Bucks put Kyrie Irving, Celtics on the precipice

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Kyrie Irving – who publicly declared his intent to re-sign with the Celtics – left the court before the final buzzer sounded.

Irving – who who made a commercial touting his desire to have Boston retire his number – took a lonely walk to the locker room while his teammates tried to collect themselves.

Irving – who said the Celtics would be fine in the playoffs “because I’m here” – was out of sight as Boston fans booed.

Was this Irving’s final home game in Boston?

The Bucks took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Celtics in their second-round series with a 113-101 Game 4 win Monday. Giannis Antetokounmpo (39 points, 16 rebounds and four assists) dominated, and Milwaukee outscored Boston by eight in 14 minutes without him.

Teams with home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 98% of the time – 75% of the time in five games. Milwaukee will have a chance to end this series in Game 5 Wednesday.

“This is what makes an average team from a great team,” Antetokounmpo said. “…You have an opportunity to be up two games, and we were all ready.”

Before the game, Antetokounmpo said the Bucks already did their job by winning one in Boston. That sparked questions about their urgency tonight, but they quashed those with a spirited effort.

Questions for the Celtics are only beginning, and they start with Irving. He reignited speculation into his impending free agency a few months ago, and this is the type of playoff loss that could send him packing. Game 5 might be important for nothing else but to convince him that Boston did better than to just get steamrolled.

Winning that game would likely require better play from Irving, who had 23 points and 10 assists tonight – but on 7-of-22 shooting with four turnovers and five fouls. His shooting the last three games (all Milwaukee wins):

  • 4-18 (1-5 from beyond the arc)
  • 8-22 (2-8 from beyond the arc)
  • 7-22 (1-7 from beyond the arc)

The Celtics must also find an answer for Antetokounmpo. After fouling him a lot in Game 3, Boston was more hands-off tonight. So, Antetokounmpo cruised to 15-of-22 shooting, including 13-of-17 inside the arc.

Still, Antetokounmpo attempted 10 free throws. He is a load. Nobody fouled him more than Irving, who called most attention to how “ridiculous” it was Antetokounmpo drew so many fouls in Game 3.

Once again – and maybe foreshadowing this summer – Irving was doing his own thing.

Raptors drop Kawhi Leonard tribute video

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Wednesday night, Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto for the first time since leaving the team last summer to head to Los Angeles.

Unlike most returns in recent years, there will not be boos — Toronto will welcome Leonard back with open arms. He won them a ring, there are no hard feelings.

The Raptors already dropped a tribute video on Twitter.

Well done, Raptors.

It’s going to be fun to see his return, which will be a celebration — and should be a good game.

Ja Morant admits he was thinking about cameras on baseline during return to court

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Monday night, Grizzlies star rookie Ja Morant returned to the court after missing four games with what was officially called “back spasms,” but in reality was him recovering from his back hitting a courtside cameraman after a fall.

Morant scored 26 to lead the Warriors to a win in Golden State, but he admitted to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes that when he drove the lane and went up he thought about his landing spot and those cameramen.

Following the contest, Morant acknowledged that instead of solely focusing on being the best version of himself, he occasionally found himself thinking about the proximity of camera operators while driving in the paint.

“It’s tough because I know I just have to do more controlled jumps now,” Morant told Yahoo Sports. “But at the same time, I’m just trying not to think about it and still try to play my game. It’s just a tough situation all the way around, honestly….

“I just think player safety should be first and foremost. How I play and where I end up, [cameramen] are right there. Personally, I like to attack the rack, and I feel like that injury came from me attacking the rack and it was just nowhere to land for me.”

Morant echoes the concern of a lot of players and coaches.

The NBA is aware of the issue, back in 2014 they reduced the number of cameramen on the baseline by half (down to 10 per side) and created a four-foot-wide “runway” on either side of the stanchion that players can run up if they have a full head of steam.

That’s not close to eliminating the problem. The NBA is not going to remove those cameras — the NBA is in the entertainment business, and those cameras provide some of the best video angles and still shots to show fans — but expect it to take another look and review its process here.

What we don’t want to happen is the game loses a promising young player like Morant for a lot more than four games after a run-in with a cameraman.

Bulls’ Otto Porter out at least one more month with fractured foot

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The Chicago Bulls miss Otto Porter. He was a starter on the wing for nine games, scoring 11.2 points per game, hitting 40 percent of his threes, playing solid defense, and the Bulls offense was 8.3 points per 100 possessions better on offense when he was on the court. He’s a steadying influence as a veteran.

However, he has been out the last 16 games with a foot injury, and he’s going to miss at least another month, the Bulls announced Tuesday. The Bulls said Porter saw a specialist and he “confirmed the bone injury and healing response in Porter’s left foot consistent with a small fracture that has become more clearly defined with repeated imaging over the last five weeks.”

What that means for Porter is another month in a boot.

Chandler Hutchison‘s bruised shoulder has him in street clothes, too, which means Kris Dunn will remain the starter for now. Denzel Valentine has used a bump in minutes to show some growth in his game, play fairly well, and make a push for even more run of late.

But without Porter, the Bulls are not the same.

 

 

Report: Kevin Love would prefer to play for Portland if traded

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are listening to trade offers for Kevin Love.

Love’s reaction to this is essentially “whatevs.” He’s been in the middle of trade rumors for four years now, it’s as constant and annoying in his life as taxes.

However, if he is going to get traded, he’d prefer to go home to Oregon and play for Portland, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Love would prefer to play for his hometown Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple league sources. The Blazers make perfect sense as a destination for Love; they need help for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after the team has been decimated by injuries….

The Blazers have the salaries to make a deal work with the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) or Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million).

There were previous reports Love just wants to go to a contender. That said, there is logic to him wanting to go home, and there is a good fit in Portland, a team that needed help at the four before injuries rocked the roster. Love is averaging 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, is shooting 37.1 percent from three, and remains one of the best outlet passers in the game.

Making a trade work is trickier. Bazemore has to play a much larger role after Rodney Hood was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, his availability is up for debate.

Hassan Whiteside can make the trade numbers work with his expiring contract, and Whiteside won’t be missed once Jusuf Nurkic (and even Zach Collins) returns from injury. However, the Cavaliers are going to want draft picks or young players to help with their rebuild to make this trade. Would the Blazers throw in a protected first to make this happen?

There also is this question any team trading for Love has to ask itself: Do we want to take on the three-plus years remaining on his four-year, $120 million contract? That’s a lot of money and years for an All-Star player who is productive but aging, and also has a lengthy injury history.

Portland can also try to trade for Danilo Gallinari and his expiring contract with the Thunder, which has a lot less risk involved.

Love, however, would be popular in Portland, and he would help the team.