NBA’s global reach to be displayed again in preseason

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MIAMI (AP) — In less than six months, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens will be on the sideline in six different countries.

He’s perhaps the best current example of the NBA’s international reach.

Stevens’ itinerary: He was an assistant for the NBA’s game in South Africa in August, will take his Celtics to Italy and Spain for preseason matchups in October, and his club will head to Mexico in December for a regular-season contest against Sacramento. So those, combined with the normal locales in the U.S. and Canada, means Stevens will get a real feel for the game’s global following.

“We’re very focused on the health of 30 franchises,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said this summer, “and continuing to build our fan base outside of the United States.”

The league has long placed importance on growing the game in markets outside North America are to them, and this year’s lineup for the Global Games – with NBA teams heading to six different countries, plus welcoming clubs from Turkey, Israel and Brazil to the U.S. for preseason games – probably will only enhance those efforts.

And for the teams going abroad – the Celtics, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Charlotte Hornets and the Orlando Magic will in the preseason – it’s a good chance for some bonding.

“I believe that you can have good moments together,” Stevens said Friday at the Celtics’ media day. “I think the more dinners you eat together, the more flights you take together, the more time you spend together, the more places you travel to are all positives.”

Miami has long valued its international flavor. The city is a Latin American business gateway, the Heat have a star in Dwyane Wade wearing shoes made by Chinese company Li Ning, have a starting point guard from Slovenia in Goran Dragic, and have a Filipino-American coach in Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat aren’t going overseas this preseason. If Spoelstra had his way, they would be.

“I love it,” Spoelstra said. “I’m all for it. If we could do it every year, I’d do it every year. … Stay tuned, we’re going to try to go somewhere next year.”

The league tries to accommodate the teams that will be traveling more in the preseason by allowing them to start camp early; the four heading abroad in this year’s preseason all had media day – the prelude to camp – on Friday, while the rest of the league will get started on Monday.

How much the NBA teams will actually benefit basketball-wise from this year’s trips, if at all, remains to be seen.

“I’m not sure,” said Orlando coach Scott Skiles, whose team faces Brazilian team Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 17. “I guess one thing, if I could wish something it was that we were playing an NBA team. Nothing against Flamengo or anybody. I’m not sure of the area where we’re staying or how much we’ll be able to leave the area. So I don’t know.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team plays Charlotte in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Shanghai on Oct. 11 and 14, said he would rather have taken his team to Brazil – for the simple reason that he’s already seen China. But both teams figure to be a big draw; Clippers guard Chris Paul has drawn huge crowds in China in the past, and Hornets owner Michael Jordan still has enormous popularity there.

“More people play basketball in China,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said, “than play basketball here.”

Stevens said the experience of traveling abroad as a team – he’s been part of overseas trips as a player and coach before – can be “a little overrated.” Still, the Celtics will probably see sellout crowds in all the faraway lands that they’ll visit – a testament to both the lure of a 17-time-champion franchise and the NBA brand.

“At the end of the day, we usually pointed to it as a real positive if we had a really good team,” Stevens said. “So I don’t know how much difference it really made. I think that’s probably the case if you go through the annals of the people that have taken their teams over. If you’ve got a really good team, you’ve got a really good team. But I think it does help you get to know each other better.”

NBA Global Games Schedule

Preseason

Oct. 6, Boston vs. Olimpia Milano at Milan, Italy

Oct. 8, Boston vs. Real Madrid at Madrid, Spain

Oct. 11, L.A. Clippers vs. Charlotte at Shenzhen, China

Oct. 14, Charlotte vs. L.A. Clippers at Shanghai, China

Oct. 17, Orlando vs. Flamengo at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Regular Season

Dec. 3, Boston vs. Sacramento at Mexico City

Jan. 14, Toronto vs. Orlando at London

Bam Adebayo: “I played like s***… I’ll put that game on me.”

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The Miami Heat were one half of basketball away from the NBA Finals when a desperate Boston team cranked up its defensive intensity, started attacking the rim, and started playing at a level Miami didn’t match. The Celtics dominated the final 24 minutes of Game 5, forcing a Game 6 and keeping the Heat out of the Finals for now.

Bam Adebayo took the blame for the Heat loss. Via Manny Navarro of The Athletic.

“I played like s***. Bottom line: I can’t. I’ll put that game on me. It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made… I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”

Game 5 was not Adebayo’s best outing: 13 points, eight rebounds, and Boston did a better job with its scheme pulling him away from the basket to defend smaller players on the perimeter, opening up the paint. Adebayo and the Heat as a whole struggled to slow the Celtics’ pick-and-roll actions, and Boston has figured out how to play against Miami’s zone (so the Heat have gone away from it).

“It’s not (Adebayo’s fault). It’s on everybody,” Jimmy Butler said after the game. “He does so much for us that it can feel like that at times but it’s definitely not on him. It’s on us as a whole. We all understand that because nobody was playing the way that we are supposed to play; the way that we have to play in order for us to win, nobody. And for him to say that, I respect it. I love him for it. But he can’t do it by himself. We’ve got to be there with him.”

Bam Adebayo was wearing a sleeve over his left arm, where he aggravated a wrist injury at the end of Game 4. Both Adebayo and coach Erik Spoelstra said that was nothing and not what led to his off night.

Miami needs a lot of things to go differently in Game 6: It needs to start hitting its threes again (19.4% from beyond the arc in Game 5, and below 30% from deep in each of the last three games). Miami has to take care of the ball and it has to get back in transition defense — Boston ran right past the Heat in the second half and got a lot of easy transition buckets. Mostly, however, it comes back to Miami shooters hitting more of their threes — the Heat halfcourt offense needs that.

The Game 5 loss was not on Adebayo. But he can be part of the solution.

Backs against the wall, Celtics play dominant half to beat Heat, force Game 6

Boston Miami
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For Boston, it was the worst of halves, it was the best of halves. It was a half of foolishness, it was a half of wisdom. It was a half of tight play, it was a half of free-flowing offense. It was a half of despair, it was a half of renewed hope.

With its season on the line down 3-1, Boston came out tight in the first half of Game 5, with guys trying to do everything themselves, showing no patience, no ball movement, players gunning from three, and nobody in green was defending well. Boston shot 5-of-20 in the first quarter, and while things settled down Boston was lucky to be only down seven at the half.

Then a different Boston team came out in the second half — a team that was defending with intent, pushing the pace, and watching their best player, Jayson Tatum, attack to the tune of 17 third quarter points. At the end of the third, Brad Stevens told his team, “with all sincerity, that’s the first time I’ve seen Celtics basketball in the past few games” (via the ESPN mic’d up segment of the broadcast).

The Celtics pulled away in the fourth to win 121-108. The Heat still lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 coming on Sunday.

“We did not compete hard enough defensively and we paid the price for that,” Erik Spoelstra said of his Heat team.

“I thought we played with great tenacity defensively, and I think our offense followed suit,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the second-half turnaround.

That defense included much more ball pressure out high on Miami and it worked. The Heat shot 19.4% from three, that’s the third straight game under 30% from three for the Heat, but Tyler Herro wasn’t able to bail them out this time around.

For Boston, Tatum finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, and his third quarter helped save the Boston season.

Boston needs that Tatum from the opening tip on Sunday, not after 24 minutes (as we have seen the last couple of games). Boston is a good team but it needs Tatum to play at an All-NBA level to look like a contender.

Jaylen Brown added 28 points for the Celtics, while Daniel Theis proved an important role with 15 points and 13 rebounds plus some critical defensive plays down the stretch.

Miami may have led at the half, but when Boston started playing better out of desperation the Heat had no answers.

“No one was playing the way we’re supposed to play, the way we have to play for us to win,” Butler said.

Miami got 23 points from Goran Dragic and 20 from Duncan Robinson, who was a big part of Miami’s strong first half.

Miami was up 3-1, and they have seen how little that lead has meant in the bubble.

“I don’t think those series have anything to do with this. Our guys are well aware,” Spoelstra said. “We have great respect for Boston. We’re not expecting it to be easy. You have to earn it.”

Kings keeping Luke Walton, plan to play faster next season

Kings coach Luke Walton
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Kings coach Luke Walton works for a general manager who didn’t hire him and an owner who has shown frustration with him.

But Walton will keep his job.

New Sacramento general Monte McNair, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Luke is going to be our coach next year, I’m really excited to work with him and I think we’re aligned in our vision and we’re going to start implementing it,” McNair said.

“This team showed some flashes last year,” McNair said. “I think De’Aaron is certainly a great young talent and I think his speed ability offensively to create really is going to be a huge catalyst for how coach Walton and I envision this team being up-tempo, creating the space to shoot threes and attack the rim.”

Walton has had four losing seasons in four years as a head coach between the Lakers and Kings. But this is how it works out for him.

A distressing aspect of Walton’s first season in Sacramento: The Kings played far slower than they did the previous season under Dave Joerger, who successfully implemented a fastbreak-heavy attack that particularly suited De'Aaron Fox.

Walton can coach that way. His Lakers teams typically played quickly. But Sacramento too often stagnated last season.

The Kings are still building around Fox. It’s on Walton to figure out how to maximize the point guard. For now.

Anthony Davis listed as questionable for Game 5 with sprained ankle

Anthony Davis
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When Anthony Davis has been on the court in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers have outscored the Nuggets by 9.4 points per 100 possessions. When he sits, the Lakers are -21.3 (stats via NBA.com).

Why that stat matters: Anthony Davis is officially questionable for Game 5 after spraining his ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4.

“[My] Ankle feels fine. Got tonight, tomorrow before the game to get it back to, I don’t want to say back to where it was, but good enough to play,” Davis said postgame Thursday. “Rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”

Players also are the worst judges of their returns from injuries. This is the playoffs, the Lakers need him on the court, and Davis wants to play. However, ankles are very easy to re-injure once the ligament is stretched, and the issue can become chronic. If Davis missing one game helps the ankle heal to the point it doesn’t linger into the NBA Finals the Lakers have to consider that option.

That said, expect Davis to play.

Davis has been the best Laker throughout the Western Conference Finals. He is averaging 32.3 points a game while shooting 55.3% from the floor, and as noted above the Lakers are dramatically better with him on the court.

The Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets and can advance to the NBA Finals with a win Saturday night in Game 5.