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

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who visits the hardware store?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who visits the hardware store?

For Day 3 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our panel to take a trip to the hardware store and predict which Celtics player might bring home some of the NBA’s hardware by winning a postseason award.

Outside of maybe only Most Valuable Player, there’s an argument to be made that a Celtics player, coach, or executive could muscle their way into the conversation for the league’s other top honors. Alas, you’d have to rewind to the 2007-2008 season to find the last time the Celtics found themselves in that spotlight when Kevin Garnett won Defensive Player of the Year and Danny Ainge was Executive of the Year.

Celtics players haven’t muscled their way into the voting much in recent seasons. Last year, only Marcus Smart charted on an award while finishing eighth in Defensive Player of the Year. Jayson Tatum was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017-18, while Al Horford was fifth in Defensive Player of the Year balloting that season. Isaiah Thomas was fifth in both MVP and Most Improved voting for the 2016-17 campaign.

But if the Celtics are to outkick most prognosticator’s expectations this season, they’ll need someone on their roster to at least vault into the conversation for these awards.

So who is most likely to earn themselves a shiny trophy?

Our vote went to Marcus Smart for Sixth Man of the Year. With the glut of wing depth this season, we believe there’s a strong chance that Smart will initially shuffle back to his familiar bench role, allowing coach Brad Stevens to trot out a versatile starting lineup featuring Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and a big (with Enes Kanter the early favorite to hold that starter job initially).

Stevens has long preferred to deploy Smart in a reserve role, allowing Smart to set the tone for the second unit while also providing another ball-handler for the second group. The Celtics went away from that last season when Smart elevated from a bench role in November and started 60 games overall. Kyrie Irving routinely advocated for Smart, noting how much he enjoyed playing alongside him at the start of games, which only solidified Smart’s spot with the first unit.

A similar script could certainly unfold this season. But it would be the most Marcus Smart thing if he’s the player that embraces shuffling to the second unit and allows Hayward, Tatum, and Brown to play with the first group.

Yes, the Sixth Man award tends to honor a high-scoring player on one of the league’s top teams. But if the Celtics overachieve this season, there will be extra attention on the player(s) that spearheaded the second unit. Smart, with his All-Defense pedigree and improving offensive efficiency, could dive into the conversation for Sixth Man the same way he pounces on a loose ball.

Abby Chin: Gordon Hayward, Sixth Man of the Year

I believe Hayward will be almost — if not fully — back to his Utah self this season. But, with the glut of talent on the wing, and Hayward's ability to facilitate the offense on that second unit, it might make the most sense for him to come off the bench again. I think Hayward will finish games on the court, he just may not start there.

 

Sherrod Blakely: Brad Stevens, Coach of the Year

The Celtics will finish with a record that exceeds the expectations of many, and will include wins over East favorites Philly and Milwaukee.

 

Max Lederman: Gordon Hayward, Most Improved

Hayward has been in the lab all summer working on getting back to the player he was before the injury. He had a few flashes last season, but was a shell of his former self. I know this award tends to go to a young breakout player but I think a really strong start to the season could make some folks consider taking a different approach with their votes.

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Isaiah Thomas out 6 to 8 weeks after latest injury for ex-Celtics star

Isaiah Thomas out 6 to 8 weeks after latest injury for ex-Celtics star

Isaiah Thomas just can't seem to stay healthy since leaving the Boston Celtics two years ago.

Thomas underwent left thumb surgery Wednesday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks as he recovers, the Washington Wizards announced.

Thomas suffered the injury -- a rupture of the radial collateral ligament in his thumb -- during "routine workouts" Monday, according to the team.

It's another tough break for the 30-year-old point guard, who's appeared in a total of 76 games over the last three seasons due to a nagging hip injury that required surgery last March.

Thomas' hip injury, which he sustained during his career season for the Celtics in 2016-17, essentially derailed his career to date, as he's bounced between the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets since then.

Thomas finally appeared healthy after signing with the Wizards in July, but it appears his Washington debut will have to wait. The Celtics' first matchup with the Wizards isn't until Nov. 13 -- exactly eight weeks from Wednesday -- so there's a chance Thomas can return for a Boston reunion.

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