76ers

NBA Playoff Notes: Celtics' Thomas out for playoffs; Spurs' Leonard to miss Game 3

NBA Playoff Notes: Celtics' Thomas out for playoffs; Spurs' Leonard to miss Game 3

Updated: 7:20 p.m.

BOSTON -- Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas will miss the rest of the playoffs because of a hip injury, further damaging -- if not outright dooming -- the team's chances in the Eastern Conference finals against Cleveland.

The Celtics made the announcement Saturday, a day after Thomas left Game 2 at halftime. The Cavaliers already led by an NBA-record 41 points at that point, and they went on to a 130-86 victory that gave them a 2-0 lead over the top-seeded Celtics in the best-of-seven series.

The Celtics said Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in Game 6 of the East semifinals against Washington. The swelling increased during the first two games against Cleveland, team doctor Brian McKeon said, and Thomas was limping on the court just before halftime on Friday night.

"Isaiah has worked tirelessly to manage this injury since it first occurred," McKeon said. "In order to avoid more significant long-term damage to his hip, we could no longer allow him to continue."

Thomas did not travel with the team to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday. The Cavaliers could finish off the sweep with victories in Cleveland.

"He was pretty despondent not to be able to play," Boston coach Brad Stevens said Friday night. "He's a tough guy, and for him to have to sit is really hard."

A 5-foot-8 guard who was the last selection in the 2011 NBA draft, Thomas emerged as a star this season, averaging nearly 29 points and leading the league in fourth-quarter scoring.

Last week, he earned All-NBA second team honors, the first Celtics player to be selected to the All-NBA first or second team since Paul Pierce in 2009.

He was scoring 23.3 points per game in the playoffs -- including a 53-point game vs. Washington that was one shy of John Havlicek's franchise postseason record (see full story).

Spurs: Leonard (ankle) out for Game 3 in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard will not play against Golden State in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals because of a sprained left ankle.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Leonard was not happy being told he will sit out with the Warriors leading the series 2-0.

"Kawhi is out," Popovich said. "I spoke to Kawhi, we spoke to everybody, we all speak about it," Popovich said. "In the end, I guess it's my decision. He's not thrilled he's not playing, but he's not ready."

Leonard, who was selected to the All-NBA first team on Friday, has not played since aggravating the injury in the third quarter of Game 1 and has not participated in practice other than light shooting.

He initially injured the ankle against Houston in Game 5 of their second-round series on May 9 after inadvertently stepping on James Harden's foot while in transition.

Leonard aggravated the injury twice in the third quarter of Game 1 against the Warriors on May 14, including a controversial close-out by Zaza Pachulia that Popovich called "dangerous" and "unsportsmanlike."

Pachulia, who suffered a bruised right heel in Game 2, will also not play in Game 3.

Leonard returned to Game 1 against Golden State after stepping on the foot of teammate David Lee, who was sitting on the bench. But shortly after returning, Leonard landed on Pachulia's foot while attempting a 3-pointer and had to be helped off the court.

The Warriors were expecting Leonard to play despite the injury, with Kevin Durant stating he was "100 percent" certain the All-Star forward would start Game 3.

The news also took the Spurs by surprise.

"No Kawhi?" Danny Green asked incredulously during Saturday morning's shootaround when asked about playing without Leonard.

"Still hope. I'm still going to hope until tipoff that he's going to show up with a cape."

The Warriors have outscored the Spurs by 61 points since Leonard exited Game 1 with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter. San Antonio was leading 78-55 when Leonard exited, but Golden State went on a 16-0 run and has not looked back since the series-altering injury.

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Perhaps the Sixers have been underestimated a bit.

Outside of Joel Embiid’s health, all of the chatter going into the playoffs was about how the relatively inexperienced roster would handle the big stage. 

Sure, the team has a crop of veterans that have been there and done that. However, young impact players such as Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were all getting their first taste of the postseason.

So how are they feeling about it to this point?

“I love it,” Embiid said at Friday’s practice. “I live for these moments. I thrive in this type of atmosphere. I think I was built for this, especially playoff basketball.”

Embiid appears particularly fond of the postseason in environments where the Sixers are short on support.

After missing the first two games of the series in Philadelphia while still recovering from orbital fracture surgery, Embiid stepped back into the starting lineup on the road in Miami.

Was getting barked at by rowdy fans in hostile territory going to be a problem? Not for the villain now known as “The Phantom of the Process.”

“I actually think I play better on the road because I just love the atmosphere,” Embiid said. “I just love looking around the arena, people booing, people going against us. That just takes my game to another level.”

The Sixers’ performance isn’t the only thing that has been taken up a notch. Their intensity level and physicality have jumped in this first-round matchup with the bruising Heat.

“I said it before, I wish it was like this all season,” said Simmons, who is averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game in the series. “I’m enjoying it. It’s very competitive and that’s the type of basketball I want to play.”

“It’s basketball. It’s fun,” Justin Anderson said. “Playing like that is fun. Every possession matters. You can tell there’s not a lot of empty possessions. Guys are getting shots up on every possession.

“… It’s intensified. It’s just basketball. It’s the best basketball in the world, and we’re putting ourselves in a position to hopefully go and get another one in Game 4.”

Heat's Justise Winslow fined $15K for stepping on Joel Embiid's mask

Heat's Justise Winslow fined $15K for stepping on Joel Embiid's mask

The NBA dished out some swift justice on Friday night.

Heat swingman Justise Winslow was fined $15,000 by the league for unsportsmanlike conduct after intentionally stepping on and attempting to damage Joel Embiid’s mask during the Sixers’ Game 3 win in Miami (see story).

With 7:51 remaining in the second quarter, the goggles portion of Embiid’s mask fell onto the court. Winslow stepped on the goggles with his left foot before picking them up and trying to break them with his hands.

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

The incident definitely didn’t stop Embiid in his postseason debut. The big man returned from orbital surgery to put up 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the Sixers’ 128-108 victory.

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.”