Dwightmare continues for Howard and the Lakers

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Dwightmare continues for Howard and the Lakers

BOSTON - The Lakers were down 30 points to the Celtics midway through the fourth quarter.

Kobe Bryant didn't touch the floor in the fourth. Neither did Steve Nash or Antawn Jamison. Metta World Peace was subbed out around the nine-minute mark after an official timeout.

But Dwight Howard stayed in. The tables had been turned. He wouldn't watch from the bench this time. Coach Mike D'Antoni was sure of that once Howard "decided" to play.

He was left in, deserted by D'Antoni until he inevitably fouled out when he was down 25 points with 5:27 to play.

Bad back? Nah, not bad enough for his coach. Bum shoulder? Meh.

CSNNE.com asked D'Antoni why Howard was left in the game -- in the condition he's supposedly in (or not in, depending on who you ask) -- with all other main rotational guys out.

"Because I think he needs to get his rhythm," D'Antoni said to the media hoard just outside the Lakers locker room. "He's been out for a week, and surely wasn't tired. So just trying to find him some rhythm."

Ah, rhythm. In a fourth-quarter lineup featuring Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jody Meeks, and Earl Clark; a lineup that Howard will rarely -- if at all -- ever be in again.

Howard had missed the last three games -- all wins for the Lakers -- but not at the decision of trainers or D'Antoni. According to D'Antoni, Howard could have played.

"Yeah, he's been cleared for a while," he said. "I mean, he's always clear because he has a tear. It's going to be there but he had pain, so obviously he's not going to play with the pain, and he felt better today. That's why he played."

There's that "pain" shot again. The same one that Kobe Bryant gave Howard prior to Thursday's game. Bryant said to ESPNBoston.com, "We don't have time for Howard's shoulder to heal. We need some urgency." Bryant also said that pain is "something that you have to balance out and manage."

D'Antoni echoed that after Thursday's loss, saying, "Well, Howard has to work his way through pain because we don't have a whole lot of other solutions right now with Pau Gasol being out especially."

The process of Howard figuring out his health, though, has admittedly been problematic for D'Antoni.

But while the coach said Howard has been cleared to play for a while now, and "his health his fine", Howard was quick to disagree. He's also not taking much stock in what D'Antoni and teammates are putting out for public consumption.

"I can't get involved with what they've been saying to the media," Howard told CSNNE.com. "I understand they've been saying certain things, but I know my health. I haven't been cleared for weeks to play.

"This is my body, and I have to control my body and my future and my career. So I can't worry about anybody else."

Howard has made that abundantly clear. It's "he" before "we". His team, on the other hand, couldn't care less about the injuries he may or may not have.

And there lies the problem. The disconnect between Howard and the Lakers is quite apparent. It looks and sounds like a player not willing to sacrifice his future for a team he doesn't see in it. And it looks and sounds like a team not willing to sacrifice the present for a future it simply doesn't have.

That has inevitably made things "Dwight Howard vs. Lakers", and as the record shows, it's just not going to work.

"Hopefully they'll start supporting me the way they need to," Howard told CSNNE.com. "Until then, I'm going to continue to do whatever I can to help our team win."

When he "decides" to, anyways.

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.