LeBron predicted playoffs would be different against the Celtics

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Back in February over All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, I got the chance to ask LeBron James about the Heat’s struggles with the Celtics. Up until that point, Boston had defeated Miami in all three of the teams’ meetings during the first half of the season,  and it appeared as though the Celtics’ style of play, along with the fact that they had been together as a cohesive unit for more than three seasons, would be too much for Miami to overcome in a seven-game series.

Well, as we saw on Wednesday, the playoff series only went five. And LeBron now looks to be prophetic in his answers to my February questions, specifically when talking about how the playoffs would be very different from how things played out against the Celtics during the regular season.

“We’ve struggled, we definitely have,” James said of his team’s first three regular season games against Boston.  “But we understand that every game is its own game, and regular season games aren’t playoff games, either. I go back to the year we swept the Spurs in the regular season (in 2007), and they swept us in the Finals. You want to play good in the regular season, (but) I’ve been around this league long enough to understand that the playoffs are totally different.”

When I asked what the Heat needed to fix to get by Boston, LeBron was quick to point out that his team didn’t need any fixing, only improved execution to get past the defending Eastern Conference champs.

“It’s not about fixing anything,” James said. “We have our system in place. It’s about improvement, on every aspect of our game, offensively and defensively. As we continue to improve, as practices and games continue to wear down, as we’re getting into late March and April, we’ll be fine.”

At the time, and given the way the Celtics had played against Miami in those early meetings, this seemed like nothing more than blind faith from James. But as it turned out, he was dead-on with his assessment.

Video of LeBron’s comments can be seen in the clip below.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.

Marcus Smart on Game 7: ‘It’s not going to be pretty’

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Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.

Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.

“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”

If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.

Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.

Report: Warriors’ Patrick McCaw cleared, will be available for Game 6

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We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.

McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.

However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.