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Pump breaks on Cavs being best team in NBA playoffs

Pump breaks on Cavs being best team in NBA playoffs

Can we finally get past the Cleveland Cavaliers being unbeatable or being the best team in the NBA?

It’s hard to argue with numbers. When a team is undefeated this deep into the playoffs, the easy observation is that it's because that team clearly is the best.

The same standard that must be applied to the Cavs, who lost 99-84 to the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the East finals on Saturday, is for everyone: What happens when adversity strikes?

Golden State not only won the championship last season, they won their first two series in five games with MVP Stephen Curry less-than 100 percent and starting center Andrew Bogut banged up.

It’s hard to see a scenario in which LeBron James doesn’t lead the Cavs back to the NBA Finals. But what would their record be had they lost him for six games in the playoffs like Golden State with Curry in the first two rounds? Would Golden State have swept the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks at full-strength in the first round like Cleveland? Yes. Without Curry? Possibly.

For the first time, however, when things didn’t go their way the Cavs looked average. Don't overreact to that, either. It happens in a seven-game series. Keeping up that furious pace is difficult. Adjustments are made. Eventually, shots stop falling. The true test is can that team still win under those less-than-ideal circumstances.

That’s what separates championship teams from all the rest. So far, with Golden State tied 1-1 with the Oklahoma City Thunder going into tonight, the Warriors have shown they can win. And they've yet to hit their full stride after winning 73 regular-season games.

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith leave a lot to be desired defensively for Cleveland. The same goes for Channing Frye. What happens when the opponent exploits them so effectively that it becomes a liability to have them on the floor and coach Ty Lue is forced to make a change? 

The Cavs are not a 45% three-point shooting team, which is how well they shot in the postseason before the Game 3 loss. What happens when they begin to shoot with less accuracy? How will James perform if he faces Andre Igoudala, the 2015 Finals MVP who neutralized him, again? None of the teams the Cavs has faced has such a game-changing defensive option.

I don't know. But I'm not ready to declare that the Cavs are clearly the best team. And if I'm forced to make a call, I'll go with the known quantity in Golden State and not the best-case scenario theories about Clevleand.

If the Thunder are able to win their series, given that they've already solved the riddle of the 67-win San Antonio Spurs, then I'm not sure how it's possibe for anyone to pick against them. 




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Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5


Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes, Travis Thomas and Julie Donaldson reset the series and looked ahead to Game 5.

They were joined by TSN Sports anchor Kayla Grey to find out the Toronto perspective. The Wizards have all the momentum in this series, now they just have to keep it going.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

You would not have known it by John Wall's towering poster-dunks over Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl in Game 4, or his fourth quarter takeover after Bradley Beal fouled out, but Wall is still technically working his way into midseason form from the left knee surgery that kept him out more than two months down the stretch of the regular season. Add into the equation that he sprained his right ankle in Game 3, then resprained it in Game 4 right after Beal went out, and it's quite clear that what he is doing is simply not normal. 

Throughout Wall's recovery, his head coach Scott Brooks remarked how Wall can regain his form unusually quick following an injury absence. Game 4 was just his eighth game back, yet through four playoff games he is averaging an absurd 26.8 points, 13.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks.

If that's what he's doing eight games removed from recovery, and against the top team in the Eastern Conference, what does peak playoff form look like? 

"I told y'all, I told all the media that I only need like three or four games. I really didn't need too many games," he said. "All the hard work that I did in those two months was to prepare myself to be ready for the playoffs."

Wall said he started feeling like himself in his final regular season game, his fourth outing following the injury rehab. It was against the Celtics and he scored 29 points to go along with 12 assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

"I just started to see shots fall down that I was falling short with a couple games before that," Wall said of that night.

Brooks saw a change in Wall against the Cavaliers on April 5, in just his third game back. That game Wall put up 28 points, 14 assists, four rebounds and three steals. Most importantly, he logged 38 minutes.

"I knew I was going to challenge his body with extra minutes," Brooks said. "The way he responded to that, I knew he was back."

Whenever the turning point happened, there is no looking back. Wall has found his groove to not only impact, but at times dominate playoff games against one of the best defensive teams in basketball.

In Game 4 once Beal went down, Wall looked like the best player on the court. He scored eight of the Wizards' final 14 points to seal the victory and did so on a bum ankle. He outshined both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, two All-Star guards.

Wall even played sound defense on DeRozan in big moments. DeRozan shot 10-for-29 in the game.

"I think I did a good job of contesting him," Wall said. "Just do whatever it takes to help this team win."

What Brooks predicted would happen has indeed played out. He has been with Wall for about two years now and knows what the star point guard is made of.

"I've been with him two years, he loves to play," Brooks said, noting there have been some tough conversations to convince him to come out of games.

Consider this: Wall has scored 20 points or more in six straight games, his longest streak of the 2017-18 season. He has actually reached 23 points or more in those six games, which is tied for the longest such streak of his entire career.

Through eight games overall and four games in the playoffs, Wall has reminded everyone of what the Wizards missed. Yes, they went 10-3 when he first went down with the injury in late January, but that was not sustainable.

They need Wall to reach their full potential as a team and especially in the postseason. Late-game situations like in Game 4, when Beal exited and it was tied with 4:58 to play, are when the superstars separate themselves.

Wall did that and now the Wizards are in good shape with the series at 2-2 and having won two straight.

"Blame everything on him," Brooks joked of the Wizards' up-and-down regular season. "If he wasn't hurt, we'd be better, right?"

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