kurthelin

Getty Images

Too much Kelly Olynyk, Celtics depth for Wizards in Game 7, Boston wins 115-105

11 Comments

It became a game about depth.

Washington led in the third quarter when coach Scott Brooks had to turn to his bench. Jason Smith was -10 in just over three minutes, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a run that extended to an 18-2 run into the start of the fourth and gave then a comfortable lead. John Wall missed his last nine shots and was scoreless in the fourth, in large part because his legs got tired, Brooks couldn’t trust Brandon Jennings again (after a horrible first half) and tried to ride his backcourt the entire second half.

Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk came in and dropped 26 off the bench, 14 of those in the fourth quarter, and changed the game.

“They was paying a lot of attention to Isaiah (Thomas), teams are gonna do that, and he got rid of the ball quickly and put us in a position to make plays in 4-on-3 basketball,” Olynyk said after the game.

Boston got 29 points and 12 assists from Isaiah Thomas and 48 from its bench — including reserves Olynyk and Marcus Smart making plays down the stretch — and that was enough beat the Wizards 115-105 in Game 7.

Boston advances and will host Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday.

Washington’s starting five — Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat — were +9 in 32 minutes, with a true shooting percentage of 62.3.

But as it has been the case since the start of the year, the Wizards bench could not be trusted. Any lineup with at least one bench player on the court combined to be -19 in 16 minutes. No player from the Wizards bench scored after 6:56 of the 2nd quarter.

Boston, on the other hand, had a bench that won them the game.

“I think the bench was a big factor in Game 5 (a Boston win at home) and Game 7 certainly was as well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Throughout the series, the home team’s bench seemed to play really well. I thought our guys played really well. Obviously, Kelly gave us that enormous lift of scoring in the fourth quarter, but really in the first half as well, he had 12 at halftime on 5-of-7, and I thought Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were really good.”

The game certainly was dramatic, and it had the Celtics fans in full throat most of the game. The first quarter was a yo-yo affair, the Celtics got up 8, and then the Wizards came back to tie it, the Celtics went back up by 7, and the Wizards tied it again. It ended with the Celtics up four. The second quarter stayed closer throughout. The Wizards bench defensive rotations were sad, which helped Olynyk get clean looks. On the other side Otto Porter, who had been scoreless in Game 6, had  12 points and 7 boards in the first half (he finished with 20 and 9).

Boston’s biggest problem was being 3-of-12 from three in first half, and that allowed the Wizards to have a 55-53 lead at the half.

Wizards started second half just hunting Thomas, something they didn’t do enough in this series. Whoever he is guarding, the Wizards tried to post him up. Washington’s starters played well and the Wizards led much of the third, but late in the third the bench came in — Smith blew a defensive coverage within seconds of entering the game — and Boston closed the quarter on a 13-3 run to lead 85-79 after three. Boston hit four of its last six from three, and that helped change the dynamic.

That run extended to 18-2 over four minutes across the quarters for the Celtics. Washington went back to their starters around the 10-minute mark, and quickly it was a 7-0 Wizards run.

But the Wizards could never fully close the gap (they did get it to four). Olynyk and Thomas made plays for Boston, while Beal and Wall’s legs turned to jelly.

It was another step forward for a young and improving Celtics team. They should savor it.

For a day, then the biggest test comes to town.

 

 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: one-and-done a “travesty” for college hoops

Getty Images
5 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar likes experienced players, part of the reason he picked San Antonio to knock off Golden State.

And it’s one reason he thinks John Wooden wouldn’t have the same enjoyment or success if he were coaching today. His coach at UCLA would have disliked how the one-and-done era has changed the college basketball game that the Bruins ruled under Wooden.

“He wouldn’t have been able to do it now,” Abdul-Jabbar said Monday in an interview at The Associated Press headquarters. “It’s a totally different circumstance now. Kids aren’t going to college to get an education and play ball. It’s one or the other.”

The NBA’s draft lottery is Tuesday and the team that gets the No. 1 pick will likely use it on a freshman, such as point guards Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. They might become All-Stars but they won’t arrive in the NBA with anywhere near the resume of Abdul-Jabbar, who won three championships in three seasons from 1967-69 – freshman were ineligible at the time – and was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player each time.

“They’re there less than six months. It’s not even six months and they’re gone,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It’s a travesty, I think. They’re just using the college system as a stepping stone to the NBA and that’s really unfortunate. I think an education is vital to having a good life and these guys aren’t getting that opportunity. It’s sad.”

Dressed in a dark blazer, blue tie and khaki slacks, the goateed Abdul-Jabbar spoke in a studio about his relationship with Wooden in his new book “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court.” The book details Wooden’s influence on his life as a player in college and years later as they became closer when Abdul-Jabbar returned to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers.

Wooden won 10 national championships, most by a men’s coach, but Abdul-Jabbar hopes readers will see that many of Wooden’s best lessons weren’t about sports.

“I hope that they get an understanding of the man, what he was all about and what he gave us in terms of an understanding of how to be good citizens, good husbands, good fathers,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That was really what he was all about. He used basketball just as a metaphor to teach us about life and he did a great job.”

Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s career scoring leader, is now 70 and does some work for ESPN. He picked the Spurs to beat the top-seeded Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

“I went with the Spurs because they have a more veteran team and the way that they play the game will work because they can play an inside game and an outside game,” he said. “Golden State is more of an outside shooting team and they’re very good at it. So that’s why they play the games. We get to go see them and find out if our speculation was accurate or way off base.”

It appeared it was going to be right on, at least for Game 1, when the Spurs built a 25-point lead. But they lost Kawhi Leonard to an ankle injury in the third quarter and Golden State rallied for a 113-111 victory.

“I think San Antonio can challenge them but they’re going to need Leonard if they’re going to take it all the way,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Ian Mahinmi hip checks Isaiah Thomas to the ground, no call

6 Comments

Welcome to Game 7. The whistles will be slow.

If this were the Capitals and the Bruins this would have been a nice play, but Washington’s Ian Mahinmi hip checked Isaiah Thomas the ground and that is illegal in basketball. There was no call (on that part of the play).

It was a pretty physical first half at times. As should be expected in a Game 7. Also sloppy at times as Game 7s often tend to be (because guys are tight).

Clippers make it official, will own and operate new G-League team in Ontario

4 Comments

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers will have their own team in the NBA’s soon-to-be renamed G-League that will be called the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario.

They said Monday that the new team will begin play this fall at Citizens Business Bank Arena, located 40 miles east of Los Angeles. It will bring the Gatorade League to 26 teams, all of which are owned or operated by an NBA franchise.

Coach Doc Rivers says the new team allows the Clippers to develop their young players locally instead of sending them off to play for affiliates of other NBA clubs. No coach has been announced yet.

Agua Caliente Casino Resorts is the Clippers’ top sponsor. The team is named for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, a federally recognized tribe in Palm Springs, California.

Gregg Popovich’s Pachulia rant quite different than what he said about Bruce Bowen in 2006

Getty Images
6 Comments

At Spurs practice Monday, a day after Warriors’ big man Zaza Pachulia slid under the feet of Kawhi Leonard on a jump shot leading to Leonard leaving the game with a sprained ankle and changing the complexion of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Popovich went off on a rant.

“A two-step, lead-with-your-foot closeout is not appropriate. It’s dangerous. It’s unsportsmanlike. It’s just not what anybody does to anybody else. And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action. You can go back and look in Dallas games were he got a flagrant two for elbowing Patty Mills, the play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas and could have broken his arm. Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas and he and David got into it….

“This is crap. Because he’s got this history, it can’t just be, “Oh, it was inadvertent. He didn’t have intent.” Who gives a damn about what his intent was? You ever hear of manslaughter? You still go to jail I think when you’re texting and you end up killing somebody, but you might not have intended to do that – all I care is what I saw. All I care is what happened. And the history there exacerbates the whole situation and makes me very, very angry.”

Even before Popovich’s rant, when Spurs fans were complaining about the play, people were pointing out on Twitter it was ironic that Spurs fans had no problem when it was Bruce Bowen — an elite defender but someone known around the league for this specific play — but it’s different when it happens to their guy.

So after Popovich’s rant, the Internet went to work and people pulled up what Popovich had said back in 2006 to defend Bowen, speaking to the Express-News. Here is the 11-year-old Popovich quote, via Reddit.

Popovich said Bowen is being singled out, citing incidents where New Jersey’s Richard Jefferson and Dallas’ Josh Howard sprained ankles after landing on Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal and Golden State’s Mickael Pietrus.

“Did (the league) call them?” Popovich said. “Did they call all those guys (Dirk) Nowitzki landed on when he sprained his ankles the past three, four years? The answer is no.

“So why did they call Bruce? Because it’s happened to him twice? Bruce guards an All-Star every night. If he was doing what they’re accusing him of doing, wouldn’t it have happened a higher percentage of times? The people who cry about it are just frustrated about having to go against Bruce.”

“The league is just trying to cover its ass,” Popovich said. “I told Bruce, ‘You be Bruce Bowen. You’re the best (expletive) defender in this league. You will NOT change the way you play defense.’

We all do this — our views change on things depending upon how they affect us. We’d all like to think we live by some unbendable moral code, but on many issues our views come down to how it impacts us personally. We see that same thing in politicians and rip them for it all the time, but anyone honest with themselves know we do this in our personal lives to a degree.

Which is to say, I’m not going to blame Popovich for defending his guy. I’ll enjoy the irony, we don’t get enough of that around here anymore, but I don’t fault Popovich.

This also is a note to the league that this is not a new problem for the NBA, and it may be time to tighten enforcement again.