Three takeaways from Boston, Jayson Tatum taking 2-0 lead vs. Toronto

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You could start to sense the desperation. Toronto came out more aggressive from the start, they were attacking in Game 2 and it made this one a close game the whole way. But in the end, the same issues — smaller stars guarded by bigger Celtics, no halfcourt offense — came back to bite the Toronto Raptors.

The Boston Celtics won 102-99 and now has a commanding 2-0 series lead. There’s not a simple “if Toronto makes this adjustment” steps for them to get back in this series. It’s going to take something more than that.

Here are three takeaways from Game 2 and the series.

1) Toronto’s stars are not getting the job done

In Game 1, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet combined to shoot 3-of-16 from three. In Game 2, that was 3-of-19. Pascal Siakam was more aggressive in Game 2 but is still getting pushed around by smaller defenders and can’t score over them consistently. With the game on the line and a last chance to tie it up, Siakam stepped out of bounds.

Toronto’s three biggest stars are struggling, particularly in the halfcourt offense, it has put the Raptors in a hole and there are no simple fixes or answers. Scoring in the halfcourt was always going to be tough for the Raptors, but this is brutal. Toronto had 16 fast-break points in Game 2, closer to their season average, but easy buckets are a rarity. There are the few times Lowry gets a guy switched onto him he can take inside, but mostly the guys covering the Raptors two guards are bigger and more athletic, and that’s been a problem.

There are bright spots. Toronto’s defense was much better and sparked a third-quarter run. More guys need to cut like OG Anunoby off the ball. Toronto was attacking in Game 2.

But if the threes don’t start falling from Lowry and VanVleet, there aren’t Xs and Os Nick Nurse can draw up to change everything.

2) Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart are great — but what about the Time Lord

Jayson Tatum is the best player in this series. Flat out. And he had 34 points in Game 2.

Marcus Smart was critical for Boston with five threes and, as expected, some critical defense down the stretch.

But what we really want to talk about is how the Time Lord Robert Williams carried this team in the first half.

3) Toronto was down 0-2 to Milwaukee last playoffs and came back. This feels different.

In last year’s playoffs, it felt like Toronto was about to get steamrolled by Milwaukee, they were down 2-0, and they came back to win the series and the title. You have to knock out the defending champs, there will be no winning this on the judges’ cards for Boston.

Still, this doesn’t feel like a year ago. The Kawhi Leonard factor is part of it, but also that Raptors team just had more options to go to, and the Bucks didn’t have enough counter moves. Brad Stevens and the Celtics have plenty of counters.

Toronto has to start draining some threes at a ridiculous rate to turn this thing around.

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.