NBA Playoffs: Celtics turn back the clock to take Game 1 over Heat, but may lose Kevin Garnett to suspension

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Garnett_Game1.jpgIt looked like the same old Celtics we’ve seen this season. Outworked, outhustled, down double digits in the third quarter.

And then all of a sudden, they hopped in the Hot Tub Time Machine during a timeout.

And out popped the Celtics from the 2008 Championship run to lock down the Heat and take Game 1 for the Celtics, 85-76.

It was everything we told you it would be: physical, slow, brutal, and deliberate. But behind Quentin Richardson’s three pointers and Dwyane Wade’s attack, the Heat built a 14 point lead. Which promptly evaporated behind a defensive run by the Celtics defense which rivaled anything you’ve seen in your life. They were everywhere. Always in position, hammering the bigs down low, crashing the boards behind Glen Davis’ best game of the season, and forcing shot clock violations and rushed shots. On offense, Paul Pierce had it going. Everything was looking golden for the C’s. Then the fight happened.

Kevin Garnett has long made a reputation as the kind of player that
likes to get into his opponents’ head with physical behavior and
bombastic words. But tonight, he may have lost his cool in the worst way
and it may cost him a suspension in the NBA playoffs.

Late in the fourth quarter, Paul Pierce drifted left on a possession and made a routine pass. An earlier shoulder stinger injury he had flared up and the fell into the Heat bench in pain, before slumping to the floor in pain. Kevin Garnett walked over his teammate to check on him, right in front of the Heat bench. Quentin Richardson came over to the bench (he was the one guarding Pierce when he was injured). At that point, some sort of altercation happened. It’s not known at this time whether Richardson said something to ignite Garnett or if Garnett just acted unprovoked, but Garnett elbowed Richardson away lightly, which then caused Richardson to verbally respond.

The two got in each other’s faces, and the next thing you know, Udonis Haslem is in there, and Glen Davis is in there looking for a candy bar, and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose, all while Pierce is still on the ground. Somewhere in the scrum, KG threw a pretty vicious back elbow which landed squarely in Quentin Richardson’s jaw. Then KG either ran out of the huddle or was pushed, depending on who you’re talking to, all while still running his mouth.

Glen Davis tried to get back into the scrum, but Doc Rivers, in possibly the greatest moment of his coaching career, grabbed the volatile portly pounder and threw him back to the bench like an angry dad grounding his son for roughhousing.

The ramifications were Garnett’s ejection, which enabled the Heat to pull within five, but Wade was unable to connect on the ensuing possession after the technical free throw and the Celtics hung on.

Here are the possible ramifications from this game:

  • Garnett could very well be suspended for Game 2. The elbow was clearly thrown and that’s clear video evidence. He also comes across as the villain in this circumstance, having elbowed Richardson once to start the fight and once at the apex.
  • Udonis Haslem could be suspended for interceding in the fight.
  • If the league feels like it can collect enough evidence that leads to the conclusion that Richardson enflamed the incident, he could face a suspension.
  • Nothing could happen since it’s clear both sides were in the wrong.

By the way, if you’re worried about Pierce, don’t be. Five minutes later he was totally fine. (That sound you hear is every Laker fan in the world taking a breath to make wheelchair jokes. Save ’em.)

Neither team can feel bad about this game in total. The Heat led by 14 in the late third on the road, and needed a horrific second half (32 points total for the half, ye gods) to fall. The Celtics were able to flip the switch and get the win, and now have remembered the gear they need to be at to win a championship. Buckle down, readers. This one’s going to be brutal and long.

Some closing notes:

  • If you want an unsung hero, try Tony Allen. The man who was an afterthought coming into the season, and tradebait at best, finished with 14 points, 3 steals and 2 blocks, and was the primary defender on Wade during the drought for the Heat. Allen has been better than advertised all year, and really made a statement in this game.
  • Glen Davis like I said earlier, had possibly the best game of his season, crashing the board and converting a huge and-one in the fourth. The round mound of astound crashed to the floor on nearly every play, but also came up with the ball in almost every instance.
  • Michael Beasley was a no-show, going 3-8, and just being invisible for most of the game. He came up with three offensive boards, but couldn’t convert on several of them.
  • Jermaine O’Neal got worked by Kendrick Perkins, who not only limited and frustrated him on the defensive end, but then came in with several drop step hooks on the offensive end. Huge game for Perkins.
  • Dwyane Wade is ridiculously good at basketball, but even he can’t beat three Celtics zone-guarding him, with two perimeter players sandwiching his lateral movement and KG lurking at the elbow.
  • Quentin Richardson could be a a big turning point in this series, as he had a big game. Of course, we’ll have to see if he’ll be around next game.

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Anthony Davis challenging Michael Jordan as best opening-game player on record

AP Photo/Michael Wyke
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Anthony Davis called himself the NBA’s best player.

He sure backed it up last night.

Davis posted a 32-16-8-3-3 to lead the Pelicans to a 19-point win over the Rockets, considered by many to be the NBA’s second-best team. The performance immediately vaults Davis to the forefront of any MVP discussions.

But for him, it was just par for the course. Davis has repeatedly dazzled in season openers. When 18-6-2-3 qualifies as the dud, you know Davis is doing something right.

Davis’ box scores in New Orleans’ first game each season:

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That makes Davis’ average season-opener game score 24.1, one of the best ever. Only Michael Jordan has a higher mark on record (since 1983, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go; minimum: three games).

Here are the leaders:

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Obviously, Davis cares more about how he finishes than starts. The Pelicans have made the playoffs only twice with him, getting swept in the first round in 2015 and falling in the second round last season.

But it should be clear by now: Davis comes to play as soon as the season tips.

PBT Extra: Boston can be team to dethrone Golden State Warriors

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I’ve heard it from friends. I’ve seen it on NBA Twitter. I’ve debated it with sports talk radio hosts.

“This NBA season is already decided, nobody has a chance against the Warriors.”

Not true.

Boston has a shot, as I get into in this PBT Extra.

Absolutely the Warriors are the odds-on favorites to win it all, if healthy they should three-peat. They were my pick. But I believe Boston has a legitimate shot to dethrone the Warriors — they have the wing athletes, the switchability on defense, the scoring, the versatility. A Boston/Golden State Finals is going six or seven games… if we get there. It’s just day two of a long season.

But I believe in Boston.

 

Boban Marjanovic dunks so hard (with his feet touching floor!), rim must be checked for levelness (video)

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The Nuggets had no answer for Boban Marjanovic.

Neither did L.A.’s rims.

The 7-foot-3, 290-pound Clippers center scored 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds in 18 minutes. The Clippers outscored Denver by seven with Marjanovic on the floor, but got outscored by 16 otherwise in a 107-98 loss last night.

Marjanovic just doesn’t have the stamina to play huge minutes, though he caught an extra breather when officials stopped the game to check the levelness of a rim Marjanovic dunked on – with his feet still on the ground. Incredible!

Three Things to Know: Deandre Ayton outduels Luka Doncic in rookie showdown

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. This was the first full slate of games this season and three of the first four were #LeaguePassAlert games — welcome back NBA.

1) Suns, Deandre Ayton gets best of Mavs’ Luka Doncic in rookie debuts. It’s tedious but let’s start with the required-by-law caveat: It’s just one game — almost any reaction here is an overreaction. What matters is not where Ayton and Doncic are right now but how much better are they around Christmas? March?

That said, Ayton showed an offensive game that comes to him with ease and looked the better of the two promising rookies in an opening night showdown.

Ayton had to go up against DeAndre Jordan and did a good job of letting the offense come to him, not forcing it, and he finished with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds, and an impressive six assists. (Credit to new coach Igor Kokoskov the Suns moved the ball very well.) Ayton did most of his damage deep in the post, mainly when smaller players were switched onto him, but also nailed a few midrange jumpers. His first bucket came with an and-1 against Doncic down low.

That said, on the defensive end of the floor Ayton has a lot of work to do. He just looked lost, without recognition. The book on him coming in was he had never really been taught to defend until college and he just doesn’t have the understanding yet, and that showed. It’s just a reminder he has a LONG way to go on that end.

Dallas’ Doncic couldn’t get his shot to fall (5-of-16 overall and 0-of-5 from three) but the Dallas offense did look smoother with him running it. He still finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists — and a few highlight moments to remind you what he can be.

Phoenix’s Devin Booker was the real offensive star of the game — he scored 17 points in the final five minutes to seal the win and had 35 on the night for the Suns.

2) Pelicans beat down Rockets in opener, win by 19 (and it wasn’t that close). Last season, Houston’s switch-everything defense was seventh best in the NBA and the stops/steals it got helped fuel an elite offense. There were a lot of questions through the summer about how much the losses of Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, and defensive guru assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik (retirement) was going to set them back.

It’s just one game, but the returns are not good.

The Pelicans picked apart the switches, got mismatches and clean looks, and flat-out thrashed Houston in its home opener 131-112. This was a 17 point game at the half and the Pelicans led by as many as 29 at points. Anthony Davis feasted on the Houston defense on his way to 32 points,16 rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks. He looked stronger and was scoring in the post, too, on Clint Capela at times.

The Pelicans big-man trio dominated this game — Nikola Mirotic hit his first six threes and finished with 30 points, and Julius Randle punished switches inside on his way to 25 points and eight rebounds. New Orleans is an interesting combination — they play as fast as any team in the league but will punish teams that go small ball on them. The Rockets struggled with all of that.

Houston will play better — James Harden and Chris Paul were good but not playing at their otherworldly potential, and the defense will improve. But there were other concerns. Carmelo Anthony came off the bench for the first time in his career and looked pedestrian and out of sync, not like a guy who can help the team in May, and shot 3-of-10. Worse yet, Michael Carter-Williams was a mess, getting torched defensively, and on offense the Pelicans at points literally did not guard him and that messed with the spacing and flow of the rest of the offense.

3) Kawhi Leonard looks good — if a bit rusty — in Raptors debut. We saw it with Gordon Hayward in Boston on Tuesday night (and to a degree Kyrie Irving as well): Miss a large chunk of the last season and there’s going to be some expected rust and struggles in the first game of the next season.

That was the Kawhi Leonard story in Toronto. He put up 24 points in his first game, but on 9-of-22 shooting. Early on it was clear the Raptors were feeding him to try to get him rolling, but that had a limited effect (although he did look better in the second half).

It’s just one game, and Leonard was moving and defending well, we need to give him some time to get his game fully back. The Raptors beat the Cavaliers 116-104 and as long as they keep winning Leonard can find his game again without pressure.

BONUS NOTE: Could not end this without a shout out to Allonzo Trier. You might remember him as the player who, when you tuned in to watch Ayton at Arizona last season, you said, “hey, who is No. 35, he’s pretty good?” Trier went undrafted but played his way onto the Knicks’ roster through a solid Summer League (17 points a game) and camp (14.2 average in preseason games, better than Kevin Knox).

Opening night he impressed dropping 15 and making some highlight reel plays. This is a rookie to keep an eye on.