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Isaiah Thomas puts on a show, scores 53 in Celtics’ Game 2 OT win over Wizards

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The Boston Celtics now lead the Washington Wizards, 2-0. Boston took a series lead on Tuesday night after beating Washington, 129-119, in OT in Game 2.

Isaiah Thomas was absolutely spectacular, scoring 53 points to go along with four assists, four rebounds, three steals, and just two turnovers. Al Horford added 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists.

For the Wizards, it was tough sledding, especially late. John Wall was incredible through three quarters, somehow scoring a quiet 40 points to go with 13 assists, three blocks, three steals, and three rebounds.

The first half started rough, with neither team taking command of the game enough to warrant the lead. An offensive burst halfway through the second quarter wasn’t enough to gloss over the first half ugliness, particularly as players began to take hits.

This has been a rough series already. Markieff Morris turned his ankle so badly in Game 1 that he thought he had broken it. Isaiah Thomas lost a dang tooth. This trend continued in Game 2.

The first half was riddled with bruising play. Morris threw Al Horford to the ground — likely as retaliation for his ankle injury, in which Horford did not allow Morris to land on a jumper — in the first two minutes.

Wall landed awkwardly on his wrist two plays in a row, Avery Bradley left the first half a minute early to deal with his right hip, and Otto Porter Jr. got whacked in the face so hard by Thomas that he had to run to the locker room to stop blood gushing out onto the court.

The second half wasn’t much calmer as Washington jumped out to a lead in the third quarter behind stellar play from Wall.

Boston still couldn’t find their way on top until midway through the fourth quarter. Stellar play and big 3-point shots from Thomas pushed the Celtics over the Wizards as Washington failed to put together anything of substance on offense.

That all boiled down to an intense final few minutes. Thomas was incredible late, at one point giving Morris an ankle-breaking crossover to pull within two points with 30 seconds left. The Celtics PG drew two quick fouls in the final 20 seconds on Marcin Gortat, putting him at the line to tie the game at 114.

Washington got a final possession with 14 seconds left, but a Wall isolation followed by a Bradley Beal airball from 12 feet pushed the game to OT.

In extra time, it was all Thomas for Boston. The Celtics guard took over, scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter and OT. At one point with 1:07 left Thomas hit a jumper from the free-throw line that had him falling over. Thomas was fouled, and converted on an and-1 that would end up being the distance Boston needed to push past the Wizards.

Washington looked absolutely gassed in OT, with both Wall and Beal looking like they were unable to get enough lift to even get a solid jumper up.

Game 3 is in Washington on Thursday.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safty

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

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.