Celtics-Heat Game 7: The Truth about Boston’s Revenge Tour

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Game 7 Saturday night between the Celtics and Heat would honestly be better had the Celtics not won the title. You’d have so many legacies on the line. As it stands, this is the Celtics’ push for a second title, which just isn’t as much of a big deal. It’s not even as important as a third title, as that third one is more in line with how we think of traditional dynasties. (Stupid KG’s knee injury in 2009!) But multiple titles still puts them on another level, while the Heat are still desperately clamoring for that first one with this core (Wade and Haslem are similarly “certified” as KG would say).

But the Celtics aren’t approaching it that way. This is their revenge tour. Everyone who doubted them, said they were too old, too slow, and that their star power couldn’t match up are getting a lesson in how experience matters in the NBA, the greatness of these players, and what… ugh… excuse me, I’m about to gag on cliche… makes a champion.

And for the Celtics to get past the superteam Saturday night, they need The Truth. Paul Pierce has to have a good game. Not a great game. We haven’t seen Pierce have a great game since he sprained his MCL in the first round, and the Celtics are still here. They can survive him having a bad game as long as he has a few plays that shift the momentum. Much like Game 5. Lost in the Heat collapse and the dagger three that Pierce nailed in James’ face was that once again he had a pretty terrible game. Pierce has the toughest assignment offensively and defensively in this series. When he has the ball, he’s either got the best perimeter defender in the NBA, LeBron James, latched onto him, or Shane Battier’s tricks and grit tweaking him at every turn and hot.

But he’s got to come through. Pierce has to hit shots. He doesn’t have to improve his shot selection, God knows that’s not going to happen. But he’s got to rise and fire. One key is he has to get to the rim. Pierce has struggled at the rim in the playoffs (54.5 percent) vs. the regular season (63.5 percent). He’s got to use the post to get the turn and attack the rim or draw the foul. He needs to nail those slow-set trailer threes when Rondo finds him. And he’s got to find a way to get to that elbow sweet spot. The Celtics have leaned on Rondo and Garnett. This is Game 7. It’s time for the franchise guy to take them home.

Pierce’s Boston legacy is reaching pretty epic proportions. He passed Larry Bird on the points list in franchise history. He’s threatening to land multiple titles which will put him up there with some of the all-time greats even if he’ll never reach that hallowed ground, which is a shame. What’s amazing is that it hasn’t been Pierce’s best seasons that have netted him the most success. It says a lot about how awful those early 00’s teams were around Pierce that his MVP-level play didn’t take them to the promised land.

But here they are. If Garnett is the angry ferocity of the Celtics, and Rondo the driven determination, Pierce is the source of their swagger. It’s Pierce who has the most confidence in his game regardless of percentages or circumstances. Much like this Celtics team, no matter how many things suggest he’s in the midst of failure, he finds a way to come out on top. The Celtics need that attitude, that swagger, that player tonight in Game 7.

It’s time for the Truth.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.