Boston lives to see another day, beat Knicks to force Game 5

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What was it going to take for the Celtics to beat the Knicks in games this series?

1) A strong defense that contained a powerful Knicks offense. Like holding them to 34.4 percent shooting. Check.

2) Not letting Carmelo Anthony take over a game, force him into inefficient isolation shots. Such as 10-of-35 shooting. Check.

3) Getting big play from secondary guys like Jeff Green and Jason Terry. Like 26 points from Green and nine in overtime from Terry. Check

Finally the Celtics put together their best game — on a day the Knicks got away from what worked — and won Game 4 97-90 in overtime.

That forces a Game 5 back in New York on Wednesday, when you can expect this series will end.

But for a Day we got the Celtics we expected to show up in this series, one with a lot of fight that would push the Knicks. That started early — with game tied 5-5 Boston went on a 9-0 run. They had success defensively again after returning to the lineup that started Brandon Bass and his size on Anthony, with Terry coming off the bench. The Knicks started the game 3-of-12 shooting and Anthony missed his first six shots

Transition play became a key way the Celtics stretched out their lead to 19 at the half — the Knicks shot 29 percent in the first half and had 13 turnovers, which gave the Celtics a lot of opportunity to get out and run. Green had 15 points in the first half and a lot of that came pushing the ball in transition. New York clearly missed the spark that J.R. Smith provides them off the bench (he was suspended for the game for an elbow to Jason Terry’s head in Game 3).

But we had seen this before from the Celtics this series — a fantastic first half followed by a third quarter collapse. And we got another one.

Boston’s offense got stagnant in the face of Knicks pressure and New York made an 11-2 run midway through third. The Knicks kept coming and when Raymond Felton hits a three with buzzer beater, he has 16 points in quarter and the Celtics lead was just three. Knicks won the quarter 30-14 and they outscored the Celtics 14-3 after Carmelo Anthony went to the bench with four fouls

The game was first tied at 74-74 then was tied again at 82-82 with 3:30 left on Anthony drive and layup off a 4/5 pick-and-roll with poor defense on it by Boston.

But down the stretch in those final minutes Anthony was 0-of-5 from the floor. Raymond Felton (who finished with 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting) made a pull up jumper but in general down the stretch we saw a whole lot missed contested shots by both teams.

Then in overtime Jason Terry showed up. He started out with a pull-up jumper in transition that wasn’t really a good shot until it went through the net. When Terry is confident everything falls and it did for a stretch, and he had 9 of his 18 in the overtime.

That plus the 29 points on the night from Paul Pierce, and the 13 points and 17 rebounds from Kevin Garnett was enough.

Boston finally fought back, didn’t fall apart and got a win.

It extended the series to Wednesday back in Madison Square Garden. But look for the Knicks to take care of business then.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

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When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.

 

Lakers make 14% of their free throws, win

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Jordan Clarkson‘s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out late in the first quarter. The Los Angeles crowd groaned. The Lakers missed their first five free throws, and the visiting Pacers led by seven.

It appeared to be one of those nights.

And it was. The Lakers shot just 2-for-14 (14%) on free throws Friday. But they still won, 99-86.

That’s the worst free-throw percentage with at least eight attempts by any team and the worst free-throw percentage regardless of attempts by a winning team in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to 1963-64.

Here’s the “leaderboard,” winners in purple and losers in gold:

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The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 69% on free throws, but last night took the cake. The offenders: