New York and Boston do not like each other.
Their baseball rivalry can at times dominate the sport (and your television, even if you’re just trying to get other scores). The Bruins and Rangers are original six, old-school hockey rivals. I wouldn’t be shocked if the New York Philharmonic and Boston POPS have street fights (which probably look a lot like West Side Story fights).
Basketball? Meh. They haven’t faced off in the playoffs in 21 years and in recent years when one franchise is good the other has been a doormat.
But they face off in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs starting this weekend, and Paul Pierce is looking forward to it, he told CSN New England.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” said Pierce. “You definitely have that rivalry in baseball. Maybe we can spark a rivalry there in basketball. You’ve got two cities who are close, next to each other, great sports towns. I think it’s going to be great for the game.”
“It’s going to be a very interesting series,” said Pierce. “I know everybody’s going to tune in to watch it. I know this is going to be as exciting as probably that series versus the Lakers last year, or even the series we had [two years ago] versus the Bulls. I think it’s going to be very exciting for the fans to watch.”
As exciting as the NBA finals? Really?
And Boston had better hope it’s not as exciting as that Bulls series a couple years back, where Chicago pushed Boston to the limit. The older, veteran Celtics need to get through the first round as quickly and painlessly as possible — Miami is waiting on the other side of New York (sorry Philly) with younger legs and some real elite players to challenge the Celtics defense. Boston getting pushed in the first round takes more out of them for the second round.
Don’t expect Wednesday night’s Boston/New York game to be any kind of playoff preview. Boston will not have Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West, and both teams are expected to play their bench guys big minutes. Think of this more as a game to see what guys will make the end of the playoff roster and not a series preview.
The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team, but they didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are and what players on the roster should be part of that team moving forward.
Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.
The Bulls are telling teams they plan to hold on to him, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.
And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.
“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.
What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, he’s locked up under contract until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max before the TV deal money kicked in), why would they trade him?
Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.
The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall. =
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.