Boston Celtics

Celtics-Sixers preview: Don't be fooled by Philly

Celtics-Sixers preview: Don't be fooled by Philly


You hear a lot of talk these days about how the Celtics have the cushiest of cushy schedules to close out the season, a schedule that’s chock full of teams that have spent the bulk of this season getting their heads beaten in.
 
Of the Celtics’ 13 remaining games, nine are against teams at .500 or worse.
 
Still, for folks like me who have watched a lot of these bad basketball teams play this season, which includes way more Sixers basketball than any human should consume, there’s a narrative surrounding most of them that’s undeniable.
 
The way they are playing now is better – a lot better in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers – than their pitiful record might suggest.
 
While the Celtics will be favored to beat Philadelphia this afternoon (Vegas has the C’s as a five-point choice), would anyone outside of New England be surprised if the Sixers came away with the victory?
 
And despite Philly’s struggles, they play Boston about as tough as any team in the league.
 
The Celtics has won each of their three games this season against the Sixers, but only by a total of 13 points which speaks to how the games between these two has been closer than Boston certainly would want.
 
And unlike previous matchups, in which the Sixers seemed to be more about developing players than doing what was necessary to win, it’s clear that Philadelphia isn’t satisfied with just competing with teams anymore.
 
Dare we say it, the Sixers are (gulp)...trying to win games?
 
Philadelphia is coming off a 116-74 win over Dallas, one of the franchise’s most lopsided wins in nearly a decade.
 
And they’ve taken teams that - on paper - they are overwhelmingly overmatched against, down to the wire, evident by a 106-104 loss at Golden State earlier this month.
 
“You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Golden State’s Draymond Green said recently. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing [Joel] Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."
 
Embiid, whose season was shut down after just 31 games (he missed each of the two previous seasons entirely due to injuries), was a dominant force when healthy. He led the Sixers with 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game.
 
Ben Simmons, taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Sixers last June, has not played in a single game this season due to injuries but, he too, is a player with promise.
 
Their absences have helped fellow Sixers rookie Dario Saric emerge not only as a key cog in Philadelphia’s growth, but also one of the front-runners for the NBA’s rookie of the year award, along with Embiid.
 
Still, as much improvement as we’ve seen in Philadelphia, the Celtics have shown they too are making progress towards being more than just one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
 
With Isaiah Thomas (knee) out, his absence has allowed others an opportunity to thrive.
 
Jae Crowder is coming off his seventh double-double of the season in Boston’s 98-95 win at Brooklyn on Friday. He had season-highs in scoring (24 points) and rebounding (12) as the Celtics (44-25) won their third straight with their East-leading 21st road victory of the season.
 
That means for the first time under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens, the Celtics will have a winning record away from the TD Garden.
 
When asked by CSN’s Abby Chin about the difference playing without Thomas, Crowder responded, “More shot opportunities; for real, seriously.”
 
This season, Crowder averages 9.8 field goal attempts per game. In the five games Boston has played without Thomas, his field goal attempts rises to 10.6.
 
More telling is how Crowder, a 13.5 points per game scorer this season, increases his scoring output to 16.2 points per game sans Thomas, while shooting 50.9 percent from the field.
 
With Thomas out, Crowder and several other Celtics will surely be looked upon to step their game up.
 
Despite Philly’s record, their play of late and the confidence they have with wins in two of their past three games, makes today’s matchup a game that Boston should win, but it will not be easy.


 

Durant admits to ‘childish’ and ‘idiotic’ third-person tweets

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Durant admits to ‘childish’ and ‘idiotic’ third-person tweets

Kevin Durant cops to using secret social media accounts to respond to his critics and says he regrets calling out the Thunder and former coach Billy Donovan. Click here to read more from NBCSports.com

30 teams in 30 days: Have Mavs gotten Dirk enough help?

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30 teams in 30 days: Have Mavs gotten Dirk enough help?

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 Dallas Mavericks.

When it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, everything essentially begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki.
 
The future Hall of Famer is entering his 20th NBA season and still ranks among the tougher players to defend in the NBA.

But Father Time is gaining ground on the Nowitzki, 39, which is why the Mavericks have wisely added the kind of talent around him the past couple of years that should take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders and, just as important, put the Mavs back into contention for a playoff spot after failing to get there last season following a stretch of reaching the postseason 15 out of 16 years.
 
The Mavericks will look to bounce back from a 33-49 season, one in which injuries played a major factor in the team’s struggles.
 
Nowitzki appeared in just 54 games last season, averaging 14.2 points - the fewest he averaged since his rookie season (8.9 points).
 
Among the few Mavs to stay relatively healthy was Harrison Barnes, who led the team with 19.5 points per game average while appearing in 79 games.
 
Dallas had a solid season defensively and solidified their interior by trading for Nerlens Noel in February.
 
A restricted free agent this past summer, Noel and the Mavericks were unable to come to terms on a long-term contract. And without the benefit of an offer sheet, Noel had no leverage in getting the kind of near-max salary he was seeking.
 
So, he eventually signed a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer.
 
One of the main areas the Mavericks will look to improve upon this season is scoring after averaging a league-low 97.9 points per game.
 
Having better team health overall will help, as will the addition of high-scoring combo guard Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Selected by Dallas with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft, the 6-foot-2 guard did a little bit of everything in his lone season with North Carolina State, where he averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.
 
He was just as impressive in helping lead the Mavs to a 5-1 summer league record in Las Vegas, earning a spot on the NBA All-Summer League first team by averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions:
Josh McRoberts (Miami); Jeff Withey (Utah).
 
Key losses: None.
 
Rookies of note: Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Expectations:
37-45 (third in the Southwest Division,10th in the West).