Celtics take care of business against unprofessional Knicks, force a Game 6 back in Boston

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The Knicks looked every bit like the second best team in the East that they were all season in getting out to a three games to none series lead against the Celtics, winning those games by 14, 16, and 17 points.

Maybe the success came too soon, and too easily.

After dropping Game 4 in Boston without a suspended J.R. Smith, the Knicks figured to close out the series at home on Wednesday. But their approach was less than professional in the days and hours leading up to Game 5, and that likely played a part in the Celtics getting the 92-86 victory to unexpectedly send the series back to Boston for a sixth game.

At Tuesday’s practice, J.R. Smith said that the series would have been over had he been available to play in Game 4. Kenyon Martin was equally cavalier heading into this one, and said that his guys should “wear black” because those are “funeral colors.”

Some Knicks players, including Smith and Iman Shumpert, did indeed dress in all black attire for their game night arrival to the arena.

There’s nothing wrong with trash talk or confidence, obviously, and it adds some additional entertainment value, especially in the playoffs. But the Knicks are not exactly a franchise steeped in recent tradition of playoff success. They won their first playoff game in 11 years last season in a five game first round loss to the Heat, and haven’t won a postseason series since 2000.

Smith started off 0-10 from the field, and the Knicks as a team finished 5-of-22 from three-point distance, an area where they were among the best in the league during the regular season. By contrast, the Celtics hit 11 of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc, with Jason Terry and Paul Pierce combining for nine of those, and Jeff Green hitting two huge ones down the stretch as the Knicks were battling back into it.

The Celtics wanted this game more than the Knicks, and it showed on the court. They played Pierce and Kevin Garnett heavier minutes than usual, and Boston was aggressive early in getting both Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin into first half foul trouble.

Offensively, the Celtics did much better, getting five of the players in their short seven man rotation to score at least 16 points each. But as is always the case with this team, the key run that won the game came on the strength of its defense.

With Boston clinging to a six point lead with just over three minutes remaining in the third, the Knicks were unable to find the basket. New York didn’t score for the next 6:17 of game time, and by then the Celtics had built their lead to 15 points.

The Knicks extended their defense and finally started hitting some shots, but it was too late. They got as close as five points  with 1:05 remaining, but a ridiculously tough jumper from Garnett with Chandler all over him defensively found the bottom of the net, and effectively sealed the win for the Celtics.

New York won’t have many games where Carmelo Anthony and Smith combine to shoot 11-of-38 from the field, and are still the favorites to win the series over this depleted Celtics team. But they’ll need to have the right mindset the rest of the way in order to get that accomplished.

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.

Kevin Love in concussion protocol, listed as out for Game 7

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As if winning a Game 7 on the road against a younger, more athletic team that has not lost on its home court all playoffs was not difficult enough, things just got harder for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Love has a concussion and is not expected to play in Game 7 on Sunday.

While it is technically possible for Love to clear out of the concussion protocol in 24 hours, it is highly unlikely. He would have to pass a rigorous physical test and have no concussion-related symptoms, something cleared by both the team doctor and a league-approved neurologist. This is something that tends to take days if not weeks to get over.

Love was injured just five minutes into Game 6. Love had set up position in the midpost and was setting a screen for George Hill, who was curling out to the arc. Jayson Tatum was trailing Hill and he banged heads with Love. It wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and did not return to the game.

LeBron James is going to have to carry even more load in Game 7, and now more pressure falls on George Hill (the bellwether for this Cavs team), J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and others to step up without Love there to space the floor and get buckets.

Report: Raptors interview Spurs’ assistants Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka for coaching job

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It’s not officially a coaching search until some Spurs’ assistants are interviewed.

So it looks like the Toronto Raptors’ search is underway.

Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri fired Dwane Casey right after Casey’s peers voted him Coach of the Year for leading the Raptors to 59 wins and the No. 1 seed in the East. That said, after several frustrating years of running into the brick wall that is LeBron James in the East, maybe the Raptors did need a new voice and some changes to try to take the next step (especially with Boston and Philadelphia coming on fast in the East hierarchy).

But if you’re going to fire a 59-win Coach of the Year kind of guy, you better have an impressive replacement in hand or at least a clear plan.

Ujiri reportedly wanted Mike Budenholzer, but the former Hawks’ head coach took the job in Milwaukee after meeting with Toronto.

The leading candidate for the job is still considered to be Nick Nurse, the Raptors’ assistant who was in charge of their changed and improved offense last season. The Raptors also interviewed two other internal candidates, assistant coach Rex Kalamian and G-League coach Jerry Stackhouse.

Casey, by the way, is the target of the Detroit Pistons.