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NBA Notes: Cavaliers ignoring last season's comeback after falling into 2-0 hole again

NBA Notes: Cavaliers ignoring last season's comeback after falling into 2-0 hole again

OAKLAND, Calif. -- LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are headed home in a familiar spot after the first two games of the NBA Finals.

Rather than reach back to last year's championship comeback for a confidence boost, James' focus is on figuring out what Cleveland must do to change its fortunes against a Warriors team that is fresher and far more dangerous this year, thanks to the addition of Kevin Durant.

"They're a different team," James said following a 132-113 loss in Game 2 on Sunday night that put Cleveland in an 0-2 hole.

That's been quite evident through two games. Durant leads all players with 71 points the first two games -- six more than the player he replaced in the lineup, Harrison Barnes, scored in seven games a year ago.

Durant's scoring has taken pressure off Stephen Curry and allowed the Warriors to withstand Cleveland runs so well that they haven't trailed after the first quarter in either game.

A healthy Curry followed up a 28-point Game 1 with his first postseason triple-double on Sunday with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He looks more like a two-time MVP than the hobbled player he was in last year's Finals.

Klay Thompson shook off a shooting slump to score 22 points and the Warriors pulled away late for another lopsided win.

"They play well at home," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They won their first two games like they're supposed to. Coming to a tough environment, we knew it was going to be tough, but they won the first two games. We get a chance to go home now to our home crowd where we play well, also" (see full story).

Warriors: Brown returns to Cleveland with Golden State
CLEVELAND -- Mike Brown happily slid into his normal seat to coach Steve Kerr's left for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. For the first time in weeks the Warriors were whole again.

Brown has moved before -- not always so willingly -- and over the next few days he'll return to a familiar place.

Golden State's well-liked top assistant, whose first two stints as a head coach were to nurture a young LeBron James and then pamper Kobe Bryant, is heading to Cleveland, the city that shaped him more than any other.

It's where he was hired twice and fired twice by the Cavaliers, who are paying him until 2020. It's where he raised his two sons. It's where he rooted himself in the community and stayed after losing his job in 2014. And it's where he still has a home and keeps one of his Harleys, which he took for cruises along Lake Erie to clear his mind.

"He loves those Harleys," said Warriors forward Draymond Green. "That just means he has `em in every city he goes to. That's an addiction."

When Game 3 tips off Wednesday night with the Warriors holding a 2-0 lead that feels insurmountable, Brown will be back in a building where he and James appeared in their first Finals together 10 years ago.

In 2007, the Cavs were no match for the powerful San Antonio Spurs, who overwhelmed Cleveland and swept the series. Brown can surely appreciate the irony in coming back as part of a juggernaut.

"Circle of life," Brown said last week. "Like the `Lion King,' everything comes back around, I guess" (see full story).

NBA Finals: TV ratings highest since 1998
CLEVELAND -- The first two games of the NBA Finals are the most-watched since Michael Jordan's final championship in 1998.

Despite two lopsided outcomes, Golden State's two home wins over Cleveland averaged 19.6 million viewers, according to numbers released Monday by the Nielsen company.

That's an increase of 5 percent from the 18.6 million average in 2016.

The Warriors' 132-113 victory on Sunday drew an average of 20.1 million viewers, up 13 percent from Game 2 last year and the most for a Game 2 since Chicago and Utah met in 1998. The telecast peaked with 23.1 million viewers.

This is the first time two teams have met three straight times in the NBA Finals.

Clippers: Team to host pair of preseason games in Hawaii
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers will host two preseason games against the Toronto Raptors in Honolulu this fall.

The games on Oct. 1 and 3 will be played at the Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus. That's where the Clippers will hold their training camp.

The Clippers will participate in a pregame fan fest at the Hawaii Convention Center as part of the Clippers Hawaii Classic event.

It will be the first time the Clippers have played a game in Hawaii.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”