Celtics obliterate Hawks, head to Atlanta with 3-1 lead in series

9 Comments

The Atlanta Hawks were able to pick up a victory in the opening game of their NBA Playoffs series against the Boston Celtics, but after watching Sunday evening’s game, it seems as though that might be the only win they post this postseason. The Celtics were able to get their offense going from the get-go and, unsurprisingly, it got ugly for Hawks’ fans soon after as Boston cruised to an easy victory.

There was a lot of optimism pre-game for  a competitive contest when it was announced that Al Horford would return from injury and Josh Smith was good to go after missing Game 3 due to injury, but that optimism was all for naught, unfortunately. Boston got out to an amazingly hot start and couldn’t miss a shot — in spite of solid defense — and kept their foot on the gas on the resof the way en route to a 101-79 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series.

The Celtics moved the ball well in the early-goings, the jump shots were falling and the writing was on the wall at the end of the first quarter. For reference, the Celtics made six field goals in the first quarter whereas Rajon Rondo dished seven of his 16 total assists in the same stanza … and it didn’t get any prettier the rest of the way for Atlanta.

The Hawks’ offensive-isolation woes that have plagued them in previous games were there from the outset — they dished just two more assists as a team than Rondo did himself — and they were unable to get any sort of significant contributions from their best offensive players: Joe Johnson scored nine points on just eight shots, Jeff Teague had seven points and a less-than-stellar defensive effort while Smith returned from injury to score 15 points and grab 13 rebounds, though his six turnovers were a problem and he looked less mobile than he was prior to Game 2’s injury.

As far as Boston was concerned, really, it was just really good basketball. Rondo was able to penetrate and pass at ease after establishing that his jumper was falling early, opening up everyone else for good looks before the Hawks eventually just threw in the towel. It didn’t hurt, however, that Paul Pierce was amazing once again despite a knee injury that sent him to the locker room early in the first half. In less than 17 minutes of playing time, Pierce went 10-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, to score a game-high 24 points while Rondo added 20 himself amidst a solid scoring output that saw four other Celtics end up in double-figures.

The Hawks are headed home for Game 5 on Tuesday night, but after watching them have no answer for Boston on Sunday night, it’s hard to believe this series will last any longer than that contest. If it does, however, it’ll be because Johnson earns his max contract, Smith is healthy and Horford is able to play more minutes as he returns to health. Unfortunately for Atlanta, though, even those three players might not be enough if Boston’s offense is working as well as it did in Game 4.

Celtics top Cavaliers in Game 5, setting up Game 7 in Boston?

4 Comments

LeBron James and a couple Cavaliers teammates left the court well before the Celtics dribbled out their 96-83 Game 5 win Wednesday.

The Cavs are already moving on.

Game 6 will be Friday in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers – down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals – must win to avoid elimination. The way Boston has played on the road, it’s even easy to look ahead to Game 7, which is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.

Still, the Celtics bought themselves leeway with their decisive win in Boston tonight. They led by double digits the final 20 minutes, breaking the Cavs’ momentum after two straight wins in Cleveland.

“It’s tough going on the road, playing against somebody else in their house with their crowd,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks tonight. “So, we were just comfortable. We came back home and defended home-court like we have all playoffs.”

Boston is now 10-0 at home this postseason – but just 1-6 away. Fueled in part by that historic split, no game in this series has been close. All five have been decided by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory – 18 – is in the 97th percentile for largest ever in a 3-2 best-of-seven series.

So, just as two big Celtics wins in Games 1 and 2 didn’t deter the Cavaliers, this one likely won’t, either. The Cavs should be heavily favorited in Game 6.

Beyond, if it gets that far? That’s a much bigger tossup.

Teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series have won 85% of the time. But Boston is missing a key reason it secured home-court advantage, including a chance to break the 2-2 at home rather than on the road – Kyrie Irving. And LeBron James is downright scary in a Game 7, even on the road.

The Celtics at least took care of business tonight, showing a far greater sense of urgency than Cleveland. Brad Stevens changed his starting lineup, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris, and tightened his rotation to just seven players until garbage time. Boston ran the floor much harder than the Cavs, decisively outrebounded them and beat them to loose balls. Even in altercations, the Celtics had a man advantage.

LeBron (26 points, 10 rebounds five assists and six turnovers) never made his presence felt in the way usually necessary for the Cavaliers to win. Cleveland’s four other starters combined to score just 24 points, two fewer than LeBron did himself.

After Boston seized control early, the Cavaliers made few adjustments in strategy or effort – as if they’re saving those for later.

LeBron James says we don’t know full story of his upbringing, but he’ll reveal it after retirement

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
4 Comments

LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school – as a junior.

He has been in the spotlight ever since, somehow living up to the outsized expectations set while he was a teenager. His story has been told and retold – how he and his mom moved around Akron as she struggled to provide for him, how his athletic ability lifted himself and those around him.

But are we missing key details?

Upon passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most shots made in the playoffs, LeBron reflected on his journey.

LeBron:

To know where I come from, you guys know a little bit of the story. But you guys don’t know the full story about where I come from and the struggle that I had. You guys know about the single-parent struggle, and y’all done heard that story. But there’s a lot more to it, which I’ll talk about when I’m done playing ball.

But to know where I come from, small city 35 miles south of here, and to hear I’m in the same category or talked about and jumping these greats in the playoffs — it’s like I was a kid and I watched the playoffs so much and I was like, I would love to be a part of that, that moment, that atmosphere. I think it’s pretty cool. You hear the scoring, the field goals made, and for a kid that really doesn’t care much about scoring.

Like with LeBron’s secret motivation a couple years ago, I’m totally intrigued. When LeBron decides to share, I’ll be all ears.

Larry Nance Jr., Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier exchange shoves after whistle (video)

5 Comments

Marcus Morris fouled Larry Nance Jr. in Celtics-Cavaliers Game 5 tonight. Nance didn’t like that, got up and shoved Morris. Morris and Terry Rozier didn’t like that, and both shoved Morris.

All three received a technical foul, which seems fair.

Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala questionable for Game 5

AP Photo
3 Comments

Andre Iguodala missed the Warriors’ Game 4 loss to the Rockets with a leg injury.

It’s not certain he – or Klay Thompson, who played through a knee injury suffered in Game 4 – will be available for Game 5 tomorrow.

NBC Sports Bay Area:

Klay Thompson, who suffered a left knee strain during the first half of Game 4, is listed as questionable, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

Iguodala missed Game 4 with a left lateral leg contusion and is questionable for Game 5.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Iguodala:

He’s feeling a little better today, and he’s out on the floor. Not doing a whole lot, but making progress.

Kerr on Thompson:

Klay is moving around really well. I think Klay is going to be fine.

That sounds better than “questionable” for Thompson.

The Warriors need one, maybe both, of those two on the court. Golden State’s depth, especially on the wing, is looking shaky.

In Game 4, Golden State outscored Houston by 20 in the 31 minutes Stephen Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green played together. In the in the 17 minutes they played without even one of those stars, the Warriors got outscored by 23. Nick Young, who received more playing time when Thompson left the court area due to his injury, looked particularly overwhelmed.

James Harden‘s defense is a huge bellwether in this series. The Warriors spend a lot of focus trying to exploit him, and if that fails, the shot clock gets low before they move into another action. If Thompson is even just slowed, that’d make it easier for Harden to keep up.