One beloved Boston sports team — the Boston Bruins — just lost a series where they were ahead 3-0. The Philadelphia Flyers came back and spanked them.
So there it is Orlando, your ray of hope. It’s not much of one, it’s not even the same sport, but your team hasn’t given anybody much reason for hope in this series, so you take what you can get.
The smart money is on the Celtics closing this series out tonight. Not only have they been the better team –with the Magic unable to execute their game plan in the face of the Celtics defense — but also they have taken the fighting spirit out of Orlando. After the Magic rolled over in Game 3, what would lead one to expect anything will be different for Game 4 tonight?
Orlando needs somebody to be their Dave Roberts. Someone other than Dwight Howard, who the Celtics will let have a big game as long as his teammates stay cold (see Game 2 for example). Someone on Orlando needs to step up and start hitting the shots the team has been missing, someone needs to make some defensive plays, someone needs to inspire them with effort.
The Magic need that one win to plant the seed of hope and give it a little water.
But that seems a long shot, the Celtics have intimidated the Magic. Boston can cover Dwight Howard one-one-one so they stay home on the three-point shooters, and Orlando can’t seem to deal with that. Orlando was one of the best executing teams in the NBA during the season, now they look timid. The Celtics got physical, and the Magic backed down. Not Stan Van Gundy, the players. There has been no fight in that dog. What we will likely see tonight is a lot more of this.
Maybe, maybe Orlando will come out with some fight tonight. Maybe they will be proud and the Celtics overconfident. Maybe Rajon Rondo will decide to work on his midrange game tonight. Maybe Rashard Lewis will get hot from three.
Probably not, though. It’s probably over and tonight we will just watch the death throes of a Magic season that had looked so promising. And we’ll watch the Celtics get ready for another Finals.
Rajon Rondo says he will not play in Game 5, doesn’t sound optimistic about quick return
He tried. Rajon Rondo has seen the Chicago Bulls struggle the last two games without him as a strong defender and stabilizing influence at point guard — something nobody thought Rondo would be mid-season — and he wanted to get back on the court for Game 5 against the Celtics. He took some steps toward getting ready to play.
But it’s not happening, Rondo said at shootaround Wednesday. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
If the Bulls are going to win this series, they are going to have to do it without Rondo.
Isaiah Canaan will get the start in Game 5, and he will set a lot of screens in a 1/3 pick-and-roll to try and get Isaiah Thomas switched on to Jimmy Butler. Canaan can do that. He had fallen way out of the rotation and is really a two-guard not a point, but with the terrible play of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, coach Fred Hoiberg took a gamble. It worked, at least for one game. Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played well on both ends of the court. But Canaan was buried on the bench for a reason, he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. The Celtics will be prepared for him in Game 5.
Hoiberg’s best option is to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most, with three wings who can handle the ball in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and probably Denzel Valentine. That could be a challenging defensive lineup and Boston will try to get the lightning quick Isaiah Thomas switched onto Wade or Valentine (neither of which can guard him). Also, this lineup would be draining and put a big load on Butler, but he could handle it for critical stretches of the game.
Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.
The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.
The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.
Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.
The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.
The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.
Did Russell Westbrook really block a teammates shot to get ball back during Game 5?
Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.
The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.
Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.
It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).
I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.
Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.
Much like the video above.
Former Pacers’ star Danny Granger on Paul George: “you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana”
There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.
“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”
Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.
Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.
However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)
Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.
Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.