Celtics not lacking confidence as they prepare for Cavaliers

Celtics not lacking confidence as they prepare for Cavaliers

WALTHAM – When it comes to preparing to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s not a lot you can do to adequately prepare.

For the Boston Celtics, having faced Milwaukee and Philadelphia already in the playoffs has been a good prelude to now having to battle the Cavaliers for the right to advance to the NBA Finals.

Game 1 of their best-of-seven series will be Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden.

​Looking back on their first two playoff series against Milwaukee and Philadelphia, both the Bucks and Sixers have a difference-making playmaker with a power forward or super-sized small forward’s body.

But as important as it is to try and slow James down, you can’t allow those around him to have big nights.

“We’re going to try and slow down LeBron as much as we can but we can’t let those other guys be special,” Rozier said. “When those other guys are playing special, the Cavs are one of the toughest teams to beat in the NBA.

Boston’s Terry Rozier explains how games against the Bucks and Sixers provided a good opening act of sorts for what’s in store for them in this series led by James.

“Transition and rebounding, both teams love to do that, that we just faced,” Rozier said. “Milwaukee is similar to the Cavs. You got Giannis always trying to push the ball in comparison to LeBron. You got the shooters that you have to pay attention to. And playing against Philly, they like to flare on the weak side and stuff like that and always be active, keep you on your toes. So, both teams unique and they got us prepared for this one. It’s gonna be a great test for us, a great matchup. I feel we’re ready.”

Boston’s Marcus Morris echoed similar sentiments, well aware that the Celtics will go into this series as expected underdogs despite being the higher seed.

“We’re coming,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “You would be a fool to count us out of anything.”

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30 teams in 30 days: Another struggle in New Orleans for Boogie and The Brow

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30 teams in 30 days: Another struggle in New Orleans for Boogie and The Brow

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The New Orleans Pelicans. 

Anthony Davis has waited patiently for the New Orleans Pelicans to assemble a cast around him that could be competitive in the West.
 
Still waiting...
 
The Pelicans have more big-name players on their roster this season, but those players, by and large, are well past their primes. And that will likely result in yet another playoff-less season.

 
New Orleans’ best hopes of bucking the odds and become a competitive, playoff-caliber team will hinge on how a couple of former Celtics perform.
 
Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo, both members of Boston’s 2008 championship team, will be looked upon to provide solid play as well as veteran leadership.
 
Rondo, now 31, a four-time All-Star, was in and out of the Chicago Bulls lineup last season before emerging in the playoffs with a pair of strong performances against the Celtics, which put Boston in a 2-0 series hole despite the first two games being at the TD Garden.
 
However, the point guard broke his right hand in Game 2 and was unable to return, which proved to be a major turning point as Boston went on to win the series in six games.
 
In Allen, the Pelicans add one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. And while he is 35, he doesn’t come with the kind of wear and tear you typically associate with a player his age.
 
That’s because Allen has not ever been a player to log major minutes. This past season in Memphis, Allen averaged a career-high 27.0 minutes per game.
 
Despite playing limited minutes, it still didn’t keep him from being recognized for his defense, which has led to him being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first or second team, six times (first team in 2012, 2013 and 2015; and second team in 2011, 2016 and 2017).
 
Those veterans will be important, but the key to making this work for New Orleans lies in how well Davis and DeMarcus Cousins mesh.
 
Acquired just before the trade deadline in February, the Pelicans were just 7-10 with Cousins in the lineup and 4-4 when he did not play.
 
However, that came on the fly, which is why there’s optimism in New Orleans that Davis and Cousins will work together even better with a training camp under their belts.
 
Ultimately, the Pelicans have to field a team that can be competitive, if for no other reason than to appease Davis.

While Davis has shown no signs of wanting to play elsewhere, you have to wonder just how much patience will he have with a New Orleans team that has made just one playoff appearance in his five NBA seasons.
 
Of the other 13 lottery picks from his draft, only one (Kendall Marshall) has made fewer playoff appearances.
 
Anything short of a playoff appearance will only lead to more questions about Davis being traded.
 
"I understand it's a business, but if I don't hear anything from Dell [Demps, the Pelicans general manager] or my agent, I don't pay attention to it," Davis told reporters this summer, regarding the rumors about being traded to Boston. "Once I first heard [the rumors], then I heard it again, then I heard it again, I just wanted to make sure. I found out it wasn't [true], and that was the beginning of the summer, so I haven't paid attention to it since."
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Tony Allen (Memphis); Rajon Rondo (Chicago); Ian Clark (Golden State).
 
Key losses: Tyreke Evans (Sacramento); Tim Frazier (Washington); Terrence Jones (Qingdao Doublestar of Chinese Basketball Association); Langston Galloway (Detroit);
 
Rookies of note:
 None.
 
Expectations:
31-51 (fifth in the Southwest Division, 14th in the West).
 

30 teams in 30 days: Westbrook-George duo puts Thunder back into West mix

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30 teams in 30 days: Westbrook-George duo puts Thunder back into West mix

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Oklahoma City Thunder .

“Real g’s move in silence like lasagna.”
 
It was a catchy one-liner from hip hop artist Lil’ Wayne a couple years ago.
 
And in so many ways it describes how Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti seemingly came out of nowhere to orchestrate one of the more stealth trades last season in landing Paul George in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
 
Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal season, winning the MVP while averaging a triple-double of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
 
Still, as good as Westbrook was, he was going to need help if the Thunder were to be anything more than first-round fodder for teams with more depth and overall talent.
 
In comes George, whose trade demand led many to believe he would wind up in Los Angeles with the Lakers, or possibly with the Celtics, who were among the favorites to land the two-way standout who has been named to four All-Star teams (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) and three All-NBA defensive teams (first team in 2014, second team in 2013 and 2016).
 
He’ll be a free agent next summer, with most anticipating he’ll play for the Lakers. A successful run in Oklahoma City could lead to a change of heart for George, as well as Westbrook, who has a player option after this season which would allow him to hit the free agent market as well.
 
Westbrook and George give Oklahoma City a dynamic tandem for sure.

Still, their place among the top teams in the West is cemented in part by the pieces surrounding their 1-2 punch of Westbrook and George.
 
Steven Adams is a bruising, physical 7-footer who gives Oklahoma City a strong presence around the basket defensively and an active body to attack the glass.
 
Last season, he averaged 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and should be able to be even more impactful with Sabonis out of the picture and the addition of Patrick Patterson, who is a stretch big capable of providing more opportunities for Adams at the rim.
 
The Thunder’s potent scoring punch gets headlines but Oklahoma City has a very underrated defense that returns most of its key players from a year ago when they ranked among the best teams defensively.
 
Oklahoma City was ranked among the top 10 in several key defensive categories such as a defensive rating (105.1, 10th in the NBA), defensive rebound percentage (.790, 3rd) and blocked shots (5.0, 10th).
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Paul George (Indiana); Patrick Patterson (Toronto); Raymond Felton (Los Angeles Clippers).
 
Key losses: Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Domantas Sabonis (Indiana);
 
Rookies of note: Terrance Ferguson.
 
Expectations:
54-28 (first in the Midwest Division, third in the West)