NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 1: The Rasheed Wallace Russian Roulette

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So here’s one.

Rasheed Wallace is in his 14th consecutive playoff run.

He’s made the playoffs every single year after his rookie season. That’s incredible. For  a guy routinely criticized for not wanting it badly enough, to make the playoffs every single year is kind of a big deal. But what he did in the Eastern Semifinals was no less than a coup for every lazy player who says they can turn it on in the playoffs. Sheed was, to be honest, really good. Not great. Not phenomenal. Just really good. Worked the block. Made threes. Rebounded. And in a championship drive, it’s players that can put that kind of production in in limited minutes that can make the difference.

The Celtics are about to face a team with a series of players that give them fits. Orlando’s forwards are faster, have better range, and play inside of a system that accentuates their unique abilities without sacrificing defense or rebounding. Which is why Sheed’s success is so important.

The thing that’s more important is Sheed’s consistency.

He doesn’t have to bring incredible play every game. He doesn’t have to be a difference maker. But what he cannot do is what he has done the entire regular season and continued to do in the playoffs right up until Game 4 against Cleveland: vanish. He vanished, being ineffective at both ends of the floor.

Boston needs every body, at 100%, primed and ready to fire. Doc Rivers can’t have a situation where he puts Sheed in and doesn’t know what he’s going to get. The Russian Roulette that exists with Sheed has to become a consistent effort he can count on.

Sheed’s shown us that when give the chance, he’ll make good on his promises of flipping the switch. He’d better, because so far Orlando’s been “on” for half a season.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.