NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 3: Rashard Lewis and the last, best hope for the Magic

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Lewis_Celtics.jpgFans, the media, your local bartender, pretty much everybody is shoveling dirt on the Orlando Magic. They are not only down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, they lost their first two games at home. Orlando has to go into Boston and win, and the Celtics don’t have all those banners hanging overhead because they lose a lot at home in the playoffs.

But the Magic can win, it is not an impossibility. It’s a longshot, a crazy longshot, but Boston sports teams have blown plenty of sure
things over the years.. It’s just that a few things need to happen.

That starts with Rashard Lewis. And if he doesn’t start with him it will end with him.

His role in this series was to pull Kevin Garnett and his amazing help defense away from the paint — hit threes and force Garnett to come out and get him. Lewis is 1 of 9 from three in two games. By the second game, Garnett was willing to lose him in the half court and let the rotations — a couple times the not fleet-of-foot Big Baby — make the run-out at Lewis. Garnett is leaving him; the Celtics do not fear him.

It is a favorite point of Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie and he is dead-on — if Rashard Lewis isn’t hitting shots, he hurts the Magic because he doesn’t do much else. He’s not a good rebounder for a four (something you sacrifice because he wants to be on the perimeter) and he is not a great defender. (To be fair, Garnett is just 9 of 30 shooting through two games, on that end Lewis is holding up his end of the bargain,)

Lewis needs some confidence — maybe he needs to get going by putting the ball on the floor and getting a couple layups. He needs a bucket, he needs to get going. Because if the Magic are to have any hope, Lewis has to drain the three — he is a stretch four for a reason. If he does, things open up for Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter driving the lane. If not, Game 3 will look a lot like the first two.

The other thing the Magic need to do — what they have been working on in practice — is taking away the easy transition buckets for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo loves to push the pace and probe after turnovers and misses, and the Celtics have picked up some easy buckets that way. It has been a decider in close games.

At the same time, the Magic and Nelson need to turn the tables — create some turnovers of their own and get a few easy baskets. Buckets are hard to come by against these Celtics in the halfcourt, but they struggled this season against teams like the Hawks that could create turnovers and finish in transition. The Magic need a little of that.

Do all that and the Magic can make a comeback this series. They can. Really. Thing is, the Magic need to do it today in Game 3.

If they lose this one, we can all pick up a shovel and start throwing dirt on them.

Report: Joakim Noah tells teammates he’s leaving Bulls

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15:  Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls runs off of the court after dislocating his left shoulder against the Dallas Mavericks at the United Center on January 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Mavericks defeated the Bulls 83-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Joakim Noah said in January he wanted to re-sign with the Bulls. Chicago reportedly wants to keep him.

A perfect match?

Not quite.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

According to a Bulls player, Noah has been telling teammates the last few weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and “has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction.’’

The player was asked if Noah’s feelings had anything to do with first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and the he said, he said that went on early in the season when Noah lost his starting job, and insisted that Noah didn’t offer up that as an explanation.

What was offered up, however, was the fact that there seems to be a complete mistrust that multiple players have toward general manager Gar Forman, with Noah leading the way.

Noah and Hoiberg publicly disagreed about whose choice it was for Noah to come off the bench. Hoiberg said it was Noah’s. Noah said it was Hoiberg’s.

That looked like a petty problem, one both sides could – and maybe did – get over. But it seems Noah has deeper concerns.

This has been a rough year for the Bulls, who missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. That unexpected downturn takes a toll on chemistry and brings buried problems to the surface. That’s especially true considering Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau – a coach who looks better in hindsight. If players miss Thibodeau, that opens the door for them to turn on Forman, who forced out Thibodeau.

That said, the Bulls are probably better off letting Noah walk. He’s 31 and has been banged up the last couple years. I wouldn’t commit big money to him with Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis under contract and the need for faster players to run Hoiberg’s system. Chicago can’t quickly solve its Jimmy ButlerDerrick Rose issue, because Butler is worth keeping and Rose is under contract another year on a difficult-to-trade deal. But shedding Noah and using the resulting cap flexibility elsewhere gets the team headed in the right direction.

For his part, Noah can seek a fresh start – how about with Thibodeau in Minnesota? – and find a team that suits him, either a win-now squad or a younger group seeking veteran leadership.

Report: Indiana junior Troy Williams staying in NBA draft

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25:  Troy Williams #5 of the Indiana Hoosiers reacts in the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
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An Indiana player – Thomas Bryant – who likely would’ve been a first-round pick didn’t even declare for the draft without an agent.

Another Indiana player – Troy Williams – who might not even get picked will stay in the draft.

Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star:

Williams, a 6-foot-7 small forward, is an excellent athlete. He’s not strong enough and hasn’t shown enough awareness to project him defending well in the NBA yet. But his length, quickness and leaping ability give him potential on that end. That and transition offense will have to carry him for now, because his outside shot is unimpressive.

There are players like Williams in every draft. It’s on him to convince a team that he has the work ethic and intelligence to refine his game.

Klay Thompson gives most depressing interview answer (video)

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The Warriors are taking a beating on the court, but their turmoil reached heartbreaking levels in Klay Thompson‘s press conference after Game 4.

Thompson, scanning the box score for any semblance of hope, applauded Golden State’s “40 assists” – which would have been the most in a playoff game since 1994. But he quickly realized that couldn’t be right, looked again and sadly announced Golden State had just 15 assists.

Thompson was probably looking at the Warriors’ rebounding total (which was 16 below the Thunder’s).

Report: Steven Adams suffered testicular contusion

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When Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin, it did more than create mass debate about the appropriate punishment.

Green hurt Adams badly, it sounds like.

John E. Hoover of The Franchise Tulsa:

Once you finish wincing, take a moment to appreciate how tough Adams is. He kept playing in the game and then came out in Game 4 throwing bullet passes.