Boston’s hit that special time of year where they don’t care again

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Ah, the early weeks of spring. Winters still lingers at the edge, nipping at heels. The NCAA tournament provides all sorts of drama. And the Celtics completely and totally stop giving a flying crap about their effort in regular season games.

It’s become a yearly tradition to see the powerhouse contender tail off their efforts, struggling to beat mediocre-to-terrible teams, not closing games effectively and generally showing the exact opposite kind of performance they’ve been giving for months. And unlike previous seasons, you can’t get sucked into believing this stretch has any sort of impact on the postseason. Don’t buy in. The Celtics are just trying to trick you with their laziness. They’ll be ready. But for now? It’s ugly.

First the Celtics suffered a close loss to an underrated Grizzlies team that really is worthy of a loss for the Celtics with the way they’ve been playing (consider last night’s three-point edging by the Bulls over the Grizzlies just more proof). But the way the Celtics lost is the problem. They coughed up the ball constantly, showing little or no intention of running the offense smoothly.  But that loss was understandable, it happens. Then the Bobcats, who every season seem to sneak up on the guys in green, came to town, came back from a sizable deficit, and wound up holding off the Celtics as Boston missed two threes to tie on the final possession.

The Celtics are now two games back of Chicago for the top spot in the East, and only a half game above Miami. As for the fans? Well, they’re not taking this streak of subpar efforts super well:

I feel sorry for anyone who has tickets to the remaining regular season games. The Celtics have flat out quit. Thats the only explanation for the pitiful performance we witnessed tonight.

via Recap: The Celtics are dead – RedsArmy.com – The Voice Of Celtics Fans.

There are those two words again, “no urgency”. Celtics fans heard that enough last season to last a lifetime. And oh yeah, let’s not forget “bored with the regular season”, something Doc Rivers also alluded to after Friday night’s loss.

Old habits die hard.

If you think Rivers ripped into his team after the game, think again. The only message given to the players was the time of practice on Saturday – 12:30. He’ll let the rest sink in over night.

As for the rest of the season, that’s on the players. Rivers says that for things to change they have to be honest with themselves – he’s right. They certainly talk a good game, maybe the best in the league, but if they play the way they have the last two games it won’t matter what seed they get – they’re first round exits.

And if that happens, Danny Ainge will take no prisoners.

But it doesn’t have to end like that. It wasn’t built to. The Celtics need to get back to what brought them so much success.

Ultimately, it’s Ubuntu, and for the Celtics it’s time to practice what they preach.

Enough talking about it.

via Where Are You Ubuntu? – CelticsBlog.

But the Celtics won’t correct this. Not for another eighteen days. They simply can’t be bothered to gear up for the regular season. But when the time comes for them to deliver the goods in the postseason, they’ll be ready. We can say that because they’ve always been ready before. Even the 2009 team gave a good effort and was simply overmatched without Garnett against a red-hot Orlando team. But then there’s last season and the remaining belief that the Celtics might have toppled L.A., even without Kendrick Perkins, had Game 7 been in L.A.. There was an emphasis on homecourt advantage this year for Boston. And instead they seem content to surrender it without much of a fight.

Anyone would trade a handful of meaningless late regular season games for championship intensity in the playoffs. But that won’t stop the frustration over what amounts to an inability to summon the effort to beat teams Boston is clearly capable of beating.

 

 

Paul George scores 28 as Thunder beat Raptors 116-109

Associated Press
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TORONTO (AP) — Paul George scored 28 points, Russell Westbrook had 18 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors 116-109 on Friday night.

Dennis Schroder came off the bench to score 26 points and Jerami Grant had 19 as the Thunder snapped a four-game losing streak and avenged Wednesday’s 123-114 home defeat to Toronto.

The Thunder made 20 of 43 shots from 3-point range. Oklahoma City made a season-high 22 3-pointers against the Lakers on Jan. 17.

Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points and Pascal Siakam had 25 for the Raptors, who played without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry.

Lowry missed his second straight game because of a sprained right ankle. Coach Nick Nurse said there’s no structural damage to Lowry’s ankle, but soreness remains following a collision with New York’s Mitchell Robinson on Monday. Nurse said Lowry is expected to return next week.

Danny Green scored 19 points and Serge Ibaka had 11 but Toronto couldn’t hold a double-digit lead in the third quarter for the second straight game. The Raptors gave away a 20-point lead before recovering to win in overtime Wednesday, but weren’t able to match that on their home court.

Oklahoma City trailed by 10 points to start the second half, and was down 13 with 5:23 to go in the third before rallying. Westbrook gave the visitors the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter on a layup with 1:18 left in the period, putting them up 80-79. The Thunder closed the third with a 20-4 run to take an 83-80 lead into the fourth.

Leonard cut the gap to 93-91 on a free throw with 7:33 to play but George hit 3-pointers on either side of a fast-break layup by Grant, giving Oklahoma City a 101-91 edge with 6:21 left.

The Thunder missed eight of their first 10 shots of the game. Toronto was 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the first, with Green making all three of his attempts, and the Raptors led 29-22 after one.

Leonard scored nine points in the second and Green had six as Toronto led 58-48 at halftime.

 

James Harden ties career best with 61, Rockets beat Spurs 111-105

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden matched his career high with 61 points, including 27 in the first quarter, to lead the Houston Rockets to a 111-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

Harden hit three straight 3-pointers to give the Rockets a 103-100 lead and scored all of Houston’s points in a 13-2 run late in the fourth quarter.

Harden topped the 50-point mark for the eighth time this season, compared with 10 such performances from the rest of the league combined. He matched his career-best total set earlier this season against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

The NBA’s leading scorer surpassed the 30-point mark in the second quarter and the 40-point mark with 9 minutes remaining in the third.

Before Harden’s late surge, the Spurs led by six points with 4 minutes left in the game. The Spurs had overcome a 15-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 81 entering the fourth quarter.

Harden was 7 of 10 from the field in the first quarter, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, and also went 10 for 12 from the free throw line. His 27 points in the period were the second-most in franchise history, trailing only Vernon Maxwell’s 30 in 1991.

Harden finished 9 of 13 from 3, 19 of 34 from the field and 14 of 17 from the free throw line.

Houston has won 13 of its last 15 games and eight of its last nine at home.

Bryn Forbes led San Antonio with 20 points, while Derrick White added 18 and DeMar DeRozan had 16.

Houston led 36-24 at the end of the first quarter and 62-47 at halftime.

 

LeBron James’ playoff streak ends at 13 years

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The last time LeBron James missed the playoffs, YouTube hadn’t yet launched to the public.

LeBron had reached the postseason every year since 2005, when his Cavaliers went 42-40 and finished ninth in the East – another good marker. The last time LeBron missed the playoffs, it was so long ago, an Eastern Conference team could be that good and not qualify.

But his Lakers were officially eliminated from the playoff race Friday with a loss to the Nets.

That ends LeBron’s postseason streak at 13 years – tied for the 13th-longest of all-time. Karl Malone and John Stockton hold the record, each playing in 19 straight postseasons.

Here are the longest playoff streaks of all-time:

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Obviously, LeBron joining the Western Conference put his playoff streak in greater jeopardy. And the Lakers’ fate has been known for a while.

Still, it’ll be a little jarring to watch a postseason that doesn’t include a player who ruled half the bracket for so long.

That said, LeBron might not have the longest playoff streak snapped this year. Tony Parker, who reached the playoffs in all 17 of his seasons with the Spurs, could fall short in his first season with the Hornets.

If Charlotte misses the playoffs, 76ers guard J.J. Redick is in line to hold the longest active streak at 13 years.

Here are the players with the longest active streaks that could continue this season.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs in their stint with their current team, that team is listed in brackets.

Players whose teams are currently in playoff position are in teal. Players whose teams are currently outside playoff position but not yet eliminated are in purple. Free agents who’d be eligible for the playoffs if they sign before the end of the regular season are in white:

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There’s no reason to believe Manu Ginobili will come out of retirement. But he has played in every postseason since missing the entire 2009 playoffs due to injury. It’s technically possible for him to play in the 2019 playoffs and keep his streak alive.

Which is more than LeBron can say.

Knicks’ fans chant “Free IT” as Isaiah Thomas sits on Nuggets bench

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Well played, Knicks fans.

Denver went into Madison Square Garden Friday night to be the latest team to defeat the Knicks. Isaiah Thomas, out of the rotation in Denver, was the only dressed player not to play for the Nuggets. That did not sit well with Knicks fans.

Denver has better on court options than IT — Monte Morris should get Most Improved Player votes — but I hope he gets fully healthy and lands somewhere next season where he gets a chance to show what he can still do.