New York Knicks v Boston Celtics - Game Two

NBA Playoffs: Celtics overcome Carmelo’s 42, take 2-0 lead

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The Knicks have certainly made the first games of their series with the Boston Celtics interesting.

In Game 1, the Knicks were able to take the Celtics to the wire thanks to the stellar offensive play of Amar’e Stoudemire. In Game 2, back spasms limited Stoudemire to four points in only 16 minutes of play, but the game still came down to the final few possessions thanks to a virtuoso scoring performance from Carmelo Anthony.

Carmelo recorded a game-high 42 points and 17 rebounds in game two, and he was an absolute monster from everywhere on the floor. Carmelo shot 8-17 on shots outside of the paint, with four of those shots coming from beyond the arc. Anthony had a few catch-and-shoot opportunities, most of his jumpers were of the tough, contested variety, which makes his shooting performance extremely impressive. Anthony was also able to work inside effectively and crash the offensive glass, and kept constant pressure on the Celtics with his blend of athleticism, shooting touch, and toughness around the basket on offense.

It was a reminder of why the Knicks gave up so much for Carmelo — even with Stoudemire and Billups on the sidelines and no other real scoring threats on the floor for the Knicks, Anthony was able to give the defending Eastern Conference Champions a scare because of his ability to score from anywhere on the floor at any time.

The Celtics were able to overcome Anthony’s onslaught thanks to the play of Rajon Rondo and late-game execution. Game 2 illustrated a fundamental philosophical debate in NBA coaching — after missing a shot, should teams risk giving up a fast-break and crash the offensive boards, or should they give up the chance for a second shot and get back on defense? The Knicks opted to do the former, and outrebounded the Celtics 53-37 despite a lack of size up front.

The Celtics opted to do the latter, and were able to absolutely burn the Knicks in transition. Every time the Knicks turned it over or missed a shot that led to a long rebound, Rajon Rondo and company were off to the races. Rondo was absolutely unstoppable in transition, and was able to get to the basket over and over again — Rondo scored 30 points despite shooting only 1-6 on shots outside of the paint, and 7 of his 13 field goals came in the first seven seconds of a Celtics possession. When the Knicks did manage to stop Rondo in transition, the mismatches the Celtics’ fast tempo created led to easy shots on the secondary break. Mike D’Antoni may be the most well-known advocate of fast-break basketball in the league, but he watched his team get torched in transition in Game 2.

In the final moments of the game, the Celtics’ superior execution proved the difference once again. After Carmelo Anthony hit an impossible three to put the Celtics up three points with 2:36 remaining, Doc Rivers called a time out and instructed the Celtics to double team Anthony whenever he touched the ball, wherever he was. His gambit worked, and the Knicks came up empty on their next three possessions.

With 19 seconds to go, Jared Jeffries was able to get open off an Anthony double-team and lay the ball in to put the Knicks up one, but Rivers again had an answer. He called a post-up for Kevin Garnett, who went right at Jeffries and took and made his first go-ahead field goal in the final seconds of a game since becoming a Celtic. The Knicks then forced the ball out of Anthony’s hands on the ensuing possession, rotated to Jeffries when he caught the pass, picked off a pass intended for Bill Walker, and took a 2-0 series lead.

The Knicks now find themselves in the same position as the Pacers — they played extremely well and gave the favorite a scare, but will still need to win the next game to keep any realistic hope of advancing. One advantage the Knicks will have is that Madison Square Garden will be a madhouse if the game goes anything like the first two games of the series did — if the Knicks can get healthy and play a full 48-minute game against the Celtics, they’ve shown they’re capable of tying up the series before it goes back to Boston.

Mike D’Antoni declares James Harden the Rockets’ point guard (‘points guard’)

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James Harden is no longer the NBA’s best shooting guard.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden – who averaged 29.0 points and 7.5 assists per game last season – is now Houston’s point guard, though D’Antoni added it wouldn’t be a big adjustment.

D’Antoni, via ClutchFans:

With James, we’ll make a cheap joke. He’ll be a points guard.

We just renamed it. You guys got something to write about.

Harden already controlled the ball a ton, taking primary playmaking and distributing responsibilities last season. This just gets the ball into his hands quicker and should allow the Rockets to play faster, a key component of D’Antoni’s offense.

Of course, D’Antoni’s offense functioned best when Steve Nash – more of a pure passer – ran it with the Suns. Harden won’t duplicate that. His passing ability is more predicated on taking advantage of his scoring threat. But Harden – who, like Nash, is an excellent ball-handler – could make the offense hum in his own way.

Even though D’Antoni is trying to downplay the position switch, it’s a notable shift. Harden fully commanding the offense is a grand experiment with major upside (and potential for a rocky downside).

This will also allow Houston to use Patrick Beverley (historically a point guard) or Eric Gordon (historically a shooting guard) in the backcourt with Harden, allowing a more flexible rotation.

LeBron James says he’ll stand for national anthem

Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers
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LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul made a statement denouncing the mistreatment of black and brown bodies and retaliatory violence.

Then, Colin Kaepernick took the civil discourse to another level by sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutalizing black Americans.

Will LeBron – the most powerful player in the NBA – follow Kaepernick’s method of demonstration?

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“I think you guys know when I’m passionate about something I’ll speak up on it, so me standing for the national anthem is something I will do, that’s who I am, that’s what I believe in,” James said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect and don’t agree with what Colin Kaepernick is doing. You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion and he’s doing it in the most peaceful way I’ve ever seen someone do something.”

“You see these videos that continue to come out, it’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and said if he got pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are gonna go well and my son is going to return home,” James said. “My son just started the sixth grade.”

“I don’t have the answer,” said James, who has a track record for speaking out when notable cases of police violence toward blacks occurs. “None of us have the answer, but the more times we can talk about it, the more times we can conversate about it. Because I’m not up here saying all police are bad because they’re not. I’m not up here saying that all kids are great and all adults are great, because they’re not.

“But at the same time all lives do matter. It’s not black or white, it’s  not that. It’s everyone, so, it’s just tough being a parent right now when you have a pre-teen.”

To many – seemingly including LeBron – the national anthem (at least the verses we sing) represents what America aspires to be. Kaepernick and those who’ve followed his lead can’t overlook what America is.

Neither approach is wrong.

What’s important: We continue the conversation about police overreach and racism in America. The first step in fixing the problems are acknowledging that they exist.

Kaepernick has brought an incredible amount of attention to the issue. His protest is working.

LeBron will add to the cause in his own way, but Kaepernick kneeling opened the floodgates. Because of Kaepernick, LeBron was asked about this today, and his fears about his son interacting with police will be heard.

Derrick Rose: ‘I felt I didn’t do anything wrong’

FILE - In this June 24, 2016, file photo, New York Knicks' Derrick Rose speaks during a news conference at Madison Square Garden in New York. Phil Jackson made a risky move when he traded for the injury-prone Rose in June, and now the Knicks face the possibility of their point guard's involvement in a rape trial in California during his first preseason with the team.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
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The Knicks say they’re not concerned about Derrick Rose, who’s facing a civil lawsuit and criminal investigation for an alleged rape.

Rose doesn’t sound concerned, either.

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

Maybe Rose said he believes he did nothing wrong because he did nothing wrong. Maybe Rose said he believes he did nothing wrong because he’s lying.

Or maybe Rose said he believes he did nothing wrong because he doesn’t understand he did something wrong.

That’s the sad possibility of this case and countless others. People sometimes rape because they don’t understand consent.

Having sex with someone too drunk to give proper consent is rape. Doing a sexual act to someone who consented to sex but not that specific act is rape.

Rose should be concerned. The evidence against him is compelling, and it could lead to civil and criminal penalties. He should also be concerned whether he properly understands the line between rape and consent. You don’t know what you don’t know, and I hope Rose – even if he already already possessed a clear understanding of rape and consent – and everyone else uses this as an opportunity to thoughtfully examine what is and isn’t consensual. It’s important information to hold, because ignorance of what’s rape does not justify rape.

This isn’t an issue to brush aside for something as trivial as basketball.

Cavaliers guard Mo Williams reverses course, retiring now

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22:  Mo Williams #52 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Mo Williams, despite retirement rumors, announced last week he’d return to the Cavaliers for one more year. Williams knew Cleveland would face major challenges without him, being forced to rely on young and unproven Kay Felder and Jordan McRae behind Kyrie Irving at point guard .

Williams, via David McMenamin of ESPN:

I didn’t want to put the Cavs in that situation at the end of the day.

Well, Williams is putting the Cavs in that situation.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Williams, 33, informed the Cavaliers just before Media Day Monday that he was retiring from basketball, not even a week after announcing via Twitter that he would return for one more season.

Cleveland general manager David Griffin said at the top of his press conference that Williams’ agent, Raymond Brothers, informed the Cavs of Williams’ latest decision in the morning.

It seemed possible Williams wanted to retire but was trying to extract a buyout on his $2,194,500 salary. Doing so would’ve required convincing the Cavs he’d grind through the season but, hampered by injuries, not produce enough to justify his salary and roster spot.

It’s unclear whether the Cavaliers called a bluff, agreed to a buyout or Williams had a true change of heart. Cleveland would be especially reluctant to give him a portion of his salary, because those payments would count toward the luxury tax. But maybe the Cavs are willing to incur a small hit.

This puts plenty of pressure on Felder, the No. 54 pick. He has shooting and distributing talent, and his hops are eye-catching. But the adjustment from mid-major Oakland to the NBA is tough for anyone, let alone someone 5-foot-9.

At least the Cavs can turn to LeBron James as the de facto backup point guard in big games. Give him the ball, flank him with a few wings, and Cleveland will be alright.

This just makes it a little harder – which is not to say hard – for the Cavs to claim the No. 1 seed while limiting their stars’ minutes and set themselves up for those big games next spring and summer.