NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 4: Magic fight off the icy cold hands of Celtics to stay alive

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dunky.jpgYou didn’t think it was gonna be that easy, did you?

Actually, for a second there? We all probably did.

The Orlando Magic staved off elimination Monday night with a gutsy 96-92 overtime win in Boston, avoiding a sweep and sending the series back to Orlando for Game 5.

It was the first time all series that the Orlando Magic that had so competently destroyed teams in the second half of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs made an appearance. Knocking down threes, playing tremendous defense by contesting every shot and closing lanes, creating open looks with multiple rotations off the pick and roll, and competing at an NBA championship-worthy level. Oh, yeah, and Dwight Howard did his thing.

The Big Freak was dominant, pouring in 32 points to go along with 16 rebounds, and the two were connected. Five of Howard’s boards were offensive, and in overtime, he simply was too much for the drunken seal, Glen Davis, to stop. This after Glen Davis played a fine game, even nailing an 18 footer to get the Celtics back within one possession late in the third.

This one was an all-out fight, stop to finish, and nearly ended up with one. Dwight Howard popped Kevin Garnett in the mouth with a loose arm that may or may not have been drawn upward by KG (depending on if you prefer blue or green), and Garnett responded with a shove, drawing a technical. That brought the Celtics back into it and they went on to take the lead at one point.

The Celtics lost despite a brilliant game from Paul Pierce, who had 32 points, 11 rebounds, and two steals, including a vicious dunk late in the fourth where he blew past J.J. Redick like he wasn’t there. The one thing that’s been certain in this series is that neither Vince Carter nor Mikael Pietrus, nor Matt Barnes can stay with Pierce in any respect.

The Magic back court was a huge weapon Monday, with Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick combining for 35 points, knocking down 9 of 12 three pointers between the two of them. Redick’s defense on Ray Allen continued to be superb and gave the Magic another weapon and ball handler, even if Allen knocked down a few tough shots and Redick had a few turnovers in the process. The net gain was a positive, much better than Vince Carter who had three points, 3, in an elimination game.

After Garnett’s little tussle and outburst, he knocked down a huge jumper over Jameer Nelson, then made a face and a hand gesture and basically acted like Kevin Garnett. However, Garnett continuously passed up shots in overtime, creating turnovers and bad possessions.

So now the series returns to Orlando, and you can bet this won’t sit well with the Celtics. For as many things as went wrong for them Monday, they had a chance in overtime before Jameer Nelson started dropping bombs like the air force, and will look to not let the Magic any further up off the mat. The Magic have to take their success tonight and add to it, maintaining the intensity and somehow getting some level of contribution from Matt Barnes, Mikael Pietrus, or Vince Carter.

Otherwise, this will be what’s referred to as a gentleman’s sweep. Where you give the opponent one, you know, to be polite.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Eric Bledsoe hair-salon claim about tweet was unbelievable

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Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:

Clear message?

Apparently not.

After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:

The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.

Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.

It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.