The Boston Celtics looked anything but exceptional in the first half of Friday night’s Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks, but Rajon Rondo was able to find his rhythm in the second half as the hosting Celtics needed overtime to pick up a win in their first game at home in the Garden this postseason. It wasn’t pretty, for the most part, but Boston took the lead in Game 3 of the seven-game series with a 90-84 overtime victory in Rondo’s first game back from suspension.
Rondo finished the game with 17 points, 12 assists and 14 rebounds in his return after sitting Game 2 due to contact with an official in the waning minutes of the series’ opening game. The point guard’s players around him often looked overly-average for a game in the NBA Playoffs — and his six turnovers were a bit troubling — but Boston was able to win the battle thanks to the play of their heady point guard. It was a good for Boston considering they nearly gave it away after having an 11-point cushion late in the fourth quarter.
Rondo’s triple-double nicely complemented the rest of the “Big Four” as Ray Allen returned from injury off the bench to score 13 points and hit a dagger free-throw in overtime while Paul Pierce added 21 points (14-of-14 from the charity stripe). Kevin Garnett was excellent on the defensive end, almost overshadowing the 20 points and 15 rebounds he was able to contribute to the box score. The rest of Boston’s roster didn’t add a lot — Avery Bradley missed time in the second half with a shoulder injury — but it was enough to allow them to take the series lead at home.
The Hawks played very well in the first half, but the second half and overtime were a whole ‘nother story. Josh Smith was forced to the bench with a leg injury he suffered in Game 2 and, while it looked like Josh Smith and Tracy McGrady were going to pick up the slack following their first half performances, it apparently wasn’t meant to be. Johnson forced overtime with five points of his own late in the fourth quarter, but made just 11 of his 28 attempts from the field on his way to 29 points. McGrady was much more effective off the bench as he apparently entered a time machine for the first half, but an ankle injury seemed to take its toll on him as he finished with just two points in the second half.
While the turning point was probably Rondo picking up his play in the second half, it could also be due to the Hawks lack of any sort of presence from the forward positions. Jason Collins was ineffective after scoring his only four points in the first two minutes of the game and Erick Dampier — who got surprising playing time due to Collins’ foul trouble — certainly looked his age on both ends of the floor despite a solid six points and six rebounds.
This series is getting uglier by the game (only seven players scored in double figures on Friday night, despite the extra five minutes of overtime), but it seems that Boston has settled into being perfectly happy with picking up ugly wins and hopefully advancing. It seems that plan may work in this series, especially if injuries continue to be a problem, but that might not be the case as the NBA Playoffs roll on.
Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham launched an attack at Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James after the NBA star voiced his opinion on Donald Trump. LeBron had done so many times before, alongside other notable NBA personalities like Kevin Durant and Steve Kerr.
This instance of LeBron speaking up apparently struck Ingraham in some type of way, enough to invoke a shot at James’ intelligence and speaking mannerisms in thinly-veiled comments. Ingraham told James to “shut up and dribble” which sparked the ire of many around the league. LeBron responded in kind, and most considered Ingraham’s racially-tinged tirade to be par for the course from that particular outlet.
Ingraham, who failed to do basic research on LeBron’s background, community leadership, and charitable contributions, also drew criticism from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Speaking before San Antonio’s game against the Cavaliers, Popovich told a crowd that Ingraham’s comments said more about her than about LeBron, and that he was happy the game had such a positive role model for young fans in James.
Shoutout to Popovich for continuing to be a voice from such a prominent position within sports and pop culture. Guys like him and LeBron haven’t exhausted themselves even though the discussion about what they say is undoubtedly tiring.
The playoff picture in the Western Conference became much more opaque after Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury earlier in the week.
Reports out of Minnesota was that Butler had suffered a right meniscus injury, ducking what many had feared was an ACL tear. According to the team, Butler had successful surgery on his right meniscus this weekend.
As of Sunday morning they did not have a timetable for his return.
Minnesota currently stands third in the West but they will have a hard time fending off the rest of the playoff hopeful teams below them without their star player.
For his part, Butler is hoping he will be back in time for the playoffs. Early reports were that the team was thinking his recovery had a 4-to-6 week timeline, but again nothing has been set. Meniscus recovery times vary greatly depending on the issue at hand and the procedure done, neither of which we have details on at this time.
The Timberwolves have the 15th most difficult strength of schedule ahead of them according to Tankathon.com, with games against major Western Conference opponents ahead of them as well as bottom-dwellers like the Memphis Grizzlies.
Minnesota has been a good story all season long. No doubt many will bring up Tom Thibodeau’s workload once again with Butler injured, something compounded by Butler apparently requesting to rest during the 2018 All-Star Game.
Wolves fans have been waiting a long time for this. They don’t deserve this kind of punishment at this late a date, but the Basketball Gods are cruel and unceasingly unforgiving.
It seems Isaiah Thomas is a thorn in the side of many in the NBA these days. The Los Angeles Lakers point guard reportedly was the source of some locker room conflict while he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers, although it appears that Dwyane Wade was the first to lead the charge against Kevin Love in the infamous player rap session.
Thomas is now a member of the Lakers after being part of the worst section of the season in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, with their revamped roster, have just one loss since the trade deadline. LeBron James & Co. have moved on, and Thomas appears set for free agency this summer and yet another team.
A move for the Cavaliers seemed inevitable, even if the return for Kyrie Irving from Boston — conveyed through consequent trades — was less than ideal. Meanwhile Thomas, who didn’t appear to enjoy his time in Ohio, has now said that he was surprised Dan Gilbert’s team bailed on him so quickly.
“I didn’t think they would pull the trigger that fast, 15 games,” Thomas told ESPN’s E:60 in an interview that will air March 11. “But again, it’s a business. And the Cavs were, I mean, they were in panic mode. We were losing — a lot. And I think they felt like they needed to make a move, and they, they basically cleared house.”
Thomas went on to say that he didn’t think he had enough time to find a rhythm not only coming back from a hip injury but on a new team in a new system. Thomas also mentioned that he harbored no ill feelings toward the Cavaliers.
We’ll see if that’s the case when the Lakers take on Cleveland on March 11 in LA.
LeBron James has not missed one Cleveland Cavaliers game this season. At age 33 in his 15th NBA season, LeBron is fourth in the league in total minutes played, third in the league in minutes per game at 37, and is top 10 in the NBA in usage rate.
Don’t expect that to change.
LeBron doesn’t want to take games off — he even dominated the All-Star Game — and do you really think Lue is going to force him to sit while the Cavaliers try to adapt to a radical roster shakeup at the trade deadline? From Dave McMenamin at ESPN.
“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”
LeBron said this last month and things have not changed.
“I told you I want to play every game,” James said. “If my health continues as it is right now, then that’s what it is.”
While “load management” is a buzzword around the NBA — one ignored in Minnesota — LeBron has responded to his increased workload with an MVP level season. LeBron is averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, is shooting 35.9 percent from three, and has the highest value over replacement player in the league. (His less energized play in January likely cost him any real shot at his fifth MVP.) With the league emphasizing not resting players — particularly in nationally televised games, which the Cavaliers have a lot of — LeBron is not getting much if any rest. He wants to play in a full 82.
The only concern is will he wear down. LeBron is going to have to dominate in the playoffs for the Cavaliers to come out of the East. How much gas will LeBron have in the tank come May? There’s a reason Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and a lot of other elite coaches give players a night off. That’s not going to happen with LeBron, at least not likely in a meaningful way.
Consider it something to file away and remember if the Cavaliers and LeBron look a step slower in the postseason.