NBA Playoffs: The Celtics survive the Knicks

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Well, it’s been an interesting first round so far, hasn’t it? The Knicks were the latest underdog to give the home team a lot more than it bargained for in the series opener, and they were probably one shot away from stealing a game in Boston on Sunday. Unfortunately for them, poor late-game execution cost them game one, but they were still able to show the Celtics that they are more than capable of making this a very tough series for Boston. Some quick takeaways:

The good news for the Knicks: Amar’e Stoudemire was the best player on the floor for much of the game. The Celtics couldn’t stop Stoudemire’s inside-out game, which was nearly perfectly balanced: Stoudemire made 6 of his 9 jump shots and 6 of his 9 shots inside the paint. The bad news? The Knicks apparently completely forgot about that late in the game, and Stoudemire wasn’t touching the ball or involved in any way on the Knicks’ final possessions.

Boston was essentially the polar opposite of the Knicks down the stretch — while the Knicks relied on off-the-dribble jumpers and basic isolation play, Boston won the game thanks to two straight well-executed sets out of time-outs. The first set got Kevin Garnett a quick alley-oop dunk to cut the lead to one with 37 seconds to play; the second got Ray Allen a clean look at the go-ahead three with 11 seconds remaining when New York had no timeouts. There aren’t many ways around it: Mike D’Antoni was flat-out outcoached.

The Celtics should have two main worries coming out of this game: Rajon Rondo’s ineffectiveness and their lack of depth. Ray Allen was the only member of the Fantastic Four that shot well, but you can forgive off shooting nights from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett since they rely on jump shots so much. Rondo isn’t a jump shooter or a volume shooter, but he’s historically been one of the most efficient scoring guards in the NBA. It’s no secret that the Celtics are an entirely different animal offensively when Rondo is on his game than they are when he isn’t — a 5-14 night isn’t how you want to see Rondo start the series off.

What may be even more troubling is Boston’s lack of depth. Glen Davis is Boston’s only reliable bench player, and he went 1-8. Jeff Green has been a disaster. Injuries have prevented Delonte West from getting into any kind of a groove this season. Nenad Krstic played for four minutes, missed a wide-open mid-range shot badly, and was promptly asked to sit down again. New York’s bench outscored Boston 23-8, and New York isn’t supposed to have a bench. That’s something to worry about for the Knicks.

The Knicks had a great shot to win a road game, and they let it slip through their fingers. Those losses are never easy to bounce back from, especially if the injury Chauncey Billups suffered at the end of game 1 will have an impact on his status for the rest of the series. Still, they now know that they can hang with the Celtics for 48 minutes, and they just might be able to give them a real run for their money in this series.

Nuggets C Mason Plumlee undergoes surgery to fix core-muscle injury

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DENVER (AP) — Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury.

The team said Plumlee had the procedure performed Thursday morning by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason.

The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.

 

PBT Extra: Spurs many off-season questions start with Kawhi Leonard

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San Antonio has a lot of roster questions heading into this summer. When Danny Green opts out at $10 million a year, how much do they offer to bring back a key wing defender? What about Tony Parker, an unrestricted free agent? Will Manu Ginobili come back at age 78 41 for another season?

But at the top of the list: Can the Spurs relationship with Kawhi Leonard be repaired?

If so, do they trust his health enough to offer him the $219 million designated veteran max extension?

If not, do they test the trade market (likely we will know the answer to that around the draft, well before July 1)?

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

NBA makes it official: LeBron did goaltend on Oladipo’s final shot

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Ultimately, this is moot. Nothing changes — not the critical last Pacers possession, not the fact LeBron James drained a three afterwards (and may well have anyway). All it provides is a little validation for frustrated Pacers fans and players.

Yes, LeBron did goaltend on Victor Oladipo‘s shot with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was then a tie game between the Pacers and Cavaliers. The NBA confirmed it in its Last Two Minute Report on Game 5 in that series. From the report.

“(Above the rim view) shows that James (CLE) blocks Oladipo’s (IND) shot attempt after it makes contact with the backboard.”

Oladipo called it goaltending. However, the officials didn’t call goaltending on the play, therefore it was not reviewable. Often on bang-bang plays like this one an official will call goaltending just to give themselves the chance to review it, but this crew did not (and that is a tough call to make accurately in real time).

From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

The report also concluded that it was Thaddeus Young who knocked the ball out of bounds on the baseline with 27.6 seconds left, knocking the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The ball bounced on the line — and was therefore out, but the official didn’t call it — then bounced back up, hit LeBron on the arm and went clearly out of bounds. The referee called the second bounce after it hit LeBron. From the report:

“(Video) shows that Young (IND) deflects the ball away from James (CLE) and it lands out of bounds, but there is no whistle. The ball then bounces and hits James’ arm and lands out of bounds again, which is called. Possession of the ball is incorrectly awarded to the Pacers.”

One other note to Pacers fans: The goaltending call is not why Indiana lost. Oladipo shot 2-of-15 on the night. Darren Collison had a very an off night, was not aggressive, and was 1-of-5 shooting. There are a myriad of plays and decisions that go into a game, one blown call is not why the Pacers lost.

The question is can they regroup at home, get more secondary playmaking and buckets from someone other Oladipo, and can their defense force a Game 7? It can, but they have to put the end of Game 5 behind them first.

Kelly Oubre: Raptors’ Delon Wright ‘doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home’

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Delon Wright made some big plays down the stretch to help the Raptors to a Game 5 win over the Wizards last night. With Toronto up 3-2 in the first-round series and the home team winning the first five games, Game 6 is tomorrow in Washington.

Oubre, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“The next game is a different story. We’re back at home. Just like Delon doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home,” Oubre said, sharing inspiration coupled with a touch of an insult. “You can kind of chalk it up as the same story.”

Wright decided not to escalate the conflict when reporters asked him about it.

Wright has been much better in Toronto than Washington in this series. His average game score is 14.7 at home and 5.7 on the road.

But that’s such a small sample. During the regular season, there wasn’t nearly such a big split between Wright’s average game score at home (8.4) and on the road (6.9).

For what it’s worth, Oubre has a somewhat similar home-road average-game-score split, both in this series (9.4 at home, 6.3 on the road) and during the regular season (8.1 at home, 7.5 on the road). Which Oubre basically acknowledged in his diss of Wright/self-own.

This is pretty typical Oubre – hyper-competitive verging on out of control. It’s fun regardless.

Let’s just say he’s right, though, and the Wizards win Game 6. Game 7 would be Sunday in Toronto, where, by Oubre’s own admission, Wright plays well and the Raptors are undefeated in the postseason. Then what?