How the Celtics can win the championship

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Banner #18. Rondo becomes a bona fide superstar. Doc Rivers proves all his doubters permanently wrong and either stays or retires on his own terms. Tom Thibodeau becomes the most accomplished first-year head coach in recent memory when he goes to Chicago. Paul Pierce, who stuck with the team through all the bad times, gets a second ring as The Captain. All of Rasheed Wallace’s sins are forever washed away. Nate Robinson becomes more than one of the great summer league players ever. KG…I’m not really sure, but it will be good.
What do the Celtics need to do tonight to bring yet another Finals trophy back to Boston? Here are my keys:
1. 48 Minutes of Hell

this is the mentality Boston needs to have if they want to win this game in Los Angeles. They need to use their length and their speed to swarm all over these Lakers. They need to bump Gasol off of his spots in the high post. Ray Allen and Kobe need to bother Kobe on every shot. Heck, they need to bother him on every dribble. Pressure the Lakers early, clamp down on Kobe and Gasol, and make them try to shoot their way back in the game. Bring doubles from different angles, flood the strong side and rotate back, collapse on drives, and hawk those passing lanes. No Perkins? No problem. Rasheed has the length to guard a hobbled Bynum, and everyone should be hungry enough to pick up Perkins’ slack on defense. They know the system. 
They know what they need to do. If they play with aggression and intelligence on offense, they can take the crowd out of it and make the Lakers play their brutal version of basketball. Besides, if the Celtics get stops, they’ll be able to…
2. Get full-court opportunities for Rondo and Co.

The Celtics are a pretty good half-court offensive team. They’re a terrifying fast-break team. If Rondo runs, the Celtics get layups, fouls on the Lakers, and open threes for Allen and Pierce. On both ends of the court, Boston must make the game as frenetic as possible. 
3. Make Bynum move, attack Odom

If Rasheed Wallace can hit some threes early, that would be great. Even if he doesn’t, it would be a huge plus for Boston if he can space the floor and drag Bynum out of the paint. The Celtics need to keep Bynum from camping out in the paint — they need to get Ray Allen off of baseline screens, put Pierce in the pick-and-roll, or get some pick-and-pop action early to make Bynum step out and challenge jumpers. When Odom is in, that’s when it’s time to run the offense through KG in the post, get Paul Pierce rumbling to the basket in ISO, or have Rondo attack the lane. 
4. Get greatness from Ray Allen

When Ray Allen isn’t on, he can get some layups in transition, space the floor, get some open shots, and play smart defense on Kobe. That won’t be enough. The Celtics need Ray Allen on. They need him running the floor, stopping on a dime, and draining threes. They need him picking the helping big apart off of a baseline screen. They need him darting behind double-screens and draining threes. They need him pulling up off the pick-and-roll or changing gears to get to the rack. Ray Allen has all the moves. The Celtics need him to have all of them working in order to score consistently in Los Angeles. 
5. Be the deeper team
Boston can’t have another game where nobody but Rondo, Pierce, KG, or Ray Allen scores until the fourth quarter. Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and especially Rasheed Wallace have to believe that this is their time. Nobody else will think it’s their time, and most probably think Boston is going to get sent home without a championship tonight. Then again, nobody expected Boston to make it this far anyways. Thanks to their lackluster regular season, Boston’s players and coaches have been the only people who believed they could actually win the championship this year. And against all odds, their belief in themselves has allowed them to win 15 of the 16 games they need. If they keep believing for another 48 minutes, they might actually end up proving themselves right.

Warriors put up historic 45 in first quarter on way to 128-103 Game 4 rout, sweep of Blazers

Associated Press
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This game was never in doubt. Much like the entire first-round series.

Golden State had Kevin Durant back and he hit a pull-up three to open the game, and pretty soon the Warriors had stretched the lead to 12-0 on a Klay Thompson three (and eventually were up 14-0).

That led to the Warriors putting up a historic 45 points in the first quarter, tying for the most points in an NBA playoffs first quarter ever. The Warriors were up 23 after one, and never looked back on their way to a 128-103 Game 4 rout, completing the sweep of Blazers.

There’s not much to analyze here, this game is was similar to so many games over the past couple seasons where the Warriors overwhelmed their opponents. Portland fought, but this was not going to be their game or their series. Here are some highlights.

Stephen Curry had 37 points, Draymond Green 21, and Klay Thompson had 18.

Damian Lillard had 34 points for Portland.

It may have been a disappointing ending to the season for Portland, but the team found a center late this season in Jusuf Nurkic who balances out what Lillard and C.J. McCollum bring on the outside. The Blazers have to figure out how to become a better defensive team this summer, but they took a step forward after the All-Star break that they can build on.

The Warriors will get some rest before taking on the Jazz or Clippers in the next round.

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

Associated Press
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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.