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.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.