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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Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.

Raptors’ ‘culture reset’ shines in Game 5 win over Wizards

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The Raptors promoted ball movement. They emphasized 3-point shooting. They empowered their reserves.

This was why.

Backups Delon Wright and C.J. Miles and starting center Jonas Valanciunas – who was benched in previous postseasons due to his old-fashioned style, but expanded his game beyond the arc this year – scored Toronto’s final 18 points in a 108-98 Game 5 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Stars DeMar DeRozan (0-for-4 from the field) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-1 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws) struggled down the stretch, as the Raptors burst open what had been a one-point lead.

Though DeRozan (32 points) and Lowry (17 points and 10 assists) were good overall, they succumbed late in previous playoff games. Toronto didn’t want that duo stuck with the burden of creating so much in a stagnate offense.

Hence, Masai Ujiri’s famous “culture reset.”

The results have been mixed so far against a tougher-than-average-eight-seed Washington. But at least the Raptors – up 3-2 entering Friday’s Game 6 in Washington – are on the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

Raptors honor victims of van attack before Game 5 (photos)

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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors honored the victims the deadly van attack Monday with a moment of silence Wednesday night before Game 5 of their playoff series against the Washington Wizards.

Players from both teams held up banners with the hashtag #TORONTOSTRONG as they stood on the court during the tribute and the national anthems that followed:

The Raptors, the Wizards and the NBA will make a donation to a fund for victims and those affected by the incident.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke about the attack after the Raptors practiced Tuesday.

“What we do doesn’t really matter sometimes,” Ujiri said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on that sidewalk.”

Guard Kyle Lowry said he was impressed by the actions of Const. Ken Lam, who earned international acclaim for peacefully arresting of suspect Alek Minassian.

“In America he would definitely have been shot up,” Lowry said. “He did an amazing job of making a judgment call. I think more people could learn from that.”

Coach Dwane Casey was struck by how close the carnage occurred to his own Toronto neighborhood,

“It’s not too far from up the street from where I live,” Casey said.

Casey and his coaches were in the midst of a meeting Monday afternoon when assistant Rex Kalamian’s phone buzzed with someone informing him of the tragedy. The coaches stopped their meeting and turned on a television to find out what had happened.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Casey said. “Just this weekend I was talking to people saying how safe Toronto is, how it’s a melting pot and you don’t have the same crime. Hopefully though, sport can offer a relief, some reprieve.”

Like Casey, Ujiri said he is proud of Toronto’s reputation as a safe, welcoming place.

“Everywhere I go, I brag about this city,” Ujiri said. “It’s the safest place in the world. It’s the best city in the world and it’s going to continue to be the best place and the best city in the world.”

Toronto police said the 10 people killed and 14 injured in the attack were “predominantly” women, but have declined so far to discuss a motive. The 25-year-old Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.