two became great friends during Team USA’s run to the 2010 FIBA title. And Curry was a huge reason why Andre turned down an extra $4 million from Sacramento to play for Golden State.

A couple of notable spots where Iguodala figures to have an immediate impact include passing and stealing the ball. Aside from Curry (6.9 APG) and the departed Jarrett Jack (5.6 APG), the Warriors had no true passing threats. Now they add a non-point guard who can dish out assists just as good as Jack did.

So where will the addition of Iguodala put Golden State in the Western Conference race next season? It’s hard to say because the West is so muddled, but our guess is that you can expect the Warriors to at least grab one of the top four playoff seeds – maybe even better. Of course, with the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers and Grizzlies all coming back with strong squads, this won’t be easy.