NBA Playoffs: LeBron James, Cavaliers come from 26 down, beat Pacers

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James, Cavaliers come from 26 down, beat Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- LeBron James finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers set an NBA postseason record by erasing a 25-point halftime deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-111 on Thursday night and take a 3-0 lead.

James passed Kobe Bryant for No. 3 on the NBA's career playoff scoring list and tied another NBA record by winning his 20th consecutive first-round game.

The incredible rally ruined Paul George's big night. He had 36 points, a playoff career-high 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Cleveland trailed by 26 in the first half and was still down 74-49 at halftime. The largest halftime deficit overcome to win a playoff game had been 21 points.

James scored 13 points in the third quarter to get the Cavs within 91-84. Cleveland regained the lead twice during a 15-5 fourth-quarter run and closed it out with a 12-5 spurt (see full recap).

Bucks overwhelm Raptors, 104-77, take 2-1 series lead
MILWAUKEE -- Khris Middleton scored 20 points and the Milwaukee Bucks overwhelmed the cold-shooting Toronto Raptors for a 104-77 win on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Greg Monroe added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bucks, who held DeMar DeRozan without a basket and never looked back after leading by 20 points after the first quarter.

Making this blowout even more impressive was that they barely needed All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. He finished with 19 points and eight boards.

Game 4 is Saturday back at the Bradley Center.

With raucous fans wearing black Bucks giveaway T-shirts to match the players' uniforms, Milwaukee put on a dominating display of basketball worthy of the team's "Fear the Deer" slogan.

The Raptors looked frazzled after shooting 4 of 18 in the first quarter. Kyle Lowry had 13 points (see full recap).

Grizzlies pull within 2-1 of Spurs with 105-94 win
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mike Conley scored 24 points and handed out eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 10-game postseason skid against San Antonio by routing the Spurs 105-94 on Thursday night.

The Grizzlies pulled within 2-1 in this first-round Western Conference series, giving first-year coach David Fizdale his first postseason victory. This also marked the Grizzlies' first win over the Spurs in the playoffs since April 2011, when Memphis beat San Antonio in six games.

Game 4 is Saturday night.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each scored 21 points for Memphis, which outscored San Antonio 31-17 in the third quarter and led by as much as 22 in the second half (see full recap).

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

NBA Notes: Clippers' Blake Griffin opts out of deal to become free agent

Blake Griffin has decided to test free agency, telling the Los Angeles Clippers that he is opting out of the final year of his contract.

A person with direct knowledge of Griffin's plans confirmed the decision to The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither the five-time All-Star nor the Clippers have publicly announced the move.

The move was expected, and gives Griffin the chance to either pursue a deal elsewhere -- or, of course, re-sign with the Clippers for more years.

The Clippers have had six consecutive successful regular seasons -- winning at least 60 percent of their games each year, something only San Antonio has done in that same span -- but never cracked the code of finding success in the playoffs. The Clippers never made it out of the second round in any of those six seasons, and lost in the first round each of the last two years.

And now with Griffin, along with LA guards Chris Paul and J.J. Redick all potentially on the move as free agents, as well as speculation that DeAndre Jordan could be a trade possibility, next season's Clippers could have a decidedly different look (see full story).

Clippers: Paul re-elected as NBPA president
NEW YORK -- Chris Paul has been re-elected president of the National Basketball Players Association.

Paul's new four-year term begins immediately. He will be assisted by the union's newly elected vice president, Garrett Temple of the Sacramento Kings.

In his first term as president, Paul most notably helped the players and the NBA come together on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that goes into effect on July 1.

Paul says he's "humbled that my fellow players have voted to have me continue."

Temple has a three-year term as vice president, which also begins immediately. He replaces Kyle Korver in that role.

The other members of the NBA's Executive Committee are First Vice President LeBron James, Secretary-Treasurer James Jones, and Vice Presidents Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Pau Gasol and Anthony Tolliver.

Pistons: Caldwell-Pope suspended 2 games
NEW YORK -- Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was suspended for two games without pay by the NBA on Friday for pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Caldwell-Pope was sentenced to a year of probation last week in a March traffic stop in suburban Detroit.

Caldwell-Pope was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after police say he was spotted going about 45 mph in a 25 mph zone about 2:50 a.m. March 29 in Auburn Hills. He was arrested after a field sobriety test. A further test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent.

Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent.

NBA: Camby sued over nephew’s drowning
HOUSTON -- Former NBA player Marcus Camby has been named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit over the drowning of his 9-year-old autistic nephew in a pond on Camby's Houston-area property last Thanksgiving.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday by the boy's father, Marcus Kendall McGhee, alleges that Camby was aware of the limitations of his nephew, Marcus Carter McGhee, but failed to supervise the child and used no protective measures to keep him away from the pond.

The boy was found dead two days after he was reported missing. He'd traveled to Texas from his home in the Hartford, Connecticut, area for the holiday.

Camby's property includes several acres in Pearland, a Houston suburb.

Camby could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. He played 19 NBA seasons for six teams, including the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. The 2012-13 season was his last.

Examining how Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could mesh together on court

Examining how Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could mesh together on court

No sooner did the Sixers draft Washington point guard Markelle Fultz on Thursday night than coach Brett Brown started talking about “ballcarriers,” a rather curious way to describe NBA playmakers.

This came up because Brown long ago said he intended to use Ben Simmons, a 6-10 forward with an unselfish bent, at the point this season — an interesting experiment, not only because Simmons missed his entire rookie year with a broken foot but also because other responsibilities would have to be divvied up differently than they are on most teams.

Surely, the thinking went, Simmons would be hard-pressed to guard opposing lead guards. Surely, the Sixers would have to play a shorter, quicker guy next to him to perform that defensive task — and it would no doubt help if that guy could knock down a shot or two as well.

The 6-4 Fultz, while a defensive cipher last year for the Huskies, has those capabilities. But there’s little question that he operates best with the rock in his hands.

For the record, Brown said the addition of Fultz “really doesn’t” change his plan. He still intends to make Simmons the point guard and let the chips fall where they may.

Or, as he put it, “We’re excited to use him as the primary ballcarrier.”

At the same time, he added, Fultz “has the ability to be a significant ballcarrier.”

“When we study what he did in college,” Brown added, “you recognize very quickly that he has the ability to play that position and be one of the main ball distributors as well.”

Which means there will be some sorting out to do when training camp begins.

Fultz didn’t seem concerned when the topic was raised. He knows Simmons a little bit since both attended high school powers — Fultz at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., Simmons at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. They connected a while back on social media, then exchanged numbers.

“And,” Fultz said, “I've been texting him through the college process, and just getting advice through college and just wishing him good luck.”

He expects the on-court mesh to be just as smooth.

“Great players know how to play with each other,” he said. “Really it's just do whatever you need to do to win. It's going to be times where maybe Ben brings up the ball or times where I'm bringing up the ball. It's going to do whatever we need to do to win.”

Brown, for his part, sees Fultz as a “perfect complement” not only to Simmons but also to Joel Embiid, who, unsurprisingly, has also reached out to Fultz on social media.

It is far from unprecedented for a team to employ two playmakers. Six NBA clubs featured a duo that averaged five-plus assists a game in 2016-17. That includes the Sixers, who saw both of their primary ballcarr ... er, point guards, T.J. McConnell (6.6) and Sergio Rodriguez (5.1), reach that plateau.

The best analog for the upcoming season might be Charlotte, which features a lanky forward (Nic Batum, 5.9) and high-usage point guard (Kemba Walker, 5.5). The Holy Grail is, of course, Golden State, which has turned basketball into ballet. Draymond Green (7.0) and Stephen Curry (6.6) both exceeded five assists a night, and Kevin Durant (4.8) was close.

In all, the Warriors averaged 30.4 assists — exactly one shy of the NBA record established by the 1984-85 Lakers — and 43.1 field goals. Curry and Green most often initiated their offense, but ex-Sixer Andre Iguodala, a reserve, also did so at times. (Durant was more likely to bring the ball up and do something like this.)

So that’s the ideal, the summit that every team can only hope to reach. The Sixers, still in the baby-steps phase, will inch along behind two playmakers who have yet to play an NBA minute. Embiid will certainly join them in the starting lineup, and probably Robert Covington as well, though both are coming off meniscus tears and will be monitored closely.

It remains to be seen how Dario Saric, another excellent passer, is used. Certainly, the ball would hop around if he were on the court with Fultz and Simmons, but Saric could also serve as the distributor for a potentially interesting bench mob (Jerryd Bayless, Richaun Holmes, et al.).

That’s something else to sort out in September. But Job One for Brown is figuring out how best to use his ballcarriers.

Not the worst problem to have.