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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: LA Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks betting preview
2010-11-17

All good things must come to an end, and the Lakers’ perfect start was no exception as they suffered back-to-back losses before heading to the Midwest for a three-game stint. The oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com don’t expect the Lakers to drop another one as they are currently 3.5-point favorites tonight as they visit Milwaukee.
The reigning champs fell short by six in Denver last Thursday and went down Sunday at home 121-116 against Phoenix, which shot an incredible 22-of-40 from three-point land. The 22 three-pointers were the second-highest total in NBA history. Despite outrebounding (62-38) and outscoring (68-28) Phoenix in the paint, L.A. was unable to stop the Suns’ phenomenal outside shooting.
Kobe Bryant was one rebound away from a triple-double, and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom both had more than 20 points and 10 boards. If the Lakers take this offense on the road, they will have no problem beating Milwaukee Tuesday night. Bryant is 21-4 in his career against the Bucks, averaging 23.9 PPG against them. Look for L.A. to bounce back in these next three road games, all of which are against teams at .500 or below.
Milwaukee is on a three-game win streak and was afforded two days of rest after a 79-72 win against the Warriors in the Bradley Center. John Salmons led the team with 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting and Brandon Jennings had his third double-double on the season with 19 points and career-high 11 boards. This matchup against the Lakers will be the Bucks’ fourth straight game against a top-10 scoring team. Milwaukee held its last three opponents to an average of 19.8 points below each team’s scoring average on the season. The Bucks, who are allowing a league-low 89.4 points per game, will need to play tight defense against the league’s top-scoring Lakers (112.5 PPG) if they want any chance to get a win against the defending champs.
The Lakers have won the past five games SU in the series, but the NBA betting public has cashed on the other side as Milwaukee is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings with the Lakers.
However, this NBA betting trend found at Sportsbook.com indicates that the Lakers will cover the point spread.
Play On - Road favorites (LA LAKERS) - after being beaten by the spread by 24 or more points total in their last three games against opponent after going under the total by 54 or more points total in their last ten games. (38-14 since 1996.) (73.1%, +22.6 units. Rating = 2*).
For additional basketball betting trends or to bet on any of the games on tonight’s NBA betting board, head over to Sportsbook.com now.


NBA: The King to be overthrown?
2010-05-13

LeBron James is supposed to be the best player in the NBA and probably is, but he hasn’t been close to being the best player in the second round playoff series between the Cavaliers and Celtics. With his pending free agency looming this summer, the possibility exists that tonight’s Game 6 in the series could be his last game with Cleveland. Oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com have made his team a 1-point underdog, meaning the chances are better than not that it will be at least his last game of this season.

King James showed a side of personality not seen often after he gave a lame effort like his teammates in Game 5 debacle. After losing 120-88 as seven-point home favorites, James had this to say about his 15-point showing.

"I spoil a lot of people with my play," James said. "When you have a bad game here or there, you've had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it's easy to point that out. So you got to be better.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be out there and be the best player on the court, and when I'm not I feel bad for myself because I'm not going out there and doing the things I can do. But I don't hang my head low or make any excuses about anything that may be going on, because that's not the type of player or person I am."

It’s a bit presumptuous for James to say he’s had three lousy games in his career, but what basketball fans and those rooting for the Cavaliers want to know, where is the burning desire?

Is the elbow a much bigger issue? Does he find the lack proficiency from his teammates appalling? Does he not trust his coach in being knowledgeable to lead this club? Has he mentally checked out thinking about playing somewhere else?

Cleveland is 24-7-1 ATS off a defeat by 10 or more points, but this was one for the record books. No NBA with a regular season win percentage of .700 or higher had ever lost a home playoff game by 30 or more points. (Thanks Elias Sports)

Yes, Boston has had a few nice wrinkles to limit James, but does the game’s best player settle for idle dribbles and pass to teammate or use his brute force like in the past and blow to the cup and score or find Cavs teammate standing by himself with wide open look at the bucket with collapsing defense? Interesting to note Cleveland is 2-9 ATS in last 11 outings against teams with winning record.

Boston has outplayed and outhustled its younger opponent and is 7-3 ATS in the postseason. The Celtics don’t want to take any chances.

"We cannot come back here," Kevin Garnett said. "We have to think this is our Game 7 coming up and we cannot afford to have the best team in the league have a Game 7 on their floor. Just not possible."

Sportsbook.com has Boston as one-point favorites, as they go for their second three game winning streak in the playoffs. The C’s are 2-10 ATS off a road win by 10 points or more this season and 17-4 UNDER after a huge blowout victory by 30 or more. Cleveland has its back against the proverbial wall and is 2-5 ATS in last seven as road underdogs and is 16-5 OVER revenging a home massacre loss of 20 points or more.

The biggest deciding factor is LeBron’s mental state. This contest is being played with one day between games and James is shooting 36.1 percent on his meager total of 47 shot attempts, including 0-13 beyond the arc in this East semi-final with less than 48 hours between contests. In the two games Cleveland has won and covered, James is shooting 56.5 percent on 46 shots with two or more days in between outings. The Cavs are 0-6 ATS with one day of rest since April 11.

Game 6 is on ESPN at 8:00 Eastern and if Cleveland can force one more game, they will have two days off between conflicts.

The StatFox Power Line shows Boston by 6.