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17 August 2018, 11:35
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« on: 9 August 2018, 06:42 »

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward exchanged the kind of toothy giggles normally only found between kids on a playground when they were introduced as the new faces of the Celtics.

”It’s about to be crazy http://www.buccaneersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-carlton-davis-jersey , G,” Irving said in the ear of Hayward to a soundtrack of clicking camera lenses as they sat on a dais back in September two days after Boston’s blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Seven months later, Irving has proven to be prophetic – albeit not how he had in mind.

It has been crazy unlucky for the Celtics. Stunning too. Al Horford said even shocking.

And though things haven’t gone as scripted in Boston, the Celtics will open the playoffs at the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference believing they can win it all without their injured offseason acquisitions.

”Finals. I’m very confident,” guard Terry Rozier when asked how far Boston can go. ”Everybody has to be on the same page. And we just gotta play. And play hard.”

That’s been Boston’s calling card throughout the season. They have no choice but to play hard because from Hayward’s gruesome, season-ending left ankle injury on opening night, to the recent pair of left knee surgeries that has sidelined Irving, luck has been in short supply beyond the Celtics’ Leprechaun mascot named Lucky.

Horford acknowledged being shocked when he heard that Irving was done for the season. But he said the time has passed for sulking about misfortunes.

”We can’t dwell on the past,” Horford said. Obviously it makes it more difficult. Kyrie, he’s the leader of this team. We won with him and now we have to find ways to do it without him.”

In addition to Irving and Hayward, Boston will also be without productive rookie Daniel Theis (left knee surgery) for the season and Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery) until at minimum the second round. That’s not to mention a plethora of nagging injuries that have dogged the rest of the roster.

Yet Riley Sutter Capitals Jersey , in an Eastern Conference that features a less-than-dominating LeBron James-led Cavaliers team, Boston veterans Horford and Marcus Morris and its corps of talented young players led by Jaylen Brown, Rozier and rookie Jayson Tatum give it as legitimate a chance as anyone to make it to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics will finish with their second straight 50-win season and their highest number of victories under coach Brad Stevens.

Last season as the East’s top seed, Boston made it to the conference finals in spite of being smacked with adversity on the eve of the postseason following the death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister. Thomas returned to the team, but was then lost midway through the conference finals to a hip injury he’d been quietly playing through.

”With Isaiah, we had him all year. Even though he was banged up, he was with us,” Horford said. ”Now with our group this year it’s different. We’ve been having so many injuries throughout the year that I feel like our guys – we’re much more prepared handling everything that we’re going through.”

The good news is this Celtics team has already done an admirable job of figuring things out without Hayward and Irving.

They’ve played all but five minutes this season without Hayward. In 20 games without Irving they are 13-7.

Irving played his last game on March 11. That’s given Boston time to see what its remaining rotation will look like. One thing it will certainly mean is a lot more minutes for reserves like Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe, as well as rookies Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele.

Stevens acknowledged that there was hope after Irving’s first surgery on his knee last month that removed a tension wire that he would be able to return early in the playoffs. Having him ruled out has ”just solidified that this is where our focus needs to be” he said.

”It’s a great opportunity for the other guys and it’s our job to coach them,” Stevens said. ”I believe in the guys in our locker room. They believe in themselves.”

Without Irving, the most glaring deficiency for Boston is its lack of a go-to scorer. Brown is just a few games removed from scoring a career-high 32 points http://www.ramsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-john-franklin-myers-jersey , and Rozier only recently had a 25-game double-digit scoring streak stopped. He’s also proven to be a dependable defender.

Still, there is a sense in the East that Boston may be susceptible to a first-round upset. Miami and Milwaukee, currently have the same record (43-37) as the No. 6 and 7 seeds respectively. The Heat won 2 of 3 meetings this season with Boston, while the Celtics split their four games with the Bucks. Washington, at No. 8 leads the season series with Boston 2-1 with the series finale set on Tuesday night.

Vulnerable or not, Horford has a message for whoever their first-round opponent is.

”We’re the (No.) 2 seed. We have home-court advantage,” he said. ”And this point, the only thing I can say to that is I can’t wait for the playoffs to start.”



More NBA basketball:

The first one deserved a sequel, which Cleveland won in the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to even things up with Golden State.

Then with Kevin Durant joining Stephen Curry on one side and LeBron James leading the other, the Warriors and Cavaliers sent interest soaring as they rampaged toward the tiebreaker last season.

But the rubber match was a mismatch, and the Warriors are expected to win just as easily this time.

So as Round 4 of the record-setting rivalry begins Thursday night Courtland Sutton Color Rush Jersey , has Warriors-Cavaliers become too much of a good thing?

”I don’t think so,” Golden State guard Klay Thompson said. ”I think the rest of the NBA has got to get better. It’s not our fault. I’m sure if you asked the fans of the Warriors and the Cavs around the world, whether it’s in the Bay Area or in Cleveland, I’m sure they’re happy with their team performance. The only people I hear saying that are fans from other teams, which is natural. I don’t blame them. But as long as our fan base is happy, that’s all that matters.”

It’s the first time in NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL history that the same teams are meeting four straight times in the championship round, and intrigue in the teams hasn’t waned yet. The NBA had its most-watched conference finals since 2012, as both teams had to rally from 3-2 deficits to win Game 7s on the road.

But if this series quickly becomes as lopsided as some fear – ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said he couldn’t remember a bigger gap between finals teams and said any game the Cavs win is a huge upset – many of those people who have tuned in the last few years might be looking for something else to watch by the time the series switches to Cleveland.

”If James and the Cavaliers win Game 1, you know Vinny Curry Color Rush Jersey , the interest is going to skyrocket because they are going to have done what very few – except for them maybe – think they can do, which is win at Golden State,” Van Gundy said. ”If they get blown out both games, it doesn’t matter what we say. People aren’t going to be as excited.”

The players won’t apologize for showing up again, or worry that it hurts the NBA.

”I mean, it may not be as suspenseful as a lot of people want it to be or as drama-filled,” Durant said, ”but that’s what you’ve got movies and music for.”

Some things to watch when the series begins at Oracle Arena:

BE LIKE MIKE

If the Warriors win, it would be their sixth NBA championship and tie them for third on the all-time list with the Chicago Bulls, who won all theirs with Michael Jordan. Then it would be a long way to go from there to catch Boston (17) or the Lakers (16).

MOVING ON UP

James could vault into second place on the NBA Finals’ career lists for points and assists. He has 1,247 points and needs 71 to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1 http://www.seahawksauthorizedshops.com/authentic-rasheem-green-jersey ,317) and move behind only Jerry West (1,679). His 339 assists are 61 behind Bob Cousy (400). Magic Johnson had 584.

SCORING STARS

While matching up on the court, James and Durant could flip-flop on the career postseason scoring list. James currently has a slight edge, with his 28.83 points per game placing him fourth and slightly ahead of Durant, who has averaged 28.75. Durant has been even better in the NBA Finals, with his 32.9 points per game ranking last year’s finals MVP behind only Rick Barry (36.3) and Jordan (33.6) among players who have appeared in at least 10 games.

DOING IT WITH DEFENSE

The much-maligned Cavaliers’ defense has shown up in the postseason, where Cleveland is allowing just 99.9 points per game, second among the 16 teams. The Cavs held Boston under 100 points in four of the final five games of the East finals. More impressively, Golden State kept high-scoring Houston under 100 in five straight games and is right behind Cleveland at 100.3 in the playoffs.

NEW-LOOK LOGO

Viewers will notice something new on the court during the series. The familiar NBA Finals logo has been replaced and the floor will now be marked with one that reads ”The Finals presented by YouTube TV.”



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