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.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.