Knicks continue to dominate Celtics, take a 3-0 series lead

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The Celtics are doing everything they can to compete in these playoffs, but the results haven’t been there, for a variety of reasons. Playing in Boston for the first time since the tragic Marathon bombings, there wasn’t a lack of inspiration or emotion for the Celtics heading into Game 3.

As has been the case the entire series, it’s simply about a lack of talent.

Boston continued to struggle offensively, and behind a game high 26 points from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks got the 90-76 victory to give them a 3-0 lead in the best of seven series.

New York can (and likely will) sweep Boston out of the playoffs in Game 4 on Sunday.

The Celtics haven’t been able to get anything going offensively in this series, and nothing changed once the series shifted to Boston. The Celtics averaged a dismal 24 points in the second halves of Games 1 and 2, and didn’t do much better by putting up just 31 points in the first half of this one.

The Knicks have been known for their three-point shooting all year long, and led the league in three-pointers made per game for the season. They were able to get plenty of clean looks in this one, and knocked down 11-27 from three-point distance, good for 40.7 percent.

It isn’t as if the Celtics weren’t contesting those shots; on many possessions, they were. But often times Boston tried to double Anthony when he got the ball in midrange distance, and the Knicks time and again made the smart basketball play by moving the ball to the open shooters.

Even when the Celtics ran out to contest shots from beyond the arc, the Knicks either waited for the defender to fly by before calmly taking the open shot, or put the ball on the floor to get easier, uncontested looks inside.

New York is tough to beat by anyone when they’re patient offensively, but facing a Celtics team that struggles to score much at all, it simply isn’t much of a challenge.

Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith finished with 15 points apiece, and Pablo Prigioni knocked down three three-pointers and was extremely active defensively in coming up with five steals.

The Celtics were led by Jeff Green and Paul Pierce, who finished with 21 and 17 points respectively, and Kevin Garnett did the work on the boards, finishing with 17 rebounds.

The lack of point guards who can distribute the ball for Boston to get the team easy baskets has been a glaring weakness in this series, and while the Celtics’ defense has been good enough to slow the Knicks at times, these anemic offensive efforts wouldn’t be good enough to beat anyone, least of all the team that has been the second best in the East all season long.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.