Heat exorcise some demons in win over Celtics

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Let’s get this out of the way for the Boston faithful. The season series? Already went to the Celtics 3-0. The Celtics still have a good shot at the second seed and homecourt advantage in the second round. It was a mid-April game in the last week of the regular season for a Boston team that notoriously does not care, and cannot be bothered by the regular season. There is every reason to wince at the sting here and move on, confident that the Celtics will put in a performance like they did against the East last year, blowing past everyone once the second season started. One game, in the regular season, means very little.

But man, 100-77? Anyone who says they saw that coming is lying.

The Heat took it to the Celtics’ front door on Sunday, and the result has to at least carry an ounce of doubt into Boston’s heart of hearts. Everything that could go wrong for the Celtics, did. Everything that could go right for the Heat, did. Rajon Rondo, who blistered the Heat in the first three meetings had 5 assists and 3 turnovers, and shot just 3-8. Dwyane Wade, who was plagued by disoriented, terrible play in the first three meetings, had a huge impact, driving, kicking and playing tremendous defense.

The result is even more mind boggling for Boston since they started so strongly. The first six minutes of the game were a continuation of what we’d seen from the Heat and Celtics in October. Crisp, clean ball movement from Boston. Sloppy, slow, isolated play from Miami. Then suddenly, the Heat started clawing, and worked their way into a small lead. The third quarter was all Miami. The game? The game was all LeBron’s.

27 points on 19 shots, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and a block for James, who for once used his aggression at the rim to create opportunities for his jumper instead of the other way around. The real turning point of the game? When Jermaine O’Neal decided to send a message, and wound up waking up the Heat.

That started a run of chippy play in which the Heat were the aggressor. Chris Bosh picked up a technical for arguing a call on a scramble, and then turned that, no joke, into some seriously tough play. Bosh had a huge block in the third, and then a crucial and-one to stop a Celtics run in the fourth. Instead of pulling up for the fadeaway J, Bosh went right at the rim, absorbed the contact and finished.

But if you want to get past all this and into what really killed the Celtics, after James? The Celtics nabbed 10% of all available offensive rebounds, just 3 of them. 3. The Heat? They grabbed 40% of all available misses on offense, for 15 extra possessions.

No one wants to say Kendrick Perkins’ name here. But it’s unavoidable. The Celtics were a terrible team on the offensive glass even with Perkins. But they weren’t this bad, and at least they could prevent the other team from getting that many. The key with offensive rebounds isn’t getting your own, it’s preventing the other team from getting them. Makes it that much harder to defend, that much harder to keep your defense set, that much harder to maintain position. Perkins may not have nabbed any himself, but he would have helped to keep Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony from getting nine total.

The Celtics can dismiss this. They’ve earned the right after turning on the afterburners and blazing past the East last year in the playoffs after a terrible end to their regular season that went on for months. But there’s no way to stop the concerns being spoken in Boston about this team after the trade. They don’t seem like the Celtics of old, in attitude or execution. No one’s counting them out. But even in a single loss in the season series they’ve already won, this game brings with it even more erasers being taken out for the Celtics’ penciled spot in the Finals.

Some notes:

  • Jeff Green was put on LeBron James for a stretch in the 3rd and 4th quarters, as he was brought on in part to match up with LeBron. That did not work out well. And when I say that, I mean it in the same way that I say “going swimming did not work out well for that girl in the beginning of “Jaws.”
  • Glen Davis is in a bad, bad place right now. And instead of getting back to what he does best, attacking the glass, getting easy and sometimes overly difficult ridiculous shots underneath, drawing fouls, he’s operating space, relying on his jumper, trying to replicate Kevin Garnett’s pick and pop range abilities. Davis was 3-11 Sunday. Glen Davis took more shots than Ray Allen.
  • Speaking of Allen, Wade did a phenomenal job closing out on him on three-pointers. Instead of giving up as he had in the first three meetings, he committed to running Allen off. The result was Allen going 4-9 for just 13 points. Containment.
  • Joel Anthony had the game of his life Sunday with 7 points and 10 boards, including a nice dunk off a LeBron drive, spin and dish off. He played aggressively on defense, disrupted passing lanes, and played with energy. If the Heat are going to get role players to step up in the playoffs, Anthony playing well would be a huge boon.
  • Mike Miller sprained his thumb in the first half, and did not return.
  • Juwan Howard hit a shot. That’s how bad things got.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.