Celtics-Heat Game 7: The Truth about Boston’s Revenge Tour

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Game 7 Saturday night between the Celtics and Heat would honestly be better had the Celtics not won the title. You’d have so many legacies on the line. As it stands, this is the Celtics’ push for a second title, which just isn’t as much of a big deal. It’s not even as important as a third title, as that third one is more in line with how we think of traditional dynasties. (Stupid KG’s knee injury in 2009!) But multiple titles still puts them on another level, while the Heat are still desperately clamoring for that first one with this core (Wade and Haslem are similarly “certified” as KG would say).

But the Celtics aren’t approaching it that way. This is their revenge tour. Everyone who doubted them, said they were too old, too slow, and that their star power couldn’t match up are getting a lesson in how experience matters in the NBA, the greatness of these players, and what… ugh… excuse me, I’m about to gag on cliche… makes a champion.

And for the Celtics to get past the superteam Saturday night, they need The Truth. Paul Pierce has to have a good game. Not a great game. We haven’t seen Pierce have a great game since he sprained his MCL in the first round, and the Celtics are still here. They can survive him having a bad game as long as he has a few plays that shift the momentum. Much like Game 5. Lost in the Heat collapse and the dagger three that Pierce nailed in James’ face was that once again he had a pretty terrible game. Pierce has the toughest assignment offensively and defensively in this series. When he has the ball, he’s either got the best perimeter defender in the NBA, LeBron James, latched onto him, or Shane Battier’s tricks and grit tweaking him at every turn and hot.

But he’s got to come through. Pierce has to hit shots. He doesn’t have to improve his shot selection, God knows that’s not going to happen. But he’s got to rise and fire. One key is he has to get to the rim. Pierce has struggled at the rim in the playoffs (54.5 percent) vs. the regular season (63.5 percent). He’s got to use the post to get the turn and attack the rim or draw the foul. He needs to nail those slow-set trailer threes when Rondo finds him. And he’s got to find a way to get to that elbow sweet spot. The Celtics have leaned on Rondo and Garnett. This is Game 7. It’s time for the franchise guy to take them home.

Pierce’s Boston legacy is reaching pretty epic proportions. He passed Larry Bird on the points list in franchise history. He’s threatening to land multiple titles which will put him up there with some of the all-time greats even if he’ll never reach that hallowed ground, which is a shame. What’s amazing is that it hasn’t been Pierce’s best seasons that have netted him the most success. It says a lot about how awful those early 00’s teams were around Pierce that his MVP-level play didn’t take them to the promised land.

But here they are. If Garnett is the angry ferocity of the Celtics, and Rondo the driven determination, Pierce is the source of their swagger. It’s Pierce who has the most confidence in his game regardless of percentages or circumstances. Much like this Celtics team, no matter how many things suggest he’s in the midst of failure, he finds a way to come out on top. The Celtics need that attitude, that swagger, that player tonight in Game 7.

It’s time for the Truth.

Carmelo Anthony talks opportunity, playing role as he starts play in Portland

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Carmelo Anthony has got his chance.

Portland is a team that needs what Anthony can bring to the court, and Anthony needs the Trail Blazers to end his career on his terms.

Saying the whole thing came together in about 48 hours, Anthony talked about joining Portland in a video posted to YouTube called “The Next Chapter.” He said the Blazers have long been on his mind.

“I always kept my eye on Portland. It just didn’t work out at other times, but now it seems like a perfect opportunity. Me and Dame, we’ve been talking for the past couple years, just off and on. CJ has been playing in my Black Ops runs for the past four years. I just look at that opportunity, that team and say, look ‘this is what I can bring to the team, this is where I can help it.’ It will only work if all parties see it the same way.”

One of the things that gave teams pause about welcoming in Anthony was whether he’d accept a role. The Trail Blazers have a pecking order: Damian Lillard is the alpha and CJ McCollum is the No. 2. Anthony is coming off the bench, not being the focal point of the offense. Anthony is saying the right things.

“What happened before is the past, I can’t dwell on that, I learned from that. This happened at a point in time in my life where I do have a lot of clarity and understanding of different situations and just life, and my approach is totally different.”

Anthony could make his debut as soon as tonight when Portland faces the Pelicans. If not, it will be soon.

Then it will not be about words, but actions.

 

Marcus Smart forced to leave Celtics game with with ugly right ankle sprain

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Marcus Smart has been playing through a lot of bumps, bruises, and minor injuries, refusing to take time off as the Celtics are off to a red-hot start to the season.

He will have to sit out a while with this one, however.

Smart went down with a scary non-contact right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of Boston’s win against Phoenix Monday. It happened with 9:12 to go in the fourth quarter and Smart didn’t return.

The real test with ankles is the next day (when there will be further testing), but there was optimism after the game that the sprain was not that bad, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“They’ll check it in the morning,” [Boston coach Brad] Stevens told reporters after the game and added, “it doesn’t look too bad.”

In his postgame comments, Smart said he was okay but he had aggravated the “exact same ankle injury I was coming back from.” He added that he “should be fine to play the rest of the road trip.”

Smart’s a competitor who wants to play. Still, with this being the same ankle he has injured twice now the team might be wise to force him to sit for a few games and let his ankle (among other ailments) heal completely and not become a chronic issue all season (there’s still nearly five months of NBA regular season left).

Look for an update from the team later on Tuesday.

Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic is destroying the NBA, setting records — and he’s still 20

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Luka Doncic is destroying the NBA, setting records — and he’s still 20. I, for one, welcome our new Luka Doncic overlord.

LeBron James is right, Doncic is a “bad m***** f*****.” Doncic is destroying the Association and he’s not yet old enough to legally buy a drink. Monday night against the Spurs he had arguably his best game yet: a career-high 42-points, plus 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

It’s hard to get a grasp on just how historic a start to the season Doncic is having, but to help here’s the full list of players who have had 40+ point triple-doubles at or before age 20:

LeBron James
Luka Doncic

That’s it. Expand that to age 21 and you can add Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Isiah Thomas. That’s some Hall of Fame company Doncic is running with at a young age.

Doncic has six triple-doubles this season, which leads the league. On the season he is averaging 29.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game, all with a ridiculously efficient 61.2 percent true shooting. Those rebounds are the real difference maker, by the way.

It’s far too early to have a serious MVP conversation, but if you do, Doncic has to be a part of it. He’s been that good this season.

Did I mention he’s only 20?

2) Also making history: James Harden. The Beard put up 36 points in 33:06 minutes on the court against Portland, which is actually slightly below his per game average (39.2) but is still its own bit of history.

Russell Westbrook is right about how we view Harden sometimes, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“I think that a lot of people like to normalize greatness when you see it over and over again, but it’s not normal because there’s nobody else that can do it. If it was normal, everybody would do it.”

Westbrook, by the way, had his own big night with a triple-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

The Rockets have won eight in a row and are one of the NBA’s hottest teams right now.

3) Paul George sticks a dagger in his former team, Clippers beat Thunder. It looked like the night former Clippers would get revenge on their team: First Danilo Gallinari hit a three to tie the game at 86-86, then Chris Paul made two free throws for an 88-86 Thunder lead.

Then Paul George happened.

Gallinari had a shot at a three to win but it missed, George hit a free throw after being fouled, and the Clippers get out 90-88 with a win. The real Los Angeles star for the night was Montrezl Harrell, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

George saw his minutes jump to 29 in just his third game back from shoulder surgeries (plural, as in both of them) but did not score north of 30 like his first two games as the Thunder defense had more of a focus on him.

Kawhi Leonard missed his third straight game with a bruised knee suffered against the Rockets.

Paul George’s late three proves to be game-winner against Thunder, his former team (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, lifting the Los Angeles Clippers over the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-88 on Monday night to improve to 8-1 at home.

The Thunder had just tied the game at 86-all on a 3-pointer by former Clipper Danilo Gallinari before Chris Paul made two free throws after being fouled by George for an 88-86 lead.

George’s 3 put the Clippers ahead 89-88.

The Clippers were then called for a foul that was overturned on a challenge by coach Doc Rivers. The Thunder retained possession and Terrance Ferguson inbounded to Gallinari, whose 3-pointer missed.

George made a free throw with 0.3 seconds left to close out the game against the team that traded him to Los Angeles last summer.

The Thunder fell to 0-5 on the road.

Montrezl Harrell had 28 points and 12 rebounds off the bench to lead the Clippers. George finished with 18 points after scoring 30-plus points in his first two games of the season.

Paul scored 22 points, making 10 of 11 free throws, against his former team. Gallinari added 14 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, another former Clipper, had 11 points despite five fouls.

The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard for the third straight game because of a bruised left knee.