Dan Feldman

Cavaliers overwhelm Celtics in Game 1

8 Comments

Celtics fans cheered wildly.

Their team had just cut the deficit to 17 to end the third quarter.

The Cavaliers dominated quickly and then were up-and-down in extended garbage time of a 117-104 win at Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Cleveland led by double digits the final three quarters and by 20 for nearly half the game.

Cavs-Warriors III in the Finals has never felt more inevitable, both teams remaining undefeated in these playoffs. The Spurs’ chances of upsetting Golden State nearly ran out when Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and Boston’s bid to topple the Cavaliers didn’t get off the ground in Game 1.

The Celtics stayed home on Cleveland’s 3-point shooters, so the Cavaliers – particularly LeBron James (38 points on 14-of-24 shooting, nine rebounds and seven assists) – feasted inside. Tristan Thompson (20 points on 7-for-7 shooting with six offensive rebounds) crashed the offensive glass relentlessly, and his final line doesn’t reveal the true scope of the pressure he put on Boston’s defense. The Cavs shot 28-for-35 from the free-throw line to 10-for-18 to the Celtics, a disparity that reflects the difference in paint play.

Kevin Love (32 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-9 on 3-pointers, with 12 rebounds) was the only Cavalier who consistently got loose on the perimeter, completing a dominant frontcourt performance.

Al Horford (11 points on 4-of-11 shooting) was off yet again against the Cavaliers, a continuation of his Hawks days, until the game got out of hand. Jae Crowder (21 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Avery Bradley (21 points) had their moments, but the Celtics looked completely overmatched – and it’s unclear where they go from here.

Boston, which cycled through several defenders on LeBron, could send more help to the Cleveland star. But LeBron has become so good at picking apart defenses with his passing. Maybe the Celtics will shoot better on 3-pointers (12-for-38, 32% tonight), but that’s still not necessarily enough to keep up with the Cavs’ dominant offense. Jaylen Brown (10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds and Boston’s most passable defense on LeBron) was a breath of fresh air, and Gerald Green (11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, +11) shined late. But what will those two do when the game is more contested?

It’s foolish to write off the Celtics after only one game, but this result met every fear of an unwatchable series.

Boston’s answer to LeBron might have come yesterday – which means help won’t arrive until it’s too late for this year.

Celtics owner: Boston would trade No. 1 pick only for ‘second coming’

9 Comments

Celtics president Danny Ainge said he’d explore trading the No. 1 pick.

His boss indicated Boston will keep the selection.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, via CSN New England:

I think these picks are very, very valuable. You think of it, if you’re going to trade this pick as part of a package for an establish star making max, you’ve got to send max money out the door, as well. You’ve got to send more guys along. So, this guy coming back better be the second coming. What’s more, he’s going to be halfway through his career, whoever he is. And he’s going to be paid right now a ton of money, which restricts you in other ways.

If you can get a really good guy with this pick, you’ve got him. You can build with him. You can grow with him. You can coach him up. And you get to max money eventually – five, six years down the road – but it’s a totally different thing.

So, these picks are really valuable in today’s NBA. And so our intention would be to make the pick unless someone blows us away with an offer. That’s the way I would probably think about it.

I’m not trying to lay down rules of the road for the basketball staff when they make their recommendations. I’m just trying to say how I feel. And it’s the way we felt in February, quite honestly.

This could be a play for leverage in trade discussions, but Grousbeck’s assessment is sound. A relatively cheap four-year contract followed by the team control of restricted free agency makes first-round picks so valuable.

There’d be nothing wrong with Boston trading the No. 1 pick. It’s just difficult for other teams to match its value. This pick is more valuable than Paul George (on an expiring contract) and probably Jimmy Butler (locked up two more years). Teams with more valuable stars are in no rush to trade.

So, expect the Celtics to draft Markelle Fultz. It’s not a lock, but Grousbeck’s comments make it even more likely.

LaVar Ball: Lonzo Ball will work out for only Lakers

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
18 Comments

LaVar Ball, no matter what controversy he invites, is managing the career of one of the most promising prospects in the 2017 NBA draft. So, as much as you might want to ignore him and focus on basketball, what he says matters for basketball.

And he says his son, Lonzo Ball, will have an exclusive workout schedule.

Ball, via Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation:

“That’s all we working out for is the Lakers,” said LaVar. “Just the Lakers. There’s nobody else that we need to workout for.”

This will probably work well for the Balls. Markelle Fultz is the consensus top prospect, and Boston will likely take him No. 1. Lonzo is the consensus second prospect, and the Lakers will probably draft him No. 2.

Lonzo has said he’d rather go to the Lakers than go No. 1, because that’d keep him close to family. LaVar is also keen on his son remaining in Southern California.

But there is downside to this plan. The No. 1 pick will earn about $4 million more than the No. 2 pick over a four-year rookie-scale contract, and Ball is decreasing his chances of the Celtics drafting him (though they still could anyway). Ball also risks the Lakers passing on him and other teams – 76ers at No. 3, Suns at No. 4, Kings at No. 5, etc. – also passing because they don’t know enough about him. There’s a floor on a potential fall, because Lonzo looked so good at UCLA. But the possibility of a small tumble, and commensurate financial loss, exists.

If the Balls get indication closer to the draft the Lakers might not pick him, Lonzo could always work out with other teams. This makes sense as an initial plan, not one to keep at all costs.

Teams hold so much control over players entering the NBA. Managing their own workout destinations is one way players hold leverage in the process. If Lonzo prioritizes playing in Los Angeles, more power to him.

Doris Burke keeps Popping Gregg Popovich (video)

5 Comments

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once nearly made Doris Burke cry during an in-game interview.

Burke has shown her hardened (and playful) side during the Western Conference finals.

In Game 1 of Warriors-Spurs on Sunday, she asked Popovich one question then gifted herself a Mother’s Day present of ending the interview. During Game 2, with San Antonio getting crushed, she again asked one question then ended the interview, inducing a smirk from Popovich.

In-game interviews are rarely revealing, but these are at least fun.

Watch the actual 2017 NBA lottery drawing (video)

7 Comments

If the NBA draft lottery isn’t rigged, why is the drawing done behind closed doors with no video made available to the public?

Oh.