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.

Report: FBI investigating Big Baller Brand co-founder Gregory Alan Foster

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It’s sad that people take advantage of athletes. A lot of people do it when these guys are very young and clearly talented, and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball is no stranger to that.

Ball cut ties with his Big Baller Brand earlier this year, even covering up his “BBB” tattoo with a bad-looking pair of dice. This was because Gregory Alan Foster, one of his confidants and business partners, allegedly stole money from the company to the tune of several million dollars.

Now the FBI is reportedly investigating Foster for his involvement in bilking money from Ball.

Via LA Times:

The FBI is now investigating whether Foster defrauded the Ball family out of millions of dollars, according to two law enforcement sources. While it’s unclear when exactly the official investigation began, one of those sources said it is at least two months old.

Lonzo Ball and the family’s shoe and clothing business recently accused Foster in a lawsuit of taking more than $1.5 million out of the company’s bank accounts and accepting “substantial undisclosed referral fees” from at least eight loans he arranged on behalf of the company.

“[Foster is] like my second dad,” Lonzo replied. “So when he came to me, I just talked to him and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. He just gave me his story. Now, looking back at it, obviously I wish we would have jumped at it back in October.”

According to the Times, Foster’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Hopefully Ball will be able to recover some kind of financial damages from all of this.

Spurs’ smart defense, veterans force Game 7 with 120-103 win over Nuggets

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Nikola Jokic had a career night — 43 points, a personal and franchise playoff best, plus 12 rebounds and nine assists. Once again the two-man game, the pick-and-roll with him and Jamal Murray got into the lane and carved up San Antonio.

The Spurs lived with that. What they did, however, was not collapse off Denver’s shooters to help in the paint — to try to contest twos but give up good-look threes. Denver got its buckets inside — they won the points in the paint battle 72-36 — but shot just 8-of-31 outside the paint on the night.

The Nuggets stars took the shots they were given — Jokic and Murray combined to take 51 percent of Denver’s shots, up from 34.6 percent and 40.5 percent in the previous two wins — but the ball movement and transition buckets that characterize the Nuggets were missing. The Spurs took that away.

Combine that with veterans LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points on 10-of-18 shooting), DeMar DeRozan (25 points on 12-of-16 shooting), and Rudy Gay (19 points on 7-of-11 shooting) stepping up and you end up with the Spurs pulling away for a 120-103 Game 6 win on their home court.

It forces Game 7 Saturday in Denver. The winner advances to take on Portland in the second round.

“We didn’t defend tonight, from the jump ball,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “They came out and scored 34 points in the first quarter, shot 70 percent or close to it [66.7 percent in first], and to give up 120 points in a potential elimination game, 57 [percent shooting]. It just wasn’t good enough.”

The game was decided by a 22-4 San Antonio run that spanned the end of the third and into the start of the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets pulled away.

“It was turnovers for us, it was offensive rebounds for them, and just no defense,” Malone said of the run.

The other difference in the game was the three-point shooting, an area where the Nuggets have dominated through the first five games. Thursday both teams took 24 shots from three, but the Spurs made 10 and the Nuggets six. That’s a dozen points to San Antonio in an area Denver needs to win.

It was like that all night.

San Antonio came out playing like the desperate team on the brink of elimination, playing with energy and staring out 7-of-10 from the floor. The Spurs built up a 10-point point first-quarter lead behind Aldridge, who had 13 points in the first quarter, 6-of-9 from the floor, plus the team shot 65.4 percent for the quarter.

Denver was not phased (this was the fifth time in six games they lost the first quarter), and after shooting 0-of-7 in the first quarter hit 4-of-5 to start the second. The Nuggets got back to playing the kind of ball-movement hoops — with a lot of Murray and Jokic playing off each other and scoring — and the Nuggets grabbed the lead back in the quarter. However, after a DeRozan putback bucket off his own missed free throw at the buzzer gave the Spurs a 64-60 lead at the half. That hustle play seemed to signify the Spurs night.

The game was close through much of the third, but the trends favored San Antonio.

Then the late-quarter run started, and Denver faded. Now they need to find their mojo on the plane home, because Saturday is win-or-go-home for everybody.

Chris Paul doesn’t like anyone touching the top of his head (VIDEO)

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Chris Paul is listed at six feet tall, and he’s definitely not any shorter than that. Nope, no sir. To even suggest as much would be ridiculous!

In any case, Paul is shorter than most of his teammates because he plays in the NBA. As such, Paul has probably had a lifetime of everyone towering over him despite his obvious incredible talent surpassing those of his compatriots.

So maybe being touched on the top of the head is a weird “thing” for him? At least, that’s what it appeared to be from this video.

Via Twitter:

You know somebody has a trigger when they are ready to turn around and fight you after a playoff series win, especially when they’re your own teammate.

Note to everybody: don’t touch the top of Chris Paul’s head.

Hall of Famer and Celtics hero John Havlicek dies at 79

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Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics Legend John Havlicek has died.

According to the team, the 13-time All-Star passed away peacefully in his home in Jupiter, Fla. The Celtics released an announcement on their website marking Havlicek contribution to the team.

Via Boston Celtics:

John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments. He was a great champion both on the court and in the community, winning 8 NBA championships and an NBA Finals MVP, while holding Celtics career records for points scored and games played. Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, he is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame and his retired #17 hangs in the Garden rafters. His defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self. He was extraordinarily thoughtful and generous, both on a personal level and for those in need, as illustrated by his commitment to raising money for The Genesis Foundation for Children for over three decades through his fishing tournament. John was kind and considerate, humble and gracious. He was a champion in every sense, and as we join his family, friends, and fans in mourning his loss, we are thankful for all the joy and inspiration he brought to us.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released this statement:

“John Havlicek was a wonderful friend who represented the best of the NBA.  He described himself as a man of routine and discipline – a humble approach that produced extraordinary results, including eight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, 13 All-Star selections and some of the most iconic moments in league history.  A trusted teammate who prioritized winning, John’s passion and energy endeared him to basketball fans and made him a model for generations of NBA players.  We send our deepest sympathies to John’s wife, Beth, his son, Chris, and his daughter, Jill, as well as the entire Celtics organization.”

No matter what kind of basketball fan you are, if you know anything about the history of the game you at least have the phrase “Havlicek stole the ball!” burned into the folds of your brain.

That famous steal came in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals to seal a Game 7 win against Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston would go on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Finals that season.

Thoughts are with Havlicek family and Celtics fans, who of course will remember him in their own special way today.