NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 1: The rematch begins

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It’s right that it should go this way.

These two never faced one another last year, and now that the Celtics are at full strength and the Cavaliers are ruling the roost, we need to settle this. The 2008 Champions, seeking to regain what they feel is their rightful title. And the Cavaliers, aiming to finally reach the promise land. Each team would face questions if they didn’t go through the other one on their way to the top. So now we get to settle this. Full strength Cavs versus full strength Celts.

The opening game’s questions will center around LeBron James’ elbow, which is supposed to be fine. But you can bet that when James drives, the Celtics will do whatever they can to irritate that side and aggravate it. This is a bullying Celtics team, and they’re likely to do whatever is necessary. Shut down James and the Cavs become a much different team.

But if James is healthy, the Celtics will simply have to live with his impact and try and shut down the rest of the Cavs. Key number one will be swarming Shaquille O’Neal and not giving him any easy buckets. It’ll be interesting to see how the Celtics approach it, and whether they let Kendrick Perkins try and handle him one on one or if they risk a double which could open up the perimeter for Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Anthony Parker.

But given the problems the Celtics faced last year with Rashard Lewis and a versatile stretch four, containing Antawn Jamison is going to be key. Jamison hasn’t really started to sync with the Cavs offense until late in the season and the Bulls series, but Jamison’s ability to create spacing problems is yet another complication for the Celtics.

But it’s not like the Celtics are coming into a gunfight with cap guns and pointy sticks. Ray Allen has rediscovered his stroke, and the Cavaliers have significant problem with running off perimeter shots. It didn’t hurt them first round because the Bulls couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. But the Celtics have players on the perimeter that can hurt them. And hey, Rasheed Wallace is due, right?

Okay, don’t answer that.

Mo Williams better have a few tricks up his sleeve because the Celtics start and end with Rajon Rondo. If Williams can’t slow down Rondo in transition or contain his ability to run that offense to perfection, the Celtics can take this game.

Man up. First round’s over. The real series begin now. 

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.

Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”

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The Spurs completed an amazing comeback win against the Thunder Friday night, coming from 23 down to knock off the Thunder when Carmelo Anthony‘s game-tying three was just a two because his toe was on the line.

Gregg Popovich was into this one.

So much so that when he didn’t like an out-of-bounds call he made sure all three officials knew exactly how blind he thought they were.

The best part of this is Popovich covering his eyes, just to really emphasize his point.

We’re really going to miss Pop when he steps away to live at a winery full time.

Lonzo Ball walks away from Lakers-Suns skirmish

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If you’re on the court when your team gets in an NBA “fight” — what the rest of us would call a shoving match where nobody really wants to throw a punch — should you run into the fray and help your teammates?

Friday night, with just more than three minutes to go in Phoenix’s eventual win, the Suns called a timeout, and Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one of those silly shoving matches. Players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up.

The Suns’ rookie Josh Jackson picked up a technical for his role racing in and escalating the matter.

Watch the video again, and you’ll see Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball just walk away from it all and head to the bench.

That has led to criticism of the rookie from some Lakers’ fans, who see a guy who didn’t rush in to protect his teammates — that’s seen as part of the sports locker room culture. A “band of brothers” or “us against the world” mentality. Ball, frankly, gave a more mature answer than that.

Ball is right, nothing was going to come of this. It was meaningless posturing. Walking away was the mature move.

However, the question is how is this perceived in the Lakers’ locker room? Do the players care that Ball shrugged and walked away? Do they think he needed to race in and try to look tough like everyone else? That can impact his standing on the team — as a guy Magic Johnson brought in to be a leader — more than anything.

Also, with all his shooting woes, is this the first sign of some Lakers fans starting to turn on Lonzo? It’s a little early for that.