NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: The good news and the bad news for Boston's offense

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Celtics_bench.jpgAs the Celtics look to move on from their Game 3 loss, they can find some redemption in how much they were able to accomplish with so little going right. As much as I’d like to say that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were smothered by the Lakers’ defense, that doesn’t quite do justice to just how much the shooting of the two left to be desired.

L.A. clearly learned a few things after Ray Allen turned Game 2 into a resume-builder, as the Laker bigs did a better job of preventing open looks and the guards a superior job of chasing him down. But even a team of the world’s most disciplined defenders won’t prevent Ray from getting open at some point, and on numerous occasions Allen found himself open beyond the arc or within it.

Clearly, something was different in Game 3. Allen elevated in idyllic form — his back a straight, steady, and perfectly vertical support from which his arms would heave yet another faultless attempt — but his shots met a less idyllic result. Ray just…missed. Quite a few times, actually. There weren’t flaws in his mechanics, but only the reality that no matter how good of a shooter Allen is or could ever hope to be, he’s going to have nights like this one. Obviously it’d be preferable if those nights didn’t come during the NBA finals, but what are you going to do.

Pan to Paul Pierce, one Celtic capable of making up for Allen’s poor shooting with a three-point assault of his own or another well-timed scoring explosion. Yet Paul wasn’t much help, either. He too missed some very makeable shots — some of them wide open — and finished with just 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. His three hits from outside were much-needed, but this is the second straight performance in this series where Pierce has failed to produce in the scoring column, with his only fault being his inability to hit the shots he’s worked so hard to get.

This is Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, two fine scorers, both going cold at just the wrong time. They’re getting open, they’re getting the shots they want (on some occasions, but not all), but the ball just can’t find its way through the net. Factor in a decent but somewhat uninspired performance by Rajon Rondo, and it’s easy to understand why the Celtics lost in Boston: they were waiting on the arrival of two heroes that never showed.

Still, the nature of the Celtics’ struggles should leave Boston fans somewhat optimistic. Everything that transpired in Game 3 can be fixed with some troubleshooting and a bit of luck, and should Pierce and Allen return to form for Game 4, we could see another tiebreaker as both 2-2 teams square off in Game 5. You’d have to think that both Celtics would be able to rebound from their poor Game 3 performances in one way or another, and if not, Boston will have to get creative in using the mere threat of their offense to open up opportunities for Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, and others.

That’s where things could get a bit dicey. The bad news is that the Celtics don’t have a ton of weapons, and thus they need the scorers they do have to produce. The good news is that the scorers they do have are so experienced and so skilled, that it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be kept down for a significant portion of this series. Even if Ron Artest is playing tough defense and the entire Laker team is aware of Allen’s cuts and streaks, Paul and Ray are plenty capable of rebounding in Game 4.     

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.