NBA Point Spread

Lonely road for Celtics in New York
2013-04-23

Just a few winding turns up the road on Storrow Drive, the Bruins unveiled a moving tribute to the law enforcement officials who risked their lives to restore order to our neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, 225 miles away, across the state border and deep into sports enemy territory, the Boston Celtics embarked on their playoff run at Madison Square Garden without most of their grieving fan base in tow.
Although the Sons of Doc Rivers wore patches on their uniforms proclaiming "Boston Stands As One," the civic pride that has been wafting over our city felt as though it was a continent away.
The Knicks were respectful, offered the appropriate condolences, then completely manhandled the Celtics during a hideous fourth quarter in which Boston scored just eight points.
And turned the ball over eight times.
Maybe the Celtics were fatigued. Maybe they're just old, like every prognosticator outside the 617 area code has hypothesized. Maybe the Knicks should be credited with a defensive intensity that was both timely and effective. All of the above might be a decent choice.
In any case, Boston collapsed, in unison, in an 85-78 loss that should be filed under the distinct heading "opportunity lost."
That's the only conclusion you can draw when you blow a seven-point lead late in the third quarter and wind up with 20 turnovers.
"Completely unacceptable," said Avery Bradley, in the quiet of his locker room. "We're better than that."
When you force Carmelo Anthony into 13-of-29 shooting and J.R. Smith into a 7-for-19 outing, and play aggressively enough to earn 19 free throws, and then hit every single one of them, you have every right to expect to beat the Knicks.
But you can't when your bench doesn't contribute a single field goal and is outscored 33-4. You can't when you cough up the ball five times in seven possessions during a critical stretch in the fourth quarter.
"Some of them were forced," noted Paul Pierce, "and some of them were just bonehead plays."
It wasn't the feel-good story the Celtics had in mind when they quietly and privately remembered their fellow fallen citizens back home just before tipoff.
"It's been a crazy few days," acknowledged Jason (0-for-5) Terry, whose brutal slump continues in earnest. "(The marathon bombing) is always in the back of your mind, but it had no effect on how we played today."
Give the Knicks their due, both on and off the court. New York arranged for a pregame acknowledgement of Boston's tragedy and invited both Carmelo and Pierce to address the crowd. After Anthony offered his prayers on behalf of his city, Pierce began to speak, and a small smattering of boos interrupted his cadence.
Almost immediately that small kernel of negativity was squelched by the overwhelming number of New Yorkers who applauded Pierce when he announced, "Boston will rise and run again."
There were all sorts of promising early trends for the Celtics. Boston led 29-26 after one, and while that pace would not, on the surface, benefit a defensive-minded team like Boston, which likes to keep its opponent under 100 points, the Celtics had already dished out eight assists and displayed excellent ball movement and hints of transition offense.
By halftime, Jeff Green had scored 20 points (his previous playoff career high was 16) and Bradley had scored 15. Melo, after starting out 4-for-4, proceeded to miss 12 of his next 14 shots.
J.R. Smith had lapsed into one of his let-me-show-you-how-it's-done-all-by-myself stretches, and the Celtics were up seven late in the third quarter.
But Green's chance to establish himself as a front-line, playoff go-to guy faded to black in the second half. Knicks coach Mike Woodson velcroed Anthony to Green and instructed his team to put the clamps on Green's transition attempts.
"Keep him out of the paint," explained Smith. "That's the big thing. Make him shoot contested jumpers."
The formula for beating the Celtics is just that. Because they are indisputably the worst offensive rebounding team on the planet, if you limit them to perimeter shots, they are going to be one-and-done on those chances. And, if they don't go in, Boston is in trouble.
Not pursuing offensive rebounds is one thing. But not closing out on the defensive glass, which Boston failed to do in that critical fourth quarter, was one of the most damning developments of the game.
With the game hanging in the balance, Woodson called upon 40-year-old Jason Kidd and 35-year-old Kenyon Martin (why was it the Celtics didn't want him again?), who siphoned Tyson Chandler's minutes with his high-energy effort that included a key putback in the fourth quarter.
Boston's less-experienced bench simply could not match New York's veteran presence, savvy or toughness.
The game was lost on sequences like the one with 4:50 to play, when Green, standing at the 3-point line, tossed a casual pass across the top of the foul circle that was immediately deflected by Kidd, who dove after it, then fired it up the floor to Raymond Felton on the break.
At the time, it was a four-point game (78-74 Knicks). At the time, Green had coughed up the ball on the previous possession, too, when, driving to the hole, he looked around for help, indecisively continued ... and was called for a walk.
"I have to be more aggressive," Green conceded.
He's not alone. The Celtics need to get Kevin Garnett more than 12 shots. They need to see if Jordan Crawford (0 shots) can pump some life into the second unit. They need to take care of the basketball.
The Knicks were hardly thumping their chests in the wake of the win. As Carmelo admitted, "We haven't really done nothing."
That's not entirely true. Had the Celtics stolen Game 1 on the heels of a truly surreal and sickening week, it would have done two things: generated some serious momentum for a Boston team that is in the unfamiliar role of underdog, and more importantly, ratcheted up the heat on a Knicks team under tremendous pressure to advance beyond its longtime rivals.
That opportunity is lost. Game 2 presents a new chance to gain the split every road team covets.
There will be no flags waving or Jumbotron tributes blaring to spur Boston on in that game, either.
If the Celtics plan to prove they can Stand As One at Madison Square Garden, they're going to have to do it all by themselves.
http://espn.go.com




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NBA: Home teams seek 2-0 edge in NBA Playoffs
2010-04-19

Cleveland and Denver opened impressively on their own home courts in winning and covering Game 1 of the new playoff season. Each club will look to take a decided edge on Monday night, before packing for the road for the next two contests. This doubleheader is on TNT starting at 8 Eastern Monday. The Cavaliers are a 10.5-point favorite over Chicago and the Nuggets are laying 7-points to the injury-riddled Jazz at Sportsbook.com.

Play like a champion

The Cavaliers closed as 12-point point home favorites against Chicago and almost frittered away a 22-point lead before closing the deal. The Bulls got within seven points in the fourth quarter, before being visibility spent and falling 99-83.

Cleveland appeared bored after building a humongous lead, yet is quite confident in their abilities, this year more than ever.

“We," LeBron James said, "have the look of a champion."

He might be right and the oddsmakers certainly think so making them the betting choice for futures wager to be NBA champions. The Cavs remade roster is back at full strength with Shaquille O'Neal, Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker. Cleveland looked bigger, stronger and had more options coming off the bench than Chicago and is 14-3 ATS off a home win by 10 points or more this season.

The Bulls can take heart they outscored the Cavaliers by a point after the first 12 minutes and realistically had no reason to believe they could sweep Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.

“We can't wait to play," Derrick Rose said after scoring 28 points and handing out 10 assists. "I know I can't. This is something I live for. I think about it every minute of the day, playing against the best team in the NBA."

The loss ended Chicago’s brief three game winning streak, however they are 13-5 ATS after playing two consecutive road games this season.

Sportsbook.com took into consideration the Bulls will have turnaround revenge and opened them as Game 2 underdogs of 10.5-points, with total of 191 and they are 7-1 ATS off a loss since Mar. 12. Chicago is 18-8 UNDER revenging same season loss this year.

Cleveland knows how to turn up the defensive intensity and is 13-5 ATS after two or more Under’s this season and continues to rule the first round with 13-3 ATS mark. The Cavs are 10-2 SU and ATS at home vs. Da Bulls in this battle of Great Lakes cities and is 9-1 UNDER after a cover as a double digit favorite this season.