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Three Things to Know: Celtics show up to rout Warriors

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The Gordon Hayward Boston thought it was getting showed up, Celtics impress routing Warriors. That is the Boston Celtics we expected to see all season, the Celtics who can beat anyone in the East. Apparently, they just needed to get out of the cold Boston winter, come to California and get warm.

Boston opened the game on an 11-0 run, got 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting off the bench from Gordon Hayward, moved the ball on offense, trusted each other, and most importantly communicated and were clean on their switches on defense. The result was the Celtics blowing out the defending NBA champ Warriors 128-95.

After dropping 5-of-6 in a string of sloppy losses, each defeat followed by comments about a lack of unity, this was the kind of game the Celtics needed. They played with the kind of joy the Warriors always talk about — Kyrie Irving looked like he was having fun, scoring 19, dropping 11 dimes, and barking at the Warriors bench.

Can the Celtics build on it during their four-game road trip through the West, or was this game the aberration?

Hayward was in attack mode from the minute he stepped on the court and was throwing down dunks all over the place.

What did we learn about Golden State? Nothing. They’re bored. They don’t have Klay Thompson. They find the regular season tedious and want to get on with the playoffs. That was the worst Warriors loss of the Steve Kerr era. Yawn.

To Boston, it doesn’t matter what Golden State team showed up — that was the kind of win this team desperately needed to turn things around before the playoffs.

Now we see whether it was a one-off, or the start of something.

2) Is Houston’s offense good enough to make them second best team in West? Looked like it against Toronto. Throughout James Harden’s historic run, and continuing through the Rockets’ current six-game win streak, one thing has been constant: Their defense still isn’t very good. Even during this win streak, when it’s been better, they have the 14th ranked defense in the league, just middle of the pack. It has put a damper on expectations.

But with Chris Paul resurgent and the offense clicking at an elite level, does it matter? Can the Rockets’ offense propel them to the Western Conference Finals?

It looked like it Tuesday when the Rockets went into Toronto and took a 22-point lead over the Raptors before eventually winning 107-95.

They still have Harden, who scored the team’s final 16 points and had 19 of his 35 in the fourth to secure the win.

Who is the second best team in the West? Oklahoma City? Denver? Portland? The Rockets, when playing like this, can hang with any of them. Even if their defense isn’t what it was a year ago.

3) Mike Conley reminds everyone why they should trade for him this summer, sparks Grizzlies upset of Trail Blazers. Some team is going to give up plenty this summer to trade for Mike Conley. No team met the Grizzlies high asking price at the trade deadline, but that will be different this summer (and the price likely drops a little).

Tuesday night showed why teams want the man.

Conley had 19 in the fourth, 40 for the game, and was the reason the Grizzlies beat the Trail Blazers Tuesday night. (Well, that and it was the final game of a seven-game road trip for Portland and the team was done.)

Next season, in a situation more conducive to winning than the starting-the-rebuild Grizzlies, Mike Conley is going to show everyone why he finally needs to be an All-Star one year.

Report: Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon named GM of Pelicans

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The New Orleans Pelicans continue to rebuild their broken front office. Now that David Griffin has taken his place as the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, the Pelicans are reportedly adding another name to their executive staff.

According to Shams Charania, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon will join Griffin in the New Orleans front office as the team’s new general manager.

Langdon started his front office career as a scout with the San Antonio Spurs, and was named assistant general manager of the Nets in 2016.

Via Twitter:

Brooklyn is a team that has done more with less as of late, and has acted as efficiently as they can particularly as they’ve tried to recover from the moves of a former GM. The Nets moved Billy King Out of the GM job in 2016 in favor for Sean Marks. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps in February.

It looks like the Pelicans are going to do all they can to get Anthony Davis to stay, and that includes a new front office team, upgrades to their practice facility, and a better health and training staff.

Langdon could be just a piece in the puzzle, but he could also be part of the group that has to figure out the best trade package for Davis if the day comes. Either way, New Orleans is regrouping as they move forward with the number one overall pick where they will presumably take Zion Williamson.

Bucks lead East finals 2-0, and now series shifts to Toronto

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have more than held their own against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton so far in these Eastern Conference finals.

Other than some pretty boxscores, the Toronto Raptors have nothing to show for those efforts.

The supporting cast hasn’t supported much for Toronto, and with what is almost certainly a must-win Game 3 of the East title series looming on Sunday night at home, Raptors coach Nick Nurse is weighing lineup tweaks. Nurse suggested Saturday that Serge Ibaka may start at center over struggling Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell may get minutes that would figure to come at Danny Green‘s expense.

“We’ve got to be better, man,” Nurse said Saturday. “We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to hustle more and we’ve got to work harder.”

He may as well have punctuated that by adding “or else.”

In this playoff format that was put into play in 1984, teams that win the first two games at home of a best-of-seven series have ultimately prevailed 94% of the time. And that’s the luxury Milwaukee has right now, leading the series 2-0 after rallying to win the opener and then controlling Game 2 start to finish.

“We can’t rest,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We can’t relax. We can’t assume anything.”

So the odds are stacked against the Raptors. Nurse was told the lack of success teams have when down 0-2 in a series, and insisted he doesn’t care.

“I don’t really give a crap about that,” he said. “I just want our team to come play their (butt) off tomorrow night and get one game and it changes the series.”

Leonard and Lowry are outscoring Antetokounmpo and Middleton 107-77 – which would figure to have been a boon to Toronto’s chances.

It hasn’t worked that way.

Add up everyone else’s scoring in the series, and it’s Bucks 156, Raptors 96. Rebounding has been one-sided in both games, with Milwaukee controlling things on the backboards. Bench scoring has tilted heavily toward Milwaukee as well.

“We’re just trying to be us,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “We’re not playing any differently, regular season or postseason. We’re just trying to go out there and play Bucks basketball. It starts with our defense. Getting stops. Getting out. Playing in transition. Playing with pace. Sharing the ball and being aggressive and attacking the basket.”

The Raptors don’t have to look at the history books to know this series isn’t over.

All they need to do is recall the 2012 Western Conference finals. Leonard and Green were with top-seeded San Antonio, and Ibaka was with second-seeded Oklahoma City. The Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home – then lost the next four, and the Thunder went to the NBA Finals.

“We have another chance to bounce back on Sunday,” Gasol said. “That’s all that matters right now. That’s all that matters.”

 

Andre Iguodala sits fourth quarter with “lower leg soreness,” to get MRI Sunday

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DaMarcus Cousins. Kevin Durant.

Now you might be able to add Andre Iguodala to the list of injured Warriors. He only played 18 minutes in Game 3 Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. Asked about that after the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr listed a hockey injury — lower leg soreness — and said an MRI was coming.

If he has to miss time, that would be another blow to the Warriors. Up 3-0 on Portland, Golden State can close this series out without him, but the Warriors are going to need Iguodala and Durant — and, ideally, Cousins — against the Bucks or Raptors in the NBA Finals starting on May 30.

Iguodala made friends and influenced people when he went back to the locker room late in the first quarter, deciding to flip off the hallway camera on his way.

We will see if the League has anything to say about that or lets it slide.

 

Jordan Bell spectacularly missed dunk, but Warriors reaction was perfect

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Golden State was starting to make its comeback, cutting the lead to eight midway through the third quarter when Draymond Green found Jordan Bell for the breakaway dunk and…

Ouch.

What was impressive though was the Warriors reaction. First, Steve Kerr didn’t take him out. Didn’t bench him, instead left him in and with that showed confidence.

Then there was Draymond Green, who was on ESPN’s Mic’d Up, and was heard encouraging Bell.

Then there was assistant coach Mike Brown, who tried to get Bell out of the moment, in a great story relayed by Ethan Straus of The Athletic.

“So Jordan played against my son Elijah,” Brown explained. “My oldest son played at Mater Dei High School in Orange County and Jordan played at Long Beach [Poly]. So they had a lot of games back in the day. So I went up to him and he thought I was serious, because we took the time out. He’s about to walk out of the huddle and I walk up to him and say, ‘Jordan, listen, don’t worry about the dunk. I saw about three or four of them back in the Long Beach days and you bounced back.’ He fell out laughing. He said, ‘Ah, MB, I didn’t do that back then!’ I said, ‘Yea you did! It’s all good, though!’”

It worked. Bell never lost confidence, never stopped playing the way he plays, and soon enough there was this.

With Portland going smaller and counting on their offense more, Bell is going to have a larger role in that matchup. This is exactly how you build up the confidence of a player so he will come through for you in those moments.