Celtics take care of business against unprofessional Knicks, force a Game 6 back in Boston

72 Comments

The Knicks looked every bit like the second best team in the East that they were all season in getting out to a three games to none series lead against the Celtics, winning those games by 14, 16, and 17 points.

Maybe the success came too soon, and too easily.

After dropping Game 4 in Boston without a suspended J.R. Smith, the Knicks figured to close out the series at home on Wednesday. But their approach was less than professional in the days and hours leading up to Game 5, and that likely played a part in the Celtics getting the 92-86 victory to unexpectedly send the series back to Boston for a sixth game.

At Tuesday’s practice, J.R. Smith said that the series would have been over had he been available to play in Game 4. Kenyon Martin was equally cavalier heading into this one, and said that his guys should “wear black” because those are “funeral colors.”

Some Knicks players, including Smith and Iman Shumpert, did indeed dress in all black attire for their game night arrival to the arena.

There’s nothing wrong with trash talk or confidence, obviously, and it adds some additional entertainment value, especially in the playoffs. But the Knicks are not exactly a franchise steeped in recent tradition of playoff success. They won their first playoff game in 11 years last season in a five game first round loss to the Heat, and haven’t won a postseason series since 2000.

Smith started off 0-10 from the field, and the Knicks as a team finished 5-of-22 from three-point distance, an area where they were among the best in the league during the regular season. By contrast, the Celtics hit 11 of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc, with Jason Terry and Paul Pierce combining for nine of those, and Jeff Green hitting two huge ones down the stretch as the Knicks were battling back into it.

The Celtics wanted this game more than the Knicks, and it showed on the court. They played Pierce and Kevin Garnett heavier minutes than usual, and Boston was aggressive early in getting both Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin into first half foul trouble.

Offensively, the Celtics did much better, getting five of the players in their short seven man rotation to score at least 16 points each. But as is always the case with this team, the key run that won the game came on the strength of its defense.

With Boston clinging to a six point lead with just over three minutes remaining in the third, the Knicks were unable to find the basket. New York didn’t score for the next 6:17 of game time, and by then the Celtics had built their lead to 15 points.

The Knicks extended their defense and finally started hitting some shots, but it was too late. They got as close as five points  with 1:05 remaining, but a ridiculously tough jumper from Garnett with Chandler all over him defensively found the bottom of the net, and effectively sealed the win for the Celtics.

New York won’t have many games where Carmelo Anthony and Smith combine to shoot 11-of-38 from the field, and are still the favorites to win the series over this depleted Celtics team. But they’ll need to have the right mindset the rest of the way in order to get that accomplished.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

Leave a comment

Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

Leave a comment

Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.

Bulls Fred Hoiberg complains Isaiah Thomas gets away with palming. Thomas shrugs.

1 Comment

The Boston Celtics have evened their series with Chicago Bulls, and more than that seem to have been able to take the Bulls best punch and now are responding.

At the heart of that is Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas, who had 33 points on Sunday. He was attacking and getting into the heart of the Bulls defense all night, telling Michael Carter-Williams “you can’t guard me” so many times Thomas got a technical. Thing is, Thomas was right. No Bull has been able to guard Thomas the past two games.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said the reason for that is the officials let him get away with a palming the ball when dribbling. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (video above).

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he’s going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight,” Hoiberg said. “When you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he’s impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you’re able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It’s impossible to guard him in those situations.”

I liked the follow-up comment from the reporter (not on the video), which was essentially “the league doesn’t call that on anyone, so that’s your complaint?” Thomas doesn’t get away with palming any more than any other ball handler in the league. If you want to define the rule by a 1950s standard then yes, he does carry, but so does pretty much every Bulls’ ball handler. So does 3/4 of the league by that measure.

Fortunately, Hoiberg never had to coach against Allen Iverson or he might have completely lost it watching him dribble.

This came off as a desperation ploy by Hoiberg. Or it was the worst attempt ever at a “take that for data” rant ever.

Thomas, for his part, basically shrugged when told about it.

When told about Hoiberg’s comments, Thomas said, “That’s not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life, I don’t know what to say to that.”

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

Getty Images
1 Comment

Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.