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.

Sacramento King’s Ty Lawson denies violating DUI probation

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DENVER (AP) — Sacramento Kings point guard Ty Lawson has denied that he violated his probation in a Colorado drunken driving case by drinking and failing to complete community service.

Lawson and his attorney Harvey Steinberg made the assertion Thursday during a brief appearance in a Denver courtroom. In addition, Steinberg said Lawson wanted his vehicle equipped with an interlock device that would test him for alcohol consumption so he could prove he’s not drinking.

The judge agreed and plans to hold a hearing in May before deciding whether the former Denver Nugget should get a more severe punishment.

Probation officials allege Lawson tested positive for alcohol three times in the past six months.

He was arrested twice on drunken driving charges in 2015, first in Denver and then in Los Angeles.

Shocking news: Carmelo Anthony still doesn’t like triangle offense, wishes they played previous way

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Can we just start another Triangle vs. pace-and-space argument with the obvious: It doesn’t matter what offense the Knicks run when their defense is this bad.

New York has the fifth worst defensive rating in the NBA this season, and it’s been slightly worse since the All-Star break. The Knicks as a team don’t show much effort on that end of the court, they are the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA, and they are fourth worst at creating turnovers. If you don’t get stops and just try to outscore teams, even if your offense is good you don’t win consistently.

Whew. Okay. All that said, the Knicks offense isn’t that good, it’s been pedestrian most of the season. There is talent there — Carmelo Anthony can still get buckets, Kristaps Porzingis is a rising star and scoring machine, Derrick Rose has his moments, and there are role players who can knock down shots. Part of the problem has been the push-and-pull between Phil Jackson (with friend Kurt Rambis as an assistant coach) pushing for the triangle, vs. coach Jeff Hornacek wanting to run a more modern offense. Right now the pendulum has swung back toward the triangle, with that set to be the offense next season.

In a surprise to nobody, Anthony prefers the pace-and-space style offense, and wish the team would just stick with just one offense, as he told the New York Post.

“Early in the season, we were winning games, went on a little winning streak we had. We were playing a certain way. We went away from that, started playing another way. Everybody was trying to figure out: Should we go back to the way we were playing, or try to do something different?…

“I thought earlier we were playing faster and more free-flow throughout the course of the game,’’ Anthony said. “We kind of slowed down, started settling it down. Not as fast. The pace slowed down for us — something we had to make an adjustment on the fly with limited practice time, in the course of a game. Once you get into the season, it’s hard to readjust a whole system.”

Anthony may not need to worry about the Knicks offense next fall as he may well not be with the team.

The question for the Knicks is, how many free agents can they draw willing to play in the triangle? Of course money talks, but guys with options will consider the system and how they fit in it.

Spain’s national coach said both Gasol brothers, Ibaka, Mirotic all want to play in EuroBasket

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Spain is the defending EuroBasket champions, the best team in Europe (they won the Bronze medal in Rio after two consecutive silver medal Olympics). Which shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the talent pool: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Nicola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, and a host of top international players who were in the NBA (Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos-Navarro, and on down the line).

Spain could bring a loaded team to the tournament, their coach Sergio Scariolo said in a radio interview, transcribed at FIBA.com.

“Pau has also told me he’s coming,” Scariolo said. “All of them want to see how they finish the season. For them to say that they’re looking forward to coming and asking what we’re going to do is a first good step, but then we have to wait and see how they end the season – the physical status of those that have to take part in the play-offs. We have to wait until then to have a definite idea but the pre-disposition of all of the players is very good.”

“We’ll begin training on 28 July and we’ll have to change our way of playing with respect to the last two years when Marc hasn’t been here,” Scariolo said. “We’ll have to incorporate him. It’s an important readjustment and there are many things that we’re working on.”

“(Nikola) Mirotic and (Serge) Ibaka have confirmed their availability,” Scariolo said to Onda Cero radio. “Obviously there is a different status and situation, but all of the players have confirmed to me their availability, although with certain provisos. Each has his own circumstances and own situation, but the availability of all is very good.”

Scariolo will have to choose between Mirotic and Ibaka if both want to play, they are both naturalized Spanish citizens, and only one of those can be on the roster.

That said, Spain heads into EuroBasket this summer as the team to beat. So long as all those players decide they are healthy enough to play.

Stan Van Gundy on slumping Pistons: “We’re just bad all the way around”

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If the playoffs started today, the Detroit Pistons would be out golfing. Or fishing. Or partying in Cabo. The point is, they would not be playing.

Which is stunning — this was a 44-win team a year ago that seemed on the rise and is anchored by Andre Drummond in the paint. This year they’re four games below .500 and lost five of their last six, including back-to-back losses to the Nets and Bulls the last two days. In the month of March, the Pistons have been outscored by  4.4 points per 100 possessions. They are now tied with the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Heat for the last playoff slot in the East.

Stan Van Gundy, you’re coach and GM in Detroit, what do you think of all this? (Via ESPN’s Nick Friedell)

“The message I gave them is, ‘Look, we got 10 games left,” he said. “And if we don’t change the way we’re playing, this is going to get really, really ugly.

“We didn’t defend at any point in the second half. We didn’t defend much in the first half, either. Just really disappointing. We were 33-33, got tied, back to .500 after that New York game [on March 11], ran into a buzz saw in Cleveland [three nights later], and that’s it. We haven’t bounced back. It’s like we took that one hit and have not recovered at all. Have not played a decent game since then. This is six bad games in a row.”

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of life in us, and we got to find some by Friday,” Van Gundy added. “It’s just not one position, either. We’re just not playing. We’re not. We’re just bad all the way around.”

The Pistons have what should be winnable games against Orlando and New York coming up on the road, followed by an important matchup next Tuesday against Miami. Detroit needs wins now, because their schedule the rest of the way is about as tough as Miami’s, but Chicago has a soft finish to the season that could see them string together wins (maybe, Chicago has its own issues).

Whatever happens the final 10 games, Van Gundy and his team have some serious assessing to do this summer, some trades to make, they need to figure out what works and go with it. Because this season did not work.