The Golden State Warriors remain the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title.
Thursday night, the Boston Celtics earned some validation that they belong in the conversation. Using a stymieing defense that threw off the vaunted Warriors offense, Boston came from 17 down in the third quarter to beat the Warriors.
With the Cavaliers stumbling out of the gate, does this make the Warriors/Celtics game a Finals preview? Stephen Curry (who was 3-of-14 shooting with four turnovers on the night) said yes, as you can see in the NBC Sports Bay Area video above.
“Very, very likely, right?” Curry said. “They’re playing the best right now in the East. Obviously, they need to beat Cleveland, who’s done it three years in a row. We’ll see, but I heard the weather’s great here in June.”
The weather in Boston is great for a short window in the spring, then the humidity kicks in. But that’s not the point.
I came into this season thinking the Celtics were a year away still, and when Gordon Hayward went down it strengthened that belief. But this team is a contender now — they are far better defensively than expected, and young players Jaylen Brown (22 points against the Warriors) and Jayson Tatum have stepped up more than expected. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have developed a fast chemistry. And Brad Stephens is proving he is in the very upper echelon of NBA coaches.
It’s not even Thanksgiving, talk of the NBA Finals is premature. Curry is right, the Celtics still have to go through LeBron James and his Cavaliers to reach the Finals, which will not be easy.
Still, June basketball in Boston seems like a real possibility again.
Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up hocking wares — clothes, sunglasses, whatever — on the streets of Athens, Greece. He easily could still be living there, the tallest salesman in a poor part of a country with high unemployment and real challenges.
Instead, he is a multimillionaire living comfortably in the United States, and is one of the 10 best basketball players in the world — and still improving. In a few years we may well be saying he is the best player on the planet.
Antetokounmpo will be telling his story on the legendary television news magazine 60 Minutes this week, and the show released a clip. Check it out.
We’ve all seen this situation before at every level of basketball: A team down three points gets fouled in the final seconds and has two free throws, so the shooter aims to make the first free throw then miss the second and create a rebound he or a teammate can grab then throw back in to tie the game. It works about as often as an NFL Hail Mary — either the shooter makes the shot anyway or the defense gets the board — but what other choice is there?
Nobody has ever pulled it off as well as Paulinho Boracini of the Brazilian league team Cearense.
Intentional or not (and I lean not), he banked the second free throw off the rim toward the corner, ran it down himself and hit the game-winning three.
Damn. That’s impressive.
(If Boracini and Cearense sound familiar, you win the award for “watching too much Knicks preseason basketball” because they played New York in a 2015 exhibition.)
MILWAUKEE (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks say Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful for Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.
The All-Star forward got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.
Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.
Anfernee Simons spent the last year playing high school basketball. But because he did so as a fifth-year prep after technically graduating from high school last year and turns 19 in June, he’s eligible for the NBA draft.
Following a path taken by Thon Maker and considered by Jonathan Isaac, Simons – as expected – is turning pro.
Jonathan Givony of ESPN:
Anfernee Simons will forgo his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, he informed ESPN.
Simons informed ESPN that he will sign with agent Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports Representation
Simons looks like a mid-first-rounder, though his range is quite wide considering how large of a jump he’s making. Teams can learn relatively more about him in workouts and interviews.
A 6-foot-4 shooting guard who specializes in scoring, Simons is quick on his feet with a quick release off the dribble – with range from beyond the 3-point arc to an impressive floater game. Those floaters will be important, because Simons isn’t nearly strong enough for the NBA. He’s also a lackluster passer, though because of physicality concerns, no team will count on Simons to run an offense anytime soon, anyway. He’ll have time to develop as a distributor.
By signing with agents, Simons loses his college eligibility. Drew Rosenhaus, a big-name football agent, isn’t certified with the National Basketball Players Association. Petriella’s only NBA client has been Diamond Stone, a 2016 second-rounder who’s out of the league. They’re all in this bold venture together now.
As the NBA considers changing its draft rules for young prospects, Simons will be an interesting case study. He obviously meets the draft-eligibility requirements in the one-and-done era, but he’s also jumping from prep-school competition to the NBA. The league’s strength and nutrition programs should serve him well. His overall development could influence the wider debate.