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NBA PM: Celtics Showed Resilience in Game 3

The Boston Celtics showed grit in stepping up and beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3

James Blancarte



Many NBA fans have been excited for the potential second rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Last year’s NBA Finals included arguably as much drama and intrigue as any in recent history. This season both teams have been playing well and by many metrics were the two best teams in the regular season.

In the playoffs, the two teams have been steamrolling opponents, making an NBA Finals rematch appear to be all but certain. While fans indeed have been waiting for the potential to continue the rivalry between the two teams, they also wait for the rematch for another reason.

The playoffs so far have largely lacked drama, which can be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on one’s perspective. There had been a chance that the two NBA Finals opponents would have arrived without having lost a single game. The possibility that the two NBA Finals teams would be undefeated sounds intriguing but is also solid proof that the playoffs have lacked drama for the two best postseason teams so far.

On Sunday, the Cavaliers, who came out to the Space Jam Monstars theme music due to their seemingly unbeatable play, lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 3. The game ended with everyone holding their breath, waiting for Celtic’s guard Avery Bradley’s three-pointer to finish bouncing around the rim. When the ball finally dropped, the Celtics had finally finished the upset, coming back from a 21-point deficit and leaving the Cavaliers stunned.

In stealing Game 3, the Celtics saved NBA fans by injecting a little drama into this series and prevented both the Cavaliers from entering the Finals undefeated.

Marcus Smart helped us appreciate the heart the Celtics have when describing the moment the team found out at halftime of Game 2 that Isaiah Thomas had been hurt and that he wouldn’t be returning for the remainder of the playoffs.

“IT [Isaiah Thomas] sent out a text saying and let us know he was not gonna be with us anymore. That was devastating. He’s a big key to this team,” Smart said. “So, we lost our brother who couldn’t be in this battle with us, we understand it, we thank him for it. But he kept talking to us and you know you can still do it. Everyone was counting us out and we just kept believing in ourselves.”

Smart spoke highly of Thomas as a leader, a supportive teammate and what he meant to the team. Yet it was Thomas’s absence that gave Smart the opportunity to have a career game with 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds while hitting seven of 10 three-pointers.

Avery Bradley hit a similar note, saying the following after losing Game 2 and Thomas to injury.

“It was hard. You know it was embarrassing.  I know everyone leaving the arena after last game, we were all pretty down. Once we were able to get together the next day, we decided that we’re just going to go out and play hard,” Bradley said. “We knew that if we came out and played hard we would give ourselves a chance. We saw that tonight and we’re going to continue to play like that the rest of series.”

Although he didn’t shoot well from the field (8-23), Bradley scored twenty points and helped to orchestrate this victory. Led by Bradley and Smart, who together led the team in minutes played, the Celtics stepped up on a night in which nearly everyone expected the Celtics to lose, including Las Vegas odds makers.

However, LeBron James touched on Thomas’s absence from a different angle.

“They play so freely without IT,” James said. “And they just made play, after play, after play and we couldn’t weather the storm.”

The Celtics moved the ball, didn’t have to wait for Thomas to initiate most of the action on offense and everyone got involved and contributed. As Thomas and Smart said, they were determined to play hard and not back down. In this game, six different players scored in double figures for the Celtics, including backup forward Jonas Jerebko, who had previously been out of the rotation. In fact, Jerebko hit a big shot on a play that had been originally designed for Bradley.

“I mean [the play] was for me to lay the ball up,” Smart stated. “But it was a play that I knew that if they helped, Jonas [Jerebko] would be wide open and he was able to knock down the shot.”

In addition, the Celtics were now no longer relying on a player who is severely undersized on the defensive end and can create a number of negative defensive mismatches, which can hurt the team. According to ESPN’s Defensive RPM metric, Thomas ranks dead last among point guards (by far) with a -4.17 score. Thomas is an unbelievable player and it’s hard to argue they are better without him. However, for one game, the Celtics played with energy, rallied without their fallen leader and exploited the advantages of playing without him.

The Celtics brought more energy and caught the Cavaliers off guard. And even though a number of things had to go in favor of the Celtics for them to win this close game, the Cavaliers were reminded that they are beatable, especially when James has an off night.

“I had a tough game period,” James said bluntly. “Me personally, I didn’t have it.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens discussed the team’s approach to guarding LeBron.

“Well, first of all, I think there is only so much you can do. We just tried to be as solid as possible. We tried to switch a little bit less.” Stevens said. “We have a couple of guards that are bigger guards. And we just tried to rotate bodies on him.”

Without Thomas, the Celtics were able to use a bevy of bigger guards and forwards on James to attempt to disrupt his play. James can reflect on how a suddenly more capable defense was able to hold him to only 11 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists, while missing all four of his three-point attempts and figure out what he can do to adjust as he also prepares for the NBA Finals.

Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue described James’s off night.

“He’s human, he’s going to have a night like this,” Lue said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well and we still had a 20-point lead.”

The Cavaliers need to be able to compensate when James is being defended well and is having a poor game. When discussing this loss, which certainly is a disappointment for a team that had been playing so well, James struck a more positive note after the game.

“I’m kind of glad it happened the way it did,” James said. “I feel that some adversity is all part of the postseason. I feel like you have to have some adversity in order to be successful.”

Winning without much resistance, without having to fight back from deficits and fight back on nights when your best player or players aren’t playing well can be detrimental in the long run. Looking forward, this game can serve as a wake-up call or a learning experience on how to adjust when James is limited or when another team is rolling.

“And so, I’m glad, I mean, if it was going to happen [letdown loss], let it happen now and let us regroup,” James said. “Let us regroup and get back to playing desperate basketball which they did tonight and so we got to be a lot better.”

James recognizes this as an opportunity to be humbled and embrace the need for better effort and a sense of urgency. When the NBA Finals do finally come around, the Cavaliers will most likely be the underdogs and perhaps this learning moment will help them adapt more effectively.


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NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte



UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler



Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects –

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft

With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

Spencer Davies



No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.

A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.

Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three of those boxes checked off.

“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”

During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.

Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.

From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?

“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”

Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even in aspects outside of his offensive ability.

“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”

Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.

A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.

“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”

VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.

“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.

“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”

However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.

“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”

Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.

But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”

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