Boston Celtics Avery Bradley slam dunks over the Los Angeles Clippers during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Celtics suck the fun out of Clippers style, earn the win

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Teams have to learn how to win at the NBA level. How to play to their strengths, how to recognize the mismatch and exploit it, how to go to the counter when the first option is taken away.

Boston knows how to do that — their depleted roster and aging bodies may not let them execute it like they did a few years ago, but they know how.

The Clippers have no idea yet. They will some day but right now they are learning some hard lessons (and you can go ahead and wonder if coach Vinny Del Negro is the guy to lead them past it).

That difference is what it came down to Monday night at Staples Center — the Celtics stayed close by turning it into their kind of game. Meaning chippy and slow. Then when the game was close in the final four minutes they executed and the Clippers didn’t. The result was a 94-85 win the Celtics needed.

“This is lob city and they enjoy the game. You can see when they play they have a lot of fun and we just had to make this game no fun,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Boston knew exactly how to suck the fun out of the Clippers — at the top of the white board in the Celtics locker room before the game were the two top defensive priorities: no lobs, no threes in transition.

Boston executed that for the most part, they slowed the pace and turned it into their kind of ugly, physical game. There were five technical fouls, guys sprawling on the floor all night and a lot of hard fouls. It felt more like a playoff game.

“This is our kind of game,” Paul Pierce said afterwards.

While both teams had leads at various points this was a tied game, 78-78 with 3:25 left. That is when Boston really showed their experience while the Clippers showed why they have struggled late in games and lost a number of them lately.

Both teams had gone small — Boston by necessity, the Clippers by choice — and that meant the Clippers were playing Bobby Simmons at the four. Bobby “I’m here on a 10-day contract” Simmons. Boston went right at him — Simmons was supposed to guard Pierce but Pierce drew a foul on one possession then got free for a three at the top of the key when the Clippers defense collapsed on a Rajon Rondo drive on the next possession. Then the Celtics ran a pick to force a switch of Simmons on to Kevin Garnett (the Clippers switched everything late). Garnett hit a key fade-away three over Simmons. Garnett finished with 21 points and Pierce 25.

The Clippers could not get a key late stop and the lineup on the floor was one Boston could exploit.

“We talked about putting some more size out there but I felt those guys were in the rhythm of the game…” Vinny Del Negro said after the loss. “I just felt those guys had a feel for what Paul (Pierce) and Kevin (Garnett) were going to do.”

Late in the game in particular but through the game overall the Celtics and Rondo did a good job taking away Chris Paul’s penetration. Do that and the Clippers struggle to counter well in the half court. Boston knows its counter moves — they have years of experience together in the same system. Boston has that it, Los Angeles is still learning.

And learning the hard way.

Jabari Parker held out of Bucks lineup vs. Heat for breaking team rule

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MIAMI (AP) Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker is out of the starting lineup for the first time this season Saturday night at Miami after breaking a team rule.

Parker will play coming off the bench, coach Jason Kidd said.

Kidd declined to elaborate on the move, which came after the Bucks held a long players-only meeting following a loss Friday at Orlando. The meeting got heated at times, and Parker said he wasn’t well received when he expressed his point of view.

Parker has scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games. He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Thon Maker, making his first career start.

Gregg Popovich on Trump: “Can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth” (VIDEO)

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Today across the country many hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets as part of the Women’s March to protest Donald Trump, his misogyny as demonstrated in prior comments made about women, and policies he’s promised to put in place to weaken women’s health including defunding Planned Parenthood and gutting the Affordable Care Act. Gregg Popovich, no stranger to speaking his mind about Trump, was asked about the marches today and how he felt about the former reality TV star’s first hours in office.

Popovich responded for around four minutes, spanning a wide breadth of topics including Trump’s maturity level, respect for the presidential office, and Trump’s cabinet members waffling on implied meaning when he insulted a handicapped reporter in November of 2015.

Via Cleveland.com:

I wish that he was more — had the ability to be mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying ‘I’m going to include everybody.” He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it, but so far we’ve got a point where you really can’t believe anything that comes of his mouth.

Popovich also expressed his frustration with Trump’s insecurities, referencing his need to discuss the size of the inauguration crowd from Friday — reported widely by major news outlets in both text and video/photographic evidence — as far smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.

“I’d just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity, psychological, and emotional level of somebody that was his age,” said Popovich, adding, “It’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist, and make fun of handicap people.”

It’s an interesting period in American history to be sure. Things are at such a fever pitch after Trump’s election that whether people like it or not — and no doubt many won’t like Popovich’s comments or this article about it — the lines between diversion and real life, including politics, has begun to blur.

It’s great to see that coaches and players in the NBA are able to speak their minds about topics openly like this, perhaps surprisingly so when you consider the amount of money involved for the league and teams.

If you’d like to read the full comments you can do so here:

Ricky Rubio will miss Nuggets game for personal reasons

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Ricky Rubio has left the Minnesota Timberwolves for personal reasons and will miss at least the next game on Sunday against Denver.

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau says he expects Rubio to get back into town late Sunday and rejoin the team for practice on Monday.

Rubio did not play in the second half against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night because of tightness in his left hip. Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones filled in admirably, helping the Wolves defeat the Clippers, 104-101.

Rubio has been the subject of trade rumors for much of the season, with the belief that Thibodeau would prefer a point guard who shoots better from the perimeter. In his previous five full games, Rubio was averaging 13.2 points and 14.0 assists.

Executive Director of NBA Coaches Association Michael Goldberg passes away

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The NBA announced on Saturday that Michael Goldberg, Executive Director of the NBA Coaches Association, has passed away.

Goldberg, who had been the head of the NBCA since 1980, was also general counsel to the ABA before that and was part of the league’s merger with the NBA in 1976.

Rick Carlisle, head coach of the Dallas Mavericks and president of the NBCA, released a statement upon Goldberg’s passing.

Via NBA.com:

The National Basketball Coaches Association mourns the loss of a leader, pioneer and trusted friend. In a life and career of remarkable achievement, Michael H. Goldberg fought for the betterment of NBA coaches with intensity and compassion. He will be remembered for his humility, loyalty, kindness and signature bow tie. Within our profession, Michael’s authenticity and polite persistence made him iconic. I have always been in awe of this man who did so much for so many and asked for so little in return.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also released at statement after Goldberg’s death:

“Michael Goldberg was a beloved member of the NBA family and a dear friend to me. For more than 40 years in professional basketball, he poured his passion and energy into strengthening and growing our game. Dressed always to the nines with his trademark bow ties, he advocated relentlessly for NBA coaches and was one of the driving forces behind the league’s global growth. We mourn his passing and send our deepest condolences to his wife, Linda; his daughters, Lauren and Susan; and his many friends and colleagues.”

The league will miss Goldberg, and coaches will honor him for the rest of the 2016-17 NBA season with custom bowtie lapel pins — a trademark of his signature style.

Just last week, the league announced that the NBCA will have their own NBA Coach of the Year award and that it would be named after Goldberg thanks to his service to the league and the NBCA.