Too much Kelly Olynyk, Celtics depth for Wizards in Game 7, Boston wins 115-105

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It became a game about depth.

Washington led in the third quarter when coach Scott Brooks had to turn to his bench. Jason Smith was -10 in just over three minutes, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a run that extended to an 18-2 run into the start of the fourth and gave then a comfortable lead. John Wall missed his last nine shots and was scoreless in the fourth, in large part because his legs got tired, Brooks couldn’t trust Brandon Jennings again (after a horrible first half) and tried to ride his backcourt the entire second half.

Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk came in and dropped 26 off the bench, 14 of those in the fourth quarter, and changed the game.

“They was paying a lot of attention to Isaiah (Thomas), teams are gonna do that, and he got rid of the ball quickly and put us in a position to make plays in 4-on-3 basketball,” Olynyk said after the game.

Boston got 29 points and 12 assists from Isaiah Thomas and 48 from its bench — including reserves Olynyk and Marcus Smart making plays down the stretch — and that was enough beat the Wizards 115-105 in Game 7.

Boston advances and will host Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday.

Washington’s starting five — Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat — were +9 in 32 minutes, with a true shooting percentage of 62.3.

But as it has been the case since the start of the year, the Wizards bench could not be trusted. Any lineup with at least one bench player on the court combined to be -19 in 16 minutes. No player from the Wizards bench scored after 6:56 of the 2nd quarter.

Boston, on the other hand, had a bench that won them the game.

“I think the bench was a big factor in Game 5 (a Boston win at home) and Game 7 certainly was as well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Throughout the series, the home team’s bench seemed to play really well. I thought our guys played really well. Obviously, Kelly gave us that enormous lift of scoring in the fourth quarter, but really in the first half as well, he had 12 at halftime on 5-of-7, and I thought Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were really good.”

The game certainly was dramatic, and it had the Celtics fans in full throat most of the game. The first quarter was a yo-yo affair, the Celtics got up 8, and then the Wizards came back to tie it, the Celtics went back up by 7, and the Wizards tied it again. It ended with the Celtics up four. The second quarter stayed closer throughout. The Wizards bench defensive rotations were sad, which helped Olynyk get clean looks. On the other side Otto Porter, who had been scoreless in Game 6, had  12 points and 7 boards in the first half (he finished with 20 and 9).

Boston’s biggest problem was being 3-of-12 from three in first half, and that allowed the Wizards to have a 55-53 lead at the half.

Wizards started second half just hunting Thomas, something they didn’t do enough in this series. Whoever he is guarding, the Wizards tried to post him up. Washington’s starters played well and the Wizards led much of the third, but late in the third the bench came in — Smith blew a defensive coverage within seconds of entering the game — and Boston closed the quarter on a 13-3 run to lead 85-79 after three. Boston hit four of its last six from three, and that helped change the dynamic.

That run extended to 18-2 over four minutes across the quarters for the Celtics. Washington went back to their starters around the 10-minute mark, and quickly it was a 7-0 Wizards run.

But the Wizards could never fully close the gap (they did get it to four). Olynyk and Thomas made plays for Boston, while Beal and Wall’s legs turned to jelly.

It was another step forward for a young and improving Celtics team. They should savor it.

For a day, then the biggest test comes to town.

 

 

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.