AP

Celtics hope to put road woes aside in Game 3 vs. Cavaliers in Cleveland

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WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) Home-court advantage has proven to be a valuable commodity for the Celtics so far this postseason.

Boston is 9-0 at TD Garden during these playoffs and has blistered opponents early in games, shooting 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line. It’s often led to cushions that have helped the Celtics sustain opponents’ runs in the second half.

But after boasting the third-best road record in the NBA during the regular season, the Celtics have looked like a totally different team since the postseason began. They are just 1-4 away from their building and seen their shooting numbers dip to 41 percent overall and 31 percent from beyond the arc.

That can’t persist if Boston is going to have success as the series shifts to Cleveland on Saturday.

Marcus Smart, who was all over the court in the Celtics’ Game 2 win , didn’t take any offense to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue’s comment that the Celtics have “shown they haven’t played that well on the road.”

“We haven’t played well. We know that and understand that,” Smart said. “We understand that other teams see that and try to exploit it. But that’s the beauty about this game. It just takes one game. You never know. Things change. Our confidence is high. Who knows?”

Coach Brad Stevens said he thought the entire team seemed a little “shell-shocked” at Milwaukee in the first round, when after taking a 2-0 series lead, was promptly blown out 116-92 in Game 3. It lost all three road games in that series.

“We took a punch in the mouth right when guys came out and they surprised us a little bit,” Smart said. “We can’t afford to be surprised this time around. … We’re just trying to make it as hard as we can on those guys for them to win a game and for us to execute whatever plan Brad has for us.”

That will be easier said than done against a Cavaliers team that got 42 points and near triple-double by LeBron James in Tuesday’s loss.

Pressure will certainly be on the Cavs, but they have history on their side. James has won at least one playoff road game in 31 of his last 32 playoff series. To have a chance to make it 32 out of 33, Cleveland would need to win one of the next two games at home to force a Game 5.

That’s not out of their reach by any means.

Stevens isn’t sure Cleveland has yet to play up to its full potential.

“I don’t know if that was their best,” he said. “We’ve all seen them play at an elite level for a long time. … At the end of the day they’ve got a lot of guys that have been there, done that. And we’re expecting that every game we’re going to have to play better to have a chance to win.”

One of the reasons that the Celtics have had success against the Cavs so far is their willingness to challenge James defensively.

Jaylen Brown has been one of several players tasked with guarding James. He also drew that duty at times in last year’s conference finals. He said he is no longer intimidated by the matchup .

“And why should I? Brown said. “The stage is set for all of us to do something spectacular. LeBron has been to the finals (seven) straight times. He’s a great player. But we want to win and we want to beat a team that does win and get to the finals.

“We got a bunch of young guys trying to make names for themselves in this league. Why not come out and play hard? Everybody says we’re playing with house money anyway. So why not come out with the energy level that we need and try to do something special?”

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Luka Doncic becomes second NBA teenager to record triple-double, Bucks rout Mavs anyway

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Is Luka Doncic an All-Star?

He’s not a starter (in my vote, anyway) but in what is an exhibition designed to give the fans what they want, why not have Doncic in the game? He is what the fans want. I’m not convinced he’ll make the cut — at least in the ridiculously deep West, in the East he probably would — but it’s a legitimate conversation. The kid can flat-out ball.

Case in point, he dropped a triple-double on the Bucks on MLK Day, becoming only the second teenager to record an NBA triple-double. (The other was Markelle Fultz, who was 10-days younger when he got his, also against Milwaukee.) Doncic finished the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Doncic’s play was not enough to keep the Bucks from racking up their fifth straight win, and doing it pretty easily (although Dallas made an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to make it a little interesting). Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe had 21 points, and Brook Lopez finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks (that was Lopez’s first double-double with the Bucks).

Reports: Houston trades Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, who will waive him

Associated Press
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Carmelo Anthony‘s sabbatical is over. Sort of.

Anthony, who has been on the Houston roster but not with the team after that experiment crashed and burned 10 games into the season, will be traded to the Chicago Bulls. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story (and other reports have since confirmed it). However, he’s not going to be putting on a Bulls’ jersey.

He may not be waived until after the Feb. 7 deadline, in case the Bulls find a way to use his salary in a one-for-one trade (his salary cannot be combined with others in a deal because he was just traded). If/when he is waived, at that point there will be more roster shuffling around the league and a landing spot for ‘Melo may open up.

Houston’s trade is much like the trade from Oklahoma City to Atlanta last summer that moved Anthony off the Thunder roster. The Hawks waived him and Anthony signed with the Rockets. For the Rockets, this is about saving money.

The Bulls also make a little under a million in this deal. If another team signs Anthony, it would be a benefit for the Hawks.

It’s unclear where Anthony’s ultimate landing spot will be, although his agent has said there are options.

After his struggles in Houston — where the future Hall of Famer thought he deserved more than a bench role due to his stature, even though because of his declining offensive skills and defense that’s all he warranted — it’s hard to imagine another contender or even playoff team picking him up. Maybe a franchise going all in on the Zion Williamson chase but wants a bump at the gate from the name recognition Anthony brings him in? Although for teams trying to develop young talent why take the ball out of those young guys’ hands to let Anthony jack up contested twos? Most likely it will be a team battling injuries and looking for help.

In 10 games for the Rockets this season coming off the bench, Anthony averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, shot just 40.5 percent overall and 32.8 percent from three. The Rockets’ defense was 10.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony sat.

 

Report: Wizards look uninterested in trading Otto Porter for cap flexibility, future assets

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said, “We will never, ever tank.” Washington also put out word it wasn’t looking to trade Otto Porter.

As much as all that sounded like lip service, it appears the Wizards are also conveying similar messages to potential trade partners.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

the Wizards have shown little appetite for dealing Otto Porter anywhere for a return heavy on future assets and cap flexibility, sources say

John Wall‘s massive contract looked barely movable even before he underwent season-ending surgery. Washington seems unwilling to take a step back by trading star Bradley Beal.

So, that leaves unloading Porter – who’s earning $26,011,913 this year and due $55,739,815 over the next two seasons – as the obvious way to create cap flexibility and accumulate future assets. If the Wizards are unwilling to do that, it speaks volumes to their plan.

They don’t want to rebuild. They want to win now. Porter can help them do that.

In many ways, it’s noble Washington is so committed to winning, even at great expense. That’s generally what we want from teams. We don’t want them to give up or cut costs just because they’re a couple games out of playoff position midway through the season.

But the Wizards’ spending has been… uneven. Leonsis greenlit a payroll well into the luxury tax and is apparently willing to keep Porter, which likely keeps that payroll high. Yet, Washington is also holding as many roster spots vacant as allowed, offering small savings rather than adding depth amid multiple injuries.

Maybe the Wizards just don’t believe they could sign minimum-salary players who’d actually help. But insurance never hurts on the court.

So, Washington is left looking content holding its few major contracts, nickeling-and-diming down the roster, winning a barely moderate amount and not gaining better position for the future. I’m unconvinced that’s a worthy vision, but if that’s what the Wizards want, keeping Porter helps stay that course.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart fined $35k for charging at DeAndre’ Bembry (video)

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Marcus Smart‘s jawing with DeAndre Bembry reached the point several people tried to restrain the Celtics guard.

And Smart still fought through them to charge at Bembry.

That determination for a confrontation will cost Smart.

NBA release:

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been fined $35,000 for aggressively pursuing an opponent in an attempt to escalate a physical altercation and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, which took place after Smart was assessed his second technical foul and was ejected, occurred with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter of the Celtics’ 113-105 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 19

Smart was seemingly near the line between this fine and a suspension. He’s fortunate to land on the side he did.