NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 1: The lineups and how they lineup

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So there’s a million lines of context to the Conference Finals. And we can and will discuss the intricacies of each one-on-one matchup. But what are some of the more distinct, specific elements of each team’s lineups? We decided to take a look.

First, how did things shake out in the four regular season meetings between these two? We turned to PopcornMachine.net which tracks individual lineup performances for an overview. We found some interesting things. Here are a few talking point bullets from that data.

  • Turns out Orlando’s depth hasn’t been as much of a factor in these games as you’d think. All in all, they’re a -49 in the four games this year. Their biggest run was a four man group in the third game of the year, a Magic win, that was mostly fueled by a monster run from Dwight Howard, the only starter on the floor. Everyone talks about Orlando’s depth, but so far when these two have met.
  • A +19 run by the Magic starters in their final meeting this year in the third quarter is telling. The Magic simply ran over the Celtics’ starters, finishing on a 25-2 run. We see similar patterns across the other games, where the third quarter spelled doom.
  • Matt Barnes is a significant element in this series, if the regular season can tell us anything. He was an overall +21, and many of the Celtics runs were without him. Barnes’ length and willingness to get the dirty work done brings the Magic another element that’s important for their success.
  • Brian Sclabrine only played in three games, but he was a +3.
  • I’m just trying to come up with a positive side of this for the Celtics’ bench. Rasheed Wallace was -10. So from that perspective, it does not look like the Celtics have a good counter for Rashard Lewis.
  • Popcorn Machine uses a metric called help value which is rebounds plus assists plus blocks plus steals minus turnovers. It’s a very crude metric, but Marcin Gortat had a 22 help value in limited minutes.
  • Kevin Garnett had a 48 help value which is a good sign for the Celtics. Even though his plus/minus contribution was poor, at least he was able to put a mark on the game. Combine that with his production through the first two rounds of the playoffs and you’ve got several good signs for the Celtics.  

Rajon Rondo has been arguably the best player in the playoffs. Against the Magic, this year, his production has not been great. He’s been good, just not great. The better news is that he’s outperformed Jameer Nelson. The Celtics have to win that matchup to gain an advantage.

It’ll be interesting to see how Tony Allen performs in this series. He’s got a tough assignment, and versus the more physical, penetration-based man assignments he had against the Cavs which he handled impressively, his work his going to have to be more cerebral, working off the double to recover on the perimeter and close off shooters. The Celtics will need Allen to even further exceed his performance thus far in the playoffs.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.

Joel Embiid, his mask, Sixers three point shooting too much for Heat in Game 3

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Joel Embiid is back and all is right with the world in Philadelphia.

From the opening tip Tuesday night, this felt like an old-school playoff game. It was chippy, with the referees futilely trying to use technicals to settle people down. Dwyane Wade was yanking on Justin Anderson’s arm away from the play. Justise Winslow was stomping on Joel Embiid’d goggles. Goran Dragic’s hatred of Marco Belinelli was on full display.

All of which is to say it was what we want in a playoff game — intense. No love lost. It was a battle royal for three quarters.

Then in the fourth quarter it quickly became a blowout. Because Philadelphia — with Joel Embiid back in the lineup — is that good. And that dangerous. Especially when they hit 18 threes on the night.

The Sixers won the fourth quarter 32-14, behind Embiid and Ben Simmons combining for 15 in the quarter and playing great defense. With that, the Sixers won Game 3 on the road 128-108. Philly now has a 2-1 lead in the series, with Game 4 on Saturday in Miami (and that game becomes vital for the Heat).

Embiid is a force of nature, even if he was showing some rust in this game after missing three weeks with a concussion and orbital bone fracture. Embiid was a disruptive force on defense from the opening tip, finishing with four blocks but that doesn’t begin to get into the number of shots he altered. His ability to make plays on the perimeter and recover is impressive and was on full display.

On offense, he led the Sixers with 23 points, on just 11 shots. He was 3-of-4 from three and got to the line for 15 free throws — Hassan Whiteside could not handle him in the paint, or when Embiid got the ball and drove.

When Embiid sat the Sixers’ pace instantly picked up, they were getting transition chances, moving the ball around and getting good look threes. Philly hit 18-of-34 threes (52.9 percent) and when the outside shots are falling it opens up the drives and everything the Sixers want to do in the paint.

It was a tale of two teams for the Sixers — one with Embiid, and a faster one when he sat — and Miami had trouble adjusting to the different but effective versions of the Heat.

Simmons finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists. He also did this, which is some insane handles for a guy 6’10”.

Handles so smooth!

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Dario Saric and Belinelli each had 21 for the Sixers.

Goran Dragic playing his best game of the series, finishing with 23 points on 13 shots.

The game was choppy for stretches, there were turnovers and an uneven feel to the game in the first half, but it was close with the Heat up 64-63 at the break. Both teams made runs, but the other always answered. It was close through the third quarter, too.

Then in the fourth, the Sixers found themselves on both ends, and it was over. The Heat play hard, play smart, but they don’t have the talent of the Sixers and when Philly finds its groove there is little Miami can do.

Justise Winslow stepped on Joel Embiid’s mask (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid started for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Game 3 matchup between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia was an important one with the teams tied, 1-1.

Embiid had previously vented his frustration on social media about the perceived slowness of his return to the floor from an orbital fracture.

Now, the Cameroonian big man is back for the Sixers and playing with a huge mask and goggles.

But the mask didn’t come without its problems for Embiid. It clearly affected his shooting and ability to handle the ball, as evidenced by a missed alley-oop in the second quarter, among other things.

There’s also the matter of how other players are treating Embiid and his mask. At one point, Embiid’s googles ended up on the floor and Heat forward Justise Winslow purposely stepped on them.

Via Twitter:

That’s harsh.

Embiid will have to adjust to using the mask since it’s unlikely he will be cleared to play without it soon. Hopefully he has some backups just in case the first couple sets get broken.

Tractors worth $50,000 stolen from Scottie Pippen’s farm

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HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.

Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.