Boston’s defense not all of Cleveland’s problems, Celtics’ offense is clicking, too

9 Comments

In the wake of Game 1, Boston’s defense on LeBron James and how it frustrated Cleveland as a team was the hot topic. With good reason. Marcus Morris led a ball-pressure attack on LeBron, the other defenders stayed home and pressured shooters, Boston took away passing lanes, and all that forced Cleveland to shoot 36 percent overall and 4-of-26 from three, plus turn the ball over and just look out of sync.

That, however, was not Cleveland’s only problem.

Boston’s offense had a net rating of 114 (points per 100 possessions) in Game 1 — that’s 8.8 more per 100 than the Celtics averaged during the regular season, and 6.6 more than in the playoffs. Boston attacked and scored 60 points in the paint Game 1, added 17 points off 10 Cavaliers turnovers, found some opportunities in transition (off their many stops) and in the end put up 108 points without much effort on Sunday afternoon.

Going back to last playoffs, the Cavaliers have just tried to outscore teams, not win with defense. That has worked well enough, so far. It may not be any more.

Sunday we saw what looked like the Cavaliers’ regular season defense, which was 29th in the league. The Cavs had a couple good defensive possessions in the first five minutes of the game, but soon the Celtics figured it out and picked the Cavs apart. Boston went with a lot of isolation attacks early, specifically targeting Kyle Korver, and it worked beautifully. It set a tone.

If the Cavaliers do not defend better going forward it may not matter that LeBron and the offense started to click because they may not be able to just outscore Boston. These Celtics stick to their gameplan, are not going to make the mistakes of Indiana and Toronto, and are not going to back down from the moment.

In the playoffs, the Cavaliers’ defensive effort has been better, but their recognition and communication on that end was still lacking. Boston blew that up Sunday afternoon. They moved the ball and found the open man, with 27 assists on 43 made buckets.

Boston attacked the rim from the start, and their best defenders on LeBron had the best games on the other end — Jaylen Brown had 23 points, Marcus Morris had 21 points (and 10 assists), and Al Horford had 20.

Despite lacking the shotmaking of Kyrie Irving, the Celtics’ offense has been dialed in during the playoffs. The reason in part is knowing who is on the court, and the chance to follow a good game plan — the Celtics game-plan discipline is the best of any team in the playoffs this season.

“Through the regular season there was so much changes with our group, different injuries, things like that,” Horford said after the game. “Once we’ve been able to settle down and find what fits this group, that’s prompted us to be better offensively. Then you just got to give credit to coach (Brad Stevens), he’s making adjustments and is able to key in, whatever the matchup, and giving us those options to go out there.”

Boston’s offense did feed off the defense. That was especially evident in the 25-4 run that decided the game.

“On offense, we were taking good shots, really moving the ball, and really taking really good looks,” Horford said of the offense during that run. “That helped.”

Tyronn Lue has a lot of work to do before Game 2. Sunday was a wakeup call for the Cavaliers that it will take more than LeBron to carry them this round, and the Cavs need to knock down those open shots they missed in Game 1.

However, the bigger challenge will be coaxing a team that has not played quality team defense all season to start doing it now. If they can’t get better fast, LeBron may not be able to carry this team much further.

LaMelo Ball not worried about where he gets drafted, “Anywhere is a great fit”

Leave a comment

Lavar Ball has his opinion. Always. When the patriarch of the Ball family went on the “Road Trippin'” podcast a couple of months ago, he said he didn’t want his youngest son, LaMelo Ball, drafted by the Warriors because he would have to come off the bench behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. “Michael Jordan didn’t come off the bench,” was his logic.

LaMelo Ball is about as interested in his father’s opinions as most 19-year-olds.

“I’m my own man. He’s his own man. He has his opinions, I have mine,” the younger Ball said of his father on Monday while speaking to reporters via Zoom as part of the NBA’s pre-draft process.

“I feel I could play on any team and do good anywhere I go,” Ball said. “Anything that happens, I’m positive.”

Ball is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, scheduled for Nov. 18. Rumors have bounced around the league that if the Timberwolves keep the No. 1 pick they will select Ball to pair with D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt. The Warriors have the No. 2 pick, the Charlotte Hornets select third, followed by Chicago then Cleveland.

Ball spent a chunk of his time with reporters denying having had contact with many teams at the top of the draft, although he said he didn’t know about Minnesota. He did say he had contact with the Knicks, who pick eighth, adding they just wanted to get to know him as a person (outside the online persona). Ball will not be on the board when New York makes its pick (the Knicks could trade up to get him, all the teams at the top of the draft are listening to offers).

Ball’s consistent point was he could fit in with any team.

“Anywhere is a great fit,” Ball said. “It’s the NBA. You put me with good players, I feel like it’s even gonna be better.”

Ball said he has adapted to the unprecedented pre-draft process, in part because his path to the NBA is untraditional. He said he realized back when his father had him playing in Lithuania at 16 he was not going to have the more traditional route to the NBA that his brother Lonzo Ball had, but LaMelo embraced it. LaMelo spent last season playing in Australia before returning to the states to prepare for the draft.

“I feel like I am dealing with it well,” Ball said. “I kinda like it, that nobody has been through something like this, it’s kinda unique, like me… I’m one-of-one.”

For now, Ball is in the Detroit area working out, preparing for the draft. He said some of that Detroit toughness is rubbing off on him.

But he’s happy to bring that with him wherever he gets drafted.

NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

2020 NBA Finals schedule
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble for the Finals.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Sept. 30, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Evolving plan for next NBA season has USA Basketball, Tokyo Olympics in limbo

Tokyo Olympics
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Will NBA players be available to represent their countries when the Tokyo Olympics begin next July 23?

Nobody knows. As the NBA pushes back its start date for next season — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently said it likely would be after the first of the year, but sources around the league tell NBC Sports to expect more like February or March — it leaves USA Basketball and the participation of NBA players in the Olympics in limbo. Here’s what USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo told Chris Sherridan of Basketball News.

“I was told the NBA season would start in December, and then it was Christmas, and then after Jan. 1, and that keeps pushing the schedule for me. The NBA season typically takes 170 or 171 days to complete, so that creates a conflict on paper,” said Colangelo, adding that a suspension of the NBA season in order to clear time for the Olympics also has been discussed…

“If the [NBA] season conflicts with the Olympics, I might have 14 non-playoff teams to choose from, but then other players will become available as the NBA playoffs progress,” Colangelo said. “The problem is that the IOC has a rule mandating an early submission of a 12-man roster. But with a pandemic, the hope would be that you’ve got to set aside outdated rules. I assume people will be reasonable and come up with some kind of a program that works.”

Right now, there is no answer for Colangelo and USA Basketball because there is no answer on next season. The only thing owners seem set on is playing a full 82-game schedule — after taking a financial hit this season, owners want to start making money again — with fans in the building for as many of those games as possible.

If the NBA season starts in February and was condensed slightly, the regular season could be done before the Tokyo Olympics. A Team USA made up of guys who missed the playoffs would still be formidable (this past season that would have included Stephen Curry, Trae Young, Bradley Beal, and others). However, other countries don’t have the luxury of that kind of depth.

Also being discussed is an NHL-style break in the NBA season to allow players to compete in the Olympics, then return to finish the season.

Team USA, despite its struggles at the World Cup last year, still qualified for the Olympics. That was a team depleted of NBA star power because of both injuries and guys not wanting to play the World Cup then Olympics in back-to-back years (nobody knew the coronavirus would blow up those plans).  What players USA Basketball will send to Tokyo remains up in the air.

And there’s little Colangelo can do but wait.

PBT Podcast: NBA Finals preview, Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

NBA Finals Preview
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s happening in October, not June. And rather than cross-country flights, everyone will be camped out in a bubble in Orlando.

But the NBA Finals are finally here: The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Miami Heat. Which means it’s time for an NBA Finals Preview.

The Lakers are the heavy favorites but Miami posses some matchup challenges, starting with Bam Adebayo on Anthony Davis. Add in Jimmy Butler checking LeBron James for stretches, and the Heat shooters such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and this is not going to be a cakewalk for Los Angeles.

Mark Medina of the USA today joins Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports for this NBA Finals Preview. They break down the matchups, talk about what it would take for Miami to pull off the upset, and discuss how this matchup could influence how other teams build out their rosters in the future.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.