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Too much Kelly Olynyk, Celtics depth for Wizards in Game 7, Boston wins 115-105

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It became a game about depth.

Washington led in the third quarter when coach Scott Brooks had to turn to his bench. Jason Smith was -10 in just over three minutes, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a run that extended to an 18-2 run into the start of the fourth and gave then a comfortable lead. John Wall missed his last nine shots and was scoreless in the fourth, in large part because his legs got tired, Brooks couldn’t trust Brandon Jennings again (after a horrible first half) and tried to ride his backcourt the entire second half.

Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk came in and dropped 26 off the bench, 14 of those in the fourth quarter, and changed the game.

“They was paying a lot of attention to Isaiah (Thomas), teams are gonna do that, and he got rid of the ball quickly and put us in a position to make plays in 4-on-3 basketball,” Olynyk said after the game.

Boston got 29 points and 12 assists from Isaiah Thomas and 48 from its bench — including reserves Olynyk and Marcus Smart making plays down the stretch — and that was enough beat the Wizards 115-105 in Game 7.

Boston advances and will host Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday.

Washington’s starting five — Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat — were +9 in 32 minutes, with a true shooting percentage of 62.3.

But as it has been the case since the start of the year, the Wizards bench could not be trusted. Any lineup with at least one bench player on the court combined to be -19 in 16 minutes. No player from the Wizards bench scored after 6:56 of the 2nd quarter.

Boston, on the other hand, had a bench that won them the game.

“I think the bench was a big factor in Game 5 (a Boston win at home) and Game 7 certainly was as well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Throughout the series, the home team’s bench seemed to play really well. I thought our guys played really well. Obviously, Kelly gave us that enormous lift of scoring in the fourth quarter, but really in the first half as well, he had 12 at halftime on 5-of-7, and I thought Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were really good.”

The game certainly was dramatic, and it had the Celtics fans in full throat most of the game. The first quarter was a yo-yo affair, the Celtics got up 8, and then the Wizards came back to tie it, the Celtics went back up by 7, and the Wizards tied it again. It ended with the Celtics up four. The second quarter stayed closer throughout. The Wizards bench defensive rotations were sad, which helped Olynyk get clean looks. On the other side Otto Porter, who had been scoreless in Game 6, had  12 points and 7 boards in the first half (he finished with 20 and 9).

Boston’s biggest problem was being 3-of-12 from three in first half, and that allowed the Wizards to have a 55-53 lead at the half.

Wizards started second half just hunting Thomas, something they didn’t do enough in this series. Whoever he is guarding, the Wizards tried to post him up. Washington’s starters played well and the Wizards led much of the third, but late in the third the bench came in — Smith blew a defensive coverage within seconds of entering the game — and Boston closed the quarter on a 13-3 run to lead 85-79 after three. Boston hit four of its last six from three, and that helped change the dynamic.

That run extended to 18-2 over four minutes across the quarters for the Celtics. Washington went back to their starters around the 10-minute mark, and quickly it was a 7-0 Wizards run.

But the Wizards could never fully close the gap (they did get it to four). Olynyk and Thomas made plays for Boston, while Beal and Wall’s legs turned to jelly.

It was another step forward for a young and improving Celtics team. They should savor it.

For a day, then the biggest test comes to town.

 

 

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.