NBA Playoffs: Celtics turn back the clock to take Game 1 over Heat, but may lose Kevin Garnett to suspension

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Garnett_Game1.jpgIt looked like the same old Celtics we’ve seen this season. Outworked, outhustled, down double digits in the third quarter.

And then all of a sudden, they hopped in the Hot Tub Time Machine during a timeout.

And out popped the Celtics from the 2008 Championship run to lock down the Heat and take Game 1 for the Celtics, 85-76.

It was everything we told you it would be: physical, slow, brutal, and deliberate. But behind Quentin Richardson’s three pointers and Dwyane Wade’s attack, the Heat built a 14 point lead. Which promptly evaporated behind a defensive run by the Celtics defense which rivaled anything you’ve seen in your life. They were everywhere. Always in position, hammering the bigs down low, crashing the boards behind Glen Davis’ best game of the season, and forcing shot clock violations and rushed shots. On offense, Paul Pierce had it going. Everything was looking golden for the C’s. Then the fight happened.

Kevin Garnett has long made a reputation as the kind of player that
likes to get into his opponents’ head with physical behavior and
bombastic words. But tonight, he may have lost his cool in the worst way
and it may cost him a suspension in the NBA playoffs.

Late in the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce drifted left on a possession and made a routine pass. An earlier shoulder stinger injury he had flared up and the fell into the Heat bench in pain, before slumping to the floor in pain. Kevin Garnett walked over his teammate to check on him, right in front of the Heat bench. Quentin Richardson came over to the bench (he was the one guarding Pierce when he was injured). At that point, some sort of altercation happened. It’s not known at this time whether Richardson said something to ignite Garnett or if Garnett just acted unprovoked, but Garnett elbowed Richardson away lightly, which then caused Richardson to verbally respond.

The two got in each other’s faces, and the next thing you know, Udonis Haslem is in there, and Glen Davis is in there looking for a candy bar, and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose, all while Pierce is still on the ground. Somewhere in the scrum, KG threw a pretty vicious back elbow which landed squarely in Quentin Richardson’s jaw. Then KG either ran out of the huddle or was pushed, depending on who you’re talking to, all while still running his mouth.

Glen Davis tried to get back into the scrum, but Doc Rivers, in possibly the greatest moment of his coaching career, grabbed the volatile portly pounder and threw him back to the bench like an angry dad grounding his son for roughhousing.

The ramifications were Garnett’s ejection, which enabled the Heat to pull within five, but Wade was unable to connect on the ensuing possession after the technical free throw and the Celtics hung on.

Here are the possible ramifications from this game:

  • Garnett could very well be suspended for Game 2. The elbow was clearly thrown and that’s clear video evidence. He also comes across as the villain in this circumstance, having elbowed Richardson once to start the fight and once at the apex.
  • Udonis Haslem could be suspended for interceding in the fight.
  • If the league feels like it can collect enough evidence that leads to the conclusion that Richardson enflamed the incident, he could face a suspension.
  • Nothing could happen since it’s clear both sides were in the wrong.

By the way, if you’re worried about Pierce, don’t be. Five minutes later he was totally fine. (That sound you hear is every Laker fan in the world taking a breath to make wheelchair jokes. Save ’em.)

Neither team can feel bad about this game in total. The Heat led by 14 in the late third on the road, and needed a horrific second half (32 points total for the half, ye gods) to fall. The Celtics were able to flip the switch and get the win, and now have remembered the gear they need to be at to win a championship. Buckle down, readers. This one’s going to be brutal and long.

Some closing notes:

  • If you want an unsung hero, try Tony Allen. The man who was an afterthought coming into the season, and tradebait at best, finished with 14 points, 3 steals and 2 blocks, and was the primary defender on Wade during the drought for the Heat. Allen has been better than advertised all year, and really made a statement in this game.
  • Glen Davis like I said earlier, had possibly the best game of his season, crashing the board and converting a huge and-one in the fourth. The round mound of astound crashed to the floor on nearly every play, but also came up with the ball in almost every instance.
  • Michael Beasley was a no-show, going 3-8, and just being invisible for most of the game. He came up with three offensive boards, but couldn’t convert on several of them.
  • Jermaine O’Neal got worked by Kendrick Perkins, who not only limited and frustrated him on the defensive end, but then came in with several drop step hooks on the offensive end. Huge game for Perkins.
  • Dwyane Wade is ridiculously good at basketball, but even he can’t beat three Celtics zone-guarding him, with two perimeter players sandwiching his lateral movement and KG lurking at the elbow.
  • Quentin Richardson could be a a big turning point in this series, as he had a big game. Of course, we’ll have to see if he’ll be around next game.

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Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.