NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 6: Celtics overwhelm meek Cavs to advance to Eastern Finals

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Pierce_celebrate.jpgAnd so it ends. The number one seed in the East. The number one seed in the NBA. The title favorite, again. The MVP. Cleveland’s best chance for redemption.

Swept away in a green tidal wave of Celtic pride.

The Boston Celtics out-executed the Cleveland Cavaliers 94-85 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals because of two things. Super execution by the Boston Celtics, and another mortal game by LeBron James. This is assuming you’ve figured out that yet again, the Cleveland support system failed as they have every year at some point in the playoffs since James’ arrival in Cleveland.

Boston’s execution in the late third and early fourth quarter was simply superb. Rajon Rondo was relentless, and the Celtics took advantage of every matchup they were favored in. Kevin Garnett continuously nailed tough, defended shots by Antawn Jamison using his superior length. They were fierce, displaying the tenacity of a champion. Hold, I’m going to throw up from how cliche that is.

Okay.

But there’s no getting around it. The Celtics really, honestly, did want this more. They fought till the very end, for every rebound, for every loose ball, and played their typical fierce brand of defense. They were superior from every angle on that side of the ball, forcing 22 Cavalier turnovers, including 9 from LeBron James.

And oh, LeBron James.

Was it a better game than Game 5? Undoubtedly. 27 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists, which sounds like a monster game. The effort was there. But 8-21 won’t get it done. Repeatedly dribbling around the perimeter only to dump the pass off to Mo Williams (who we can and will write volumes about in terms of failure disguised as average play), or trying to run the pick and roll with Anderson Varejao instead of forcing the issue? Won’t get it done.

Don’t be surprised if there’s an announcement about James’ elbow and a surgery in Cleveland in the next week or so. This isn’t an excuse. He stepped out on the floor and for that he deserves to have his play criticized. He failed to deliver as the best player on the floor, and even if he was dealing with a significant injury, which it certainly seems like it was, if you can suit up, you deal with the consequences.

And the consequences are severe.

Mike Brown may lose his job. Shaquille O’Neal may switch teams. LeBron James may never play another game as a Cleveland Cavalier again. Antawn Jamison will now have the rest of his career compared to Amar’e Stoudemire.

But that’s for later.

Right now? It’s Kevin Garnett and his 18 footer. Paul Pierce making a handful of plays when it was needed. Rajon Rondo asserting himself as the arguable best point guard in the league. Tony Allen emerging as a legitimate sixth man. And the Boston Celtics, riding high once more, off to face the Orlando Magic in a dogfight.

If they keep playing like this, big dog will eat.

Boston visits Orlando for Game 1 Sunday.

Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting was excellent. THEN, they made 25 in a game

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) reacts after the Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 123-98 in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Cleveland. Smith hit seven 3-pointers in the game. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cavaliers set a record for 3-pointers in a team’s first six playoff games on this Kyrie Irving shot:

Did you notice anything strange about that clip?

It came in Game 1 against the Hawks – Cleveland’s fifth playoff game.

That’s right, the Cavs needed just five games to set a record for 3s through six playoff games. Then, they piled on 25 3-pointers – a record for any NBA game – in their Game 2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.

Cleveland’s 97 3-pointers through six postseason games absolutely crushes the previous record:

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The difference between the Cavs and second place equals difference between second and 88th.

In fact, Cleveland has already demolished the record for 3s through EIGHT playoff games (previously 90 by the 2014-15 Hawks). Again, the Cavaliers have played just six games this postseason.

Where is all this outside output coming from? The key long-distance shot makers:

Add it all up, and the Cavs are making 16.2 3-pointers per game – which would easily set a playoff record:

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Cleveland could make no 3-pointers in its next two games – and still rank first for 3s per game in a postseason.

Not that the Cavs appear likely to go cold from distance anytime soon.

Their stars generate open looks and make 3s themselves. Smith is an unrepentant gunner, and he’s feeling it.

These are the Cavaliers as scary as they get.

John Wall undergoes surgery on both knees, expected to be ready for start of next season

Washington Wizards guard John Wall speaks during a media availability before an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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John Wall tried putting the Wizards on his back and carrying them into the playoffs.

Washington fell short, but the process still took a toll.

Wizards release:

The Washington Wizards announced that guard John Wall underwent a successful procedure today to excise calcific deposits in his left patella tendon in order to eliminate pain and assist healing.  He will begin the rehabilitation process immediately and is expected to be available for the start of the 2016-17 season.  Wall also underwent an arthroscopic lavage on his right knee in order to remove loose bodies.

If the Wizards are just using the next date most fans care about, this might not be such a big deal. That would open the door for Wall being healthy at any point over the summer.

But if the start of next season is his targeted return, that’s more troubling. Sitting an entire offseason is a big deal, and that means potential complications are more likely to cause him to miss games. It’s also a worse indicator for his long-term health.

As the Wizards enter free agency primed to spend, the last thing they need are questions about the length of their franchise player’s prime.

Larry Bird shows courage in his convictions by firing Frank Vogel

Larry Bird, Frank Vogel
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Larry Bird sounded cruel.

The Pacers president announced to the world that Frank Vogel begged for his job. Not only did he oust the coach anyway, Bird seemed to toy with him at a press conference today. Asked what he’d tell someone checking Vogel’s references, Bird answered with a resounding: “He’s the best.” What will Bird look for in the Pacers’ next coach? The same things that led him to Vogel during the last search.

So why did Bird fire Vogel?

“My experience has been good coaches leave after three years,” Bird said.

And maybe Bird is cruel, foolish, self-absorbed or any other adjective being thrown at him today.

But also realize he sincerely believes this.

After all, he also ousted a coach who went 147-67, reached two conference finals and an NBA Finals and won Coach of the Year in his three-year tenure.

Himself.

Bird coached Indiana from 1997-2000, and even though he guided the team to the 2000 NBA Finals, he still stepped down after that third season.

“Three years is enough for a coach in any one place” Bird said he told the Pacers when they hired him.

Despite all his success, he stuck to it.

Bird said he spoke to Red Auerbach about the value of coaching turnover, and Boston had plenty. Bill Fitch got four years at the helm of Bird’s Celtics, K.C. Jones five – “nicest man I ever met, and they let him go, and we were having success,” Bird said – Jimmy Rodgers two and Chris Ford two (and another three after Bird retired).

Vogel coached Indiana five-and-a-half years.

“That’s a long time for me for a coach,” Bird said.

As so many teams across the NBA chase continuity, Bird actively rejects it – maybe to his detriment. Five of the six longest-tenured coaches in the league are still alive in the playoffs: Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Dwane Casey (Raptors), Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks). The Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle is the exception.

Bird just doesn’t want to follow that model.

“Every day the same voice and the same, I think guys sometimes tune that out,” Bird said. “It happens. It’s unfortunate.”

It is unfortunate, and it cost Vogel a job he appeared to be succeeding in and wanted to keep. You can wonder whether Bird and not just players tired of Vogel’s message, even if it were a wise one. Bird clearly believes he can assemble a roster, and he has own ideas about how he wants it coached (small, up-tempo, dynamic).

But don’t wonder about Bird’s intentions when he brings up three-year term limits for coaches.

Right or wrong, he believes in them.

Larry Bird: Kevin McHale won’t coach Pacers

Larry Bird
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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1. Kevin McHale withdrew from the Kings’ coaching search.

2. The Pacers fired Frank Vogel.

Will McHale reunite with former Celtics teammate Larry Bird in Indiana?

“I would not do that to Kevin, have him to work for me,”Bird said at a press conference today. “That’s just not fair. I respect the man too much, and we’ve been through too many battles together to bring him in here and be my coach. I would love for him to be my coach, but it ain’t going to happen, because our relationship.”

It would have been compelling to watch Bird and McHale work together, but I’m not convinced McHale is the best coach available – though that’s not the only concern.

After all, Bird just ousted someone who might be a better coach than any replacement.