Garnett, Garden ghosts lift Celtics past Hawks into second round

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Pretty? Who cares about pretty? Survive and advance.

Game 6 Thursday night was the kind of scrappy, weird game that the Celtics just always seem to win at home. The kind of game where the ghosts of Celtics teams past that haunt the Garden seem to help them. The kind of games where it takes Atlanta’s Al Horford fouling Ryan Hollins fighting for a rebound to give the Celtics a second chance, one where Kevin Garnett hits the game winner. The kind of game where Paul Pierce blocks Joe Johnson at the rim with the game on the line. Where a rare call has the Hawks taking the ball out of bounds late rather than shooting free throws. The kind of game where Horford has a chance to tie but somehow the free throw just misses its mark and Boston holds on.

Boston did hold on and win, 83-80 over the Hawks to win the series 4-2 and advance to face the Philadelphia 76ers in the next round. There’s a fast turnaround — Game 1 is Saturday at the Garden.

There was a theme to this game — whenever a team stopped settling for jump shots and got the ball inside they would go on a run. Neither side shot well — Boston shot 41.9 percent, the Hawks 41 percent.

Kevin Garnett was the key for Boston, finishing with 28 points on just 19 shots, getting to the line 10 times. He pushed inside — including on the game winner with 30 seconds left, a 10-foot fadeaway over Josh Smith — but he also knocked down his jumpers.

Paul Pierce pitched in 18 points on 11 shots, but he had the biggest defensive play of the night, blocking a Joe Johnson drive and layup when the Celtics were up just one with 10 seconds left.

Boston had led most of the second and third quarter and early in the fourth had pulled away to a 74-65 lead. But give the Hawks credit, they would not just roll over on the road. They tightened their defense way up and went on a 10-2 run to make this a close game down the stretch.

As he was in Game 5, Al Horford played well with 15 points and 9 rebounds. If he had been healthy all season, this would have been a different series, very likely with a different outcome.

But Boston, with their veterans and their history — and their defense — gutted out another win. They move on to face a Sixers team that they have to think they can beat, not easily but beat if you continue to defend and get one guy an night to just step up big. And if you get by them…

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Boston and the ghosts that seem to inhabit the Garden and get them wins in games just like this deserve a night to enjoy it. They earned it.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.