How many times have we seen this the last couple games of the Boston/New York series: The Celtics set their defense and for the first 15-17 seconds of the clock the clog everything the Knicks want to do. Their on-ball defenders are in the Knicks faces, their defensive rotations are sharp, there are no good looks.
Then it falls apart and the Knicks get a quality shot. Part of that is the Knicks have a lot of talent on the floor — Carmelo Anthony can score on anyone, he has 96 points in three games this series — and part of it is as the series has moved on New York has moved the ball better and better.
But in the end the Celtics not being able to keep the effort level and execution together for a full 24 seconds, or for a full 48 minutes, is the key reason the Knicks are up 3-0. Most people (myself included) predicted the Knicks would win the series, they are the better team, but we expected more of a fight to the finish from Boston.
Sunday will the Celtics finally put it all together for one game? Can they show some real pride and salvage one game in this series on their home court?
Can they? Yes. Will they? I’m not sold.
The Knicks have motivation for this game — rest. Round two likely will not start until next weekend so a win Sunday means a week off for the older bodies in blue. That matters.
New York will be without J.R. Smith, suspended by the league for his elbow to the head Jason Terry in Game 3. You’d think that be an advantage for the Celtics and in Game 3 after Smith went out the Celtics make some pushes. But the Knicks answered each one of them.
The Knicks have also played strong defense through this series, frustrating a Celtics offense missing Rajon Rondo’s creativity. The Celtics would need a massive night from Jeff Green and Paul Pierce on the offensive end to get that win. Boston would need 48 minutes of defense. It would need a strong outing from Jason Terry. And Brandon Bass.
It can happen. For stretches this series the Celtics have been able to do everything they needed to challenge the Celtics and get a win.
But they haven’t been able to sustain it. And if they don’t on Sunday at the Garden they can hop a plane to Mexico for vacation on Monday.
Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.
Jay Williams of ESPN:
A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”
Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.
Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.
The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.
The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.
Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:
Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.
Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?
Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?
I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).
What has Phil Jackson actually done? He discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis with other teams and called the Knicks, not Porzingis, his priority. That’s it.
At face value, this is fine. It’s what devoted executives, not always Jackson, should do.
Jackson hasn’t traded Porzingis for meager return. He hasn’t traded Porzingis at all.
Everyone up in arms should take a deep breath.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
I wouldn’t rule out the Knicks trading Porzingis. The No. 1 pick got traded, after all. I wouldn’t rule out them trading Porzingis for too little return. Look at Jackson’s track record running the front office.
But wait until they do before bashing Jackson for not understanding Porzingis’ value.
There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Jackson, including overseeing the toxic culture that led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview and setting this latest “crisis” into motion. Publicly discussing trading Porzingis won’t endear Jackson to the budding star, but the problem is how it reached this point. Players in sound organizations can handle this. Jackson has engendered little confidence from his players, the distrust existed well before this round of trade talks.
Lonzo Ball doesn’t play for the Lakers. LeBron James isn’t a free agent.
But they’re headed that way – and Ball is already embracing it.
The Lakers are expected to draft Ball No. 2 tonight, and rumors are heating up about LeBron leaving the Cavaliers in 2018.
Why should LeBron join Ball in Los Angeles?
Ball on ESPN:
LeBron, I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games can help each other out a lot. Any time you want the ball, just let me know. It’s going to be there.
Ball was asked to to pitch LeBron, so it’s not as if Ball is out here talking so brashly on his own. But answering the question was a rookie mistake.
Besides, I’m not sure Lonzo Ball can undo the bad blood between LeBron and LaVar Ball.