NBA Playoffs: Celtics overcome Carmelo’s 42, take 2-0 lead

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The Knicks have certainly made the first games of their series with the Boston Celtics interesting.

In Game 1, the Knicks were able to take the Celtics to the wire thanks to the stellar offensive play of Amar’e Stoudemire. In Game 2, back spasms limited Stoudemire to four points in only 16 minutes of play, but the game still came down to the final few possessions thanks to a virtuoso scoring performance from Carmelo Anthony.

Carmelo recorded a game-high 42 points and 17 rebounds in game two, and he was an absolute monster from everywhere on the floor. Carmelo shot 8-17 on shots outside of the paint, with four of those shots coming from beyond the arc. Anthony had a few catch-and-shoot opportunities, most of his jumpers were of the tough, contested variety, which makes his shooting performance extremely impressive. Anthony was also able to work inside effectively and crash the offensive glass, and kept constant pressure on the Celtics with his blend of athleticism, shooting touch, and toughness around the basket on offense.

It was a reminder of why the Knicks gave up so much for Carmelo — even with Stoudemire and Billups on the sidelines and no other real scoring threats on the floor for the Knicks, Anthony was able to give the defending Eastern Conference Champions a scare because of his ability to score from anywhere on the floor at any time.

The Celtics were able to overcome Anthony’s onslaught thanks to the play of Rajon Rondo and late-game execution. Game 2 illustrated a fundamental philosophical debate in NBA coaching — after missing a shot, should teams risk giving up a fast-break and crash the offensive boards, or should they give up the chance for a second shot and get back on defense? The Knicks opted to do the former, and outrebounded the Celtics 53-37 despite a lack of size up front.

The Celtics opted to do the latter, and were able to absolutely burn the Knicks in transition. Every time the Knicks turned it over or missed a shot that led to a long rebound, Rajon Rondo and company were off to the races. Rondo was absolutely unstoppable in transition, and was able to get to the basket over and over again — Rondo scored 30 points despite shooting only 1-6 on shots outside of the paint, and 7 of his 13 field goals came in the first seven seconds of a Celtics possession. When the Knicks did manage to stop Rondo in transition, the mismatches the Celtics’ fast tempo created led to easy shots on the secondary break. Mike D’Antoni may be the most well-known advocate of fast-break basketball in the league, but he watched his team get torched in transition in Game 2.

In the final moments of the game, the Celtics’ superior execution proved the difference once again. After Carmelo Anthony hit an impossible three to put the Celtics up three points with 2:36 remaining, Doc Rivers called a time out and instructed the Celtics to double team Anthony whenever he touched the ball, wherever he was. His gambit worked, and the Knicks came up empty on their next three possessions.

With 19 seconds to go, Jared Jeffries was able to get open off an Anthony double-team and lay the ball in to put the Knicks up one, but Rivers again had an answer. He called a post-up for Kevin Garnett, who went right at Jeffries and took and made his first go-ahead field goal in the final seconds of a game since becoming a Celtic. The Knicks then forced the ball out of Anthony’s hands on the ensuing possession, rotated to Jeffries when he caught the pass, picked off a pass intended for Bill Walker, and took a 2-0 series lead.

The Knicks now find themselves in the same position as the Pacers — they played extremely well and gave the favorite a scare, but will still need to win the next game to keep any realistic hope of advancing. One advantage the Knicks will have is that Madison Square Garden will be a madhouse if the game goes anything like the first two games of the series did — if the Knicks can get healthy and play a full 48-minute game against the Celtics, they’ve shown they’re capable of tying up the series before it goes back to Boston.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.

Report: R.C. Buford moving on from Spurs GM role, Brian Wright taking over

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For 15 years, through championships and an unparalleled run of playoff berths and success, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich seemed to work as one brain. Popovich was the coach but also team president, Buford the GM, and together they built an NBA powerhouse.

Buford is moving on from that role. Or, more precisely moving up into a new management role, and assistant GM Brian Wright is taking over as GM, reports Jabari Young of The Athletic.

After a little more than 15 years serving as GM, Buford is getting prepared to bequeath the role to assistant GM Brian Wright, league sources have confirmed to The Athletic. Wright will report directly to Buford, who will officially get a new title that some around the NBA believe will be a role helping to oversee Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

When the Spurs initially hired Wright in 2016, he stayed behind the scenes and focused mainly on scouting. But sources have informed The Athletic over the last year Wright has been more involved, even fielding calls and packages for the trade of Kawhi Leonard the previous summer.

Wright came to the Spurs from the Pistons a couple of years ago. That said, don’t expect a big change in how things are done in the Spurs front office. For one thing, Popovich is still there. Also, Wright has an excellent reputation around the league as being smart and a straight shooter. On top of all of that, Buford will remain his ultimate boss, although Buford’s role will change into one of more of a business manager for Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Young hints there could be more changes coming. Obviously, the biggest would be when Popovich decides to step back in his dual roles as coach and president, but there could be shifts in the assistant GM ranks as well.

Just don’t expect the Spurs to stop being the Spurs.

Exclusive video preview: Dwyane Wade joins America’s Got Talent as guest judge

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Dwyane Wade is retired. He’s got some time on his hands.

But if he wants to spend quality time this summer with his wife, Gabrielle Union, he’s got to get on the set of America’s Got Talent, because she is a judge on the hit show. So, Wade did exactly that and steps in this week as a guest judge.

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In the video at the top of this page, you can see an exclusive of Wade and the rest of the AGT crew watching and judging an insane danger act out of India, a sneak preview of the show airing on NBC this Tuesday night (8 p.m.).

Wade knows talent on the court, but we’re going to see what talents impress him on the stage.

Kings hire WNBA’s Lindsey Harding as assistant coach

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have hired former WNBA player Lindsey Harding as an assistant and player development coach on Luke Walton’s staff.

The team also hired Stacey Augmon and Rico Hines on Friday.

Harding played nine years in the WNBA before working as a pro personnel scout and then player development coach for the Philadelphia 76ers.

She becomes the latest woman to serve as a coach in the NBA, joining others like Boston’s Kara Lawson, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Dallas’ Jenny Boucek and Cleveland’s Lindsay Gottlieb.

The Kings have a history of hiring female coaches, notably Nancy Lieberman and Boucek.