It’s not pretty but Celtics will take it, rally to beat Bulls


You know how the last day before you go on a much-anticipated vacation you are pretty much useless at work? Your body is at the job but your mind is doing tequila shots in Cancun.

That was pretty much the Bulls at the Celtics Wednesday.

It’s ugly. Joan Rivers without plastic surgery ugly. This is what it looks like when two defensive-minded teams —both missing key offensive weapons — get together.

Boston could build another Faneuil Hall with all the bricks from this game. But a Celtics team that scored just 8 points in the third quarter (and 11 in the second) scored 28 in the fourth behind a couple Jason Terry threes and rallied to beat the Bulls 71-69.

Yes, that’s the final score, not the score after three quarters. I told you, it wasn’t pretty.

The Celtics will take it — they have won eight of nine games heading into the All-Star break and they are playing with a real urgency and desperation that wasn’t there earlier in the season. They have solidified their place in the playoffs with this streak and have gotten back to playing like a team with an identity.

Meanwhile the Bulls enter the break having dropped five of seven and looking like a team that really needs a few days off. And Derrick Rose back.

This game was never pretty. It was 36-35 Bulls at the half. Chicago led despite having 12 first half turnovers. They did because the Celtics made four second quarter shots. Four. Boston shot 33 percent in first half. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined to shoot 2-of-10 in the first half.

The end of the game was just as ugly.

Luol Deng made a little five-footer that made it a three point game, 67-64, with 49 seconds left. The Celtics inbounded to Garnett but Doc Rivers called a timeout to talk about it. Apparently what he didn’t talk about was inbounding the ball — Brandon Bass got a five-second violation as nobody came to the ball. Bulls’ ball and Marco Belinelli made it a one point game with a quick drive to the basket for a lay-up, 67-66 Celtics.

Boston got the ball inbounds this this time and their play at the other end took forever to develop but eventually Bass drove the lane, Garnett moved to in his spot on the baseline, Joakim Noah had to help off KG to take away the drive, and one kick out pass later it was 69-66 Celtics with 19.8 seconds left.

Nate Robinson missed a three, but Carlos Boozer tipped it in and we had a one-point game again. The Bulls fouled Pierce on the inbounds and he went to the other end and sank both free throws, so it was 71-68.

Nate Robinson brought the ball up and at mid-court drove right into Avery Bradley and drew the foul. Two foul shots, six seconds left.

Robinson hits the first. He misses the second and the resulting carom leads to a scramble for the ball with Jeff Green, Robinson, Deng and half the building trying to grab the ball.

It squirts free to Belinelli who goes up for a game-tying two at the top of the key but gets blocked by a hustling Terry coming from behind, the ball bounces to Boozer who misses a 28-foot three and that’s the ballgame.

None of it was pretty. Boston doesn’t really care, they like the W.

Stan Van Gundy goes off on officials: “We got absolutely screwed all night”

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The Pistons were likely to lose to the red-hot Trail Blazers on the road, and that came to be Saturday night 100-87, Portland 12th straight win. The Pistons shot 38.8 percent for the game and had a dreadful offensive rating of 93.8 (points per 100 possessions).

Portland is one the top five defensive teams in the NBA this season, but that’s not what Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy thought was the problem — he laid the blame on the officiating.

That’s going to be a fine.

Van Gundy is frustrated — with this game and with this season. So are Pistons fans, and seemingly so is Detroit owner Tom Gores after his lukewarm vote of confidence in Van Gundy recently. They should be, this team is a disappointment and the Blake Griffin trade was a big swing that has yet to work out. The Pistons are going to miss the playoffs. Around the league, the sense is that Van Gundy will lose his GM job to former super agent Arn Tellem, who was brought in to guide the Pistons into their new building but now whose talents would better serve the basketball side of the operation. The only question is will Van Gundy still be coaching in Detroit next season — just coaching, like Doc Rivers with the Clippers — or of the change will be more sweeping than that.

Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

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When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

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Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.