NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 6: Celtics have a Magic reason to close out

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The Boston Celtics believe they’re the best team in basketball.

That doesn’t really make them any different than any of the other teams left in the playoffs, save the Phoenix Suns (The Phoenix Suns: our NBA Playoffs Mickey and Mallory). But one thing they do know in the back of their heads is that a fully-rested, disciplined, ready Orlando Magic team against a worn-out, exhausted, punch-drunk Boston Celtics team is not a scenario they want.

Which is why the Celtics have no choice.

They must win Game 6 tonight to close out this series.

Understand that the Celtics still don’t consider the Magic a “real” threat. Not even after the Magic dumped them from the playoffs last year, in their own home in a Game 7, nor after the Magic won their season series 3-1. Paul Pierce during the Finals last year referred to the Magic as poodles while the Celtics were “rottweilers” and the Celtics feel that if Kevin Garnett had been healthy, Boston would not have fallen.

But one thing they do know, they are physically limited by the wear and tear of age, and need the four days of rest that would meet them were they to win tonight.

The Magic killed the Celtics last year not necessarily through exploitation of their legs in some run and gun system, but by maximizing the floor space and putting the Celtics in situations where they were forced to desperately try and recover from one side of the floor to the other. Combine that with Rashard Lewis’ ability to stretch the floor at the four spot and Dwight Howard wreaking more and more havoc as the series went on, and you had a recipe for disaster that the Celtics still almost climbed out of.

But there are many reasons to believe an ECF between the two would go differently. Kevin Garnett has the range to guard Lewis much better, Rajon Rondo is even more of a force, they have a few younger bodies to use as perimeter defenders, and Kendrick Perkins still has reason to believe he can hold down Howard.

What the Celtics can’t afford is to get off on the wrong foot.

Consider, in 2008, when the Hornets pushed the San Antonio Spurs to the brink, forcing a Game 7 in New Orleans, which the Spurs won. Then, after a plane malfunction, the Spurs wound up not leaving the airport until very early in the morning, causing their schedules to be wrecked. They were blasted in Game 1 versus the Lakers. Don’t be confused, the Lakers were the better team that year. But you still can’t afford to put an old team at a physical disadvantage. And having to play a Game 7 in Cleveland would put more miles on this team, worsening whatever lingering injuries they may have, and risking getting off on the wrong foot against the Magic.

Do that, and the Magic will sweep your legs out from under you.

The Magic are playing the best basketball of any team coming into the Conference Finals, regardless of how the Boston-Cleveland series finishes. But the Celtics definitely have the ability to overcome that play with their defense and versatility. They will, however, need to have time to develop a gameplan, and to get their bodies and minds right.

Because if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that the Magic will be ready. Boston must close out Cleveland tonight.

Craig Sager to get third bone marrow transplant thanks to anonymous donor

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Legendary TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager talks with Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Sager is on a one game assignment for ESPN. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Craig Sager couldn’t be in Rio covering the Olympics for NBC, his cancer wouldn’t allow it. That didn’t stop Team USA from reaching out to him before they left. Or from Nike designing a sweet pair of shoes for him.

Now there is good news on his battle against leukemia β€” he will have a third bone marrow transplant, according to his son Craig Sager II.

This is fantastic news for a man and family who have been through a lot. Hopefully, this treatment is a step forward for Sager, a man beloved by everyone around the NBA.

Report: With Joffrey Lauvergne trade, Mitch McGary likely done with Thunder

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 16:  Mitch McGary #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at American Airlines Center on March 16, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Oklahoma City frontcourt is crowded. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams will start, and they will have Nick Collison, Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, and now Joffrey Lauvergne behind them.

Which likely means Mitch McGary‘s done as a member of the Thunder, according to Royce Young of ESPN.

McGary has battled injuries his two seasons in the league and got on the court for only 72 minutes total last season for the Thunder (he played in more games and put up solid numbers in the D-LEague). He was not part of the future there regardless. He’s an undersized five trying to play the four and what he brought as a rookie β€” energy β€” was not enough as a sophomore.

McGary will make $1.5 million this season. He may be tough to move because he’s suspended for the first five games he’s eligible to play next season for failing the league’s drug policy (five games is the standard suspension for testing positive for marijuana three times). Maybe a team looking to develop players will give him a shot, but there is little trade value for him.

Dwight Howard is shooting 19-footers to improve his free throw stroke

Dwight Howard
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If you can knock down a 19-foot shot, then a 15-footer should be easier. Right?

Apparently that β€” and just basic muscle memory β€” is the latest attempt to improve Dwight Howard‘s free throw shooting. And, he seems to be knocking down those shots.

It’s not hard to see the logic in this approach.

The challenge is form and reps are not the problems for Howard β€” or DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond or others β€” when it comes to hitting free throws. Anyone who says “why don’t they just practice the shot” doesn’t pay attention, these guys put in a lot of work on the shot. Pregame and in practice (I’m Los Angeles based), Jordan probably hits 65 percent from the line. At least.

The problem is mental. That can be a tougher hurdle to clear. Maybe taking 19 footers and knocking them down will have Howard feeling more confident at the stripe this season.

But we’re going to need to see it to believe it. Just like we’re going to have to see a rejuvenated Howard in Atlanta before we believe this season will be different from the last few.

Report: Veteran big man Jason Thompson agrees to deal in China

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 15:  Jason Thompson # 34 of Sacramento Kings in action during the 2014 NBA Global Games match between the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings at MasterCard Center on October 15, 2014 in Beijing, China. 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 Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Until this season, Jason Thompson had never been to the playoffs. He spent seven seasons in Sacramento before getting traded to the Warriors last offseason, and then signing with the Raptors midseason when Golden State waived him to make room on the roster for Anderson Varejao. His NBA days appear over, at least for now. International basketball reporter David Pick reports that Thompson has agreed to a deal to play in China.

Since the CBA’s season ends in March, Thompson could theoretically join an NBA team for the stretch run next year. But he didn’t appear to have much interest on the free-agent market this summer.