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Avery Bradley scores 23 for Celtics in 113-103 win over Grizzlies

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BOSTON (AP) Avery Bradley scored 23 points, Isaiah Thomas had 21 points and seven assists, and the Boston Celtics held off the Memphis Grizzlies 113-103 on Tuesday night.

Gerald Green added a season-high 19 points and Jae Crowder scored 17 for Boston, which won for the sixth time in seven games and beat the Grizzlies for the second time in a week. The Celtics needed overtime and a career-high 44 points from Thomas for a 112-109 win in Memphis last Tuesday.

Marc Gasol had 26 points and nine assists for Memphis. Zach Randolph scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help keep the Grizzlies close and pulled down 10 rebounds. Tony Allen had 17 points and eight rebounds for Memphis, which was coming off a 112-102 loss in Orlando the night before but hung with Boston until the final minute.

The Grizzlies, who fell to 8-1 in the second of back-to-back games this season, have lost five of seven.

After falling behind by 13 in the second quarter, Memphis pulled within 56-48 at halftime and cut the margin to 69-67 on Allen’s layup with 5:16 left in the third.

Boston led 84-77 after three, but the Grizzlies kept within range behind Randolph and Gasol in the fourth quarter. Randolph scored Memphis’ first six points of the period and Gasol pounded the Celtics inside and out, converting a three-point play early and adding a 3-pointer with 5 minutes remaining to cut Boston’s lead to 100-97.

The Celtics didn’t falter, getting a pair of free throws from Green and a three-point play by Thomas to make it 105-97 with 3:06 left. They put away Memphis down the stretch after the Grizzlies pulled within 105-101 on a 3-pointer by James Ennis III.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Fell to 9-5 in December, remaining tied for the franchise record for most wins in the month. … Mike Conley (left big toe), Chandler Parsons (rest) and Brandan Wright (left foot) did not dress. … The Grizzlies, ranked second in the NBA in points allowed (97.7 per game), have given up more than 100 points in three straight and four of five.

Celtics: Kelly Olynyk picked up his fourth foul with 5:15 left in the second quarter. … Green’s previous high for the season was nine points. He scored 10 in the second quarter alone Tuesday and Amir Johnson, the only Boston starter not to score in double figures, pulled down 10 rebounds to go with his four points.

UP NEXT

Grizzlies: Host Oklahoma City on Thursday, then open a four-game California road trip at Sacramento on New Year’s Eve.

Celtics: Visit the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.