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.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.