Horford on Butler’s shot: ‘It was nerve-racking’

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.

Miami’s Lowry on Butler: ‘He’s one of the best players I’ve played with’

Jimmy Butler has been one of the best players in the 2022 NBA playoffs, and on Friday night, with their backs against the wall, the Miami Heat needed him to be at his best.

Well, he delivered. 

Butler scored a playoff-career-high 47 points as the Heat avoided elimination and defeated the Celtics 111-1o3 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden. 

The seventh and deciding game is Sunday night in Miami. The winner will battle the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Butler, who recorded his fourth 40-plus point game in these playoffs, got a special call from Heat legend Dwyane Wade before the game, which according to Butler, was well needed.

“D-Wade never hits me until his voice is really, really needed,” Butler said. “And it was. I texted him and told him I appreciate him for it. Just to let me go out there, continue to build on that legacy, and make sure that we win.”

“It’s (expletive) incredible,” Kyle Lowry, who had 18 points and 10 assists, said about Butler’s performance. “He’s such a humble basketball player. The work he does put in, I witness it. It’s incredible to have a guy like him next to me. I’ve played with some great players, and he’s one of the best players I’ve played with.”

This performance by Butler was very similar to LeBron James’ big Game 6 performance against the Celtics  in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, where the Heat trailed 3-2. In that game, James had 45 points and 15 rebounds, and Miami defeated the Celtics in Boston. That was a great performance, and what Butler did Friday night was equally special. 

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, who had 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists, was impressed by Butler’s performance, but he feels Boston will do a better job against Butler in Game 7.

“He just had it rolling. Made a lot of shots that on film we’ll live with,” Brown said. “Made four threes; I don’t think he’s made four threes in a game all Playoffs, but tonight he came out, and he was aggressive. He played like his back was on the wall, and he had an amazing game, and we just had no answers for him tonight. We’ve got to do a better job — we will do a better job on Sunday.”

Now, it’s onto Game 7, and no one knows what will happen. Boston has won in Miami twice in this series, so they definitely have a shot. 

Who wins Game 7 is anyone’s guess.

Celts’ Udoka on Smart: ‘As always, he sets the tone’

In the Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals series against the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics jumped out early on the Heat and led by as many as 13 in the first half, and had a 62-54 lead at halftime. 

However, Miami would explode in the third quarter and cruised from there to win Game 1.

In Game 2, Boston jumped out early on Miami, and this time, they kept the lead for good. 

The Celtics led by as many as 29 points in the first half and had their largest lead of 34 points in the third as they routed the Head 127-102 Thursday night at FTX Arena to tie series at 1. 

Game 3 is Saturday night in Boston.

Also, in Game 2, Boston got back two starters who missed Game 1 in Marcus Smart(foot) and Al Horford(health & safety protocols).

Smart had a near triple-double with 24 points(8/22 FG), nine rebounds, and 12 assists, and Al Horford added 10 points.

According to StatMuse, the Celtics are 4-0 when Marcus Smart scores 20-plus points these playoffs, and they are 6-0 when he takes 12-plus shots.

“We just wanted to come in and be the harder-playing team tonight, and we did that,” Smart said after the win.

According to Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, Smart, who is the Defensive Player of the Year, always sets the tone, and he set the tone Thursday night.

“Yeah, as always, he sets the tone,” Udoka said about Smart. “Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. Ability to switch and switch on to bigger bodies and just another good defender to throw at Butler, Adebayo, some of those guys and not have to worry about them trying to pick on certain matchups. So he brings the physicality every night, kind of gets everybody else in line, and adding Al back there, as well, is another versatile guy. Wasn’t surprising to see how well we guarded with our guys back.”

Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics with 27 points, was happy with the team’s response in Game 2. 

“I think we just had a better presence about ourselves,” Tatum said. “They kicked our butt last night, and we just wanted to respond and play better on both ends of the floor, and I think we did that.”

The Celtics got the response they needed in Game 2, and more importantly, they stole home-court advantage. Now, as they return to Boston, the Celtics have the momentum on their side, and they’re hoping to take that momentum into Game 3. 

Tyler Herro named NBA Sixth Man of the Year

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro has been named the 2021-22 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, the NBA announced today. 

Herro, the first Heat player to win the award, received 488 total points (96 first-place votes) from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love finished in second place with 214 points (three first-place votes). Phoenix Suns forward Cam Johnson finished in third place with 128 points (one first-place vote).

In his third NBA season, the 22-year-old Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 32.6 minutes in 66 games (10 starts). His scoring average of 20.8 points as a reserve was the highest in the NBA. Herro’s eight 30-point games off the bench were tied for the third-most since the 1970-71 season, and his 20 25-point games were tied for the fourth-most. 

Setting a single-season franchise record with 1,162 points off the bench, Herro helped the Heat finish top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Miami is currently facing the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with Game 2 to be played on Wednesday.

The voting results for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award are below:

Cavs stumble, fall in Miami

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their three-game road trip Friday night in Miami against the Heat. 

Miami had their biggest lead of 17 points in the third as they defeated the Cavs 117-105 at FTX Arena.

With the loss, the Cavs’ (38-28) two-game winning streak is over, while the Heat (45-23) have won four out of five.

The Great for the Cavs:

-For the fourth straight game, Darius Garland recorded a double-double. He had 24 points, and 10 assists, including a career-high 15 free throws made(15/16 FT). The All-Star struggled from the floor(4/17 FG), but he made up at the line. Garland has 20 double-doubles this season, which is also a career-high.

-For the third consecutive game, Evan Mobley had a double-double. The rookie had 19 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. Mobley got his second straight start at center and played well, and he now has the most double-doubles(18) among rookies.

Second Quarter: Cleveland trailed 28-18 after the first quarter and trailed by as many as 14 points(46-32) in the second, but the Cavs picked things up. They went on a 22-7 run to take their first lead of the game and trailed 58-57 at the break. Cleveland shot 68% from the floor, including 60%(3/5) from deep, and outscored the Heat 39-30 in the quarter.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: After a Garland free throw, the Cavs had a five-point lead, which was their largest of the game, but from there, Miami went on a 27-9 run to take complete control of the game.

Miami raised the Heat on the defensive end. Cleveland shot 4/16(25%) from the floor, including 1/7(14%) from three-point range. The Heat outscored the Cavs 27-15 in the third.

Turnovers:  Cleveland had 18 turnovers, which led to 30 points for Miami. If you’re trying to beat the best team in the East, you can’t turn the ball over that many times. The Cavs are a young team, and young teams can be sloppy at times. Currently, the Cavs are 28th in the NBA in turnovers per game.

Bottom Line: 

Look, the Heat have the best record in the East for a reason, and they showed that Friday night. 

Cleveland has back-to-back games on the road against two of the top teams in the East, so hopefully, for them, they can try to get the split against the Bulls Saturday night.

The Cavs have to be better on the defensive end, especially with 30 points in street clothes(Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert). In two out of their last three wins, Cleveland held their opponents below 100 points, so they have to defend at a high level if they want to win. 

As for the standings, the sixth-seeded Cavs are two games behind the fifth-seeded Celtics(41-27) and two games ahead of the seventh-seed, the Raptors.

What’s Next:

Cleveland concludes their three-game homestand in Chicago against the Bulls.

Best of the Rest:

Bam Adebayo had game-highs of 30 points and 17 rebounds; Jimmy Butler added 24 points, and Tyler Herro chipped in with 22 points off the bench.

-LeVert(foot) missed his eighth straight game. 

 

 

Cavs’ Love: ‘We’re living in the moment, but our big-picture goals are toward the end of the year’

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their winning ways Monday night as they defeated the Miami Heat 105-94 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Cleveland led the whole second half,  but in the fourth, Miami cut the Cavs lead to five with over eight minutes left. However, Cleveland would go on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 13. From there, the Cavs would have their largest lead of 16 and would coast the rest of the way. 

The Cavs had five players in double figures Monday night.

Cleveland(17-12) has now won four straight for the third time this season, while the Heat’s(16-12) two-game winning streak was snapped.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

Second Half Kevin Love: The 13-year veteran got hot in the second half. Love scored a season-high 23 points, all in the second half. Love was 6/8 from the field in the second half, including five threes(5/7). He also added nine rebounds.

Love is shooting the ball well right now and has made three-plus threes in five consecutive games.

-Isaac Okoro has been solid in the last three games. He scored 18 points, including four threes(ties career-high) Monday night, and he also helped limit Duncan Robinson to six points on 1/7 from downtown.

This was Okoro’s third straight game of at least 16 points or more, and during this stretch, he’s  averaging 18 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Furthermore, in the last three, Okoro is 7-14(50%) from three-point range.

-Jarrett Allen had 12 of his 18 points(6/6 FG) in the first half, and while his three-game double-double streak was snapped, he did grab eight rebounds and added a block.

Second Quarter: Cleveland outscored the Heat 32-19 in the quarter, and after trailing 25-23 in the first, the Cavaliers took a 55-44 lead at the break. Cleveland turned things up defensively as they held the Heat to 38% shooting from the floor, including 2/12 from three-point range(16.7%).

-Lamar Stevens did not give the Cavaliers much offensively(three points), but he gave Cleveland a big lift with his energy. He, along with Okoro, helped limit Miami’s three-point shooting as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were a combined 1/10 from three-point range.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Third Quarter: Miami started the third on a 10-0 to cut the Cavs’ 11-point halftime lead to one. The Heat outscored Cleveland 29-23 in the quarter. Miami shot the ball well in third as they ended the quarter, shooting 58% from the floor and making five threes(5/9). The Heat cut the Cavs’ lead to 78-73, heading into the fourth. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland is now 8-2 in their last 10 games and won those eight games by at least 11 points or more. In addition, five(Heat twice) of those eight wins are against teams above .500. 

Every night it seems like someone different steps up for this team. Tonight, it was Love and Okoro.

The chemistry Cleveland has is special, and after 29 games, they are the fourth seed in the East. Unreal!!

“We’re living in the moment, but our big-picture goals are toward the end of the year,” Love said.

What’s Next:

Cleveland’s three-game homestand concludes Wednesday night against the Rockets.

Best of the Rest:

Ricky Rubio had seven points and seven assists. Rubio hit a significant milestone Monday night as he recorded his 5,000 assist to the man he started his career in Minnesota with, Kevin Love.

Darius Garland had 16 points, five assists, and three steals.

P.J. Tucker led Miami with 23 points and nine rebounds, including five threes, and Kyle Lowry added 22 points(four threes) and five assists. Miami had five players in double figures.

Watch below as Love, Okoro, Allen react to Cavs’ win:

Mavs’ Kidd on Heat: ‘I would consider them the best team in the league right now’

The Miami Heat(6-1) came into Tuesday’s game against the Mavericks(4-3), riding a four-game winning streak and playing big-time basketball, but Miami got off to a slow start against Dallas and trailed by as much as 11 in the first quarter.

However, the Heat would score 46 points in the second quarter and took control of the game from there. Ultimately, Miami would win their fifth straight and defeat the Mavericks 125-110 at American Airlines Center.

Dallas dropped their first home game of the season.

Here is the Great, Not so Great, and Bottom Line of Dallas’ loss on Tuesday night.

The Great for the Mavericks:

Luka Doncic did his part for the Mavericks. He had a season-high 33 points, to go along with five assists and three rebounds. He led the team in scoring for the seventh consecutive game. Doncic’s streak of seven games is the longest to begin a season in Mavs’ history. 

The fourth-year guard also passed Jason Kidd (5,258) for 14th place on the Mavs’ all-time scoring list. 

-Jalen Brunson got his first start of the season and went 10-13 from the field en route to a season-high 25 points. Brunson also had a season-high-tying seven rebounds to go with three assists.

-Miami native Tim Hardaway Jr. compiled 17 points with three rebounds and three assists against his hometown team.

Not so Great for the Mavericks:

Second-Quarter: Dallas was outscored 46-32 in the second quarter on Tuesday night. Miami shot 68% from the field in the quarter, including 8/9 from three-point range. Tyler Herro scored 15 of his team-high 25 points in the quarter off the bench.

Defense: The Mavericks allowed 125 points against the Heat. In addition, Miami shot 52% from the field, including 13/25 from downtown.  

“Yeah, it’s tough, any team that has 4 or 5 guys in double figures like that, especially the way they shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three and 86 percent from the line,” Brunson said.

-Trey Burke, who is unvaccinated, missed the COVID-19 testing window and did not play Tuesday night and won’t play Wednesday against the Spurs. Burke, who will travel with team, missed the testing window for the second time in four games.

Bottom Line:

It would have been difficult to beat Miami with a full roster, and you knew Dallas would have a hard time defeating the Heat without Kristaps Porzingis(back) and Maxi Kleber(strained oblique). Miami is one of the best team’s in basketball, and that was on full display as they had four players with 20+ points.

“The Heat are – I would consider them the best team in the league right now,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said. “They’re men and they know how to play.”

What’s Next:

The Mavs play the second game of a back-to-back on the road in San Antonio against the Spurs, who they defeated 104-99 in Dallas.

Best of the Rest:

Jimmy Butler (23), Kyle Lowry (22), and Bam Adebayo (22) all scored 20+ points for Miami. Adebayo added 13 rebounds for his sixth double-double in seven games.

According to the Miami Heat, Herro’s 157 points scored off the bench through the first seven games is the most points by a reserve through his first seven games to open a season in NBA history.

Watch below as Kidd talks loss to Miami:

 

 

 

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Heat: ‘I thought it was a tale of two halves’

It was a tale of two halves for the Cleveland Cavaliers(17-32) in Miami on Saturday night. Cleveland had a hard time stopping the Heat(26-24) in the first half. Miami scored 67 points and shot 58% from the field, including 47%(10-21) from three-point range, and ultimately, they led 67-54 at halftime.

Cleveland tightened the screws in the third quarter, which has been an Achilles heel for this team all season long. However, on Saturday night, they came out and defended well. They held the Heat to 17 points in the quarter, including 33% from the field. Unfortunately, Cleveland only scored 19 points in that quarter, and they would eventually fall on the road 115-101.

The Cavaliers have now lost 20 straight games in Miami and have not won there since 2010. 

Miami had seven guys in double figures led by Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, who had 18 points apiece. Adebayo also added 11 rebounds. For Cleveland, Collin Sexton had a game-high 26 points, Taurean Prince had a season-best 19 points off the bench, and rookie Isaac Okoro finished with a career-high 17 points. 

While the Cavaliers lost their fifth straight game and six of their last seven, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was happy with how the team played in the second half, but he knows they have to play a complete game to beat the Heat.

“I thought it was a tale of two halves,” Bickerstaff said. “I thought we were really good in the second half. We come out and hold this team to 17 points; I thought we did a phenomenal job in that second half. I thought our scrap and our grit was much better in the second half. Again, you’re playing a caliber of team like this with the weapons they have. You gotta play it for 48.”

Late in the fourth, frustration started to boil over for the Cavaliers. Darius Garland tried to take a charge on Trevor Ariza, but he was called for a blocking foul. An angry Garland punched the ball and was assessed a technical foul, which led to his ejection.

Bickerstaff took issue with the ejection.

“They decided to throw him out on one technical, which I completely disagree with,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no justification for throwing him out of the game on one technical.”

Cleveland will try to snap their five-game losing streak when they head to San Antonio to battle the Spurs. The Cavaliers will complete their three-game road trip against the Thunder on Thursday night.

Notes:

Kevin Love posted his 1st double-double of the season with 10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one block in 23 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mavericks’ Carlisle was happy with team’s defensive performance against Miami

Coming off a disappointing home loss to the Hornets on Wednesday night, which disappointed both the coaching staff and players, the Mavericks were looking to get back on track against the Heat, and they did.

Luka Dončić led the way for Dallas with 27 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18 points, and the Mavericks(2-3) would go on to beat the Heat(2-3) 93-83 at American Airlines Center on Friday night.

Bam Adebayo led Miami with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Dončić has struggled with his shot this season, especially from three-point range. The third-year player was only 3-10 from downtown on Friday night, but it’s an improvement when considering he was 2-21 from three-point range coming into the game against Miami. 

After all the struggles, Dončić was super excited to make his first three on Friday.

“I was so happy,” Dončić said on making his first three in the game. “I’ve been struggling a lot, so I was happy when I made that three. It made my day.”

Dallas’ win against Miami was about what they did on the defensive end, especially in the second quarter when they held Miami to 15 points, including 16% shooting from the field. Mavericks F James Johnson came off the bench and gave the team a spark on both ends of the court. The former Heat player scored eight points in the quarter, and Dallas led 46-31 at the break.

“(James) Johnson’s given us a big lift off the bench,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. He’s experienced, he makes impact plays at both ends of the floor and he’s unselfish and gets his teammates involved… He’s a great spirit guy for our team. He’s a great leader as a veteran guy. He talks to everybody; he keeps people up on the bench. He’s been a great acquisition for us.”

After losing to the Hornets 118-99 on Wednesday night, Carlisle’s primary focus at practice was the team’s defense.

“We didn’t even talk about offense the last couple of days,” Carlisle said. “We’re just talking about defense, intensity, playing together hard, effort, and the importance of details. We spent a lot of time on the details heading into this game, and it paid off. The stats will show that their 3-point shooters didn’t get going and that’s because we really put forth a good effort to stay on their tails the whole time. We won the rebounding battle, which is always going to be important because that’s possessions. I don’t know what the deflection count was but it was good. We’ve got to maintain, and we’ve got to sustain.”

Dallas has been up and down this season, but this was a good win for Dallas against the Eastern Conference champions, and now they have to build off this victory. According to Johnson, the team was humbled in the first few games, which should help them as they head out on a three-game road trip.

“All of the games are tough,” Johnson said. “They are so quick. But I think we went through our tough stretch in the first three games, honestly. It really showed us where we were at and humbled us. We are locked in. We are ready to get to work and the guys are always excited to come in.”

Dallas begins their three-game road trip on Sunday against the Bulls.

 

Spreading love the Brooklyn way; Nets to sit six players against the Bulls

The Chicago Bulls control their own destiny. If they beat the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, they are in the playoffs. Well, Brooklyn may have given the Bulls an “assist.” Brooklyn will sit the following players for Wednesday night’s game: Trevor Booker, Jeremy Lin, Brook Lopez, Quincy Acy, Joe Harris and Sean Kilpatrick.  I guess this how you “spread love the Brooklyn way.”

The Nets actually beat the Bulls last Saturday 107-106 in Brooklyn. However, this game will be in Chicago.

Three teams (Pacers, Bulls, Heat) fighting for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference. Bulls and Pacers control their own destiny. In order for the the Miami Heat to make the playoffs, they need to win at home against the Wizards, and hope that either the Bulls or Pacers(play Hawks) lose.

Expect the Bulls and Pacers to be in the playoffs!