NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 4: The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning

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Look, there’s two ways this can go. If the Cavs come out and blow doors off hinges and win this game, the series is essentially over. Boston’s veteran crew knows better than to waste valuable vacation days, no matter what cliches they throw out about taking it one game at a time. or, Boston can respond, do what they should have done in Game 3, take care of business at home, and restart this series into a best of three.

And really, at this point, would either surprise you?

We’re probably due for a close one, but so far it seems like if one team takes control, the other team sits back, puts its feet up, and chills out.

For the Cavaliers, you can only hope for a game like Game 3. James was in another universe, able to knock down everything. If he’s in that zone, the Celtics will have very little response. That’s what happens with the best player in the NBA. But there are other adjustments you can make.

For starters, The Celtics have to be more aware of Antawn Jamison off the cut. He did significant damage in Game 3, curling off screens for floaters and jumpers. Getting him in open space makes him a significantly better weapon than he’s been in ISO. The Celtics need to trap or at least switch to make sure there’s someone with Jamison to prevent the entry pass.

Offensively, get back to what worked. Rajon Rondo is a revelation. But he’s still not a great jump shooter. In Game 3, the Cavaliers forced him to go to his mid-range game, and that’s a recipe for disaster. His mid-range and three-point shooting has improved, but it isn’t reliable by any means. The C’s need to use the pick and roll to get Rondo attacking the basket, not settling. If the Cavs double on the screen, Rondo has to initiate the perimeter rotation to open up the three point shooting. Simply settling will not work.

And finally, Paul Pierce has to get going. He’s been simply dreadful, and what’s worse, the worse he shoots, the more he shoots. He’s got to respond today by being a leader, getting his elbow jumper going, and creating his own shot. The Celtics can’t live with an offensive disaster from Pierce again.

The Cavaliers need to keep Anthony Parker on Rondo, whose length kept Rondo in check, and use Delonte West to give them a change of pace guard.

Expect this one to get ugly.These two have been on the brink for a while. I’d expect a couple more hard fouls to get tempers flaring. Should be entertaining, in the least. Has to be more competitive than the last game, right?

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).

 

 

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.