Celtics have no trouble scoring on Sixers, take Game 1

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Game plan discipline.

Boston had it Monday night in Game 1. They slowed the game way down, a pace of 99 possessions (well off the Sixers preferred pace). On defense, they took away transition buckets, particularly the threes, on which the Sixers thrive. In the halfcourt, Philly loves to move off the ball on curls and plays to get quick looks, but Boston cut a lot of those off. The shots the Sixers wanted weren’t there, and they shot 47.2 percent from three.

On offense, Boston did to Philly what the Sixers do to others — run enough actions that the defense loses focus and opens things up. That and they went right at Marco Belinelli whenever they could.

The result was a Terry Rozier with 29 points and seven threes, Jayson Tatum with 28 points, and a comfortable 117-101 win for a Boston team that was supposed to struggle to score in this series. Not in Game 1, despite Jaylen Brown sitting on the bench with a hamstring injury.

The Celtics lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 Thursday night in Boston.

“We’re a well-coached team, we’re going to play hard regardless of who is out there on the floor,” Rozier said after the game. “Obviously we’ve been showing that (all season). We’ve got to keep it going, we’ve got to pay attention to details.”

It’s going to be difficult to keep it going at this pace, everything worked for Boston. The Celtics shot 17-of-36 from three as a team, and got 26 points from Al Horford, who knocked down a couple of threes (as did Aron Baynes) to pull Joel Embiid away from the basket and open up lanes.

For Boston, it was the kind of night where Marcus Smart could outrebound Joel Embiid and get the and-1.

The young Sixers did not look ready for the moment, they were out of synch from the start. This isn’t the first round of the playoffs anymore, things ratchet up. The TD Garden in Boston is a far more raucous environment than Miami (who Philly handled in the first round), and the Boston players are more talented than the Heat’s squad.

“I don’t know if the time off hurt us (six days between games), but it sure felt like we were playing a good team today,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said, adding later “Defensively, offensively, this isn’t who we are. This was a very poor game from us.”

Embiid had 31 points on 21 shots and was a handful for Boston’s defense. However, the Celtics were 5-of-26 from three (19.2 percent) and were just missing looks all game. Redick finished with 20 points, and Ben Simmons had 18.

A key for the Sixers in this series is to force missed shots and turnovers, then convert those into transition buckets — Philadelphia played at a fast pace all season long and averaged 103 possessions per game in the first round, but were held under 100 in this one (99). Take away the easy buckets and the Sixers do not put up points the same way, and it’s something they need to focus on for the next game.

But more importantly, the Sixers were just not dialed in mentally. Robert Covington could well end up on the NBA All-Defensive team this season for his play, but he lost his man multiple times in Game 1. It was an epidemic.

It went that way from the start. The first half went about as well as the Celtics could have scripted it. Boston defends well and the Sixers seemed to rush their play, leading to a series of quick turnovers (three by Simmons), while Redick started 1-of-6 from the floor. The Celtics didn’t double and challenged the Sixers to beat them one-on-one, and Philly’s ball movement was cut off.

Meanwhile, the Celtics showed incredible game-plan discipline, and clearly at the top of their scouting report was “attack Marco Belinelli at every opportunity” because they hunted him out. The result was plays like this from Tatum.

The result was a 56-45 Boston lead at the half. Tatum had 16 at the break, Horford 12, and Rozier had 13 points and 7 rebounds. Those guys continued that shooting and play through the second half, and now they have a lead in this series.

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

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When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

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Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.

Enes Kanter trolls (jokingly) Kyrie Irving on why Kanter will wear No. 11 with Boston

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Kyrie Irving is off to Brooklyn, which opened up the No. 11 jersey in Boston.

New Celtics center Enes Kanter will wear it, and his answer as to why is an awesome joke and troll of Irving.

You have to love the smile before he makes the joke, he has planned this out.

If you don’t get the “I want to be the reason no one else will” wear No. 11, you have to remember this Irving/Nike ad from Boston.

Well played Kanter, well played.

Report: Knicks’ Reggie Bullock could miss first month of season with injury

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On Tuesday, the Knicks made it official, they had signed sharpshooter Reggie Bullock to a two-year contract.

It had been a strange negotiation. Bullock had initially agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with New York but after that (during the physicals) an injury of some nature came to light and the contract was re-negotiated down to two-years, $8.2 million (part of the room exception), money freed up allowed the Knicks to chase and land Marcus Morris.

Now comes a report Bullock will miss the start of the season with an injury. From Ian Begley of SNY.tv

There is no specific timetable for Bullock to be on the court at the moment. But, per SNY sources, Bullock is expected to miss at least a month of the regular season due to his ailment…

The medical issue that caused the hiccup is unclear, but Bullock has dealt with plantar fasciitis in the past.

Plantar fasciitis is something generally healed with rest, which Bullock should be getting plenty of this summer, making it a little unusual for it to extend into the season.

Bullock has a history of injury issues, having played 62 games two seasons ago in Detroit, then 63 last season between the Pistons and Lakers.

Bullock averaged 11.3 points and shot 37.7 percent from three last season. He will provide some much-needed floor spacing in New York, once he gets on the court.