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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.

Thunder lose to Knicks in Anthony's homecoming

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USA Today Images

Thunder lose to Knicks in Anthony's homecoming

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony got the cheers but the New York Knicks got the win, shutting out their former All-Star in the second half and beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.

Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 points in place of injured Kristaps Porzingis, and Doug McDermott, one of the players acquired for Anthony, added 11 of his 13 after halftime to help the Knicks break open the game.

Anthony scored 12 points in the first half but was 0 for 5 after, perhaps low on energy after the Thunder's three-overtime victory at Philadelphia a night earlier.

He made a 3-pointer for the Thunder's first basket of the game after a warm welcome back to the arena where he spent 6 1/2 years, finishing 5 of 18 from the field.

Russell Westbrook had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who were trying to sweep a three-game trip that began with Paul George's winning return to Indiana on Wednesday (see full recap).

LeBron James has 60th triple-double, Cavs beat Jazz
CLEVELAND — LeBron James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 60th career triple-double and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the short-handed Utah Jazz 109-100 on Saturday night

James had his fifth triple-double of the season and third in his last four games. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter, was 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 10 at the foul line.

Cleveland has won 17 of 18 overall and 11 straight at Quicken Loans Arena.

Center Rudy Gobert (sprained ligament and bone bruise in left knee) and forward Derrick Favors (left eye laceration) were out for Utah. Both were injured during Friday night in a win in Boston (see full recap).

Former Sixer Canaan hits game-winning free throws in Suns' win over T-Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS — Isaiah Canaan hit three free throws with 6 seconds to play in his first game with Phoenix and the Suns rallied to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-106 on Saturday night.

Added to the roster this week after the injury-ravaged Suns received a hardship extension, Canaan finished with 15 points and drew a foul on Jeff Teague on a 3-pointer with Minnesota leading by one. Originally ruled a shot-clock violation, reply officials overturned the call and Canaan calmly sank all three shots amid a loud crowd of neon green-clad fans.

Alex Len blocked Jimmy Butler's layup attempt out of bounds on the ensuring possession. Butler had one more look from the corner, but the attempt rimmed out and the Suns snapped their five-game losing streak.

Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels each scored 17 points for the Suns, whose bench outscored the starters 69-39. T.J. Warren added 15 points for Phoenix, which trailed by as many as 15 (see full recap).

Harden, Paul lead Rockets to 13th straight victory​
HOUSTON — James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 25 and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-111 on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory.

The winning streak is the Rockets' longest streak since a franchise-best 22 straight in 2007-08.

Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer over Malcolm Brogdon and was fouled, giving Houston an 11-point lead with less than six minutes remaining. In the last two minutes, Paul hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton had 23 points, and Brogdon added 20. Milwaukee has lost three straight (see full recap).

Is Joel Embiid's trash talking starting to get old?

Is Joel Embiid's trash talking starting to get old?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go this edition are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we examine whether Joel Embiid’s trash talking is starting to get old.

Haughton
Absolutely not.

First, look at it from a team perspective. The Sixers thrive off of Embiid’s emotion. Look no further than Friday night’s triple-overtime thriller against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sixers were sleepwalking through that game for much of the night until Embiid mixed it up with Carmelo Anthony following an and-one with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. Embiid got the crowd juiced up and his teammates fed off that energy during the critical 11-0 run to close out regulation.

When Embiid’s trash talk spills over to social media, he does try to keep things light and playful. That’s his personality and that’s his realm, so none of what he’s doing really comes from a position of genuine malice.

On the bigger scale, this is what the NBA has been about long before Embiid came along. From Larry Bird’s bravado to Michael Jordan’s ruthlessness to Shaquille O’Neal’s blatant disrespect of opponents, the league has a long list of trash talkers.

As LeBron James said when the Cavaliers came through the Wells Fargo Center right after Thanksgiving, players today are just too sensitive.

Hudrick
Let’s just let Joel be Joel.

The guy came over from Cameroon, knowing very little about the game and getting teased by his teammates in high school. After overcoming that and landing at Kansas, injuries took away the end of his only season there and then his first two NBA seasons. He was the brunt of jokes as the Sixers continued to lose and he had to watch from afar. He’s earned the right to feel himself a little bit.

What I see is a kid having fun. I have to give Philly fans credit. Flamboyant characters don’t usually do well here. In a city that (still) obsesses over the play of a quiet, hard-nosed guy like Chase Utley and has fallen head over heels for the humbleness of Carson Wentz, Embiid doesn't fit the mold. But he's been embraced and beloved.

Here’s the other thing: he’s backing it up. If he was out there talking trash but shooting 30 percent from the field and not running down the reigning MVP for a blocked shot in a triple-OT game, that would be a different story. He’s put this team on his back and has them poised for a playoff berth.

Let the man live.