NBA finals Lakers Celtics: Paul Pierce says 'you can't predict' if he'll get going

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The Big 3 have yet to have a game where they are all clicking the finals. Typically, this kind of element elicits one of two reactions from the players in question. Either a Kobe-esque “We’ll be fine. Next game, we’ll come out and take care of business” or a more focused “We have to step it up next game, have to make it an area of emphasis” kind of statement. But the Celtics, with the confidence and experience they have, aren’t going down that road. All they care about is the win, and they obviously think they can continue to get wins without a breakthrough from multiple members of their best players. Especially Paul Pierce.

Pierce told the Boston Herald in regards to his offensive production in the series:

“Usually when somebody has a bad game, I think they have to find it
within themselves to go out there and help this team win, because when I
don’t score and I don’t do certain things, I never look at it as a bad
game, especially for me, especially if we win,” Pierce said. “I always
find some way to turn it around, say this is what I did to help my
ballclub win. But as far as getting guys going, you know, this team
ain’t really like that. It’s not like if I don’t go out here and score
20 or Ray doesn’t do it then that’s the emphasis on the next game. The
emphasis is all about playing the right way, playing defense, sharing
the ball.”

Still, while the Game 4 win on the backs of Glen Davis and Nate Robinson surely was entertaining and the stuff of Finals lore, that’s not a formula the Celtics can depend on. The Celtics’ bench has certainly stepped up in their wins this series, but similarly have faded in their losses. The Boston Big 3 has to get going if they’re going to win one when the series of unfortunate events the Lakers have faced (Kobe’s foul trouble, bizarre calls, Andrew Bynum’s injury) don’t befall them. This isn’t to say the Celtics haven’t had their share of cosmic pratfalls (Derek Fisher going off, their own share of bizarre calls). But it is to say that the Celtics need to put the fear of God into the Lakers with the offensive firepower their best players can provide.

Pierce has been waking from his offensive slumber more with every game. In Game 4 he finally found his way to the right elbow for that sweet spot step back jumper that is his trademark. The Celtics’ screens are punishing the Lakers, creating more space each time through and in a series that has taken on the mark of attrition, that may be the difference. But Pierce has to capitalize and needs to have an alpha dog mindset in Game 5.

Because the alpha dog on the other side will definitely be bringing his bark and his bite.

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.

LeBron James on Lance Stephenson-drawn technical foul: ‘I gave him a little nudge, and he falls to half court. Come on’

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LeBron James and Lance Stephenson have met in 23 playoff games.

Stephenson has tried to agitate LeBron throughout all of them.

From the choke sign back when Stephenson was still a benchwarmer to the infamous ear blow to the tapping of LeBron’s face the next game, Stephenson has been relentless. And LeBron has mostly kept his cool.

But not last night.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers’ Game 4 win over the Pacers, Stephenson stuck close to LeBron as LeBron went to the Cleveland bench. LeBron pushed Stephenson away and received a technical foul.

LeBron:

I mean, I should never have gotten a tech in the first place. There’s a timeout called, and this guy’s following me to my bench. I gave him a little nudge, and he falls to half court. Come on. But I should know better. I should know better. I’ve been dealing with this since elementary. It’s like I tell you a joke – I tell you a joke and then you laugh, and you get caught. That’s what happened. Lance told me a joke. I laughed. Teacher caught me. Now, I’ve got to go see the principal. That’s what happened.

Stephenson earned that technical foul. He did just enough to bait LeBron, but too much where Stephenson would get a tech. Then, Stephenson exaggerated the contract.

LeBron got got, and he knows it.

He’s also probably savvy enough to remain on greater alert to Stephenson’s antics the rest of the series and avoid responding again.