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.

Watch 50 top clutch shots of last NBA season

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There are 1,230 NBA games in a season, and decent amount of those come down to which team executes better in a close game late. (By the way, the best teams don’t win the most close games, the best teams have the most blowouts and aren’t in as many close games.)

What that means is there are a lot of game winners, a lot of clutch shots every season. The folks at NBA.com compiled them for you, and what else do you have to do on a Sunday night but watch 13 minutes of them.

Yes, there is plenty of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook in this one, but the clutch shot of the season belonged to Kyrie Irving.

Jason Terry chose Bucks because he wants to play, not just mentor

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 27:  Jason Terry #31 of the Houston Rockets dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 27, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Jason Terry has talked about reaching out to multiple teams, including contenders, during free agency before settling on the Milwaukee Bucks. When he talked about why the Bucks, he spoke of believing in what Jason Kidd was building.

There may have been another reason: Minutes.

From Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times:

Some NBA officials contend he signed with Milwaukee and rejected overtures from a handful of teams, including the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, because of potential playing time.

“He wants his minutes,’’ said an NBA executive, whose team had shown some interest in signing Terry. “He didn’t go there (Milwaukee) to sit on the bench.’’

Terry’s agent denied this, saying he wanted to be part of the Bucks.

If minutes was a key part of his decision, so what? Guys choose teams for money (usually), wins, to play with friends, lifestyle, and weather, plus other reasons — how much run they get is in that mix. It’s never just one thing. And playing time matters.

No doubt Terry will get run with the Bucks behind Matthew Dellavedova, although Giannis Antetokounmpo with the ball as point guard is what is going to make this team fun to watch.

Report: Other league executives don’t expect DeMarcus Cousins to stay in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings stands on the court during their game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Sleep Train Arena on February 26, 2016 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The vultures have been circling.

Other teams have called Sacramento GM Vlade Divac since the day he took office to inquire about the availability of DeMarcus Cousins — however, only George Karl took those calls and tried to run with it. The Kings know they have a franchise player, the best traditional center in the game right now, in Cousins and that is hard to come by. While it may not be easy — Cousins has always been demanding of those around him — they need to make it work.

Enter coach Dave Joerger, the guy who had success with difficult personalities in Memphis and got that team to the conference finals a couple of times.

Cousins has this season and next on his deal, and around the league the conventional wisdom is he bolts when this contract is up (hence the trade calls). Here is what one executive told Zach Harper of CBSSports.com.

“They’re fooling themselves if they think he’s sticking around,” said one league executive. “The good news for them is his value will always be high. There isn’t a point of no return in which you’re not getting high value for him. Teams will bid against each other in the trade market. Maybe [Cousins] doesn’t go for the biggest money in free agency but you’d love to have that card to play.”

The Kings aren’t giving up on being able to keep Cousins. They hope Joerger, the Olympics experience, some winning, a new building, and a trip to the playoffs will have Cousins thinking Sacramento is his home, where he wants to stay and build something.

I’d be surprised if the Kings seriously considered any move before next summer. But if Divac and company get the sense after this contract that they may not be able to keep Cousins — and let’s be clear, up to this point the organization has given him little reason to put his faith in them, Cousins is not unreasonable here — they have to make a move. This is not Oklahoma City where they can just turn the team over to Russell Westbrook, if Cousins goes it’s a rebuild in Sacramento (for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in a decade).

Celtics fans (and the rest of you convinced Cousins is coming your way), you need to wait it out. This is not going to be some quick move this summer.

But the vultures are circling.

Harrison Barnes says Mavericks are Nowitzki’s team, he has to prove himself to German

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Harrison Barnes is the new gun in Dallas — a four years, $94 million contract says so. Dallas is betting the No. 4 option in the Warriors attack is ready to blossom as the No. 1 option with the Mavericks.

But make no mistake, the Mavs are still Dirk Nowitzki‘s team.

Barnes knows it and told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News he has to prove himself.

“Out of respect, this is Dirk’s team,” Barnes said. “He’s put in the years and won a championship. But I have to go out and earn that. People assume that just because you get paid a lot of money and have a lot of attention that all of the sudden you’re guaranteed this many shots. I have to prove that every day in practice. I have to prove that to the coaching staff, and ultimately, if I’m going to be the guy taking shots, I’ve got to prove it to Dirk.

“You have to have that balance of scoring and playmaking, and learn how to be a closer. I think that’s the beauty of it, that I get to learn from one of the best to ever do it in Dirk Nowitzki. You talk about guys closing games, he’s got to be top-five all time. I’m just looking forward to learning from that guy.”

That’s exactly what he’s supposed to say. Well done by Barnes.

There is going to be an adjustment period in Dallas. Barnes may be able to handle being a No. 1 option — don’t let his rough Finals or riding the bench in the Olympics cloud your judgement — but we will have a better sense of that in February and March rather than November. He needs time to grow.

By the way, good on Mark Cuban for using the cap space he had to make Nowitzki the highest paid player on the team at $25 million — reward the guy who has been loyal to you.