The Celtics suffered one of their most painful losses of the season on Friday, and it’s tough to see where the team goes from here.
Boston led by 27 points in the first half in Atlanta, only to give all of it back and then some before ultimately losing 123-111 to the Hawks in double-overtime. The loss was the sixth straight for a reeling Celtics team that will be searching for answers long after the conclusion of this one.
The offense has been the problem in Boston all season long; we discussed it on the podcast, and we delved into it even further here. But on this night, it wasn’t an issue on the way to 57 first-half points.
The beginning of the second half is where it all fell apart.
Atlanta put together a 19-0 run over the first part of the third quarter to crawl back into it, and once the team felt validated that it could get this game against the struggling Celtics, it fought hard the rest of the way, and didn’t stop until victory was secured.
This included coming back once again from 10 points down with 4:44 to play in regulation, on the strength of three three-pointers from Kyle Korver and one from Jeff Teague.
Once we got to overtime, no team scored at all in the final 1:34 of the extra session, and we headed to a second overtime period, where the Celtics simply ran out of gas.
The Hawks sealed it by opening the game’s sixth period with a 10-0 run, and that was that.
This would appear to be rock bottom for a Celtics team that somewhere down deep likely believes in its playoff chances. There isn’t going to be any help on the way in terms of trades this season, however, so the current group, along with veteran head coach Doc Rivers will have to figure out a way to come together to pull themselves out of the deepest hole the Celtics have found themselves sinking into in quite some time.
The Cavaliers’ win over the Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals was an all-timer.
LeBron James bringing a championship to title-starved Cleveland, the Cavs topping the 73-win defending champions who’d built a 3-1 lead, Kyrie Irving‘s shot, Kevin Love‘s defensive stand – the game had it all.
The Cavaliers obviously enjoyed it. And enjoyed it, and enjoyed it and…
LeBron James, via Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“I’ve seen it a few times,” James said. “It was on NBA TV throughout the summer. I watch it from a fan’s perspective. I see what we could’ve done better, but I also watch it for enjoyment, to see those three zeros on the clock.”
Irving, via Windhorst:
“I was rewatching the games and talking to my teammates about it, sending them snapchats of me watching,” Irving said. “I got chills. My stomach was dropping knowing the ball is going in but knowing exactly, emotionally how I felt at the time. It still gets me excited thinking about it. It’s such a huge moment for not only Cleveland but our team, our families, our friends.”
Iman Shumpert, via Windhorst:
“I’ve watched it over and over,” Iman Shumpert said. “Oh, it was enjoyable.”
At some point, the Cavs have to refocus on the upcoming season. Maybe they already have.
But I’m not going to tell them to stop reliving Game 7. It was a big deal. Enjoy it.
This can even be healthy if it motivates them to chase that euphoric feeling again.
And if it just distracts them from their goal of repeating? There are worse things – like being stuck on a Game 7 loss.
The Rockets scooped up undrafted point guard Gary Payton II shortly after the draft ended.
How did they do it?
Fully guaranteeing his deal, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
I rated Payton a borderline first-rounder coming out of Oregon State, but he went undrafted. Perhaps, the league just deemed him unworthy. Or maybe the teams that liked him most weren’t positioned to draft him. Or maybe teams opted for lesser players in the second round who were willing to spend a year overseas or in the D-League.
Houston guaranteeing his deal certainly points to a robust market for the point guard. It could also indicate the Rockets plan to keep him into the regular season.
Payton gives the Rockets 15 players with guaranteed salaries plus restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas, who has an outstanding qualifying offer and seems likely to return. There’s no obvious candidate for Houston to waive to reach the regular-season roster limit of 15 – and it could be Payton. This could just be a (more expensive than usual) way of getting Payton onto the Rockets’ D-League affiliate. They won’t be the only team to eat a guaranteed salary this season.
With James Harden (yup), Patrick Beverley, Pablo Prigioni and Tyler Ennis at point guard, Houston doesn’t have a pressing need for Payton. But Ennis, who has accomplished little in two NBA seasons, should be on notice. That Houston values Payton so highly could mean Ennis is the odd man out. Both players, and everyone else, will have the preseason to prove themselves.
Payton, son of the former SuperSonics guard, has major defensive potential. Running an NBA offense will be a tall order, but he has enough raw skills to offer intrigue on that end. He’ll need his defense to buy him time.
Who does Chris Bosh have in his corner as he tries to play following a third blood-clot issue?
Not the Heat, who say they’re no longer working toward his return.
Not his longtime agent, Henry Thomas of CAA.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
Bosh is in the midst of the the biggest quandary of his career. He needs a trusted advisor at his side.
But that might not be enough.
Bosh still has $75,868,170 guaranteed over the final three years of his contract. If he doesn’t play by Feb. 9 and the Heat waive him, they can exclude his salary from cap and luxury-tax calculations (while still paying him) IF a doctor agreed upon by the league and players union says Bosh can no longer safely play.
Bosh would be a free agent in that scenario, but would anyone want him? How much would Bosh resent missing a partial season before that? How much would he sacrifice in a buyout to become a free agent sooner? What if the jointly selected doctor says Bosh can return? What do Miami and Bosh do then?
These are difficult questions, and Bosh needs someone to help him navigate the minefield that lies ahead.
If you’re desperately searching for the flaws that will undo the Golden State Warriors, depth has to be the main argument. In order to get Kevin Durant under the cap Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush, and Marreese Speights had to be sacrificed.
However, they added a couple of veterans to fill in the gaps. Zaza Pachulia will be at the five, trying to be a poor man’s Bogut, is going to get the most attention.
But the Warriors also snapped up David West, who had gone to be part of the Spurs veteran bench last season and now is chasing a ring with the Warriors. How did that come about? Via the San Antonio Express-News.
“(The Warriors) reached out once we lost to OKC, maybe that night,” West told reporters at Golden State’s media day. “My agent was like, ‘If you’re interested in continuing to play, Golden State wants you.’ He was obviously talking to a few guys and to the coach during the process. Then, when Kevin Durant reached out, he told me he wanted me to come join, so it was a no-brainer.”
I have zero problem with a veteran player like West taking a pay cut and chasing a ring — we as fans can’t say “today’s players care more about money/friends than winning” then turn around and hammer the guy who puts winning first. That sounds like a Trump debate tactic.
Plus, West is going to get some run-up front with Golden State. He’s still solid — he is a physical defender, sets a good screen, and if you don’t stick with him on the pop West will destroy you from the midrange. He’s not his vintage self, but he’s still a guy a championship-caliber team can lean on.
And the Warriors will.