Will Wizards turn around Celtics series at home?

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas‘ Boston Celtics and John Wall‘s Washington Wizards have built something of a rivalry this season, going back and forth, trading wins on the court and barbs off it, from the “Funeral Game” in January to the lost tooth and ejection of their current playoff series.

One thing every matchup had in common so far as Washington prepares to host Boston in Game 6 on Friday night? The home team wins.

Always.

9 for 9.

So the Celtics, leading their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2, might be feeling pretty good about where things stand at the moment. Because even if they can’t close things out Friday, they’ll get to host Game 7 on Monday, an advantage they earned by finishing with the No. 1 seed.

Hey, Bradley Beal, why does the host come out on top every time?

“I wish I knew,” was the shooting guard’s reply.

A similar question was put to Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Thursday, when his team opted to skip a full practice and instead have a light shootaround.

“That’s been analyzed and studied since the game was invented. (With) the home court, you always have a comfort level,” Brooks said. “It just happens. I don’t really know the real reason. I’ve been thinking about it for many, many years.”

Even though his team is averaging about 30 more points in Boston than in Washington during this series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens insisted that the venue isn’t the most important factor in a game’s outcome.

“It’s more about how you play,” he said.

Brooks, though, said that playing at home is different.

“Even as a player, I always felt better. Just comfortable. Your crowd’s great. They’re backing you up. You’ve played in front of the crowd. You’ve played into the baskets 41 times during the regular season, so the rims, the court, everything’s familiar,” he said. “That being said, we’ve still got to play well. We’ve got to play with great effort. We’ve got to be locked in, focused.”

Brooks acknowledged that was not the case in Boston’s 123-101 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday, especially at the defensive end.

In the first quarter, the Celtics led the Wizards 15-0 in transition points, a surprising statistic given just how good Wall is at orchestrating that part of the game.

“If you miss a shot, you miss a shot,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to get back and not compound that miss with a defensive lapse.”

Still, he chose to accentuate the positive.

“We did not lose the series,” Brooks noted. “We lost the game.”

Celtics at Wizards, Celtics lead series 3-2. Game 6, 8 p.m., ESPN.

NEED TO KNOW: This series has been filled with one big run after another. Four of the five games featured a stretch of 16-0 or greater, including a 26-point burst by Washington in Game 4, and a 16-point stretch for the Celtics in Game 5. Joked Brooks on Thursday: “I’ll take a 25-point run. That’d be nice.”

KEEP AN EYE ON: Beal, Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards 3-point shooting has been a problem in the playoffs, with the team down at 32 percent through 11 playoff games after hitting 37 percent during the regular season. Beal (from 40 percent in the regular season to 28 in the playoffs) and Porter (from 43 to 31), in particular, have been off, and they’re supposed to be Washington’s most productive from beyond the arc. “When you’re as good as Brad,” Brooks said, “there’s going to be extra attention on you. You’ve got to give the defense some credit.”

INJURY UPDATE: Celtics G Avery Bradley, who’s been dealing with hip issues during the series, sure seemed OK while scoring 29 points in Game 5 , including 25 in the first half on 10-of-13 shooting. “All indications are that he felt good after yesterday’s game,” Stevens said.

PRESSURE IS ON: The Wizards, of course. Not only are they facing elimination, but even if they win Game 6, they know that they are 0-5 in Boston, the site of Game 7 if there is one, since the start of this season.

 

Anthony Davis says his goal is to play in all 82 games

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Anthony Davis played 40 games last season, and 36 the season before that. Charles Barkley has nicknamed him “street clothes.”

In a critical season for him and the Lakers, the biggest question with Anthony Davis is not his skill set and if he can be elite, but how much can the Lakers trust him to be on the court? Davis said on media day his goal is to play all 82 games (speaking to Spectrum Sportsnet, the Lakers station in Los Angeles).

A full 82 may be optimistic, but Davis saw last season as a fluke.

“Last season, I had two injuries that you can’t really control. I mean, a guy fell into my knee, landed on the foot,” Davis said earlier at media day. “And the good thing for me is that the doctors after they looked at us, they could have been, like 10 times worse.”

Davis talked about his workout regimen, getting his body both rested and stronger for this long season, knowing more will be asked of him. New coach Darvin Ham wants to run more of the offense through Davis, but all the Lakers’ plans are moot if Davis and LeBron James are not healthy and on the court for at least 65 games this season.

“The focus of my game is being available…” LeBron said Monday. “Availability is the most important thing in his league and to be able to be available on the floor.”

Ham has to walk a line of pushing this team to defend better, show a toughness it lacked last season, and make the playoffs in a deep West while keeping his stars’ minutes under control. In a league all about recovery, the Lakers need to prioritize that, too.

“Just being efficient with how we practice, how we manage shootarounds, how we manage their minutes,” Ham said Monday. “I don’t need ‘Bron or Ad playing playoff minutes in October, November, December.”

It’s the first days of training camp, everyone is feeling good, everyone is rested, and everyone is optimistic. The real tests for the Lakers and Davis start in a few weeks — and just how much will the Lakers’ stars play.

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff

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The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

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The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.