NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 4: Bynum sits, game gets physical and it feels like 2008 again

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Davis_Bynum.jpgThese Lakers were different. It’s what we heard, it’s what we saw. These Lakers were not soft, they would not roll over for the Celtics like two years ago. Right? And they didn’t. For three games.

Then Andrew Bynum sat, his knee clearly worse for the wear. Then Game 4 got physical. Then for the first time in the series the referees let the teams play.

Suddenly, if you squinted just a little, it looked like 2008 again. Boston controlled the boards when it counted. Boston played with a real sense of desperation. Glen “Big Baby” Davis was the best big man on the floor — you really have to squint to think he is Kevin Garnett — and the Lakers bigs were pedestrian or worse. Boston was more physical, they pushed the Lakers around and they won Game 4. And the series is tied 2-2.

Needless to say, the Celtics liked the flow of this game.

“Extremely physical game but it was a clean game…” Rivers said. “Both teams were allowed to play. It was a physical game.”

The Lakers were not allowed to play like they wanted, in part because of the aggressive Celtics post defense and in part because they lacked Bynum. He played 12 minutes — six at the start of the game and a couple other three minute runs — but he hobbled and was slow. In the first few minutes he got an offensive rebound right under the basket and tried to go back up — a shot he normally dunks with authority. This time he could barely elevate and Kevin Garnett blocked his layup. It was that kind of night for him.

Bynum said after the game the swelling is the worst it has been, limiting what he can do, but that the pain is about the same. He also said he was disappointed but planned to bounce back for Game 5. (Kobe added they need him to.)

Without Bynum, the matchups switch. They revert to 2008 inside. The very physical Kendrick Perkins gets to cover Pau Gasol (he still had 21 points but just six rebounds) and puts Kevin Garnett on Lamar Odom (he had 10 points and seven boards).

When the benches came in, Davis got matched up on Lamar and just owned him inside. Davis used his strength to get what he wanted. At the other end, the much quicker Odom was hesitant to attack Davis off the dribble until late in the game, when the Lakers got desperate.

The biggest difference was on the glass. Boston grabbed the offensive rebound on 34.8 percent of their missed shots in Game 4. This was not something they were good at during the regular season, grabbing just 22 percent (28th in the league). Tonight they owned it.

Kobe Bryant had a good game — 33 points on 10 of 22 shooting and 6 of 11 threes — but he could not get going late and take over. He also had seven turnovers. Boston is doing a good job forcing him left and having help ready. He was not able to drive the lane as he did in Game 1. His threes heavily contested. He and Gasol also got tired, as Phil Jackson said after the game, which happened because Jackson did not trust his bench.

In Game 5 the Lakers know they need Bynum back. Not the full strength Bynum, they’ll take the one from a week ago.

“We’re glad we have a couple days off to get him back hopefully in a position where he can help us out again” Phil Jackson said.

They will need him. They will need Kobe late. They will need a sense of desperation. Because Boston has won one game in Los Angeles and if they go ahead 3-2 they know they need to win just one more. They are starting to feel like it is 2008 again.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.