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.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.