NBA finals Lakers Celtics Game 4: Blogbook drools like a Big Baby

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A collection of thoughts on Lakers-Celtics Game 4…

  • If Glen Davis is a Drunken Seal, tonight was the big show at Sea World and everyone clapped for him. Davis was a beast, and his ability to create shots against the Lakers’ bigs was pretty much the difference in the game. Davis’ emotion seems like a caricature of itself at times, but tonight it also served as the ripcord to kickstart the Celtics’ motor. Offensive rebounds aren’t easy to come by against the Lakers, and Davis got four of them. It was his yelling and screaming that brought the crowd back into it and the Celtics fed off that. It’s the circle of life, really.
  • Andrew Bynum is the difference. I don’t know how else to put it. I could talk about the rebounding, but that leaves out the defense. I could talk about the defense, but that leaves out the drop-off pass work. I could talk about the dump pass buckets, but then… you get the point. The weird thing has been that you can’t noticeably see the effect of the knee injury. He seems healthy on the floor, but is obviously telling the trainers something. You have to think Jackson yanked back on Bynum’s minutes tonight to give him time to rest up for a pivotal Game 5. It fits with Jackson’s M.O. They need him more than any other player outside of Pau and Bryant for Game 5.
  • Paul Pierce’s ability to get space returned tonight, and not a moment too soon. Pierce’s step back elbow jumper is one of the most central parts of the Boston attack and it’s been silent in the Finals until tonight, when Pierce got it going at several points on his way to 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting. He had 5 turnovers, but you’ll gladly take that if it means he’s being aggressive with the ball. Artest got clipped on screens tonight and didn’t have the same tenacity to peel off them as he did in Game 3.
  • Rajon Rondo is off. Don’t know if it’s the muscle spasms or the defensive switches and pull-outs to the free throw line, but something’s not right. He’s not dictating the tempo nor the offense the way he has throughout the playoffs. Just three assists for him tonight, and the layups. Ye Gods, the layups. Kid got enough iron to form Optimus Prime. Rondo had a .62 points created per possession used mark tonight, That’s a fairly terrible figure and one that the Celtics need to find a remedy for. As well as Derek Fisher has been playing, Rondo should still be getting his.
  • Rasheed Wallace’s outburst after a questionable third quarter foul call while defending Kobe Bryant (after some terrific perimeter defense by Tony Allen to force him inside) was perhaps the longest single stream of obscenities in the history of network television.
  • That said, Sheed did manage to have more good plays than bad, particularly the late arcing three he drained that helped fuel a massive Celtic run.
  • The Lakers have to consider this somewhat of a letdown game, considering they had a nine point lead, Rondo didn’t go off, Allen didn’t go off, and Garnett was contained. More and more it feels like whichever bench contributes more decides who wins the game.
  • Luke Walton, zero minutes. Huh? After a Game 3 where he came up huge with hustle and savvy, Walton gets a DNP-CD tonight, with no official explanation regarding an injury. You have to think his back injury must be worse than they let on, because the Lakers needed a jump and Walton would have been a perfect candidate. Even if he would have allowed more damage from Paul Pierce, he may have helped out the offense which the Lakers desperately needed.
  • Pau Gasol had 44 minutes tonight, and still didn’t see the ball enough. 21 points on 13 shots and you still feel like they left a few bullets in the chamber with Gasol. He had one particularly terrific play where he went baseline, managed to worm space and create a bank shot that was straight out of the Tim Duncan playbook. Gasol’s brilliance continues to shine, even as the Laker offense underrates him.
  • Anyone else think Andrew Bynum’s going to play a ton of Starcraft II when he’s recovering from knee surgery in five weeks?
  • Nate Robinson is everything Stephon Marbury was supposed to be that wasn’t. The fiery former Knick who comes off the bench at point guard and produces points.
  • Bryant is struggling in the fourth quarter in this series, putting in heavy minutes then finding even tighter defense in the closing minutes. He scored 12 in the 4th tonight through sheer will power.  He’s probably due for an outright explosion, but it’s a trend worth noting as the series continues. That said, some of his shots were pure perfection tonight. 

Tempers flare in chippy Game 4 between Heat, Sixers

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Miami is a physical defensive team, and in Game 4 at home Saturday they cranked that up. The Heat also are a handsy team they clutch, grab, hold, and get away with what they can (that isn’t new to this playoff series).

The Sixers are getting weary of it, and in a game with plenty of double technicals thanks to the referees trying to keep control. The game bubbled over a little midway through the second quarter when Robert Covington made sure Goran Dragic didn’t get off a shot after a foul.

These two teams don’t like each other. 😅

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Ben Simmons also leaned into Wade on a screen and pancaked him. But drew a foul.

😅

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Miami had the lead after three, but the Sixers have owned the games late this series. It’s going to go down to the wire.

Advantage Utah? Jazz’s Derrick Favors “100 percent” back

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When Derrick Favors can find ways to impose his will, good things happen for the Utah Jazz.

Favors has been quietly, albeit effectively, getting it done against the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing in the shadows of Utah rookie of the year candidate Donovan Mitchell and Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

But a healthy Favors is making an impact.

The Jazz have returned to Utah with the series tied 1-1, thanks in no small part to Favors. He tallied career playoff highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds in Utah’s 102-95 road win on Wednesday.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder will start Favors at power forward alongside Gobert beginning with Game 3 on Saturday. But he will also utilize him as a backup center to spell Gobert. Favors has done his part to make playing alongside Gobert work by extending his shooting range to improve offensive spacing. He has also made himself an effective roller.

“He’s always been a good pick-and-roll player, regardless of `position,”‘ Snyder said. “We’ve never really thought of him as one position or the other. We’ve thought of him as a basketball player and tried to have him understand his strengths and then play to his strengths.”

Indeed. In the first two playoff games against the Thunder, Favors is averaging 13.5 points on 52 percent shooting and 10.5 rebounds.

It is exactly the type of impact Favors envisioned making when fighting to reclaim his body from knee and back injuries that afflicted him for the better part of two seasons.

“I’m back to being 100 percent,” Favors said. “Back healthy. Back moving the way I know I can move and playing the way I know I can play. It’s a big advantage for us.”

There’s no question having Favors at full strength has improved Utah’s ability to counter a Thunder team featuring the potent trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. The veteran forward/center offers versatility on both ends of the court honed through playing multiple positions as circumstances dictate.

Crashing the boards definitely tops the list when checking off Favors’ strengths. He ranks second on the Jazz roster in rebounding behind Gobert with 7.2 rebounds per game.

When Favors is active on the glass, it can change the direction of a game for Utah. In Game 2 against Oklahoma City, he grabbed eight offensive rebounds through the first 2 1/2 quarters. By contrast, the Thunder totaled six offensive boards as a team in the same stretch.

“His length and his strength allow him to get his hands on balls,” Snyder said. “He’s got such good hands that even when he keeps the ball alive, usually something good happens.”

Favors’ willingness to go full throttle around the basket has turned him into a reliable complimentary player on offense. He rolls to the basket with consistency and, more often than not, it pays off for him.

It has turned Favors into a legitimate offensive presence again. He averaged 9.5 points on 48.7 percent shooting while limited to 50 games a year ago. This season, Favors is scoring 12.3 points per game while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor.

“Other teams and other opponents, they look and see I’m 6-foot-10 and think I’m a 5 man or whatever, so they try to take advantage of it,” Favors said. “It just feels good to be able to go out there and move the way that I know that I can move and be able to play the way I know that I can play and teams can’t take advantage of it.”

Favors is focused on staying aggressive as the series with the Thunder shifts to Utah. He is having fun playing basketball again and wants to make sure Oklahoma City continues to feel his presence on both ends of the court.

His teammates certainly do and they understand what a difference it can potentially make as the Jazz battle to keep going in the postseason.

“He’s been like that all year,” Mitchell said, “but he’s definitely turned it up with what he can do.”

 

Heat have work cut out vs. surging Sixers

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MIAMI (AP) — Philadelphia 76ers reserve guard Justin Anderson scored six points on Thursday, but he played a major role nonetheless in a 128-108 playoff win over the Miami Heat.

It was Anderson who worked on the psyche of teammate Joel Embiid, the 76ers’ All-Star center who returned after missing 10 straight games because of a concussion and left-eye injury.

“Justin was hyping me up on the bench, telling me I’m one of the best players in the league and that I have to take over,” said Embiid, who wore a mask during the game. “I liked that.”

Embiid, with that added boost of confidence, produced 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 30 minutes. He missed his first five shots from the floor and then made five of his next six, including three 3-pointers.

In addition, Embiid made 10 of 15 free throws, wrapping up his highly successful NBA playoff debut.

On Saturday afternoon, the teams will meet again at AmericanAirlines Arena in a first-round series the Heat trails 2-1.

Certainly, the Heat will try to corral Embiid, but Miami gave its own star center, Hassan Whiteside, just 13 minutes on Thursday, in part because of foul trouble.

Whiteside produced just five points, two rebounds and one block. He made his only shots from the field, but his four fouls helped to keep him off the court.

“I want to get more minutes,” said Whiteside, who led the NBA with 3.7 blocks in 2015-2016 and with 14.1 rebounds last season. “Even with the fouls, I could’ve been out there. I would not have fouled out.”

This season, Whiteside is averaging 14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. But, on average, his minutes per game are down seven minutes from last season and even more in the playoffs.

Whiteside said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra “wants me to just be in a corner and set picks.”

Spoelstra, meanwhile, said “it’s part of my job to figure out how he can get to his strengths and make an impact on defense and rebounding.”

Aside from the two centers, the other big story line in this series revolves around the 76ers, a young team that won 18 of its past 19 games. After years of horrendous records amid a major teardown and rebuild effort, the 76ers have looked like the best team in the league during the past month.

They didn’t just beat the Heat on Thursday — they ran them over, making 18 of 34 3-pointers (52.9 percent). They also shot 50.6 percent overall and were plus-eight on rebounds and plus-14 on paint points.

Ben Simmons, the 76ers’ star point guard, nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and seven assists.

JJ Redick, one of the top shooters in the league, scored just 10 points, but 76ers teammates Dario Saric and Marco Belinelli each scored 21 points and each hit four 3-pointers to help the offense flow.

Miami was led by 23 points and eight assists from point guard Goran Dragic. Heat reserve forward Justise Winslow scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. But Miami’s top three shooting guards — Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade and Wayne Ellington — combined for just 21 points.

The game’s biggest factor was Embiid, who had been listed as unlikely to play until Thursday afternoon, when he was cleared by doctors.

Embiid had a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter, which continued a trend. In Philadelphia’s two wins in this series, they have outscored the Heat by 31 and 21 points, respectively.

Anderson said Embiid has been a team player throughout.

“One of the things (Embiid) told me during (Thursday’s) game was to tell Coach that he didn’t want any plays run for him,” Anderson said. “He just wanted to play within the scheme.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo laid waste to Aron Baynes with this dunk

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For the first time this series Friday night, the Bucks looked like the more talented team.

That got them a comfortable win at home against the Celtics and set up a huge Game 4 on Sunday, with the Celtics still up 2-1 in the series. This looked more like the Bucks team that some of us picked to win the series, the team with the long and superior athletes unleashed on defense to challenge everything Boston tried. Milwaukee also got a big game out of Thon Maker at the five, which helped spread the floor because he’s a threat from three (as a team, the Bucks were 16-of-33 from deep) that the Celtics had to cover. That opens up driving lanes.

Giannis Antetokounmpo took advantage of those lanes laid waste to Aron Baynes with this dunk.

🛫 THE GREEK FREAK TAKES FLIGHT! 🛬

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Damn. That’s not fair.

🇬🇷💥

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Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee… and let’s just say I’m not betting Baynes will be able to turn the tables and put the Greek Freak in a poster.