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

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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.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.