Boston vs. Philadelphia Game 7: First team to 80 wins?

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Game 7.

It’s usually when even veterans get tight, playing like they are afraid to make a mistake. It means in Game 7 the offensive numbers plummet — but I don’t know that they can much more in Boston vs. Philadelphia.

This has been a series about which team could find enough offense against a good defense to pull out a win. Game 7 Saturday night will be no different. Philadelphia beat Boston in Game 6 with 82 points, and the first team to 80 likely wins this game.

There are no secrets left, no magical adjustments to make, this is just about execution. We all know what both sides are going to do.

For Boston, they have to get their points inside close to the basket. Boston’s jumpers are not falling consistently, so points in the paint matter. That will mean trying to establish Kevin Garnett on the block — and this is where the extra day off between games really helps Boston. KG should be fresher, he should get down the floor fast and establish deep, early position that the Sixers have not been able to stop this series. Philly will need to have a good game (without foul trouble) from Lavoy Allen to try and counter it.

But those points inside also need to come from Rajon Rondo penetration. He can get inside, but the key is for him to finish — he has shot 63 percent in the paint in Boston’s wins in this series, 46 percent in the losses (that stat via the wise John Schuhmann at NBA.com). Watch how well he is closing out his attacks.

For Philly, they are going to have Jrue Holiday attack the paint like he did in Game 6. And if Ray Allen and his bad ankle are covering Evan Turner, you will see Philly attack with Turner (and likely a lot of Lou Williams off the bench). Boston’s defense really misses Avery Bradley’s pressure and turnovers on the perimeter and in their Game 6 win Philly exploited that with some success. They will go back to that well.

Philly also needs some points in transition — get Andre Iguodala out finishing in transition. They have the better athletes — hello Thaddeus Young — but they have been largely bottled up by Boston’s defense this series. If Philly can get some easy buckets in transition or on offensive rebounds it will be difficult for Boston to match.

You think that at home with veterans like Paul Pierce who have been on bigger stages than this the Celtics will step up. This is the kind of game the Celtics historically win.

But it really just comes down to who gets their points in the paint. And probably the first one to 80.

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

Associated Press
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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.

Devin Booker’s 3-point-contest victory bright spot for Suns (video)

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Los Angeles – Devin Booker‘s Suns have the NBA’s worst record (18-41).

“I think everyone is fed up with the losing, from the top to the bottom of the organization,” Booker said this afternoon. “So, for us, it’s what’s next?”

A 3-point contest victory.

Overcoming Phoenix’s poor record to draw an invite to All-Star Saturday Night, Booker won the 3-point contest with a whopping 29 points in the final round.

That score left little margin for 2016 champion Klay Thompson, who capped the event with a 25-point round that was otherwise the night’s high. Clippers forward Tobias Harris, in his new home arena, finished third.

Booker was all smiles after the rare victory.

“Season not going how we planned, but I know a lot of the city was ready for this All-Star Weekend, having somebody participate,” Booker said. “So, I’m glad I could win it.

Where he and the Suns go from here is still questionable, but he has a plan.

“I’m going to win the dunk contest next year,” Booker said. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Full results

First round

Klay Thompson 19

Devin Booker 19

Tobias Harris 18

Wayne Ellington 17

Bradley Beal 15

Eric Gordon 12

Kyle Lowry 11

Paul George 9

Second round

Devin Booker 29

Klay Thompson 25

Tobias Harris 17