Games of the night: The Spurs and Celtics keep right on winning

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Spurs 113, Nuggets 112. Manu. Flipin. Ginobili.

First Manu hits an acrobatic four-footer — twisting, splitting the double team and kiss it off the glass with English — to give the Spurs a one-point lead with 4.2 seconds left. Then on the other end he makes a perfectly-timed double team — not moving until Carmelo Anthony put his head down then beating him to the spot — to draw the charge on what would have been the Nuggets game winner.

Denver fans, don’t blame the refs for this one, you were fortunate to have the lead at all — remember it was a too-hot in-bound pass from Antonio McDyess to Ginobili which bounced straight to Anthony that gave you the lead in the first place. Then there was the three missed free throws down the stretch, Nene missed a few chippies before fouling out, Arron Afflalo had been hot all night but missed a wide-open look near the end, there was the missed opportunity to foul Tim Duncan. You had your chances before the final call — and that call was the right one anyway.

Tim Duncan had 28 points and 16 boards. Credit the Spurs — the road back-to-back with Denver on the second night (where you are playing at altitude) is one of the toughest in the NBA and they won anyway. This team is legit.

Celtics 102, Hawks 90: This was close for a half in what was a battle of depth — the Hawks were without Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, the Celtics were without Rajon Rondo and Shaquille O’Neal.

In the end, the discipline of the Celtics to stay with the plan was much better than that of the Hawks. The Celtics had balance. Six Celtics scored in double figures — none with more than 18 — and they shot 53 percent as a team. That is depth. More depth than the Hawks have.

Great game from Jeff Teague off the bench for Atlanta, scoring 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting. How come he doesn’t play like that every night?

Nets 97, Wizards 89: Would the real Washington Wizards please stand up. Please stand up. Was it the disaster of a team from the first half? Or maybe the team that made a game of it until a late 7-0 Nets run sealed it?

Washington’s interior defense remains Nerf soft, but they expanded their flaws to so many new areas in the first half. For example, the Nets are dead last in the league at forcing turnovers — only 13.2 percent of opponent possessions end in a turnover. In the first half the Wizards better than doubled that to 26.5 (13 total turnovers). The Wizards shot 30 percent for the first half and missed all their threes, then they shot 48 percent for the second half and made a real game of it. The defense got better (not good, just less bad). Wasn’t enough.

Good on the Nets for taking advantage of how bad the Wizards are. I guess. It’s a win, so Avery Johnson will take it.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.