Boston, Philly enter Game 3 thinking… even more defense?

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It seems weird to say after two games that have felt like Sahara Desert of watchable offense, but going into Game 3 both Boston and Philadelphia are thinking about locking down their defense.

But that speaks to the mindsets of why these teams are here.

Boston is struggling to score with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen dragging bum legs around the court, so finding a way to get Rajon Rondo going or squeeze more points out of Kevin Garnett matters. (Is it time to use Pierce more as an at-the-arc shooting threat because of how he is moving?) But what they really need to do is find a way to cut off what Philadelphia is doing well this series — dribble penetration and getting to the line.

Jrue Holiday got in the lane and had six shots at the rim in Game 2, sparking the scoring Philadelphia got. Holiday had just as many shots at the rim as Rajon Rondo, but Holiday can also knock down the three (4-6 in Game 2) and that balance threw off the Celtics defense. Evan Turner also was creating offense off dribble penetration. It meant Philadelphia took 21 free throw attempts to Boston’s 9. (Philly had 20 free throw attempts in Game 1, also.)

It’s not that the Celtics played bad defense — they gave up just 87.2 points per 100 possessions in Game 2 — but with their offense dragging like and anchor their defense has to be better. Which means better individual defense, staying in front of their man, and in particularly it means Rondo winning his battle with Holiday by a wider gap.

Boston also needs to own the boards — Indiana grabbed the offensive rebound on 26.8 percent of their missed shots in Game 2. That will be a key stat in Game 3 because with two struggling offenses second chances like that can swing games.

Back at home, the Sixers can look for a boost from role players — Thaddeus Young has not yet found his groove this series but they need them. Lou Williams is not exactly a role player, he led the 76ers in scoring this season, but they need and expect better than 3-13 from him in Game 3.

But when they spoke they spoke about defense, specifically about not letting Pierce or Allen get in a groove. That duty again will fall to Andre Iguodala. Philly has taken away many of the easy buckets from the Celtics and if they continue to do that Boston will continue to struggle to put up points.

The biggest surprise in this series has been Lavoy Allen, the Sixers bench big man who has played good defense on Kevin Garnett and pitched in 10 points last game. If he keeps it up at home the Sixers are in a good spot.

They are in a good spot in general — Philly played Boston even on the road, showed poise and out-executed them at the end of a close Game 2, and now they come home. The pace of these games has been a little faster than Boston played this season and if Philly can up that a little more, get a few more easy transition buckets, they will be hard to beat.

There’s no reason to think Game 3 will not be a close, low-scoring affair like the last two games. But the Sixers come home after a confidence-boosting road win and if they can build on that this series could turn sharply in their favor.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning 3-pointer to beat Kings (VIDEO)

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Welp, looks like Russell Westbrook is re-energized after All-Star Weekend.

As the first night of games after the break got underway on Thursday night, it was Westbrook who gave us a jolt as he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings on the road.

With just a second to go, Sacramento’s Justin Jackson had tied the game up at 107-107. This came after Vince Carter pulled up confidently from nearly 30 feet out, missing badly. Sacramento missed another follow, and then Jackson put home the final try.

Via Twitter:

That left the Thunder to advance the ball with just one second left.

Oklahoma City ran a simple play with Westbrook running near-to-far across the arc from the inbounder, eventually settling at the top of the 3-point line.

He let it fly, and that allowed OKC to come away with a win, 110-107.

Bulls find way to lose despite being up by 5 with 35 seconds left

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CHICAGO (AP) Ben Simmons scored 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115 on Thursday night.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.

Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers.

Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near half court and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.

Portis had a chance for a game winner, but his short attempt – with Embiid defending – just missed.

The 76ers raced to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter before Portis got hot and Chicago started making 3s.

Philadelphia’s lead was down to 33-29 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls busted out for 40 points in the second to take a 69-67 halftime lead. Chicago was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the quarter, including 4 for 5 by Portis.

The 76ers were up by five early in the fourth before Portis scored six straight points – on a 3-pointer and a three-point play – to put the Bulls on top 101-100. A few minutes later, Portis dunked over Embiid to stretch the lead to 111-106 with just over four minutes to play.

LaVine hit a 3-pointer to make it 115-110 with 1:02 left.

TIP INS

76ers: C Embiid has nine straight double-doubles . Simmons has six triple-doubles this season, which ties him with Wilt Chamberlain (three times) and Billy Cunningham for most in a season in team history.

Bulls: To look at some younger players during the final 25 games, C Robin Lopez and G/F Justin Holiday were removed from the starting lineup. Both were inactive on Thursday as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba (21 points) started; Also, Cameron Payne – who played in his first game on Thursday – will replace Jerian Grant as the backup point guard.

“It really is hard,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s hard for Robin, it’s hard for Justin and it’s hard for Jerian, who’s probably making as big a sacrifice as anybody.”

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Orlando on Saturday.

Bulls: Visit Minnesota Saturday night.

Kelly Oubre gets caught untying Rodney Hood’s shoes (VIDEO)

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The NBA seems to have a secret obsession with tying and untying shoes mid-game. J.R. Smith once got a warning for doing as much, finally earning himself a $50,000 fine after doing it multiple times. Likewise, other players like Rajon Rondo and Danny Green have pulled down the shorts of opponents while the clock was rolling.

Perhaps that emboldened Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre on Thursday night as his team took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio.

During the game, game operations crew at The Q ran a video on the big board that appeared to show Oubre untying the shoes of Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood.

Via Twitter:

These guys have so much to think about during a game I’m honestly impressed that they have the time to remember to do petty stuff like this.

I suppose it worked?

Oubre had 17 points off the bench, adding five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Hood had just eight points in 27 minutes on the floor.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers on the road, 110-103.

Report: Warriors will spend trip to D.C. with kids, not Trump

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Donald Trump decided to disinvite the Golden State Warriors to the White House despite team winning the 2017 NBA Championship. Many members of the Warriors have been critical of Trump during his short tenure in Washington D.C., which the former mail order steak salesman has not taken lightly.

With no invitation to the White House on hand, and considerable doubts that the team would go even if the opportunity resurfaced, the Warriors have decided to take a private tour around the nation’s capital instead.

According to a report from ESPN, the team will take a trip with just players, coaches, and some kids to a discreet location as part of a tour.

Via ESPN:

Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.

The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.

“It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”

Golden State will be in D.C. to play the Washington Wizards on February 28. They will reportedly take their trip — sure to be fun for the kids — the day before.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder if an NBA team will ever visit the White House while Trump lives there. People from LeBron James to Gregg Popovich have spoken out about their disagreements with him, and the Warriors were pretty vocal about not attending a ceremony with Trump.