Ainge says the Kendrick Perkins trade makes Boston better

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I’ve heard plenty of Celtics fans tell me why I am wrong, but count me in the group that thinks trading away Kendrick Perkins will come back to haunt Boston.

I’m not alone, Dan Shaughnessy ripped Ainge in Sports Illustrated when the trade went down. But Monday he gave Ainge a chance to defend the trade.

“I think we’re stronger. I think our offense and our defense will be every bit as good, if not better as long as we get some bodies healthy….

“First of all, we were leading the conference because of Shaq. We had a better record with Shaq than we did with Perk. Our offense was better and our defense was at least the same. I don’t think Perk is Perk yet. I hope that he becomes that for Oklahoma City’s sake. We thought it was going to take some time for Perk. He wasn’t the shot-blocker or the rebounder that he’s been in the past. We think that by adding Jeff Green (Green had 21 against the Warriors last Friday), Nenad Krstic, and Troy Murphy we think we’re a better team than we were. Shaq was starting for us when we had the great run this year. Baby (Glen Davis) was finishing for us. So we basically lost middle minutes.

Ainge has more trust in Shaq to be able to perform consistently in the playoffs — especially on the defensive end — than I do. He thinks more of Jeff Green than I do.

But Ainge knew the risks he was taking in a season where the Celtics had a real shot at a title. He would not have made a move he knew jeopardized the Celtics title team. He knew how this would be received by the veterans in the locker room

Credit Ainge for making a bold play. We’ll see how it turns out in May and June.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.