NBA Playoffs Celtics Cavs Game 1 Halftime: Celtics have all the answers so far

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For all the improvements the Cavs were supposed to have made, in Game 1, the Celtics looked like they had all the answers.

The Celtics lead 54-43 at the half, Rajon Rondo has 19 points and 8 assists, LeBron James looks hurt and the Cavs look lost.

The Cavs worked to get inside position on offense from the get go, but everything would rim out. Shaquille O’Neal wound up in foul trouble, while getting shoved to the middle of the paint by Kendrick Perkins who is proving there is literally no big man he cannot defend one-on-one. James took only two jumpshots in the first half, and while he was able to create off the dribble, get to the rim, and collect free throws, he looks tentative and limited by the strained and bruised elbow.

Antawn Jamison is doing a good job conceptually on Kevin Garnett, maintaining position and getting a hand-up, but Garnett’s simply using his height advantage and getting the buckets to fall. The lone bright spots for the Cavs have been Delonte West and J.J. Hickson, not exactly who you want the game to rest on. Hickson provided a significant boost on offense, but also gave up multiple possessions on defense due to blown assignments.

But Rondo has been the difference maker. Right now, Rajon Rondo is the best player in this series with LeBron injured. If the Cavs can’t buckle down with their help defense and convert inside, the Cavs could be looking at a very familiar situation of being down 0-1 despite homecourt advantage.

And one final note. If you’re looking to locate a pin, feel free to head down to the Q. Because you can hear one drop as the arena is dead silence. Stark contrast to the other crowds we’ve seen in the playoffs.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.