NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: ProBasketballTalks' prediction post

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Laker_Celtics_logos.pngApparently nobody in Boston will be buying the team on this blog a beer next time we visit. They’ll be all too happy to serve us crow, however.

We’ve decided to put our predictions out there, to make them official and public and all that. And for possibly the first time ever (well, outside of wondering if Marco Jaric scored over his head with his wife) we all agree on something.

Kurt Helin: Lakers in 7. I believe in the Celtics. Now. I didn’t for the last two rounds. I thought it a fluke, and I was wrong. They are for real. They are back and playing defense like beasts again. And they are still going to lose this. Barely, but lose. I’ll take the Lakers because of home court (their role players just are more comfortable in Staples Center), having Andrew Bynum (even in his limited condition) which will open things up for Pau Gasol, and in the end Kobe Bryant remains the best player on the court, and he happens to be playing his best ball.

Matt Moore: Lakers in 6. They’ve beaten Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Steve Nash. Can they beat Rajon Rondo? They’ve beaten Jeff Green, Carlos Boozer, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Can they beat Kevin Garnett? They’ve beaten Kevin Durant, Andrei Kirilenko, and Grant Hill. Can they beat Paul Pierce? They’ve beaten Scott Brooks, Jerry Sloan, and Alvin Gentry. Can they beat Doc Rivers? They can because of three little letters. TMT. Too Much Talent.

Rob Mahoney: Lakers in 7. I’ve spent the last few days trying to convince myself that the Celtics will take this thing, but they won’t. They can, but they won’t. Kobe Bryant is simply operating on a different plane of existence, in which defenders seem to be challenging his shots, but fail to contest the ethereal. Behind him are a number of talented players that can’t all be negated; maybe the Celtics can take away Bynum’s impact, but not Gasol’s, maybe they can take away Odom’s impact, but not Artest’s. Boston may have upset Orlando by proving how delicate the Magic’s offense really was, but L.A.’s attack is far too balanced to crumble under the Celtics’ defensive pressure. It’s been fun, Boston, but it’s time to go home.

John Krolik: Lakers in 6. The Celtics should be a much tougher test for the Lakers than either the Jazz or the Suns were, simply because of the way Boston plays defense. Remember how the Lakers looked vulnerable against the Thunder, even though the Thunder struggled to score for most of the series? Well, the Celtics are a whole lot better defensively than the Thunder are. They don’t have a Sefolosha or a Durant to slow down Kobe on the perimeter, but they’re capable of guarding that massive Laker frontline. That has the potential to change everything — expect this Laker team to have some very rough stretches over the course of this series. Ultimately, though, fatigue and that 2-3-2 format are going to be too much for Boston to overcome. Boston hasn’t been consistent enough at home for me to think they can win three in a row in Boston, and I don’t see any team winning two out of seven games at Staples. The Lakers will get tested, but I think they’ll pass with flying colors.

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after season

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said in 2015 he made a commitment to newly signed LaMarcus Aldridge, presumably to coach through the five-year contract he signed in 2014.

That contract will expire after this season.

Then what?

Popovich, via Marc Stein of The New York Times:

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his plans for next season in an interview Wednesday

Maybe Popovich is legitimately undecided about his future. Maybe he has a firm plan and was just being dismissive because he didn’t want to discuss it publicly. There’s obviously a massive difference between the two, but it’s difficult to parse from only his quote.

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2020 Olympics. That responsibility means a lot to the Air Force veteran. Some have even speculated he’ll retire from the NBA after this season to prepare for his USA Basketball duties.

In the meantime, Popovich remains one of the NBA’s top coaches. He has helped San Antonio turn around its season, building a strong offense around mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge and getting everyone on enough of the same page defensively to be reasonable on that end. The Spurs aren’t a great team, but they’re good in ways that have Popovich’s fingerprints all over them.

Popovich could continue to succeed in the NBA for the foreseeable future. The question is – with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone and Popovich nearing age 70 – how much longer he wants to do it.