New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Boston Celtics in the first quarter of Game 1 of their NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals basketball playoff series in New York

Celtics look to Garnett, Knicks look to ball movement to spark offenses in Game 2


Game 1 of the Celtics vs. Knicks played to form — the Celtics’ physical and aggressive defense made it hard for the Knicks to score, but Boston struggled even more on offense putting up just 8 points in the fourth quarter and falling 85-78.

But for the Celtics there was one real reason to be positive — their defense set the tone for the game. They took the Knicks out of their game, but the Celtics couldn’t capitalize. Boston is counting on its defense to do that again, and to combine that with an offensive spark from Kevin Garnett (and maybe the bench would be nice) to even the series.

The Knicks want their offense to set the tone in Game 2 and are counting on the return of Pablo Prigioni and a healthier Tyson Chandler to make that happen in concert with Carmelo Anthony.

And a win for either side would be huge — if this series heads back to Boston for Game 3 tied 1-1 we could be in for a full seven-game slugfest. If the Knicks go up 2-0 Boston will have to find a way to win 4-of-5 to get the series, and that seems daunting. At best.

Boston is going to try and get their offense by establishing Kevin Garnett early and often — he had 8 points on 4-of-12 shooting in Game 1. In Game 2 the Celtics want to go to him first and work inside-out in the half-court. With the Knicks able to throw the size and defense of Tyson Chandler at KG, Boston is going to need counters — and they are going to need floor-spacing shooters to knock down shots and open the floor up. As a team the Celtics were 5-of-20 from three in Game 1. Paul Pierce was 1-of-7, Jason Terry 0-of-4. Shoot like that again and the results will be the same on the scoreboard.

Terry and Courtney Lee in general have to be better than a combined 0-for-7 for four points. Those two were a mess. Boston isn’t deep, Doc Rivers doesn’t have a lot of options, he needs these guys to play.

Also, the Celtics will need another appearance by the aggressive Jeff Green that had 26 points. If he has a “good game, invisible game” pattern the Celtics are in a lot of trouble. And they already don’t have much martin for error.

The Knicks need to get back to ball movement and floor spacing they had during their win streak near the end of the season.

In Game 1 the Celtics and their aggressive defense did a good job of taking away the Knicks first option off the pick-and-roll — Garnett and other bigs showed out and cut off Raymond Felton’s drives and the team’s recovery and rotations closed off passing lanes.

When their first option went away, the Knicks seemed to have no Plan B. They just gave it to Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith and had them create largely in isolation. And Anthony was 7-of-21 shooting in isolation sets, Smith 5-for-14 according to Hoopchalk.

The return of crafty guard Pablo Prigioni from an ankle sprain should help with the ball movement. So should a better conditioned Tyson Chandler (remember he missed 16 of the Knicks last 20 before Game 1, and the rust showed). Chandler is a great roll man, if the Knick set their picks high enough he should create space as he rolls in. And if the ball swings better to shooters the Knicks will have better looks.

We know about the defenses in this series — Boston is always good, the Knicks can play solid ball when Chandler is healthy. What the Knicks had were options in Game 1 — Chandler struggled but Kenyon Martin stepped up in the paint. We’ll see if the Celtics have the options to counter.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.