CLEVELAND: Fourteen thoughts for 14 rebounds from Tristan Thompson in Saturday’s 118-115 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs…
1. LeBron James stood annoyed at his teammates on at least two separate occasions Saturday night: When Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson botched a play late in overtime and when Kevin Love fired a pass to Kawhi Leonard when he tried saving the ball from going out of bounds.
2. First, the “Punch Snap Hammer” play that ESPN’s Dave McMenamin brilliantly broke down. The Cavs tried running it again trailing 116-113 with 24 seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, or ATO (after timeout) is the perfect time to pull it off. But Irving and/or Thompson botched the play.
3. Thompson was supposed to turn around in the lane and set the screen on Danny Green, allowing Irving to flare to the corner. Only Thompson never set the screen and instead went to the basket. Even without the screen, Irving had the chance to get to the corner, but instead stood still.
4. “We watched it on tape,” Tyronn Lue said. “Kyrie would’ve been open. Danny Green had no clue what was going on. But we didn’t execute it right.”
5. Would Irving have made the shot? We’ll never know. The Spurs would’ve had a full shot clock and could’ve held for the final play. So butchering that play didn’t outright lose them the game, but it was certainly a contributing factor. And the mental lapse is what annoyed James most. He glared at both Thompson and Irving after the turnover.
6. “It’s a crucial point in the game,” James said. “We’ve got to be able to execute. As a ball club that’s trying to win a championship, we can’t have you go from a timeout to the court and forget what you’re supposed to do. It’s that simple.”
7. The Cavs still had a chance when James tied up Kawhi Leonard for a jump ball with the game tied and 13 seconds left. James said Leonard won the tip but the ball was heading out of bounds. Kevin Love chased after it to save it, but instead of throwing it up over his head, he rifled a pass behind his back that went directly into Leonard’s arms. He sprinted to the other end for the dunk that all but ended the game.
8. Love acknowledged to me afterwards he should’ve thrown the ball up high over his head, creating a second jump ball of sorts. But he was afraid he didn’t have enough time to do that before running out of bounds, so he just grabbed and fired.
9. The Cavs likely retain possession if Love doesn’t save it, but that’s not why James was annoyed. Jump balls happen so fast it’s difficult for guys on the court to know who won the tip (Love told me he thought James won it). James just wanted Love to throw the ball high. When he didn’t, James barely moved from center court as Leonard caught the pass and streaked to the basket.
10.“I thought it was a great game,” James said. “I thought both teams blew opportunities.”
11.It should be aggravating to the Cavs that they lost this game while the Spurs were without two starters. Pau Gasol is out indefinitely following surgery to repair a fractured bone in his left hand, while Tony Parker was out with an ankle injury.
12.Gregg Popovich had a lot of things to say about President Donald Trump and none of them were very nice. I won’t rehash. Instead, here’s the link to the full transcript.14 th
13.It didn’t take long for people to chime in with the “shut up and coach” takes. But Popovich graduated from the Air Force Academy. He served five years in the Air Force post graduation. He’s the coach of the U.S. men’s national team. Agree or disagree with his stance, Popovich is at least more qualified than most to speak on such matters.
14.Great game. Both teams blew plenty of chances late. The Cavs had zero turnovers in the first quarter and 18 for the game. That’s a little disconcerting. They also allowed 25 points in transition to the Spurs, something that has been a recurring problem of late. They’ll take Sunday off and fly to New Orleans for Monday’s game against the Pelicans. Talk to you Monday from Smoothie King Center.