Balls: Cavaliers go splat as in Blatt

Oakland — Now that NBA Finals are over for all practical purposes, all that's left for the Cleveland Cavaliers is the blame game.

While the Kyrie Irving camp questioned why he guard played 44 minutes on a bum knee in the series opener, overmatched coach David Blatt tried to pin the blame on the Warriors' Klay Thompson for the fractured kneecap that took the guard and his team out of the series.

“My take on the injury was that he got kneed in the side of his knee,” Blatt said on Saturday at an interview session. “It was a contact injury, and the result was a fracture of the kneecap.”

As it turned out, Irving's father and agent were correct in their contention that extended wear and tear could lead to a more serious injury, so Blatt had no choice but to cover up for himself and the organization. Except replays showed Iving's left knee buckled on a hard drive to the basket before Thompson made slight if any contact, which confirmed that Blatt was as bad a television analyst as he was an NBA head coach.

Asked whether tendinitis might have played a role in the injury, Blatt said, “You know, that's a doctor's question, but in my opinion, absolutely not. It's has nothing to do with it.”

If the Cavaliers don't turn it around soon — and without Irving, that's not gonna happen — the smart money says Blatt will follow them out the door.

Meanwhile, John Calipari continues to warm up in the bullpen.

NEXT MAN DOWN: Matthew Dellavedova is expected to start in place of Irving today, and if he does, he may draw Stephen Curry as his primary assignment.

“I don't think the approach changes,” Dellavedova said. “Just go into every game just trying to do whatever the team needs me to do to help the team win. I don't think the approach changes.”

When a reporter followed up on a question about a change in preparation one day earlier, an annoyed Dellavedova shot back, “I just said yeah. I don't know if you were listening, but yeah.”

If Dellavedova was a bit edgy, then it was understandable. In Game 1, he turned in this line: nine minutes, zero points, zero shot attempts, zero steals and one personal foul. The St. Mary's product also had a minus-13 rating, worst on the team.

SAME OLD SONG: Carlos Santana and his wife will perform the national anthem before the game today. They will dedicate “No One to Depend On” to LeBron James at halftime.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN: Just think — if James had scored on the final possession in the fourth quarter, Irving wouldn't have gone down in overtime and it would still be a series.

On what was sure to be remembered as the most important sequence in these NBA Finals, James inexplicably settled for a contested, step-back jump shot over Andre Iguodala that missed badly. Hadn't he been practically unstoppable close to the basket the entire game? Was a long fade-away the best he could do with a championship on the line? That marked the third time that James had been in that situation in the NBA Finals in his career, and he failed on every one of them.

Here's another season why James came up small in a big moment: He drained a step-back under less pressure from a similar spot on the court to beat the Warriors last season, and they were prepared for the same play.

“For sure,” Harrison Barnes told Balls. “We know he loves that step-back. We know how he loves going left. Those are the things that you think about gearing up for that last shot.”

LEBRON RULES: More than any team sport, the NBA relies on its superstars to sell it, which is why it should drop the outdated rule that disqualifies a player after his sixth personal foul. Because if it was enforced consistently, James would foul out of every couple or three games.

James likes to clear out a defender with his forearm, a pet move that he used repeatedly and illegally in the series opener.

“I don't know how I can comment on that without being fined,” Barnes said.

Aw, c'mon, give it a try.

“Uh, um, yeah, he creates a lot of space offensively,” Barnes hemmed and hawed. “He's very physical. That's about all I can say.”

WHAT ABOUT LUKE?: Never mind that Brian Shaw sighting at Warriors practice the other day. The best candidate to replace offensive coordinator Alvin Gentry may be in the organization already.

Luke Walton is his name.

“I would love a promotion,” Walton told Balls. “I don't know anybody who wouldn't love a promotion. For now, I'm content being an assistant coach. I love being in this organization and working with these players. ”

After one season with Gentry, assistant Ron Adams and coach Steve Kerr, Walton believes he's ready for the next step. He will coach the Warriors' summer league team in Las Vegas next month.

“This season has been a great learning experience,” Walton said. “Steve has taught me so much about the approach to the game and thinking outside the box as far as keeping guys sharp and ready. It has been a blessing to put that into my own bank of knowledge about how it should be done.”

THE LIST: Top 10 national storylines in the NBA Finals thus far:

1. LeBron

2. More LeBron

3. Still more LeBron

4. And still more LeBron

5. Kyrie Irving

6. Stephen Curry

7. Steve Kerr

8. David Blatt

9. The Warriors' arena issue

10. Did we mention LeBron?

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE …: Joe Harris, Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and Kendrick Perkins?

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