How the Celtics can win the championship

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Banner #18. Rondo becomes a bona fide superstar. Doc Rivers proves all his doubters permanently wrong and either stays or retires on his own terms. Tom Thibodeau becomes the most accomplished first-year head coach in recent memory when he goes to Chicago. Paul Pierce, who stuck with the team through all the bad times, gets a second ring as The Captain. All of Rasheed Wallace’s sins are forever washed away. Nate Robinson becomes more than one of the great summer league players ever. KG…I’m not really sure, but it will be good.
What do the Celtics need to do tonight to bring yet another Finals trophy back to Boston? Here are my keys:
1. 48 Minutes of Hell

this is the mentality Boston needs to have if they want to win this game in Los Angeles. They need to use their length and their speed to swarm all over these Lakers. They need to bump Gasol off of his spots in the high post. Ray Allen and Kobe need to bother Kobe on every shot. Heck, they need to bother him on every dribble. Pressure the Lakers early, clamp down on Kobe and Gasol, and make them try to shoot their way back in the game. Bring doubles from different angles, flood the strong side and rotate back, collapse on drives, and hawk those passing lanes. No Perkins? No problem. Rasheed has the length to guard a hobbled Bynum, and everyone should be hungry enough to pick up Perkins’ slack on defense. They know the system. 
They know what they need to do. If they play with aggression and intelligence on offense, they can take the crowd out of it and make the Lakers play their brutal version of basketball. Besides, if the Celtics get stops, they’ll be able to…
2. Get full-court opportunities for Rondo and Co.

The Celtics are a pretty good half-court offensive team. They’re a terrifying fast-break team. If Rondo runs, the Celtics get layups, fouls on the Lakers, and open threes for Allen and Pierce. On both ends of the court, Boston must make the game as frenetic as possible. 
3. Make Bynum move, attack Odom

If Rasheed Wallace can hit some threes early, that would be great. Even if he doesn’t, it would be a huge plus for Boston if he can space the floor and drag Bynum out of the paint. The Celtics need to keep Bynum from camping out in the paint — they need to get Ray Allen off of baseline screens, put Pierce in the pick-and-roll, or get some pick-and-pop action early to make Bynum step out and challenge jumpers. When Odom is in, that’s when it’s time to run the offense through KG in the post, get Paul Pierce rumbling to the basket in ISO, or have Rondo attack the lane. 
4. Get greatness from Ray Allen

When Ray Allen isn’t on, he can get some layups in transition, space the floor, get some open shots, and play smart defense on Kobe. That won’t be enough. The Celtics need Ray Allen on. They need him running the floor, stopping on a dime, and draining threes. They need him picking the helping big apart off of a baseline screen. They need him darting behind double-screens and draining threes. They need him pulling up off the pick-and-roll or changing gears to get to the rack. Ray Allen has all the moves. The Celtics need him to have all of them working in order to score consistently in Los Angeles. 
5. Be the deeper team
Boston can’t have another game where nobody but Rondo, Pierce, KG, or Ray Allen scores until the fourth quarter. Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and especially Rasheed Wallace have to believe that this is their time. Nobody else will think it’s their time, and most probably think Boston is going to get sent home without a championship tonight. Then again, nobody expected Boston to make it this far anyways. Thanks to their lackluster regular season, Boston’s players and coaches have been the only people who believed they could actually win the championship this year. And against all odds, their belief in themselves has allowed them to win 15 of the 16 games they need. If they keep believing for another 48 minutes, they might actually end up proving themselves right.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue on Kyle Korver’s playing time: Brad Stevens ‘threw us for a loop’ by not playing Semi Ojeleye

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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LeBron James is obviously the Cavaliers’ best player. Cleveland’s second-best player? Usually Kevin Love, but Kyle Korver has made a case lately.

So, how did Korver play just 19 minutes, including none in the first quarter, in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night? That was his playoff low, besides Game 1 against the Pacers, when he was still recovering from injury.

Blame Boston coach Brad Stevens removing Semi Ojeleye from his rotation.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue:

Well, initially, he’s been putting [Semi] Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game. He didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us for a loop.

This won’t slow the talk of Stevens being a genius. He neutralized one of Cleveland’s best players simply by not using a limited rookie.

Still, Lue’s strategy held some merit. Korver is a defensive liability, but Ojeleye’s offensive limitations make it hard to take advantage. Ojeleye’s biggest strength, his physical strength, is of limited utility in trying to stick tight to Korver on the perimeter.

In Games 1-4, Cavaliers with Korver on and…

Ojeleye on:

  • Offensive rating: 111.9
  • Defensive rating: 102.1
  • Net rating: +9.9

Ojeleye off:

  • Offensive rating: 97.0
  • Defensive rating: 109.5
  • Net rating: -12.5

That said, Korver is too good to plant on the bench. Other perimeter options – J.R. Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Jeff Green (who actually played fine last night) – are just so unreliable. Lue shouldn’t just wait for the perfect matchup to use Korver.

But will Lue get it, anyway?

Stevens:

We believe in Semi and we think he’s a big, huge part of our team. It would not be a shock if he plays a ton for us in Game 6.

Lue better develop a plan for using Korver in Game 6 Friday, with contingencies based on Stevens using or not using Ojeleye. I wouldn’t trust Stevens’ declaration one bit, and Lue doesn’t want to get thrown for a loop again.

PBT Extra: Rockets showed defense, resilience, can Warriors show same in Game 5?

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Game 4 was an epic game, and the Houston Rockets proved they are a serious threat to knock the Warriors off the top of the mountain. They took Golden State’s big punch to start the game (a 12-0 run) and Stephen Curry haymaker in the third, cranked up their defense, got a great game from Chris Paul, and evened the series at 2-2.

Heading back to Houston, we can expect more of the same out of the Rockets Thursday night — they know a win in Game 5 puts them in a very dominant position in the series.

The question is, do the Warriors have another gear? That’s one of the topics I get into in this PBT Extra. For a few seasons now, the Warriors have been able to play lockdown defense and hit tough shots in the clutch, with Kevin Durant making them especially hard to stop, but in Game 4 when it got tight they looked tired and slow. Houston’s ball pressure threw Golden State off its game, and fatigue had set in for the Warriors. Can they not only go on big runs but slow down Chris Paul, James Harden and the Rockets’ attack?

Thursday night is going to be interesting.

LeBron James recalls six turnovers with striking precision (video)

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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LeBron James showed off his memory after the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the Celtics, detailing every play of the beginning of the fourth quarter:

He was at it again after Cleveland’s Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

Asked about his six turnovers, LeBron perfectly described six turnovers:

The turnover LeBron very noticeably said went off Jeff Green‘s hands was actually assigned to Green. So, that meant LeBron omitted one of his own:

Still, this was incredibly impressive. It was also maybe a little passive-aggressive, the way LeBron notes the ball going off Green’s and J.R. Smith‘s hands.

So, it was quintessential LeBron.

Celtics top Cavaliers in Game 5, setting up Game 7 in Boston?

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LeBron James and a couple Cavaliers teammates left the court well before the Celtics dribbled out their 96-83 Game 5 win Wednesday.

The Cavs are already moving on.

Game 6 will be Friday in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers – down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals – must win to avoid elimination. The way Boston has played on the road, it’s even easy to look ahead to Game 7, which is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.

Still, the Celtics bought themselves leeway with their decisive win in Boston tonight. They led by double digits the final 20 minutes, breaking the Cavs’ momentum after two straight wins in Cleveland.

“It’s tough going on the road, playing against somebody else in their house with their crowd,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks tonight. “So, we were just comfortable. We came back home and defended home-court like we have all playoffs.”

Boston is now 10-0 at home this postseason – but just 1-6 away. Fueled in part by that historic split, no game in this series has been close. All five have been decided by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory – 18 – is in the 97th percentile for largest ever in a 3-2 best-of-seven series.

So, just as two big Celtics wins in Games 1 and 2 didn’t deter the Cavaliers, this one likely won’t, either. The Cavs should be heavily favorited in Game 6.

Beyond, if it gets that far? That’s a much bigger tossup.

Teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series have won 85% of the time. But Boston is missing a key reason it secured home-court advantage, including a chance to break the 2-2 at home rather than on the road – Kyrie Irving. And LeBron James is downright scary in a Game 7, even on the road.

The Celtics at least took care of business tonight, showing a far greater sense of urgency than Cleveland. Brad Stevens changed his starting lineup, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris, and tightened his rotation to just seven players until garbage time. Boston ran the floor much harder than the Cavs, decisively outrebounded them and beat them to loose balls. Even in altercations, the Celtics had a man advantage.

LeBron (26 points, 10 rebounds five assists and six turnovers) never made his presence felt in the way usually necessary for the Cavaliers to win. Cleveland’s four other starters combined to score just 24 points, two fewer than LeBron did himself.

After Boston seized control early, the Cavaliers made few adjustments in strategy or effort – as if they’re saving those for later.