For three quarters, the Boston Celtics struggled to find their way in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Warriors. The Celtics trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half and trailed 92-80, heading into the fourth.
However, the Celtics exploded in the fourth. Al Horford scored 11 of his 26 points in the quarter; Jaylen Brown poured in 10 of his 24 points, and Derrick White added 13 of 21 points in the second half as Boston outscored Golden State 40-16 in the final stanza to defeat the Warriors 120-108 at Chase Center.
Game 2 is Sunday night in San Francisco.
In the fourth, Boston tightened the screws on defense and got hot at the right time as they shot 68% from the floor, including 9/12(75%) from deep.
Marcus Smart, who had 18 points, said the team stuck to their game plan and started to make shots.
“It hasn’t been our first time being down in that position, nor in this game, let alone all season,” Smart said after the win. “We came in with a game plan. For us, it was just to stick with it, believe in ourselves. Kept doing that. As you see, everybody starts to catch fire, get hot, things start to go our way.
Boston has been involved in two Game 7s, including winning on the road against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, and according to Brown, this team is battle-tested.
“We’re battle-tested,” Brown said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through a lot of experiences, a lot of losses. We know what it takes to win. I give credit to every guy in that locker room from top to bottom. We got a great, resilient group.”
It took Horford 15 years and 141 playoff games to get to the NBA Finals, and in Game 1, with the game tied at 103 late in the fourth, Horford scored eight straight points.
“I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time,” Horford said. “Also, Derrick White hit some tough shots there, too. Yeah, it was just get the looks, knock ’em down, that’s that.”
Steph Curry scored 21 of his game-high 34 points in the first quarter. Curry made six threes(the most ever in a Finals quarter) in the first quarter. Despite the loss, Draymond Green is not concerned.
“We’ll figure out the ways we can stop them from getting those threes and take them away,” Green said. “But no, I don’t think it was a rhythm thing. We pretty much dominated the game for the first 41, 42 minutes. So we’ll be fine.”
Boston stole this game and should be happy that they found a way to get this victory, especially when you consider their best player, Jayson Tatum, had only 12 points on 3/17 from the field, but he did impact the game in other ways, as he had a game and career-high 13 assists and five rebounds.
Great win for the Celtics, and man, they look the part, but there is still a lot of series left.
After falling in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at home, the Boston Celtics knew they would have to come up big if they wanted to defeat the Miami Heat in Game 7 Sunday night.
Boston never trailed in Game 7 as Jayson Tatum had 26 points and 10 rebounds; Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown added 24 points apiece as the Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors after defeating the Heat 100-96 at FTX Arena.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday night at Chase Center.
With the win, Boston returns to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
“It’s the biggest game of the season, of my career, and I just had faith that we were going to give it all we had, regardless of the outcome,” Tatum, who was named Eastern Conference finals MVP, said after the win. “But it feels great, honestly. Some of those guys been to the Eastern Conference Finals four times; it’s my third time. Obviously, we know we want to win a championship, right, but to get over this hump in the fashion that we did it, obviously, we took the toughest route possible, and then to win a Game 7 to go to a championship on the road is special.”
Boston had its largest lead of 17 points in the second quarter and led 98-85 with 3:35 left in the fourth. However, Miami went on a furious 11-0 run to cut the lead to 98-96 with just under 20 second to go with the ball in the hands of their best player, Jimmy Butler, who scored a game-high 35 points and had Al Horford on his heels.
However, Butler pulled up for three, which was short, and Smart hit two free throws to seal the game. Butler appeared to have had the advantage and probably could have gotten a layup or fouled, but he went for the win, which he was comfortable with after the game.
“My thought process was go for the win, which I did,” he said. “Missed a shot. But I’m taking that shot. My teammates liked the shot that I took. So I’m living with it.”
According Horford, who will be making his first NBA Finals appearance after 141 career playoff games, the most in league history, Butler’s shot was nerve-racking.
“Yeah, I was loaded,” he said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do. It seemed like he was going to go for the shot, but I had to make sure that I stayed solid and when he pulled up for the three, I was like, let me contest the best way that I can. He got a good look at it, and it was nerve-racking. It was nerve-racking. He pulled up, and anything could have happened there. He could have made the shot and fortunately contested it enough, and he missed it, and we were able to get control of the ball.”
Boston’s Brown had this reaction to Butler’s shot: “I didn’t want to give up an offensive rebound, but when he shot that, I was like, man, what the hell. But he missed, we get the rebound, we move on.”
The Celtics made a lot of changes last offseason. Their former head coach Brad Stevens replaced Danny Ainge in the front office, and they hired Ime Udoka as head coach.
It wasn’t all pretty for Boston as they got off to a slow start this season, and at one point were 18-21 on January 6, but through it all, they battled, fought, and now they’re in the NBA Finals.
For Udoka, who became the first rookie head coach to win multiple Game 7s in NBA history, this win epitomized Boston’s season.
“It’s been a long road obviously throughout the season,” Udoka said. “Feels like it was always meant to be this way, difficult, obviously, two Game 7s in the last two series, and shows what I said about our group, that we fought through a lot of adversity this year, a resilient group, and tonight seemed to kind of typify our season.”
The Celtics split the season series with the Warriors, but that means nothing. Both teams are playing well, and both teams have found ways to get the job done. The Warriors have the experience as no player on Boston’s roster has played in an NBA Finals’ game, but Boston has defied the odds all season long, and we’ll see if that continues in the Finals.
The Philadelphia 76ers and new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey were very busy on draft day in the NBA. According to reports, the team will send Al Horford and picks to the Thunder for Danny Green. On draft night, Philly sent Josh Richardson and the draft rights to Tyler Bey, the 36th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the Mavericks in exchange for guard Seth Curry.
With Richardson, the Mavericks get an athletic guard who can score a little bit and defend. The 27-year-old Richardson averaged 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 55 games (53 starts). Richardson played four seasons in Miami before being dealt to Philadelphia as part of a four-team deal last summer. The five-year can opt out of his contract at season’s end.
The 76ers get shooting with Curry, and the six-year guard gets to play for his father-in-law, Doc Rivers. Curry is married to Rivers’ daughter, Callie. Last season, the 30-year-old Curry averaged 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 64 games in his second stint with the Mavericks, and more importantly for the 76ers, Curry shot 45% from three-point land.
Philadelphia is looking to reshape their roster, and you wonder if there are more moves to be made. To be able to unload the 34-year-old Horford, who signed with Philadelphia last offseason and had three-years, $81 million left on his contract, is incredible. If there was any contract that seemed unmovable, it was Horford’s deal with the 76ers. While it cost him picks, Morey got it done. We’ll see what’s next in Philadelphia, but you get the sense that Morey is not finished remaking this team.
Al Horford to the 76ers has become official, the team announced today. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $109 million deal.
For the 76ers, this is an opportunity to build on what they did last season. Philadelphia was a few bounces away from possibly moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals, and based on what happened to the Warriors in the NBA Finals, Philadelphia could have easily won an NBA title last season.
“We’re excited to welcome one of the NBA’s best front-court players in Al Horford to Philadelphia,” said 76er GM Elton Brand. “He has built his reputation around hard work and a tradition of winning, which are the same qualities that have formed the foundation of the 76ers. Al’s playmaking, elite defensive talents, and veteran leadership confirm why he is a crucial addition to our roster. We have gained a championship-level teammate that will not only complement our current makeup but will help grow our young core as we strive for the highest level of success.”
Last season, the five-time All-Star appeared in 68 games (all starts) for Boston and posted 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 29.0 minutes per game, joining NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only two players in the league to hold such averages.
The acquisition of Horford, 33, does two things for the 76ers. First, it weakens the Boston Celtics. Horford did a great job against Joel Embiid. Also, it allows Embiid to learn from a 12-year veteran, who is a consummate professional.
The time is now for the 76ers, and by re-signing Tobias Harris, acquiring Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler, and bringing in Horford. Philadelphia is looking to win a championship next season.
The Philadelphia 76ers were very active on the first day of free agency. They reportedly re-signed Tobias Harris to a five-year deal, traded Jimmy Butler(signed four-year deal with Miami) to the Heat in a sign-and-trade for Josh Richardson(deal still being worked on), and signed Al Horford to a four-year contract. Also, Mike Scott re-upped with the team, and JJ Redick has moved on to the Pelicans. These deals can’t be official until July 6.
So, at this point, Philly’s projected starting lineup is Ben Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford, and Joel Embiid. That is an excellent lineup, and this lineup has the potential to be very good on the defensive end. All the starters will be at least 6’6″ or taller. However, is it better than what they had to finish last season? Not so sure.
One of the issues Philly had before they brought in Butler, was not having a guy who can beat you off the dribble and effectively create their own shot. Butler did that for the 76ers. He was a guy you can give the ball to and ask him to make a play, which was on full display against the Raptors in the playoffs, where he led the team in points per game(22.0) and assists per game(5.6). He was Philly’s best player in that series. People forget it was Butler who tied the game up late in the fourth quarter before Kawhi Leonard hit that miracle shot to close out the series. With Butler taking his talents to South Beach, it’s going to be imperative for Ben Simmons to step up. Simmons, who made his first All-Star team last season, can do a lot, but since he has not developed his jump shot yet, he can’t be your closer. Also, Harris is a good offensive player. However, while he is solid off the dribble, he is not Butler, and for as good as Embiid is, he is not a guy who can get a shot off the way Butler can late in games.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this new lineup works for Philadelphia. It’s definitely more versatile and more athletic, on paper than what they had last season, but in terms of better, time will have to be the judge of that. Remember, this team was a couple of bounces away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals and beating the eventual champions, the Toronto Raptors.
Obviously, they will add more pieces to this roster, but for now, it’s too close to call on whether this starting five and team will be better than what they had last season.
I guess we gotta see how this all plays out!
When the season ended for the Boston Celtics, many believed that Kyrie Irving had played his last game with the team. Irving, who will be an unrestricted free agent, had reportedly been unhappy in Boston for most of the season, so him wanting out of Boston is not that much of a surprise. However, what surprised many was the report that Al Horford, who has a player option for next season, may opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. Horford is scheduled to make $30.1 million in 2019-20.
While the 33-year-old Horford may opt out of his contract, reports are that he and the Celtics could come together on a multi-year deal. However, Horford should garner a lot of interest on the open market, and according to ESPN’s Amin Elhassan, Horford could be harder to replace than Irving.
“I think he’s(Kyrie Irving) going to move on. I think the Celtics have known that he’s going to move on for quite a while,” Elhassan recently told Paul Gant. “I don’t think that was as unexpected to them as the Al Horford stuff. That’s the kick in the gut for them because you are talking about a guy who they thought they could lock in at a lower number for a few more years. Now, it looks like he’s looking to leave. He’s been the backbone of a lot of their success there. Defensively, he has been their best player, and offensively, such a high IQ player. To lose him, I think that would be difficult to replace piece for the Celtics.”
Horford, with his versatility, would be harder to replace, and losing him would hurt the team. Therefore, it’s imperative that Boston does whatever it can to keep him around.
Listen below as Elhassan talks Celtics, 76ers, Rockets, Warriors, and more: