NBA finals Lakers Celtics Game 1: Your pre-emptive hyperbolic headlines

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So here we are. It’s go time. Time for the dance. Ready to rumble. A June for all the marbles (until November, at which point it starts all over again, especially if your team loses in which case you will disavow this season behind an excuse). It’s the NBA finals! And it’s Lakers-Celtics! OMG!

So before we get this here party started, we thought we’d go ahead and map out a few scenarios that will be leading tomorrow’s headlines. We’re not precognitive, we’re just precious.

“PIERCE ‘WHEELS’ WAY TO CELTICS COMEBACK”
: You realize if Pierce gets fouled hard tonight and goes down for a heartbeat he’s going to get it from Staples as bad as if he mistakenly called Prada Gucci. (Those brands ares still relevant, Lakers fans, yes?) After 2008’s wheelchair thing, Lakers fans can’t help but bring it up every fourteen seconds. The phrase “Pierce’s wheelchair” gets used more in Staples than “So is that a touchdown?” from the lower bowl attendees. If Pierce gets hurt and comes back, the roar of disdain will cause The Big One. And I’m not referring to a Glen Davis bowel movement.

“KOBE BRYANT IS A BAD MAN”: Here’s what’s great about Bryant. He can miss five consecutive shots in the final minute of a game, allowing a 10-0 run from the Celtics which ties it, then knock down an off-balance, fadeaway, poor-look three completely outside of the context of the actually drawn up play and will hear nothing but adulation. Bryant is untouchable as long as he hits that last one, and he can hit it with all the restrictions mentioned, with a blind fold with one leg behind his back while singing “Hakuna Matata.” Sports writers love easy storylines and “KOBE BRYANT IS AWESOME’ is a remarkably easy one.

“LAKERS ZONED OUT”: There’s almost no chance that the C’s opt to implement a zone. It’s risky, hard to execute, and weak against NBA players. That said, wouldn’t it be interesting if Doc Rivers whipped it out in the third quarter (the zone, I mean, you sicko)? To bring back nightmares of the Suns series, only with better defenders. Truth be told, the Celtics already play a version of it with man-help, where the interior defenders constantly shift to shut down the lanes while the perimeter defenders apply ball pressure. A few more cemented zones wouldn’t be the most outlandish thing in the world, and the headlines would be fantastic, if by fantastic you mean horribly cliche.

“PAU-PAU-PAU-ER WHEELS TAKE GAME 1”: Yes, that’s two ‘wheels’ jokes. What can I say, sportswriters have a thing for circles. Pau Gasol is probably due for a standout game that leaves you breathless and while Kevin Garnett is a man’s man, Pau Gasol is.. well, a Spaniard’s seven foot tall All-Star with incredible range and touch and terrible facial hair. Gasol taking over Game 1 would lead into a perfect angle of the “costar” stepping up for the “lead star” Kobe Bryant.

Also, be prepared for the following.

  • Statements from the losing side regarding the free throw discrepancy and/or crucial foul calls late in the game, even if their team was down 10.
  • Immediate columns about how the team that lost is in “trouble” despite it being only a singular game, and a million references to the odds of winning the finals if you win the first game.
  • Columns blasting the showboat behavior of a star player/defending the showboat behavior of a star player.
  • Numerous internet pieces on the movie stars in attendance and their wardrobe.
  • Randy Newman.

Enjoy Game 1 everyone! Be sure to come back later for our livechat at 9EST!

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.