Joel Embiid

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

NBA News: A. Sherrod Blakely's choices for All-NBA Teams

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NBA News: A. Sherrod Blakely's choices for All-NBA Teams

BOSTON -- While there are still games left to be played that will decide the postseason fate of some NBA  teams, decisions on who will garner some regular-season hardware are pretty much set.

Although the Western Conference is still widely considered better than the East, actual team records shows a clear shift in power at the top with two of the top three records in the league belonging to teams in the East (Milwaukee and Toronto).

But with any team’s success, ultimately it comes down to the star players getting it done.

And with that, here’s a look at my All-NBA First, Second and Third teams.

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee: The Greek Freak was all that and then some, all season. Already a star before the season, Antetokounmpo took his game to another level and should be on the short list for league MVP.

Paul George, Oklahoma City: The injury a couple years ago that many thought might derail his career, has only driven him to be an even better, more complete player in the NBA this season.

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia: A dominant inside force who can occasionally make you pay with his perimeter game, Embiid racked up 59 double-doubles this season including a pair of triple-doubles.

Stephen Curry, Golden State: The former two-time league MVP had one of his most efficient seasons offensively, averaging 27.6 points per game while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from 3-point range.

James Harden, Houston: The reigning league MVP is once again deeply entrenched in the conversation, and will finish as the league’s top scorer with a 36.1 points per game average.

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM

Kawhi Leonard, Toronto: Still the best two-way player in the NBA, Leonard ranked seventh in both scoring (26.7 points) and steals (1.78) this season.

Kevin Durant, Golden State: You know you’re one of the game’s best when you can drop 26.1 points per game and it seems like a ho-hum, not-bad kind of season.

Nikola Jokic, Denver: The Nuggets’ ascension was fueled in large part by Jokic’s breakout season in which he tallied a dozen triple-doubles.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City: The emergence of Paul George overshadowed another historical season for Westbrook who will once again average a triple-double on the season.

Kyrie Irving, Boston: The Celtics not having the kind of regular season success many anticipated took a little shine off of Irving’s season. But him being a more efficient scorer while continuing to break defenders down with his ball handling and playing better defense, are factors that’ll keep Irving among the game’s elite.

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers weren’t very good, but that didn’t keep James from having another all-NBA caliber season in which he averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: He can’t (or won’t) shoot 3’s or long-range jumpers, but that still hasn’t kept Simmons from being one of the bright, young stars of the NBA.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota: One of just seven players averaging at least 20 points (24.4 points) and 10 rebounds per game (12.4), Towns also shot an impressive 40 percent from 3-point range.

Damian Lillard, Portland: Only James Harden and Stephen Curry had a higher scoring average than Lillard’s 25.9 points per game average, among NBA point guards this season.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah: The second-year guard made tremendous strides individually and team-wide in leading the Jazz to the second-best record in the NBA after the All-Star break.

Honorable Mentions: Kemba Walker, Charlotte; Anthony Davis, New Orleans; Devin Booker, Phoenix; Bradley Beal, Washington; Victor Oladipo, Indiana.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

 

Marcus Smart's shove of Joel Embiid costs him $50,000 fine

Marcus Smart's shove of Joel Embiid costs him $50,000 fine

Not having Marcus Smart around for most of the second half of loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday night proved costly to the Celtics. 

And as we discovered Thursday, there will also be a cost to Smart — a hefty one, mind you. 

The NBA announced that Smart, who was ejected after he “forcefully” pushed Sixers center Joel Embiid in the back and to the ground in the third quarter, will be fined $50,000 for the incident. 

The league announced the higher-than-usual fine amount was due to “repeated acts of unsportsmanlike conduct during NBA games, including two prior incidents this season which have resulted in fines.”

Smart was fined $25,000 for his role in a pushing incident with Cleveland’s JR Smith during the preseason and was fined $35,000 in January for an incident involving him and Hawks guard De’Andre Bembry. 

The latest flareup involving Smart occurred in the third quarter after Embiid delivered a screen that sent Smart tumbling to the floor. 

Smart rose to his feet soon afterward and, with Embiid’s back to him, Smart ran up and delivered a two-handed push that sent Embiid to the floor. 

Players from both teams, as well as the officials, stepped in between the two to prevent the incident from escalating. 

Boston went on to lose the game 118-115, but at the time of the incident, the Celtics were ahead by double figures. 

While Smart’s absence wasn’t the reason why Boston lost the game, it stands to reason that not having their best perimeter defender around didn't help.

Still, that doesn’t make the disappointment any less for his teammates and coaching staff. 

“I’m disappointed in Marcus [Smart],” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens after the loss. “We need you; [Aron] Baynes is already out. We need him to be in the game, no matter what happened. We needed that to happen.”'

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.