Celtics

About Last Night in the NBA: 76ers roll without Joel Embiid; White spurs Spurs

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About Last Night in the NBA: 76ers roll without Joel Embiid; White spurs Spurs

WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT

FORSBERG: Spurred on to victory; Better without Boogie?

I’m gong to take an extremely premature victory lap here, Sherrod, because, heading into the playoffs, it really felt like the Nuggets were ripe to get upset and the Spurs should be up 3-0 in that series right now. 

In Thursday’s Game 3, Derrick White put up a Kyrie-like stat line (36 points on 15 of 21 shooting) and was an absurd plus-30 over 33 minutes in San Antonio’s 118-108 victory that put the Spurs up 2-1 in the series. Thursday’s game put a spotlight on why I wasn’t sold on Denver going into the playoffs. As amazing as Nikola Jokic has been, you can’t count on the rest of Denver’s young core to bring it on a night-to-night basis. Jamal Murray made all the big shots to save Denver late in Game 2 and then he puts up 6 points on 2-of-6 shooting and was minus-25 in 31 minutes in Game 3. More damning: He got eaten up by White.

Listen, Denver might steal Game 4 and find a way to escape this series. But the way they finished the season, they just never seemed like a real threat in the West. Denver has the eighth-youngest team in playoff history and it might be catching up with them. The Nuggets could really use another veteran presence, someone with playoff experience to steady this group. And the fact that Isaiah Thomas can’t even get on the court for them is just plain sad.

My other takeaways from Thursday’s slate: If Ben Simmons needs Jared Dudley to light a fire under him in the playoffs then Philly’s point forward needs to figure out how to more regularly get himself motivated for the postseason stage. The Sixers, of course, have bigger concerns with Joel Embiid sitting out with knee soreness. 

I said it when DeMarcus Cousins went down and I’ll say it again after the Warriors rolled Thursday: Golden State is better without Boogie. Now their four stars can just go play without worrying about how to integrate Cousins and mask his deficiencies on the defensive end.

BLAKELY: No Embiid, no problem; White-out for Denver; Warriors restore order

The Sixers looked so much better in Game 3 with no Joel Embiid, who was hurt and most likely is going to be hobbled/limited throughout this series and potentially future ones. It feels almost like karma that he wasn’t able to play in Game 3 considering the vicious elbow he landed to the jaw of Jarrett Allen and the fact that in the middle of him apologizing about it, both Ben Simmons and Embiid began laughing about the incident. “I’m not usually humble, that’s why he’s laughing,” Embiid said at the time while Simmons, next to him, continued to chuckle at his teammate's “remorseful” apology. 

San Antonio’s Derrick White is a great example of the power of player development. He lit up the Nuggets for a career-high 36 points. Not bad for a kid who spent a ton of time in the G-League and before that, played NAIA, Division II and Division I basketball before having his shining moment last night in putting San Antonio ahead 2-1 in their best-of-seven series with Denver. 

No real drama with Kevin Durant and the Warriors who did pretty much what we all expected them to do in this series with the Los Angeles Clippers and that’s just dominate. 

SO... THAT HAPPENED


THURSDAY'S SCOREBOARD

  • 76ers 131, Nets 115 (PHI leads 2-1)
  • Spurs 118, Nuggets 108 (SA leads 2-1)
  • Warriors 132, Clippers 105 (GS leads 2-1)

NUMBER OF NOTE

James Harden's line vs. the Jazz: 32 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. He's the 6th player in NBA playoff history with multiple 30-point triple-doubles, joining a pretty elite club (LeBron James, Oscar Robertson, Russell Westbrook, Charles Barkley and Wilt Chamberlain).

THEY SAID IT...

“Derrick White came out like he hadn’t eaten in two days. He came out hungry, he came out pissed off.”

--Nuggets head coach Mike Malone on Derrick White’s career-high 36 points. 

WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT

FORSBERG: Setting the Pace

Can the Celtics deliver a knockout punch in Indiana? While the talent disparity in this series is obvious and the Pacers clearly lack a closer to help them put away games, you can absolutely make the case that Indiana could be up 2-0 right now. Still, it just doesn’t feel like this series is going much beyond 5 games and the Celtics have an opportunity Friday night to ensure that. 

Here’s the thing: The Celtics have had a propensity to downshift every time they’ve gotten a little bit complacent this season. They’ve never made anything easy on themselves. So it’s hard to imagine they start now.

But they really could benefit from making short work on Indy. With the Bucks rolling through the Pistons, the more rest and preparation that Boston can get, the better. In order to do that, they need to strike early tonight and not let the Pacers get any sort of confidence on their home turf.

Coach Brad Stevens is well aware of his team’s propensity to throttle down. He mentioned it after Game 2 how, even in last year’s playoffs, Boston loved to dig itself an early hole after going up 2-0 against the Bucks, Sixers, and Cavaliers. You’ll remember Boston lost to the Bucks by 24 and the Cavaliers by 30 (and only got by Philly after a premature confetti drop).

Point here: Celtics need to play with urgency and not like a team that’s content after simply holding serve on its home turf.

In the other series, interested to see if the Magic can make Toronto work again or if Game 1 was just an outlier. The Raptors dominated Game 2. … I’m still stunned the Thunder are down 2-0 but the Blazers’ backcourt has been fantastic. Will Russell Westbrook or Paul George have a big night with the series shifting to OKC and the Thunder in a must-win situation?

SHERROD: Road Celtics

Even though the reputation is that Boston is a good road team, the reality is they’re not; at least not in the playoffs where they have lost 11 of their last 13 road games. A big key to them turning that around will be Al Horford, who was a game-time decision because of an illness. He played but clearly wasn’t himself. That didn’t stop him from grabbing 10 rebounds or making the defensive play of the night when he blocked a Bojan Bogdanovic lay-up attempt that led to the game-winning shot by Jayson Tatum which became part of a 10-0 run by Boston to end the game. 

Speaking of Tatum, his Game 2 performance was the best we have seen him in a tight, down-to-the-wire game that came on a night when 1) it was a big game and 2) Kyrie Irving also had it going offensively. The Celtics will need Tatum to continue improving as the Celtics get deeper into the postseason.

The Raptors reminded us all as to how potent they can be, but does what we saw in Game 2 travel? The only real surprise in the Blazers' 2-0 series lead, is that they won Game 2 by 20 points. I anticipated the home team would fare well for most if not all of this series, and that the games would all be close. 

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE

  • Celtics at Pacers, Game 3 (BOS leads 2-0) — 8:30pm, NBC Sports Boston (Celtics Pregame Live at 7:30pm)
  • Raptors at Magic, Game 3 (Series tied 1-1) — 7:00pm
  • Trail Blazers at Thunder, Game 3 (POR leads 2-0) — 9:30pm

Kyrie Irving's high school coach sees him going to Knicks

Kyrie Irving's high school coach sees him going to Knicks

BOSTON -- When it comes to Kyrie Irving’s future, it seems everyone has an opinion...including his high school coach. 

Kevin Boyle, Irving’s coach at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., is among those optimistic that the 6-foot-3 guard will sign with the New York Knicks this summer after he becomes a free agent. 

“I think there’s a good chance in my opinion that Kyrie ends up here [in New York],” Boyle told SNY.tv’s Ian Begley, while making it clear that he was speaking as a fan and not someone who knows what Irving’s plans are for next season. “In my gut, I would think that would work best for him and I would think that [the Knicks] have a really strong chance of that happening.”

It would be a mistake to dismiss Boyle’s opinion, especially when you see that he has worked with some of the NBA’s top players when they were in high school. 

In addition to Irving, Boyle has also coached Joel Embiid, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (he was a teammate of Irving’s in high school), D’Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons as high schoolers.

All of those players, except for Kidd-Gilchrist, have gone on to become an NBA All-Stars. 

This season, the Knicks aggressively went about creating roster vacancies and salary cap space to absorb two, maximum-salaried players in what will be a summer where elite, difference-making talent will be available and that includes Irving. 

Because the Knicks now have a pair of max salary slots, Irving is believed to be one of the primary targets of New York, along with Golden State’s Kevin Durant. 

And the Knicks, owners of the No. 3 pick in the draft next month, are likely to select R.J. Barrett of Duke - another player Boyle has coached.

He tells SNY.tv that pairing Irving and Durant with Barrett might make for better chemistry than the group that Irving played with in Boston this past season. 

"Because they [the Celtics' young players] were starting to get established in the NBA, starting to have a lot of success the year before [without Irving in the playoffs],” Boyle said. “With RJ, he has a great balance with respect and learning. [He'll think], 'Hey, I'm getting better, whether it's [behind] Kyrie or another guy, it's their show right now and I'm learning how to play with him or under them until it's my turn. I think he'll be receptive to that and I think he'll be a perfect complement to those guys."

After arguably his best individual regular season in terms of scoring efficiency and defense, Irving went from difference-maker to a dud in the Celtics' second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, who needed just five games to end Boston’s season. 

Irving had arguably his worst four-game stretch last season in four consecutive losses to Milwaukee.

In those final four games, Irving averaged 19 points while shooting 30.1 percent from the field and 18.1 percent (5-for-27) on 3-pointers, to go with 4.3 assists - all below his season averages. 

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Celtics Exit Interviews: Can Hayward regain his All-Star form?

Celtics Exit Interviews: Can Hayward regain his All-Star form?

2018-19 STATS

11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists. 46.6 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 109.8 Offensive Rating

This was supposed to be the comeback season for Gordon Hayward after missing all but the first five minutes of the 2017-2018 season with an ankle/leg injury. His season was one of both highs and lows, with the latter being more prevalent in the playoffs with his numbers down across the board relative to what he did during the regular season.

ROOM FOR GROWTH CHECKLIST

1. Consistency: There were just too many games, even after his health was no longer an issue, when he would be just out there providing little at either end of the floor. He’s too talented and too important to this team to have too many games like that going forward.

2. Aggressiveness: Part of Hayward’s struggles this past season had to do with him not attacking the ball more, at both ends of the floor. He’s a much better two-way player than what we saw this past season.

3. Focus: Hayward will have a normal offseason where the focus will be on improvement and not just simply getting on the floor, which was the case last summer. With that uncertainty behind him now, look for Hayward to lock in on what he has to do this offseason to improve to where he’s closer to being the All-Star player he was prior to arriving in Boston. 

HIS FUTURE

Hayward just completed the second year of the four-year, $127.8 million contract he signed in 2017. And while the first two years have not gone the way Hayward or the Celtics want, there’s no urgency on Boston’s part to trade him and he seems genuinely happy to be a Celtic. Plus, finding a taker for the remaining $66.8 million he’s owed seems unlikely. That said, all signs — for now at least — point towards Hayward being back in the fold as a Celtic next season. 

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