NBA Playoffs: Knicks take one more swing at Celtics

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Let’s start with the injury report: No Chauncey Billups and maybe no Amar’e Stoudemire for the New York Knicks. No Shaquille O’Neal for Boston, but that has not mattered.

New York always had just a puncher’s chance in this series — they were less talented but if Stoudemire could take over one game, if Anthony took over another, if Billups drained some big late shots then….

Nope. The Knicks landed their haymakers in Game 1 (Stoudemire was brilliant, so the Knicks went away from him in the final two minutes) and Game 2 (‘Melo went off) and it didn’t matter. The Celtics withstood the blows, executed late and won. Billups has been out since tweaking his knee late in Game 1 and been a non factor.

Game 3? That was pretty much where the talent levels of these teams are at. Boston was up 9-0 to start the game and it never felt any closer than that in a blowout win.

No Stoudemire and Billups should mean New York gives the Celtics the Full D’Antoni and just tries to run the into the ground. Run on everything. Makes and misses. But that’s probably not what happens, the ball will stick when it hits ‘Melo’s hands, the Celtics will run a hard double team at him and we’ll see what Shawne Williams and Toney Douglas can do. And Jared Jeffries, don’t forget Jared Jeffries. Meanwhile Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo will continue to have good series.

Boston knows the Heat are next and the more time off (likely a week, rumor is next weekend is when that series will start) the better. Their old legs could use it. But the Celtics are fully capable of going through the motions and losing — remember last year’s playoffs they were up 3-0 twice and lost Game 4 both times — forcing a Game 5 on Tuesday. It really is a matter of how focused they are on defense.

Everyone, including Spike Lee, knows how this movie ends. Boston is the better team, the Knicks wanted to make the playoffs and generate some excitement this season and they did that. The only question now is how long it drags out. And that is a matter of focus from the Celtics and how many Knicks can be put out on the court Sunday.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.