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.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.