Knicks vs. Cavaliers: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers commenced Thursday evening at Quicken Loans Arena. However, the New York Knicks spoiled it, overcoming a two-point halftime deficit to pull out an impressive 95-90 victory.

ESPN Stats & Info noted the Cavs’ rather poor history in regular-season openers with James on the team, which is somewhat of a silver lining in light of the letdown:

James didn’t shy away from the spotlight ahead of his 2014-15 NBA season debut, per SportsCenter:

But three first-quarter turnovers and eight of nine missed shots in the first half saw James start his second stint in Cleveland on a sour note. It was Kevin Love, a past All-Star in Minnesota, who pulled the most weight for the hosts with 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists before the halftime intermission.

At least the pair combined for a memorable play to give James his first points of the year:

But ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, among many others, was surprised as to how underwhelming James’ performance was:

Bob Finnan of The News-Herald highlighted the brutal numbers James posted:

The incumbent among Cleveland’s tremendous trio, point guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 22 points, had five rebounds and seven assists, tried to galvanize the Cavs’ comeback charge in the final quarter.

Irving got a bucket to snap a field-goal drought that lasted approximately five-and-a-half minutes and then got a steal and dished it to James for a layup, cutting the deficit to 82-77 with 4:33 left.

ESPN’s Jay Williams commented on Irving’s brilliance:

It just wasn’t enough to stop a hot-shooting Knicks team in the end. New York did cough up the ball down the stretch but had already done adequate damage and built a big enough lead to hold on.

After one of those turnovers and a sweet Irving drive to the basket, Love had a chance to tie the score at 88 but missed an open three-pointer. Knicks sixth man extraordinaire J.R. Smith then hit a runner in the lane on the other end.

When James got an easy score to cut it back to a one-possession game, Carmelo Anthony (25 points) hit a shot in James’ eye at the other end to ice it.

Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor praised Anthony’s clutch baseline jumper:

Daryl Ruiter of CBS Cleveland noted how the officiating began to frustrate fans late in Thursday’s heated battle:

Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick provides quotes from new Cleveland head coach David Blatt and James:

Cleveland’s ineptitude on offense was evident, though. Everyone tried to share the wealth a little too much. That resulted in a lot of sets that lacked cohesion and movement.

The Associated Press’ Tom Withers weighed in:

Thursday wasn’t the smoothest of starts for this new, exciting era for the Cavaliers franchise, but the city of Cleveland was a special place to bear witness to. The talent between James, Irving and Love will meld together soon enough and catapult the Cavs into the NBA’s elite, relieving years of failure since James’ initial departure.

Turner Sports’ Matt Winer brings up a strong point about James’ initial adjustment period with the Miami Heat:

Blatt will be tested right away in getting his squad back on track. Friday is quickly approaching, and the Cavs have a road trip to take on the Chicago Bulls.

In a matchup that features the two teams many are expecting to qualify for the Eastern Conference Finals, it is critical for Cleveland to put forth a strong effort. As long as James plays better, with these opening-game jitters and emotion out of the way, that shouldn’t be a problem.

However, the Knicks did lose by 24 points at home to Chicago in their opener on Wednesday, so it’s on Blatt and James as the Cavs’ emerging leaders to inspire everyone to bounce back.

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Bulls vs. Knicks: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

From an individual perspective, Derrick Rose‘s regular-season return to the NBA was a mixed bag. He looked sloppy and at times self-conscious offensively and made a few mental errors defensively, relying on his teammates to pick up the slack.

Luckily, the Chicago Bulls now have the cavalry to do just that.

Pau Gasol had a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds), and Taj Gibson led the way with 22 points off the bench as the Bulls ruined the New York Knicks‘ Madison Square Garden opener with a 104-80 win.

Rose, playing a regular-season game for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus last November, had 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes. Tom Thibodeau kept his minutes to a minimum in the second half when the game got out of hand. The 2011 NBA MVP added five assists and got to the free-throw line eight times, a promising sign heading into the rest of the season.

Still, this was a night where Chicago would have been A-OK without its star player.

Using its treasure trove of bigs to its advantage, the Bulls out-rebounded New York 47-38 and had 10 offensive boards. Gasol, playing in his first game since coming over from the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, was accountable for four second chances. The Spaniard looked right at home on both ends of the floor, oscillating back and forth between the two big positions with ease.

Knicks president Phil Jackson, who coached Gasol with the Lakers and tried to recruit him to New York this summer, said his all-around game will be a boost on both ends in Chicago.

“In my coaching tenure, he made a wonderful difference with that team, liked to play, liked to pass, liked to combine with his teammates and enjoy the game and the city and was a person the fans really took to in Los Angeles. I think he’ll be the same in Chicago,” Jackson told Sam Smith of the Bulls’ official website.

The underrated byproduct of Gasol’s arrival is that it allows Gibson to stay in a sixth-man role, in which he looked overqualified Wednesday night. Active on both ends of the floor, Gibson was the leader of a brilliant bench effort, making 10 of 12 shots and grabbing eight rebounds. Chicago’s second unit was at time reminiscent of the 2011-12 “Bench Mob,” with Gibson providing the rim protection while Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks controlled the perimeter.

Brooks, the latest in a line of Thibodeau reclamation projects at point guard, had 13 points and six assists off the bench.

McDermott, one of two high-profile Chicago rookies making their debut Wednesday, finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The former National Player of the Year already appears to have the respect of NBA defenses, as the Knicks defenders largely stayed at home whenever he was in the game. Nikola Mirotic, the highly touted Spanish import, had five points and appears to be the clear fourth big in the rotation.

The Bulls bench outscored their counterparts, 55-37, as New York’s talented offense struggled to get anything going. Jason Smith had eight points, but microwave scorers J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting. Smith has had a particularly frustrating couple of weeks, shooting 33.9 percent during the preseason and struggling to grasp Derek Fisher’s triangle offense.

“Being the type of player I’ve been, it’s a struggle,” Smith told reporters last week. “I’m not going to lie.”

The Knicks as a whole seemed still in the infancy stages of the triangle, an intricate offense popularized during Jackson’s tenures in Los Angeles and Chicago. Possessions were often highlighted by a lot of listless passing, stagnating before leading to a contested mid-range jumper. One of the most prolific three-point shooting teams during the team’s 54-win campaign two years ago, New York shot made only three of its 17 shots from long range.

“We’ve had some conversations with J.R. and a number of our guys,” Fisher said, per Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. “It’s an instinctive game, and our players haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

Carmelo Anthony, who spurned the Bulls this summer to re-sign a five-year deal in New York, had 14 points in his season debut. Anthony, like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant before him, is expected to have relative autonomy to break out of the triangle. At least for one night he appeared unwilling to do so, taking a relatively low number (13) of shots.

Amar’e Stoudemire (12 points, eight rebounds) was the only other Knicks starter in double figures. New York shot 36.5 percent as a team.

The Knicks and Bulls each opened their season without a key starter. Jose Calderon was a surprising scratch with his lingering calf injury, while Jimmy Butler will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left thumb, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

The Bulls, as has become a yearly tradition, replaced one of their staples with Kirk Hinrich. Second-year guard Shane Larkin received his first NBA start in place of Calderon. Both turned in nondescript performances, with Larkin finishing with six points and Hinrich 12.

It’s unlikely either player would have made a difference before the despondent MSG crowd. For both teams, opening night seems like a statement on where the respective franchises are in their development. Rose’s return to the floor came and went with a forgettable stat line, and the Bulls’ infrastructure didn’t miss a beat. Anthony didn’t show up and his team got The Reaper.

We’ll have to see if this is a sign of things to come or a case of overreaction theatre. Given we’re a single game into both teams’ seasons, it’s probably a little bit of both.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Spurs Championship 2014 Banner, Ring Ceremony Twitter Reaction and Highlights

This is becoming old hat for the San Antonio Spurs. For the fifth time in the last 15 years, the organization opened its home slate with a celebration of the past.    

On Tuesday night, Spurs players received their NBA championship rings and unveiled the banner for their 2013-14 NBA Finals win.

The Spurs tweeted out photos of head coach Gregg Popovich and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard receiving their rings:

On Monday, the normally stoic Tim Duncan admitted that he’d relish getting the fifth ring of his career.

“I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m really going to enjoy that moment,” he said, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “I’m not going to look past it. I’m not going to mentally prepare for the game before I get the rings.”

The NBA posted a Vine of Duncan receiving his ring.

Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been the driving forces on the court behind the Spurs’ success. They all took a moment before the game to pose with their rings.

Fans in attendance inside the AT&T Center received a replica championship ring. You can view it below, courtesy of NBA on TNT:

Championship rings always feature plenty of bling, but it’s always cool to see the little details teams add to make the rings a little more personal and unique.

CBS Sports’ Eye on Basketball posted a photo of the inside of the ring:

Dan McCarney of the Express-News showed one side of the ring, which features the team’s slogan, “Pounding the rock”:

Of course, the ring ceremony was only half the fun, with the team’s fifth championship banner unveiled a little later in the night:

Spurs legend David Robinson saluted the team:

Team owner Peter Holt said that this championship ceremony in particular was special, with the banner unveiling nearly bringing him to tears, per Tom Orsborn of the Express-News:

The pomp and circumstance had to end at some point, and the Spurs players aren’t a bunch to bask in past glories for too long, as evidenced by their continued success.

Veteran Matt Bonner added that the ring ceremony and banner ceremony would be “kind of like the last step in the celebration.”

“I know we’re all very excited to get to the ring ceremony,” he said, per McDonald. “When that’s over, that’s it.”

San Antonio will have little time to rest on its laurels. The team opens with one of its Southwest Division rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, who have strengthened in the offseason with the additions of Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler.

The two teams met in the first round of the playoffs last year, with Dallas pushing San Antonio to seven games.

Ginobili spoke about how going the distance against the Mavericks prepared the team for its NBA title push.

“(The Mavericks) did make us better, for sure, and that’s the great thing in the West,” he said, per Mike Monroe of the Express-News. “This doesn’t happen that much in the East. But this really gets you better. It makes you improve and face a tougher challenge from the beginning and the Mavs were, for sure, great.”

Beating the Mavs would be a great way for the Spurs to kick off their title defense.

Historically speaking, the odds are in their favor. They’re 4-0 in games immediately following an NBA Finals win.

The Spurs are one of the most successful American sports franchises in recent memory, but one thing they haven’t pulled off is back-to-back championships. Crossing that off the checklist would be a great crowning achievement for the franchise.

If there’s anything the past few years have taught everybody, it’s that one should never doubt what the Spurs can do. Critics have been calling for their decline for years, and yet, there they were on Tuesday, celebrating yet another title.

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Jordan announces ‘comeback’ on Hornets’ Twitter

“Just kidding, LOL,” he wrote, in case you didn’t know it was a joke.

      
 

 

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Jordan takes over Hornets Twitter feed, MJ roast ensues

If you didn’t know, Michael Jordan is running the Charlotte Hornets twitter account today. #MJTakeover. The Hornets PR staff probably thought this was going to be a great way for Jordan to communicate with fans. It’s the exact opposite. This has slowly turned into the roast of Michael Jordan. Yes, it’s really me doing this [&hellip (Visited 6 times, 6 visits today) The post #MJTakeover On Twitter Is The Greatest Idea Ever appeared first on No Coast Bias.

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Michael Jordan Makes Comeback Joke, Takes Selfie During Hornets Twitter Takeover

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan doesn’t have much experience with social media, but he took over his team’s Twitter account Tuesday as a way to thank the fans for their support.

The goal was to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at what the greatest basketball player who has ever lived does on a daily basis. There was a lot of buzz for the “MJ Takeover”:

Jordan started the day with a joke:

Then, he showed fans he was ready for the Hornets’ official return to the NBA:

In case anyone didn’t believe he was actually running the account for the day, the 51-year-old took a selfie to prove it:

Jordan is doing his best to have some fun with this Twitter takeover.

[Charlotte Hornets]

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Kentucky Basketball Blue-White Game 2014: Score and Twitter Reaction

While the Kentucky Blue-White Game is just a scrimmage, there was likely as much talent on the floor as there will be in just about any college basketball game this season.

The squad was split into two teams, which could be the first look at John Calipari‘s platoon system. The Blue team, which seemingly featured more likely starters, came out with the 65-44 “win” until the scores were reset about three-quarters into the game.

Calipari announced the two teams on Facebook:

After the under-12 timeout, the teams shifted to freshmen versus veterans, with the older players coming away with a 29-22 victory.

The breakout star of the game had to be Karl-Anthony Towns. The versatile freshman was as good as advertised, showing the ability to score both inside and out. He officially finished with 18 points and nine rebounds with a number of highlight-reel plays throughout.

Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal noted an impressive stretch for the player who can likely play any frontcourt position this season:

On the other hand, it was not all roses for the young player:

Still, he did showcase some serious talent, which Jerry Tipton of Kentucky.com described:

ESPN’s draft expert Chad Ford had some high praise for the young player:

When he wasn’t dealing with cramps or committing close double-digit fouls (it is a scrimmage, after all), Devin Booker also had a strong performance, with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He showed a great shooting touch, as well as the ability to get to the basket and score in the paint.

He has the skill to be the best natural scorer on the team, and at the very least, he could be a valuable piece off the bench who can score in bunches.

Fellow freshman Tyler Ulis was also solid in his start, making some key plays early, as noted by Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader:

There were some turnovers and plenty of mistakes for the young point guard, but this is hardly something to be worried about in an October scrimmage. The important thing is that he showed the speed and quickness that many expected coming into the year, along with the court vision to make great passes on the break.

Just as importantly, his ability to step back and hit a three gives the squad something it desperately lacked last season outside of Aaron Harrison.

Of course, it was not just the freshmen who shone in this one. Andrew Harrison, who was too inconsistent in his first season, played in control throughout this one and finished with 19 points in the first session.

Jeff Drummond of Fox Sports was impressed with the improvements seen in the second half:

Dakari Johnson also appears ready to take a big leap in his sophomore season with some play that Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio liked to see:

He was strong in the low post and was an excellent rebounder throughout. On the other hand, he struggled mightily from the free-throw line, which could be a problem for the entire season.

Also playing well inside was Willie Cauley-Stein, who found his normal place on the end of numerous alley-oops and easy putback dunks. However, his most impressive play came thanks to a steal and dunk, as described by Roberts:

Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Trey Lyles and Derek Willis each had their moments in the spotlight, but they will likely only see limited playing time this season on such a deep roster.

Likely the biggest challenge Calipari will have this season is finding a way to get everyone enough minutes to remain satisfied. This is why he will try to use his platoon system with mass substitutions to make sure he goes 10-12 players deep in each game.

He discussed his thoughts with the plan earlier in the week, via Kami Mattioli of Sporting News:

It’d probably be better for me and my program if I played seven, but that’s not what this is about. How do I do this to make sure every player on this team eats and we still do all of the other stuff? What I’m doing is what’s best for these kids. And that’s this way of playing.

We saw how much skill was available at his disposal in this scrimmage, so there likely will not be too much of a drop-off no matter what types of substitutions he makes.

Still, it is clear this season is championship or bust for Kentucky, so Calipari has to do whatever it takes to get the most out of his players throughout the year.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Duke Countdown to Craziness 2014: Midnight Madness Recap and Twitter Reaction

If the entire Duke basketball team plays the way the White team did on Saturday night in the Countdown to Craziness scrimmage, the program might add to its national championship haul. 

The White team won both halves of play and top recruit Jahlil Okafor was the star. The 6’10″ freshman had double-digit scoring in both periods. Duke M. Basketball provided first-half stats:

Okafor led all scorers overall and quickly proved that the hype was real surrounding his mature low-post game.

After scoring 12 points in the first session, he topped off his night with 15 in the second half. He’s not known as a huge leaper, but after shining so brightly in the scrimmage, you had to wonder whether Okafor would get into the event’s dunk contest. Blue Devil Nation was impressed, and Duke Basketball felt “everyone in attendance” was impressed by Okafor’s performance: 

Let’s not get carried away.

The finals came down to Grayson Allen and Marshall Plumlee. These young men have the hops to buck a common stereotype. Adam Rowe of 247Sports.com highlighted the matchup:

Though Allen landed a 360 during his run, he had some issues completing dunks in the final, and that gave Plumlee the title, as Duke M. Basketball tweeted:

 

Close Call

While the scrimmage was all fun and games for the most part, there was one moment of concern. Justise Winslow went down with an injury, but it turned out to be a cramp. Stephen Wiseman of The Herald-Sun and Duke Basketball provided insight on Winslow’s injury:

Winslow is expected to be a major part of Duke’s success this year. Along with Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones, the 6’8″ freshman small forward is listed as a potential lottery selection by Draft Express.

The injury was obviously very minor because Winslow participated in the dunk contest. Still, the collective hearts of Duke nation had to skip a beat when Winslow went down. No team wants to lose a key player, but it would be especially tough to see a guy go down for an extended period in a scrimmage.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski had to feel confident that Winslow was fine as he allowed him to compete in the dunking exhibition. 

 

Expectations are High

Clearly, Larry Winters enjoyed Countdown to Craziness:

Between the playmaking of Jones, the athleticism of Allen, Plumlee and Winslow, as well as the post presence of Okafor and the leadership of Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke looks every bit as stacked as its No. 3 preseason ranking in the USA Today poll would suggest.

If the team stays healthy and matures, it will be among the sport’s best teams all year.

 

Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter. Basketball is awesome.

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Ranking the 10 Best College Basketball Personalities to Follow on Twitter

With the start of college basketball’s regular season now (mercifully) just three weeks away, it’s time to make sure you’re following all of the right personalities on Twitter.

It’s one thing to watch college basketball games and read college basketball articles, but your full college basketball experience is incomplete without the breaking news and witty analysis you get from following these 10 people on Twitter.

The ranking system is totally subjective, but the general thought process was to ask “Who would I follow for college basketball news and notes if I could only pick one person?” After picking Jeff Goodman at No. 1 and eliminating him from further consideration, the question was asked again and again until a top 10 was created.

Obviously, you need to be following C.J. Moore, Jason King and me, but we excluded all Bleacher Report writers from consideration (because you already know to follow us).

If someone you love to follow isn’t on the list, be sure to mention that person in the comments, so we can make sure we’re following them as well.

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Breaking Down the Twitter Buzz Surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Preseason

The 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers were always going to be a buzz-generating team, and the preseason proved this to be correct. Everyone imaginable took to Twitter and other social media to talk about the various storylines of this Cavaliers squad.

 

Injuries

The only aspect holding the Cavs back—and I mean from owning the preseason—has been injuries. The new Big Three has only played together in a scrimmage and some of the Tel Aviv game.

Point guard Kyrie Irving has missed games with a foot injury while newly acquired forward Kevin Love has missed time with a neck injury.

LeBron James has missed some time so that he can rest, and even the mascot missed some games recently.

It is important to note that these injuries aren’t serious and that the Cavs are committed to resting players when they pick up little knocks. This rest and caution will figure to work in the Cavs’ favor though it does limit their ability to build chemistry.

 

Defense

Defensive commitment and ability have been the biggest question marks for the Cavs, as offensive firepower is a given. The Cavs were a middle-of-the-road defensive team last year, ranking 16th in points allowed and 17th in opponent field-goal percentage.

They added James, who can defend any position and any player better than most, but they also added Love, who has a reputation for lacking defensive acumen. 

The biggest factor for the defensive ability of this team will be effort. When it wants to be good on defense, it can be. Shear athleticism and effort could make this team good enough on defense to win a title.

 

Excitement

Even in the preseason, this team has had no shortage of excitement.

Though their time together has been limited, the plays between Irving and James have produced spectacular results.

Love, in limited playing time, has shown his ability to fill it up, scoring an average of 19 points in games in which he played 20 minutes or more.

The preseason has given us a small sample size of what I believe we will see all season from this team. The excitement and highlight plays will certainly be there in abundance.

But so will stretches of lackluster defense.

This team also, like many other contenders, will not be able to succeed if health becomes a concern.

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