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We already ran down the top 100 prospects in baseball, so now it’s time go deeper by division, starting with the NL East. First up are the Braves, followed by the rest of the division.

To jump to the other teams, click here — Marlins | Mets | Phillies | Nationals

Editor’s note: Age is the player’s age as of July 1, 2018. Players with experience in foreign major leagues such as Japan’s NPB or Korea’s KBO — think Shohei Ohtani — are ineligible for these rankings.

Atlanta Braves

I’m fairly certain this is the first time a team’s entire top 10 has made my top 100. Atlanta can certainly draft themselves some pitchers.

1. Ronald Acuna, OF (ranked No. 1)
2. Kyle Wright, RHP (ranked No. 26)
3. Ian Anderson, RHP (ranked No. 48)
4. Luiz Gohara, LHP (ranked No. 50)
5. Cristian Pache, OF (ranked No. 57)
6. Michael Soroka, RHP (ranked No. 60)
7. Bryse Wilson, RHP (ranked No. 68)
8. Max Fried, LHP (ranked No. 77)
9. Touki Toussaint, RHP (ranked No. 90)
10. Joey Wentz, LHP (ranked No. 96)

Non-top 100 prospects

 

Kolby Allard (11) made the top 100 the past two offseasons but slipped off the list and behind several other pitchers in their system, as working every fifth day in pro ball has led to some regression in his stuff. He still has that plus curveball but is often in the upper 80s, just touching 92, without a big frame for a ton of projection. He still projects as a starter, but maybe a back-end guy or someone who pitches with above-average results over a shorter workload. Kyle Muller (12) pitched in extended spring training and then in Danville, both to manage his innings and to avoid a logjam in low-A. He’s still a horse with league-average upside, with now stuff but work to do on command. Patrick Weigel (13) would have almost certainly made the top 100 had he stayed healthy all year, but he had Tommy John surgery in late June and might miss all of 2018, although I’m hopeful he’ll pitch in the Arizona Fall League if all goes well.

EDITOR’S PICKS

Keith Law’s 2018 top 100 prospects — Nos. 50-1: Introducing tomorrow’s superstars
Who’s the next Jose Altuve or Mike Trout? What about the next Bryce Harper or Aaron Judge? Chances are you’ll find a new generation of breakout ballplayers as the list reaches No. 1.

Keith Law’s 2018 top 100 prospects – Nos. 100-51: Your team’s future starts here
From minor leaguers with major league hopes for the upcoming season to toolsy teenagers climbing through the farm system, who made the cut as we begin counting down baseball’s best prospects?
Austin Riley (14) cleaned up his body and improved his defense at third base by at least a full grade last year; he has raw power but slider bat speed that led to trouble his second time around high-A last summer. Lefty AJ Minter (15) has a devastating one-two punch in his fastball and slider/cutter, with tremendous strikeout rates in the minors when he’s healthy. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015, missed time last spring because of irritation in the same elbow, and then hit the DL because of a groin injury in April. He could be a top-shelf reliever if he can stay on the mound, but his track record there is spotty.

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NEW ORLEANS — Jrue Holiday dunked as he was fouled by Grizzlies rookie Dillon Brooks, and that was the first sign the less heralded member of the Pelicans’ “Big Three” was about to take over.

Holiday made Memphis pay for trying to lock down All-Star big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, following his dunk with a pair of layups on penetrating dribble drives, then adding floaters from five and 12 feet.

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“Anthony told me to be aggressive. He told me to get to 20 points this game and we would win,” Holiday said. “I just listened to the captain.”

Holiday scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, Cousins had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and New Orleans beat Memphis 111-104 on Saturday night.

Holiday said the attention Memphis paid to Cousins and Davis often left him with only one defender to beat.

“In situations like that, you just have to make a play,” Holiday said.

Davis had 21 points and 12 rebounds but did not score his first points of the second half until he dunked with 1:15 to go in the game, giving the Pelicans a 108-102 lead.

“We’ve got other guys who are able to score,” Davis asserted, noting that Memphis was “sending two guys at me, (or) three guys and I was just trying to facilitate other guys.”

Darius Miller added 12 points in a reserve role for New Orleans, which never trailed but nearly blew a 21-point lead.

Trailing 59-44 at halftime, Memphis scored the first 13 points of the third quarter, part of a 16-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to a single point with most of the third quarter remaining.

The Pelicans briefly rebuilt their lead to 12, but it was back to a single possession by the end of the quarter after Wayne Selden — who scored a career-high 31 points against the team he played for earlier this season — hit a 3 to make it 83-81.

New Orleans didn’t lead by double digits again, and Cousins had to briefly leave the game after committing his fifth foul with nearly seven minutes to go. But Cousins came through with a late block on Tyreke Evans that led to Davis’ dunk on the other end.

“They made some tough 3s to cut the game and even get it to one point, but I do like the fact that we maintained our poise and were able to finish,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “Obviously, Wayne Selden played his best game as a pro. He shot the heck out of the basketball. He was one of the main reasons they were able to stay in the game.”

Marc Gasol scored 16 points for Memphis, which lost for only the second time in six games. Evans scored 12 points against his former team and former LSU player Jarell Martin had 11. But the Grizzlies were short-handed. Guards Mario Chalmers (right shoulder) and Andrew Harrison (left shoulder), who were listed as questionable following Friday night’s victory over Sacramento, did not play against the Pelicans. It got worse when starting forward JaMychal Green left with a right ankle injury with 9:05 left in the third quarter.

“I can’t say enough positive things about what our guys did tonight. They competed against all odds, all circumstances,” Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We just decided it wasn’t going to be an easy night for the other side when it very well could have been after getting down in the first half. Again, nothing but a lot of respect and a lot of credit to our guys for their makeup and fortitude.”

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Green had 16 rebounds and eight points before leaving the game. … Brooks had 10 points before fouling out in the final minute. Ben McLemore also scored 10. … Went 15 of 16 on free throws. … Fell to 5-16 on the road.
Pelicans: The game marked the eighth time this season Cousins, Davis and Holiday each had at least 20 points in the same game. … Finished 26 of 32 on free throws. … Went just 7 of 27 from 3-point range. … Improved to 12-9 at home.

SHOT SELECTION

Davis attempted only two shots the entire second half, but Holiday defended his teammate’s decision-making, given Memphis’ efforts to try to deny Davis the ball.

“That’s the unselfishness that our team really feeds off of and that’s what makes him a leader,” Holiday said. “He can force as many shots as he wants to, but getting us good shots” is his priority.

UP NEXT

Grizzlies: Hosts Philadelphia on Monday night.

Pelicans: Host Chicago on Monday night.

More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball

Follow Brett Martel at www.twitter.com/brettmartel

Check out the team sites for the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans for more game coverage.

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If the New York Jets are looking for inspiration as they embark on a potential get-well-soon offseason, they can look at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Yes, the Jaguars, perennial losers who will play for the AFC championship on Sunday. Behold, the poster team for the quick turnaround.

On Sunday, the Jaguars upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round, joining the 2006 New Orleans Saints as the only teams since the 1970 merger to reach the conference championship after winning three or fewer games the previous season.
Adding a game-changer on offense, such as the Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette, is a key for the Jets this offseason. Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
The Jaguars were 3-13 last season, with a crummy offense (25th in points scored) and an underachieving defense (25th in points allowed). They reinvented themselves by hiring no-nonsense leaders in football czar Tom Coughlin and coach Doug Marrone, drafting an offensive star in Leonard Fournette and spending lavishly (and wisely) in free agency.

They also did it with a mediocre quarterback, Blake Bortles, which is all the more reason for the Jets to believe it can be done.

On paper, the Jets are in a similar situation as the Jaguars were a year ago: 5-11 record, 24th in offense and 22nd in defense. The biggest similarity: cap room. Jacksonville went into free agency last year with about $74 million in cap space. The Jets figure to have close to $100 million after dumping a few big salaries.

It can be done. It won’t be easy, but the Jets can rebound if they make smart decisions. The Jaguars provided the blueprint for teams that don’t have a franchise quarterback.

The three keys:

• Crush free agency. The Jaguars signed three defensive starters: end Calais Campbell (four years, $60 million), cornerback A.J. Bouye (five years, $67.5 million) and safety Barry Church (four years, $21.6 million). They galvanized the defense, which was arguably the best in the league (Sunday’s 42-point hiccup notwithstanding). Campbell is a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Jets certainly have the resources to sign at least three impact players. Can they do it? They promise to be active, but the trick is being active and effective. Six of the 10 top-spending teams last offseason made the playoffs, proving that the draft isn’t the only way to build a winner.

• Develop the homegrown talent. Coughlin and Marrone didn’t inherit a bare cupboard. Previous draft picks such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and linebacker Telvin Smith developed into productive starters. In Ramsey’s case, we’re talking about a legitimate star.

The Jets, too, have invested heavily on defense. Can they expect the same growth from defensive end Leonard Williams, linebacker Darron Lee and safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye? The potential is there.
• Find a game-changer on offense. With the fourth overall pick, the Jaguars chose Fournette, which allowed them to implement a power-running offense. It’s a great example of how an organization can marry personnel and philosophy. Fournette’s terrific play as a rookie reduced the pressure on Bortles, a classic game manager, and gave the team an offensive identity.

Whether it’s through free agency or the draft, the Jets must decide what they want to be. Will they go all-in on a quarterback, or will they use their resources to build around a less-than-ideal quarterback situation?

For the Jets, the one aspect of the Jaguars’ turnaround that can’t be emulated is the change in leadership. That, no doubt, played a huge role in Jacksonville’s success. The Jets have already re-upped with general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, believing that they are the right guys to pull a Coughlin-Marrone.

Don’t laugh. It isn’t impossible. But it’ll take a monster offseason.

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What will the year 2077 remember about the 2017 baseball season?

Yesterday, we analyzed the most remembered events, people, stories and statistics of Major League Baseball’s past 114 years for clues to help answer this question. It can be hard to anticipate what will survive, with only some correlation between sports-page coverage and future interest. We identified seven categories — plus subcategories! — of events that are particularly durable. Now we’ll overlay the 2017 season onto these categories so we can speculate responsibly.

1. Incredible achievement, usually captured by a single number or concept
Aaron Judge’s 52 homers as a rookie were a record, and records tend to be remembered for as long as they remain records. Judge’s season wasn’t just a statistical achievement, though. It was an aesthetic masterpiece, with his size and strength and effortless power interacting with the juiced ball, the proliferation of Statcast fun facts and the Yankees’ dramatic postseason run to define the season. It had a lot in common with Mark McGwire’s rookie season — 49 homers for an ascendant team during the rabbit-ball 1987 season — and that season is very well remembered. Judge’s — much more than, say, Cody Bellinger’s — will be, too. That is, unless somebody hits 53 homers as a rookie in the next six decades.

This is a good first pick.

The Year That …
Sam Miller looks back through the lens of history at the stories, teams, players and plays that made the biggest mark on MLB in each season since 1903. The list »
1b. Incredible team (often captured by a nickname)
Cleveland won 22 games in a row, which is … sort of a record. It’s unambiguously the American League record, though league records don’t have much cache now that the leagues are barely distinct from each other. To people who discount the 1916 Giants’ 26-game win streak — because there was a game in the middle of it that ended (due to rain and darkness) in a tie — it might even be the record. But those people have not yet won the argument, which is why one year ago, I couldn’t have told you who held the non-Giants-because-there-was-one-tie record for longest win streak. (It was the 1935 Cubs.) Therefore, we must conclude that the Indians too will likely be mostly forgotten, despite winning 22 games in a row, which is, in fairness, a lot.

(A colorful team nickname is extraordinarily important to being remembered as a team. I did not know about the 1935 Cubs, but I do know about the 1934 Cardinals, who were worse and set no records but were called the Gashouse Gang. Everybody knows the Gashouse Gang!)

We’ll get to the champion Astros in a minute.

1c. Incredible single play or sequence of plays, often aided by iconic photo or video images
Jose Altuve’s three-homer game to kick off the American League Division Series is a dark horse. Three-homer games in the postseason used to be almost automatic immortality, but more postseason rounds and more homers have made these games more common. (There have been as many since 2010 — five — as there were in the entire 20th century.) But Altuve’s is a better bet to survive than Enrique Hernandez’s because the Astros went on to win the World Series and because Altuve did it in an MVP season. Still, it’s doubtful.

On the other hand, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything like the 2017 Home Run Derby — and especially what Judge did in it, effortlessly cranking opposite-field homers and the occasional 500-foot blast while his peers giggled and shrieked. The question is whether this is simply a format that players have finally conquered — Justin Bour hit 22 in a round, for goodness’ sake, whereas there were five homers hit in the entire 1990 contest — in which case next year’s might top it. If not, I could see watching the 2017 Home Run Derby (condensed and commercial-free, of course) every year on the first morning of the All-Star break. In fact, I foresee myself watching it … right now. BRB.

2. The moment the timeline begins
Nominations for this category are almost always impossible to see in the moment. I doubt anybody in the early 1900s thought Fenway and Wrigley would survive a century — or perhaps even that Major League Baseball would. Meg Rowley, of Baseball Prospectus, suggested to me that in 60 years we might remember 2017 as the year the players’ association started to die because (to some observers) the union conceded too much in the new collective bargaining agreement. But of course, 2017 saw only one small step toward one possible future for the union, and assessing what the players got or conceded in this CBA is itself impossible without years of retrospection and analysis. Which is to say, I like Rowley’s suggestion. It’s a creative and insightful suggestion, but we’re mostly skipping this category.

3. Bloopers and/or extraordinary failures
Here’s my sleeper: Austin Jackson not running out the dropped third strike of the American League Championship Series. Watch:
Gary Sanchez could have simply tagged him to complete the out, but instead he stuffed the ball in his pocket and ran out to the mound. Here’s the rule:

Rule 6.09(b) Comment: A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
Jackson does not do that until Sanchez is already to the mound. Theoretically, even after Sanchez had abandoned the play, Jackson could have still run to first. See Todd Frazier, the Yankees’ third baseman, pointing toward Jackson, acknowledging this risk. Sanchez would have had to take the ball back out of his pocket and tag or throw him out. A tag, let’s assume, would have been impossible at that point. Note that the Yankees’ first baseman, Greg Bird, doesn’t appear in the first shots of the celebration, so perhaps he stayed near the bag just in case.

EDITOR’S PICKS

Just how giant is Home Run Derby champion Aaron Judge?
We stacked some of this year’s MLB All-Stars — as well as some recognizable names from the NFL and NBA — against the Yankees’ 6-foot-7, 282-pound rookie right fielder.

The good, the bad … and the Giants: Ranking all 30 teams based on their 2017 goals
Your favorite team didn’t need to win the World Series to have a successful season (though it certainly helps). Here’s how each MLB club succeeded — or failed — this year, on its own terms.

‘Skunk in the outfield’: How the most epic trick play in history broke baseball
For 2 minutes, 32 seconds of pure chaos, a high school state championship game in Rhode Island entered a parallel universe — and unleashed the longest hardball stalemate of all time.
If Jackson had started running, would Sanchez have noticed in time to throw him out? If not, would the plate umpire have allowed it, or would he have declared that the play was already over? If he allowed it, would the Indians have completed a comeback against Aroldis Chapman? If they had, would the Indians have snapped their long World Series drought? If they had, would this have gone down, along with Mickey Owen’s disastrous dropped third strike in the 1941 World Series, as an obit-leading blunder on Sanchez’s part? Maybe the answer is no, to any or all of those questions. But the point is this is exactly the sort of play that doesn’t seem that big in the moment — it was barely noticed anywhere, wasn’t mentioned on the broadcast, got a short write-up by Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes — but has the potential to pick up intrigue decades later, when the principal actors get old and forgetful and the fundamental mysteries of the play become unsolvable. That’s especially true if Cleveland’s World Series drought stretches past a century. The Billy Goat wasn’t a big thing in Chicago until decades afterward.

It’s probably not going to be this play. But I could 100 percent imagine it.

4. Pathos
There are no 2017 nominations for this category.

5. Disruption of baseball’s basic equilibrium
The juiced-ball timeline, if you haven’t been quite clear on it, is this: Around the All-Star break in 2015, home run rates suddenly shot up, almost literally overnight. The evidence, from both writers and physicists, suggests that the spike is consistent with subtle (and perhaps unintentional) changes to the seam heights on major league baseballs. (Flatter seams lead to less air resistance and more carry.) But home run rates kept going up even after that, perhaps because hitters were tailoring their swings and approaches to an environment in which fly balls were more valuable. In 2017, a record 2.52 home runs were hit per game, a 9 percent increase over 2016, which had seen a 15 percent increase over 2015, which had seen a 17 percent increase over 2014. There were a record 25 homers hit in the 2017 World Series. There were eight home runs hit in one WS game and seven in another, compared to just six in the entire 2014 World Series.

But whether we remember 2017 as the juiced-ball year depends on whether things go back to normal in 2018. If they don’t, then 2015 — as the start of the home run timeline — will probably be remembered as the change year, and some future season in which even more home runs get hit will be remembered as the peak Year Of The Dinger. However, if the seams rise slightly and home runs dip by 20 percent next season, 2017 will be remembered as the year it reached absurdity, and decades of future fun facts will end with “… since 2017.” As in: “Scooter Cloddywomp homered three times against the Giants on Tuesday night. That’s the most home runs by a Scooter in a single game since 2017.”

6. When the larger world intersects with baseball or vice versa
There are no 2017 nominations for this category.

7. By being weird, by being almost literally unbelievable or inexplicable
Crucially, things that are somewhat inexplicable sometimes become much more inexplicable with time. There’s a case here for the 2017 Astros, specifically as the fulfillment of the Sports Illustrated cover prophecy. As I wrote after Houston won the World Series, most of us are amused by the cover but recognize that it wasn’t an outlandish prediction. But in 60 years, to people who didn’t live through the #process, it could quite possibly take on the intrigue of ancient witchcraft. That’s especially true if the game’s economics change enough that the predictable teardown/rebuild cycle is no longer common or recognizable. Also, in 60 years, nobody might even know what a magazine cover is. “You mean it just showed up in people’s houses? Some stranger just dropped a prediction that the worst team in baseball would win the World Series exactly three years later? Spooooooky.”

 

But that’s not my nomination here. Rather, it’s this: The two best hitters in baseball were the shortest one and the tallest one. That is so weird, particularly because baseball is not a sport that naturally benefits short people or tall people. We all talk about it how short Altuve is and how tall Judge is; we talk about those things to death, and we still probably don’t talk about them enough. It is so, so weird. And it’s not weird in a deep, thought-provoking way. It’s weird in the way that can be captured in one picture, a picture you have already seen — 30 times? 40? In fact, it’s at the top of this article. It’s the one with Altuve and Judge standing next to each other at second base, one crazy moment in one wonderful image, and I don’t believe there will be even one baseball fan in the next six decades who doesn’t see it. The odds are that neither player will ever have a season as good as he just did. The odds are that this was the peak moment in extreme body outliers. And so that’s my answer: 2017, the year of that photo, the year of that MVP race, the year of that ALCS. It was the year not of Judge or Altuve, but of Judge and Altuve.

Thanks to Zachary Levine, Meg Rowley and Craig Goldstein for consultation.

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CLEVELAND — Isaiah Thomas had one last wait.

Sitting on the scorer’s table, Thomas could see the end of his seventh-month odyssey in front of him. And when the buzzer finally sounded and the Cleveland crowd erupted for a player it barely knows, Thomas took the last few steps onto the court and completed a trip he hopes to never take again.

He was all the way back.

Thomas showed flashes of what made him an All-Star in his long-awaited debut for the Cavaliers, who snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 127-110 on Tuesday night.

“It’s been a long journey for me,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel. For that day to come the first couple days of 2018, it’s going to be a special year.”

It was a special night for Thomas, who scored 17 points and played 19 minutes in his first game in seven months, an impressive return to action for the dynamic point guard traded to Cleveland last summer. He added three 3-pointers and three assists before leaving with 8:10 remaining and the Cavs up by 12.

Before leaving the floor, Thomas got a hug from LeBron James and one from Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, who pulled him close and offered two perfect words.

“Welcome back,” Lue said.

James scored 24 points, Kevin Love had 19 and Jae Crowder added 15 for the Cavs, who were coming off losses at Golden State, Sacramento and Utah.

Damian Lillard scored 25 for the Blazers after missing five games with a hamstring injury. Jusuf Nurkic added 23 and CJ McCollum had 19 for Portland.

Thomas hadn’t played since May 19 because of a torn labrum in his hip that ended his 2017 postseason with Boston and threatened to derail his career. But the 5-foot-9 playmaker, who inspired the Celtics and an entire city last year by playing in the immediate aftermath of his sister’s death, patiently stuck with his rehab.

And with 4:33 left in the first quarter, Thomas checked in to a loud ovation as fans cheered for a player they believe can help the Cavs win another title.

“It was a special moment,” he said. “I haven’t played in a game and you would think I was here for a few years and playing and battling in the Finals with this team. But it was special for my family to be here, my wife and kids to see that, that’s genuine love right there.”

This was the first chance for James and the rest of the Cavs to play with Thomas, who will sit out Wednesday’s homecoming in Boston. He’s not an enemy, but family.

“What I like most about him is he has a chip on his shoulder for life,” James said. “That’s just who he is. When a guy’s got a chip on his shoulder for life, he’s never going to not work hard. Not going to never give it his all. Not going to never disappoint you.”

The Cavs were unable to separate from the Blazers until Thomas and Dwyane Wade teamed up in the fourth.

Thomas knocked down a jumper and then fired a pass toward the baseline to a cutting Wade, who made a reverse layup. On Cleveland’s next possession, Thomas spotted up in the corner and buried a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 100-91 lead.

“This is obviously our first time playing together, but you can see moments where he added a dynamic that we need, especially if we want to get to where we want to be,” Wade said. “Happy that he’s back on the court and glad he’s on our side.”

MINUTE BY MINUTE

Lue will keep close tabs on Thomas’ minutes over the next few weeks while he builds up stamina and confidence. Initially, Thomas won’t play in any back-to-back games.

BOSTON BOUND

Wednesday’s game will be the second matchup between the Celtics and Cavs, who have developed a rivalry in recent years.

“It’s not one of 82 because they’re the No. 1 seed and we have some history with them obviously,” James said. “But it’s not more than that. We want to go in there and play well.”

HARD CONTACT

Thomas took a couple hard falls, good tests for his hip.

Driving the lane past Shabazz Napier, Thomas dropped in a left-handed scoop shot while being fouled and crashed to the floor. He got up and shook off the contact, clearing another important hurdle in his comeback.

BACK ON THE COURT

Lillard played 33 minutes in his first game since Dec. 20. He made six 3-pointers and had six assists, but was unhappy with seven turnovers.

“My conditioning was pretty good,” he said. “My timing was a little bit off with some of my passes but everything else, I felt pretty good.”

TIP-INS
Blazers: Were outscored 36-23 in the fourth. … Portland went 3-2 without Lillard. … Nurkic, a 7-footer, went down hard when he appeared to be hit by James on a drive in the second quarter. However, replays showed that James barely grazed the big man.

Cavaliers: Won their 13th straight at home. … Have made at least 10 3s in franchise record 26 straight games. … Thomas expects a warm welcome from Boston fans. “I know it will be all love,” he said. “I gave that city everything I had and they showed me genuine love back and I think that love is going to last forever. So, there are no hard feelings. This ain’t no revenge game.”

UP NEXT

Blazers: Home against Atlanta on Friday.

Cavaliers: Begin a five-game trip against the Celtics.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Check out the team sites for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers for more game coverage.