Knicks’ slide continues as Celtics come from 15 down to win

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Because there might be a little rivalry between the two cities when it comes to sports, we’re rooting for — and could see — a New York/Boston first-round matchup. Boston is deadlocked with Chicago for first, and New York is comfortably in the seventh spot, with no reason to believe that the team will be climbing much higher, given its recent slide.

It was fitting, then, that the two teams clashed for an extremely physical battle that felt like playoff basketball on Monday at MSG. The only problem for the Knicks: very few teams have what it takes to play a physical 48 minutes against this Celtics team, and Boston was cool down the stretch as New York collapsed.

The Celtics came from 15 points down in the third, and nine points down with just over seven minutes remaining to win in typical Boston style, 96-86.

The physical play on both ends led to a star from each team being bloodied in the second half. Ray Allen caught an inadvertent elbow to the head from the Knicks Jared Jeffries late in the third quarter as the two both went up for a rebound. Allen was bleeding profusely, and headed to the locker room to get patched up. He returned to the game in the fourth with no stitches, just a big bandage above his right eye covering the wound.

Late in the fourth quarter, Carmelo Anthony went down near half court while bleeding from over his left eye, after colliding with Rajon Rondo while trying to steal a pass.

Physical basketball comes easy to this Celtics team, and while the Knicks tried to play that way for most of the night, they couldn’t sustain it in the fourth quarter when Boston kicked things into another gear. And, the Knicks had no answer for Paul Pierce down the stretch.

Pierce scored 13 points in the final quarter, and did so without missing a shot. He was a perfect 5 of 5 from the field, while converting both of his free throw attempts, and hitting his only attempt from three-point land. He also added two rebounds and two assists in the period.

While Boston went to Pierce time and again late — and shot 70 percent as a team in that final period — the Knicks struggled to get their shots off. Good looks were nonexistent against Boston’s choking defense, and New York managed to hit only four of its 16 shots in the fourth. Overall, the Celtics ran the Knicks out of the gym in the second half, outscoring them by 24 points (59-35) over the final two periods.

It was an epic collapse from the Knicks, but one that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Boston is a championship-caliber team, one with both the talent and the experience to close out games like this. When things got tight, the Knicks had no idea who to turn to as a stabilizing force, and looked completely lost when the Celtics turned up the pressure.

The loss was New York’s sixth in its last seven games, and for a team that thought it was ready to take a step forward after trading for Anthony, it now seems as though they’ll only be able to barely slide into the postseason.

Once they get there, Boston will be waiting to show them a very early exit.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.