Celtics dominate Sixers in Game 2 with their most important trait: consistency

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The Boston Celtics don’t have Kyrie Irving. They don’t have Gordon Hayward. What they do have is perhaps the best coach of these young NBA playoffs in Brad Stevens, and a consistency that their opponents in the Philadelphia 76ers sorely lack. While you can trust the process all you want, the Celtics are trusting their bench players and young rotation guys for even contributions.

To that end, Boston beat Philadelphia, 108-103, to take a 2-0 lead in the semifinal matchup between the two teams on Thursday.

Philadelphia was far more assertive offensively in the first half of Game 2 than they were in Game 1. The Sixers moved the ball, getting double-digit performances in the first two quarters from three starters. Philadelphia shot much better from the 3-point line, amassing more made triples in the first half (7) than they did during the entirety of Game 1 (5).

Meanwhile the Celtics struggled offensively out of the gate, only finally finding a solution to the Sixers’ redoubled efforts on defense late in the second quarter. Down by 21 with five minutes to play in the second, an offensive surge led by Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier saw the Sixers stall defensively, and helped Boston push it to just 56-51 in favor of Philadelphia to end the half.

The Sixers continued their uneven play to start the third quarter. Philadelphia’s offense seemed to slow, particularly after going through first and second reads on set plays. The Sixers stood around, with only the strong side of the floor moving as weak side shooters stood. Boston used Philadelphia’s stagnation to create turnovers, scoring 16 points off changes of possession alone and beating up the Sixers in the transition game, 19-16.

Philadelphia’s poor play apparently didn’t sit with coach Brett Brown, either. Upset with Ben Simmons‘ decision-making, the Sixers coach sat his star point guard for a huge stretch between the third and fourth quarters, more than 12 minutes of game clock. Simmons finished with seven assists and six rebounds, but just one point.

Boston used the stagnant Philly attack to dominate, and the momentum was clearly in favor of the Celtics toward the end of the game. Although the score wasn’t out of reach for the 76ers, the game appeared to be emotionally capped off after Rozier sent an alley-oop to the sky for Jayson Tatum with 2:23 left.

The final chance at a stop for the Sixers was emblematic of Philadelphia’s defensive issues, too. After forcing the Celtics to rotate the ball on offense with less than 15 seconds to go in the game, Al Horford wound up with the ball at the top of the 3-point arc. Embiid jumped out to cover him, giving Horford the open lane for the drive and the easy score with 8.3 seconds left, giving Boston a five-point lead.

Horford could be seen talking to Tatum immediately after the bucket, apparently surprised he was so wide open. The Sixers had happy feet on defense all night, and despite having less active talent, Boston again played a better team game on both sides of the ball as they ground out the win.

For Philly, JJ Redick led the way with 23 points along with three rebounds and two assists. Robert Covington had 22 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Embiid contributed 20 points — albeit on 36 percent shooting — with 14 rebounds and five assists.

The Celtics saw a strong performance from Tatum, leading Boston’s scorers with 21 points, two rebounds, and two assists. Rozier continued his playoff hot streak, adding 20 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Marcus Smart, wounded thumb and all, scored 19 points with five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Game 3 is back in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Sixers will need to play more evenly if they expect to make a series out of this thing.

Patty Mills hits game-winner in Spurs’ NBA-record fourth straight OT game (video)

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pioneered resting players.

But San Antonio has played an NBA-record four straight overtime games, meaning the Spurs have had to play an extra 25 minutes.

Popovich, via ESPN:

“It’s awful,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

At least Patty Mills spared San Antonio a sixth overtime period in these four games. After DeMar DeRozan missed a free throw, Mills hit the game-winner in a 121-119 victory over the Suns yesterday.

And at least the Spurs are mostly winning these longer games. In this span, San Antonio beat the Rockets in double overtime, beat the Kings, lost to the Cavaliers and now beat the Suns. I’d also argue the Cleveland result was worth it.

 

Report: Luka Doncic might return to Mavericks within a couple weeks

Luka Doncic
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Luka Doncic sprained his ankle during the Mavericks’ loss to the Heat yesterday.

Whether this timeline constitutes good news or bad news depends on your perspective.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Doncic’s injury is a blow not just to Dallas, but the NBA. He’s one of the league’s brightest stars. In the next eight days, the Mavericks make their only appearances of the season in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Though Doncic has played like an MVP candidate, the Mavericks also boast considerable depth. They’ve outscored opponents by 8.0 points per 100 possessions without Doncic.

Those non-Doncic lineups will be thrust into more difficult situations now. That net rating will likely drop, especially against a tough upcoming schedule. Dallas might have been in line for some losses, even with Doncic. So, don’t overreact to that.

But the Mavericks can remain at least competitive without their best player.

Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe out two weeks due to right fibula avulsion fracture

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The Milwaukee Bucks keep right on rolling, they won their 18th straight on Saturday night, cruising past the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now they’re going to have to keep this winning streak going without point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe will miss at least two weeks with a right fibula avulsion fracture, the team announced Saturday. The injury happened Friday night in a win against Memphis.

An avulsion fracture is where a strain to ligament pulls a little bit of bone off where the two connect. It sounds worse than it is medically, and while it hurts rest is usually the only treatment needed.

Bledsoe is averaging 15 points and 5.7 assists per game for the Bucks, shooting 34.4 percent from three, playing solid defense, and providing another ball handler and shot creator next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has been +4.1 points per 100 possessions this season with Bledsoe on the court.

George Hill, who has had a strong season for Milwaukee off the bench, will step into the starting role for now.

The injury comes at a rough time as the Buck hit a tougher part of the schedule this week, facing Dallas (which may be without Luka Doncic) and the Lakers on Thursday.

Hornets’ rookie P.J. Washington out weeks with fractured little finger

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In what has been a disappointing rookie class so far, Charlotte appears to have a steal drafting P.J. Washington at No. 12. The power forward out of Kentucky has started every game for the Hornets this season and is loving the spacing in the NBA game, scoring efficiently in the paint while shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, plus is averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.

Now the Hornets are going to be without him, likely for a couple of weeks, due to a fractured fifth finger on his right hand (pinkie). He suffered it in the fourth quarter against Chicago Friday night.

While the Hornets officially only list him as out for Sunday against the Pacers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he’s going to be out through Christmas, which would mean at least five games.

Usually this would mean more minutes for Marvin Williams, but he is out with a sore right knee. Most likely, coach James Borego slides an undersized Miles Bridges over to the four — which had been the preseason plan until Washington surprised everyone — but he has a variety of small-ball players who likely will get a little run there.

The 12-16 Hornets are hanging around the playoff picture, just 1.5 games out of the eight seed (Orlando).