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People who know Saginaw's Darvin Ham praise the Lakers coach's virtues

News of Darvin Ham's hiring as Lakers coach was supported by those who crossed paths with the Saginaw native during his career. (Author: Gardener)

LakersLos Angeles - The job, like everything else, requires a coach to stand alongside and forge a partnership with LeBron James, a player who has been one of the most famous basketball players since he was in high school. So, naturally, the Lakers hired Darvin Ham, who spent most of his year-long high school basketball career on the bench. "I didn't know him," said former Saginaw High coach Marshall Thomas, laughing. The fact that Ham struggled to make the Saginaw High team and still made it this far speaks to a key part of his character - his relentlessness. The journey from a 10th man as a senior in high school, to an NBA champion as a player with the Detroit Pistons, to a title-winner as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks can be traced to a single reason. Darwin made his own way,” said Thomas. News of Ham's hiring - which has not yet been announced by the Lakers - was supported by those who have crossed paths with Ham throughout his career: former coaches, teammates and peers who praised the Lakers for making things one First - time coach. "He's going to be honest as a Lakers coach, and that's what I think you need in the NBA today - someone who's honest but knows how to be honest without actually just tearing you down," were the former Teammate and Pistons great Chauncey Billups, now the Portland coach, said Saturday. He won as a player. He won as a coach. Billups thinks the Lakers got it right. He's the right man for this job with the Lakers," Billups said. Back in Ham's hometown, former high school teammate Julian Taylor could hardly believe what he was hearing. Taylor, like so many people in Michigan, loved the Lakers because of Magic Johnson. While Taylor watched Ham work his way from high school to NBA player, the recent accomplishment was almost too much to believe. Saginaw has produced NBA players - a lineage that includes Draymond Green, Mark Macon and Jason Richardson. "Darv is their head coach, a guy who beat all the odds, wasn't picked to make it ... he just worked," Taylor said. At Saginaw High, Ham didn't even play basketball until his senior year, a summer growth spurt that launched his career. Back then, Thomas was confident his returning players would help build the team's roster and almost everyone said Ham should make it. He wasn't a star - he hardly played - but Ham possessed a quality that made Thomas recommend him to a junior college coach. He's a real competitor, always has been a competitor," said Thomas. “…The greatest thing about Darvin was never his ability. Darvin has always been a great person. Hard-nosed, hard-working, but a great person.” Years later, Billups experienced the same things with Ham as a teammate at the Pistons, one of Ham's six NBA homes. "I'm sure if you've spoken to the guys he's played with, he was probably their favorite teammate guy. He was always so competitive," Billups said. Every time he came into play, he simply raised the level of the game. he is the man Former NBA coach and current Indiana Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson was an assistant to these Pistons teams. He remembered Ham as someone who would never "bull" in practice because he was too committed. "His work ethic in practice and when we brought him into the game, he always seemed to deliver," Woodson said. “And it was based on his hard work. He put in the time on the practice pitch and it always translated into the game nicely. So they knew the fact that he came into coaching, I knew it was going to work because that's a big part of being a good coach. You have to work.” Ham got his first chance to coach NBA players with the Lakers in 2011 as a developmental coach on Mike Brown's staff after coaching three seasons in the developmental league. Metta Sandiford-Artest - then known as Metta World Peace - was on that Lakers team and remembers tapping Ham as a future coach. "He worked hard, coached all the players, coached me," Sandiford-Artest said. "He trained everyone. He's definitely present, but he also has a communication about him, so I won't say softly, but you understand he has your best interests at heart." As the Lakers coach, he's asked to talk to some of the biggest stars in the NBA to communicate, including James, perhaps the greatest. Following news of Ham's hiring, James tweeted his support - a promising early move. Anyone who knows Ham from his days in the NBA or from his days at Saginaw knows he's up for a challenge. We come from hard work, from tenacity, from that take-no-chat attitude. This is Saginaw basketball," Taylor said. “…Darvin was such a hard worker.

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Concerns over police aggression towards Champions League fans

PARIS (AP) -- Tear gas is being fired indiscriminately around children and the elderly. Pepper spray released at close range on frustrated fans. Liverpool supporters have defended themselves against allegations by French authorities that they were responsible for the riots at the Champions League final amid crowding outside... (Author: Gardener)

Champions LeagueFans display tickets outside the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Saint Denis near Paris on Saturday May 28, 2022. Ticket holders are accused of delaying the start as they tried for hours enter the stadium in bottlenecks in a confined space. Police and stewards block one of the entrances to the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Saint Denis near Paris on Saturday May 28, 2022. Liverpool supporters have fought back allegations by French authorities they were responsible for the Champions League final riots amid overcrowding outside the Stade de France caused by operational disruptions on Saturday. The British government called the treatment of fans "deeply concerning". UEFA officials spent the hours following Liverpool's 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid discussing the chaotic scenes that delayed the start of the final in the club's biggest game of the year by 37 minutes. Even as the finals began, riot police fired tear gas into wide open spaces just outside the stadium doors to disperse any lingering people around Gate U. France's home and sport ministers blamed cardless Liverpool fans trying to gain entry into the stadium, in contrast to scenes observed by reporters of what appear to be local youths climbing over fences. A fan climbs the fence in front of the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid on Saturday May 28, 2022 in Saint Denis near Paris. A fan climbs the fence outside the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid on Saturday May 28, 2022 in Saint Denis near Paris. "The stigma surrounding English fans is being used by the French authorities for cheap political gain," Ronan Evain, managing director of Football Supporters Europe, told The Associated Press on Sunday. The closing of the gates prompted concerns from hundreds of fans outside the Liverpool section, but little overt aggression from them. Problems had already arisen prior to the final turnstiles as entrances to the wider perimeter were blocked and fans were forced through narrow passages causing congestion. Police officers guard the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Saint Denis near Paris on Saturday May 28, 2022. Police have used tear gas on fans waiting in long lines to enter the Stade de France for the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was postponed by 37 minutes while security forces struggled to deal with the huge crowd and fence-climbing fans. Police have used tear gas on fans waiting in long lines to get into the Stade de France for the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was delayed by 37 minutes while security forces struggled to get through the big crowd and fence climbing fans. Police have used tear gas on fans waiting in long lines to get into the Stade de France for the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was delayed by 37 minutes while security forces struggled to get through the big crowd and fence climbing fans. Police have used tear gas on fans waiting in long lines to get into the Stade de France for the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was delayed by 37 minutes while security forces struggled to get through the big crowd and fence climbing fans. Police have used tear gas on fans waiting in long lines to get into the Stade de France for the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, which was delayed by 37 minutes while security forces struggled to get through the big crowd and fence climbing fans. While UEFA accused late fans of delaying kick-off in stadium announcements that were greeted with derision, thousands arrived from Liverpool hours before the game to be greeted by organizational disorder in the late afternoon heat. The congestion was partly caused by fans being diverted to a small entrance instead of a larger one 150 meters away, said Evain, who advises UEFA on fan affairs. "There have always been mobility issues around the Stade de France," said Evain. "We are appalled by the announcement from the French authorities. Liverpool and Real Madrid fans are the victims of yesterday's fiasco and not the culprits here. "It's insane to tear gas people who try to enter the stadium." The UK government has asked UEFA to open a formal investigation into what went wrong with stadium officials and the French authorities. "The footage and reports from Liverpool fans and the media of their entry into the Stade de France last night are deeply worrying," said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

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Now that the Lakers have a coach, it's time to trade in Russell Westbrook and more

The Lakers can now swap Russell Westbrook for Darvin Ham as their new coach. And look for defenders. (Author: Gardener)

Russell WestbrookLast season didn't go well for the Lakers' three superstars. Will the team give Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook a chance to play under new coach Darvin Ham? The Lakers replaced the coach they summarily fired last month, but that coach wasn't their problem. No coach could save these Lakers. Red Auerbach could have fallen from heaven into their laps and would still not be a champion team with their players. They still wouldn't be a playoff team. Whether Darvin Ham can coach in the NBA is almost irrelevant at this point. The Lakers can now trade Russell Westbrook. The Lakers, at least, aren't that old now, with some of their creaky players out of contract. Rob Pelinka and LeBron James must now repair their Frankenstein roster that led to one of the most disastrous seasons in franchise history. The Lakers basically need to rebuild a car and all they have is an old engine and some worn tires. Whatever shortcomings they successfully address, they will ultimately depend on the health of James, who turns 38 in December, and Anthony Davis, who is made of glass. That's probably why the hiring of Ham didn't spark fireworks in the Los Angeles area. This unspectacular coaching search could be somewhere. The last time they were in that position, they got lucky when a silly lawsuit led to them hiring Frank Vogel. The Lakers were later turned down by Tyronn Lue. Vogel won them a championship, but the amateurish search indicated problems in the organization. The team's lack of vision and identity contributed to Pelinka taking James' advice and trading for Westbrook. At the end of that season, the culture of the franchise was once again called into question when Vogel learned he would be fired via Twitter. The perception was that Pelinka, or someone else in the front office, cared more about winning the favor of a well-known reporter than treating Vogel with the respect he deserved. By hiring Ham, they at least avoided making a spectacle of themselves again. They have a coach on duty three weeks before the NBA draft. Ham is being granted a significant degree of autonomy, with The Times' Dan Woike and Broderick Turner reporting he is allowed to choose his coaching staff. Ham was previously an assistant coach with the Lakers but will have the opportunity to bring new ideas to an organization that has often operated incestuously. Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson were the other finalists interviewed by the Lakers, who chose the coach who offered them the most flexibility in Ham, 48. Ham won an NBA championship as a player with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and last year as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. He has the respect of veteran players, as James reacted to his hiring. As a rookie coach, Ham can also grow with a young team should James drop out after the upcoming season and force the Lakers to rebuild. The vision of Ham in a Luke Walton-like role won't inspire Lakers believers, and neither should it. But the Lakers can now begin to reconstruct their roster and restore their reputation, a small but significant step up from where they were the day before.

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8 things to know about Celtics-Heat Game 7

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics play in another Game 7 Sunday night. Read more at Boston.com. (Author: Gardener)

Celtics-Heat Game 7The Celtics find themselves in another win-or-go home spot on Sunday. Boston fell to Miami at home in Game 6, 111-103, on Friday night, missing an opportunity to end the streak at home and play the second straight round in a Game 7. As both teams head back to South Beach and prepare for Game 7, here are eight things you should know about the all-important game. The biggest conundrum of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals was who will be available for each team during the series. Three of the Celtics' starters (Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams) and one key player (Derrick White) each missed a game at different points in the series. Smart, who suffered a sprained ankle in Game 3, is listed as questionable for Game 7 but has played the last two games. The Heat, on the other hand, had multiple players on injury reporting throughout the series. Of these players, only Herro did not play in Game 6. Miami has gone 1-2 in the three games without Herro, who won sixth man of the year this season. The Heat star missed the second half of Game 3 with a knee infection and didn't look 100 percent in Games 4 and 5 before scoring 47 points in Game 6. One of the most clichéd sayings in esports is, "The game will come down to who turns the ball less." However, that may actually be the case for the 2021-22 Celtics. In the Eastern Conference Finals, high-grossing games correlated with losses for Boston. In Game 1, it turned the ball 16 times - half of those came in the third quarter, which Miami won 39-14 - resulting in a 118-107 loss. In Game 3, the Celtics turned the ball a whopping 23 times, the most they've committed since Game 2 of the regular season. Boston's turnover problem surfaced again in Game 6 when they committed 17 turnovers in a 111-103 loss. The Celtics' star duo was a big reason for those sales. Jaylen Brown signed seven in Game 3 and four in Game 6. He also signed four turnovers in the first half of the Celtics' Game 5 win, which was a big reason they were trailing 42-37 at halftime in that game. In the three games Boston won that series, it turned the ball just nine times in two of those games and turned the ball 15 times in the 93-80 win in Game 5. Celtics coach Ime Udoka is certain his team has struggled too much with turnovers this postseason. "Yeah, it's a reference to what our nights in that series where we didn't care about the ball were like," Udoka told reporters after Game 6. Obviously, we dug our way out of a hole from the start and it back up 29-22 [in the first quarter] but we didn't do our best at all. And throughout the game, every time we got within striking distance, we felt like we made a bad decision (we had) whether it was a turnover and they folded and scored. A big reason why turnovers are such a killer for the Celtics is that their opponent could use any easy points they can get. In that series, the Heat have only an 87.3 offensive halffield rating, compared to the 97.6 offensive halffield rating they had in the regular season, according to Cleaning The Glass. Miami has had some particularly sad moments on offense since midway through the series when Herro went out. In Game 4, it only scored one point in the first eight minutes of play. When the Celtics were mostly in control of Game 5, the Heat's halffield offense rating was 58.8, according to Cleaning The Glass. The Heat actually won the semi-court offensive ratings fight in Game 6, 102-92. Miami also made key shots, losing 6-for-13 on attempted shots (4-for-8 from 3-point range) with less than four seconds left on the shot clock. Boston dominated the first quarter with two of their three wins in that series. In Game 2, they topped the Heat 35-24, went 12-on-19 out of the field (9-on-11 from deep) and only made three turnovers. They weren't as productive offensively in the first quarter of Game 4, going off the field 9-on-22. But they only committed three turnovers this quarter, giving them a 29-11 lead. On the other hand, the Celtics lost two of the games they lost the first quarter in - including Game 6 when the Heat took a 29-22 lead after a quarter. Udoka stressed the need for a hot start in Game 7. "A lot has to do with our starts and having to catch up the whole game," Udoka said on Saturday when asked if he could play consistently evenly. “We understood the situation Miami was in last night and we didn't play our best basketball defensively and offensively in the first quarter. Playing behind the eight-ball for most of the game. "We want to get better starts, put some pressure on the opposition when they're in that situation, like we did in Game 7 against Milwaukee. Obviously we want to start better in [Miami]. We're confident we can win, but we have to get better starts, get easy shots and not breathe life into them early in the game.” The Celtics youngster has been tested in do-or-die games four times in his five-year career . Tatum averaged 20 points in all four games, averaged 24 points, 5.3 assists, and 7.8 rebounds in Game 7. In those games, he went 3-1, with the only game losing to LeBron James and the Cavaliers 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals occurred. Despite the shaky second-half performance in Game 6, Tatum goes confidently into Game 7. 10,” Tatum said when asked about his confidence level after Friday's loss. You know it's the last game. It's Game 7, the journey to the NBA Finals, the stakes are high," Tatum added. We'll know that when we go into the game.” Two weeks ago, Celtics backup forward Grant Williams became a household name among NBA fans when he scored 27 points in Game 7 against the Bucks. He made seven 3-pointers in that game, setting the record for most 3-pointers in a game 7. Williams wasn't that hard to take down offensively against the heat though. He's averaging 8.3 points per game in the series and has only had seven 3-pointers in his first six games. He also got into trouble in Game 6, which he will have to avoid in Game 7 given Robert Williams' injury situation. After turning back the clock against the Bucks, Al Horford didn't have many great moments offensively against the Heat either. He scored just three points in Game 4 and three again in Game 6. Robert Williams was one of the bright spots for the Celtics in Game 6. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter of the loss and electrified the TD Garden crowd multiple times with alley- Oop dunks. His minutes have increased in recent games so he could be a potential threat to turn Game 7 in the Celtics' favour. Derrick White had arguably his best game since coming to Boston in Game 6, scoring 22 points and having five assists from the bench. His offense was badly needed as Marcus Smart has gone off the field just 5-20 in his last two games with seven assists after missing Game 4 with a sprained ankle. Tatum and Brown certainly have the offensive firepower in them to lead the Celtics to a win in Game 7 (they did in the second half of Game 5), but it's likely they'll need someone else to step up interferes. Boston will play in an NBA-record 35th Game 7 on Sunday. The Celtics have a great record in games like this, going 25-9 all time. However, they haven't fared that well on the road lately in Game 7s. The Celtics have not won a Road Game 7 since 1974 and have lost all four Road Game 7s they have played since. One of those Game 7 road losses happened 10 years ago in the same round against the Heat. After the Celtics lost Game 6 3-2 at home, the Celtics were wiped out by LeBron James in the Heat in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics were recent regulars in the Eastern Conference Finals. They've made it here in four of the last six years, but they haven't won it once. Let's face it, the Celtics probably shouldn't have won in either of their first two trips. The run to the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals was a pleasant surprise, but James was again too much for rookie Tatum and second-grader Brown. When Tatum was named an All-Star for the first time in 2020, the Celtics found themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals against Heat in the Bubble and held a better record. Tatum and Brown became a star duo during that run, and Smart proved an important part of the core when the Celtics looked poised for a place in the Finals. But they failed in clutch situations in several games against the Heat. The Celtics actually surpassed the Heat in that series but lost in six games. A second-half resurgence, spearheaded by Tatum's rise to MVP nomination, propelled the Celtics back into the Eastern Conference finals stages in 2022. Much of what happened in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals was leaked in this year's version. Miami prevailed in clutch moments in Games 3 and 6, while all three of Boston's wins were at least double digits. By many standards, the Celtics are the best team in basketball as of the start of 2022. They've played better than the Heat for much of this series. There is no doubt that this is their best chance to reach the finals for the first time in 12 seasons. And while this group has been given multiple opportunities to reach and win the NBA Finals, there is no certainty that those opportunities will exist in the future.

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Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, and the intangibles that could make Game 7 resonate

From each of the team's star players to home field advantage to a coach well versed in Game 7, our NBA experts reveal the keys to Sunday's Eastern Conference final. (Author: Gardener)

Game 7After the many ups and downs of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, including double-digit wins and star player injuries, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics face off for Game 7 Sunday at 8:30 p.m. in Miami. ET (on ESPN and the ESPN app). The winner plays Thursday (9:00 p.m. ET, ABC and the ESPN app) against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals Game 1. Jimmy Butler helped Miami avert Friday night's elimination by scoring 47 points, 9 rebounds and had 8 assists in a 111-103 Game 6 win in Boston. Now the top seeded Heat will look to capitalize on any semblance of home advantage, despite the Celtics winning 2-1 in this conference finals series at the FTX Arena. "They put themselves in that position, took a 3-2 lead to have two games to win one," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka on Saturday. "As much as you love finishing it on your home court, we've been up and down this series and that's why it's right where it is now." Looking ahead to Game 7 on Sunday, we asked our ESPN experts to highlight a player, coach, trend or strategy that could affect the outcome and take either of these teams to the finals. After emerging from the 2020 Finals, a series he eventually lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, Erik Spoelstra rated the strategy matchup against LeBron James. The Heat coach complimented James, who led Spoelstra's team to four finals and two titles. All NBA coaches make strategic moves during the playoff series, but Spoelstra is in an elite class. In Friday's Game 6, he knew the Celtics had prepared well for his zone defense, so he suddenly broke out in the second half with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown rocking Boston's offense. It helped undercut a comeback attempt and buy the Heat time to regain control of the game. Sunday is the sixth game that Spoelstra will coach. He has won three of those, in the 2012 and 2013 title runs when James was on his side. When Riley coached the Lakers to a title in 1988, he won them in three straight series. The last time Spoelstra faced the Celtics in Game 7 in 2012, he stunned Boston by turning Chris Bosh into a 3-point shooter as part of a surprise game plan. Bosh had only made four 3-pointers in his first 40 playoff games of his career, but had three in the second half that night as the Heat advanced to the Finals. "We earned the right to have this [Game 7] experience," said Spoelstra on Saturday. Spoelstra opened up about the Game 6 away win and the season-long grind that earned the Heat the right to host. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 36 of Boston's 46 points at halftime. But when the second half started, both Tatum and Brown disappeared. In the second half, Boston's stars combined for seven shots. That kind of inactivity won't make it in a Game 7 on the road on Sunday. "I think it's just the flow of the game, how the game went," Tatum said of his struggles in the second half. "Obviously I have to watch the movie and things like that, but I think being out there and just feeling the game is getting a lot of attention and trying to find discrepancies." This is Tatum's third time played in an Eastern Conference Finals in his first five NBA seasons. It's Brown's fourth time in six seasons. However, it's been a long time since they were last in a Game 7 of an East Finals: four years ago, when they hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tatum threw a memorable dunk against LeBron James in that game, but it was the Cavaliers who advanced to the finals. Earlier this week, after Boston won Game 5, Tatum was asked if going 3-2 in this series felt different this time, just like Boston did back in 2018. "My rookie year at 3: 2, you know, now obviously another team. Those tough times prepared Tatum and Brown for this moment — the same one they went through going to Milwaukee and winning a Game 6 to keep their East Semifinals season alive before heading home and game 7 to win. Now more than ever, the Celtics need their leading men to rise through Sunday and not let the Heat take them out of proceedings like they did in Game 6. Jimmy Butler against Boston's elite defense was the only key factor in this series, and it will show up in Game 7 in part because it defended drives as well as every team in the NBA. The Celtics finished first in the league by keeping drivers averaging just .93 points, thanks in large part to their fleet of aggressive, long and talented defenders. But that same crew wasn't at their best in Game 6, as Butler effectively turned pick actions into juicy ride opportunities that propelled Miami onto the streets. But in Game 6, Butler recorded 23 drives and in return scored 20 points in the paint - tied with the most in any game this season - and added 11 more at the line. -- Scored or assisted with 68 points, the most ever before, as he was eliminated in the 2022 Conference Finals. It's become an easy subject for the Heat during some of their biggest games this postseason -- when Max Strus shoots, Miami usually finds one way to win. In a Game 5 win over the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Strus scored 15 points and caught three shots from beyond the arc. And in Games 5 and 6, Strus won against the Philadelphia 76ers - Strus had a combined 39 points and eight 3s that kept the rest of his teammates at bay. It was 16 points in Game 3 against the Celtics, including a dagger 3 pointer late in the game that helped seal the win for Miami. In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Strus knocked down big shots while racking up 13 points and three more 3s. The fact that he did all of that in Game 6 after getting into the game and missing all 16 shots he made in Games 4 and 5 made it for a Heat team that hasn't come close in the past two years had built trust in him, all the sweeter. With Tyler Herro's status uncertain for Game 7 due to a groin injury, it's up to the 26-year-old sniper to rise to the occasion when the Heat needs him again. The Heat played the entire regular season for the right to host Game 7 as the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed, one spot ahead of the Celtics. Boston still goes into play as a 2.5-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook. According to ESPN Stats & Information, this is only the third time since 1990-1991 that a road team has been favored in a winner-take-all game. The other two were the LA Clippers at the Houston Rockets in the 2015 Conference Semifinals (who also lost Game 6 at home with a chance to advance) and the Golden State Warriors at Houston in the 2018 Conference Finals. The Rockets shared those two games and defeated the Clippers in 2015 but lost to the Warriors - who later won their third championship in four years - in 2018. (The Celtics were also favored as the bottom seed over Toronto in Game 7 in 2020, but that game was played on a neutral side in the NBA's bubble restart.) It's not very surprising that Road Game 7's favorites are all within of the last eight postseasons. As home field advantage has decreased in recent years, it appears to have the Game 7 advantage. Disregarding 2020, the home teams scored 13-8 (.619) in Game 7 with a margin of plus 4.1 points over that span. And even that was a drop from the massive advantage in the 1990s when home teams went 16-2 in Game 7 and outscored their opponents by averaging 9.5 points per game. That the Celtics are preferred on the road makes more sense in the context of how they've outperformed Miami over the course of this series. Boston's plus-33-point spread in six games is the seventh-largest in NBA history in favor of a lower seed in a seven-game series. Of the previous six where the road team had a plus-30 or better differential in Game 7, they went 4-2 in the deciding game.

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8 things to know about Celtics-Heat Game 7

Boston finds itself in another do-or-die game. 8 Things to Know About Celtics-Heat Game 7 post appeared first on Boston.com. (Author: Gardener)

Celtics-Heat Game 7Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 27 points in Game 2 against the Heat. The Celtics find themselves in another win-or-go home spot on Sunday. Boston fell to Miami at home in Game 6, 111-103, on Friday night, missing an opportunity to end the streak at home and play the second straight round in a Game 7. As both teams head back to South Beach and prepare for Game 7, here are eight things you should know about the all-important game. The biggest conundrum of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals was who will be available for each team during the series. Three of the Celtics' starters (Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams) and one key player (Derrick White) each missed a game at different points in the series. Smart, who suffered a sprained ankle in Game 3, is listed as questionable for Game 7 but has played the last two games. The Heat, on the other hand, had multiple players on injury reporting throughout the series. Of these players, only Herro did not play in Game 6. Miami has gone 1-2 in the three games without Herro, who won sixth man of the year this season. The Heat star missed the second half of Game 3 with a knee infection and didn't look 100 percent in Games 4 and 5 before scoring 47 points in Game 6. One of the most clichéd sayings in esports is, "The game will come down to who turns the ball less." However, that may actually be the case for the 2021-22 Celtics. In the Eastern Conference Finals, high-grossing games correlated with losses for Boston. In Game 1, it turned the ball 16 times - half of those came in the third quarter, which Miami won 39-14 - resulting in a 118-107 loss. In Game 3, the Celtics turned the ball a whopping 23 times, the most they've committed since Game 2 of the regular season. Boston's turnover problem surfaced again in Game 6 when they committed 17 turnovers in a 111-103 loss. The Celtics' star duo was a big reason for those sales. Jayson Tatum signed seven in Game 1, six in Game 3 and seven again in Game 6. Jaylen Brown signed seven in Game 3 and four in Game 6. He also signed four turnovers in the first half of the Celtics' Game 5 win. This was a big reason they were down 42-37 at halftime in that game. In the three games Boston won that series, it turned the ball just nine times in two of those games and turned the ball 15 times in the 93-80 win in Game 5. Celtics coach Ime Udoka is certain his team has struggled too much with turnovers this postseason. "Yeah, it's a reference to what our nights in that series where we didn't care about the ball were like," Udoka told reporters after Game 6. Obviously, we dug our way out of a hole from the start and it back up 29-22 [in the first quarter] but we didn't do our best at all. And throughout the game, every time we got within striking distance, we felt like we made a bad decision (we had) whether it was a turnover and they folded and scored. A big reason why turnovers are such a killer for the Celtics is that their opponent could use any easy points they can get. In that series, the Heat have only an 87.3 offensive halffield rating, compared to the 97.6 offensive halffield rating they had in the regular season, according to Cleaning The Glass. Miami has had some particularly sad moments on offense since midway through the series when Herro went out. In Game 4, it only scored one point in the first eight minutes of play. When the Celtics were mostly in control of Game 5, the Heat's halffield offense rating was 58.8, according to Cleaning The Glass. The Heat actually won the semi-court offensive ratings fight in Game 6, 102-92. Miami also made key shots, losing 6-for-13 on attempted shots (4-for-8 from 3-point range) with less than four seconds left on the shot clock. Boston dominated the first quarter with two of their three wins in that series. In Game 2, they topped the Heat 35-24, went 12-on-19 out of the field (9-on-11 from deep) and only made three turnovers. They weren't as productive offensively in the first quarter of Game 4, going off the field 9-on-22. But they only committed three turnovers this quarter, giving them a 29-11 lead. On the other hand, the Celtics lost two of the games they lost the first quarter in - including Game 6 when the Heat took a 29-22 lead after a quarter. Udoka stressed the need for a hot start in Game 7. "A lot has to do with our starts and having to catch up the whole game," Udoka said on Saturday when asked if he could play consistently evenly. “We understood the situation Miami was in last night and we didn't play our best basketball defensively and offensively in the first quarter. Playing behind the eight-ball for most of the game. "We want to get better starts, put some pressure on the opposition when they're in that situation, like we did in Game 7 against Milwaukee. Obviously we want to start better in [Miami]. We're confident we can win, but we have to get better starts, get easy shots and not breathe life into them early in the game.” The Celtics youngster has been tested in do-or-die games four times in his five-year career . Tatum averaged 20 points in all four games, averaged 24 points, 5.3 assists, and 7.8 rebounds in Game 7. In those games, he went 3-1, with the only game losing to LeBron James and the Cavaliers 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals occurred. Despite the shaky second-half performance in Game 6, Tatum goes confidently into Game 7. 10,” Tatum said when asked about his confidence level after Friday's loss. You know it's the last game. It's Game 7, the journey to the NBA Finals, the stakes are high," Tatum added. We'll know that when we go into the game.” Two weeks ago, Celtics backup forward Grant Williams became a household name among NBA fans when he scored 27 points in Game 7 against the Bucks. He made seven 3-pointers in that game, setting the record for most 3-pointers in a game 7. Williams wasn't that hard to take down offensively against the heat though. He's averaging 8.3 points per game in the series and has only had seven 3-pointers in his first six games. He also got into trouble in Game 6, which he will have to avoid in Game 7 given Robert Williams' injury situation. After turning back the clock against the Bucks, Al Horford didn't have many great moments offensively against the Heat either. He scored just three points in Game 4 and three again in Game 6. Robert Williams was one of the bright spots for the Celtics in Game 6. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the third quarter of the loss and electrified the TD Garden crowd multiple times with alley- Oop dunks. His minutes have increased in recent games so he could be a potential threat to turn Game 7 in the Celtics' favour. Derrick White had arguably his best game since coming to Boston in Game 6, scoring 22 points and having five assists from the bench. His offense was badly needed as Marcus Smart has gone off the field just 5-20 in his last two games with seven assists after missing Game 4 with a sprained ankle. Tatum and Brown certainly have the offensive firepower in them to lead the Celtics to a win in Game 7 (they did in the second half of Game 5), but it's likely they'll need someone else to step up interferes. Boston will play in an NBA-record 35th Game 7 on Sunday. The Celtics have a great record in games like this, going 25-9 all time. The Celtics have not won a Road Game 7 since 1974 and have lost all four Road Game 7s they have played since. One of those Game 7 road losses happened 10 years ago in the same round against the Heat. After the Celtics lost Game 6 3-2 at home, the Celtics were wiped out by LeBron James in the Heat in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics were recent regulars in the Eastern Conference Finals. They've made it here in four of the last six years, but they haven't won it once. Let's face it, the Celtics probably shouldn't have won in either of their first two trips. The run to the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals was a pleasant surprise, but James was again too much for rookie Tatum and second-grader Brown. When Tatum was named an All-Star for the first time in 2020, the Celtics found themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals against Heat in the Bubble and held a better record. Tatum and Brown became a star duo during that run, and Smart proved an important part of the core when the Celtics looked poised for a place in the Finals. But they failed in clutch situations in several games against the Heat. The Celtics actually surpassed the Heat in that series but lost in six games. A second-half resurgence, spearheaded by Tatum's rise to MVP nomination, propelled the Celtics back into the Eastern Conference finals stages in 2022. Much of what happened in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals was leaked in this year's version. Miami prevailed in clutch moments in Games 3 and 6, while all three of Boston's wins were at least double digits. By many standards, the Celtics are the best team in basketball as of the start of 2022. They've played better than the Heat for much of this series. There is no doubt that this is their best chance to reach the finals for the first time in 12 seasons. And while this group has been given multiple opportunities to reach and win the NBA Finals, there is no certainty that those opportunities will exist in the future. 8 Things to Know About Celtics-Heat Game 7 post appeared first on Boston.com.

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Lakers shot of Ham maybe perfect

LOS ANGELES — Darvin who? (Author: Gardener)

LOS ANGELESAt first glance, hiring former bench warmer and assistant anonymous Darvin Ham as the new Lakers head coach on Friday seems crazy. He's never been an NBA head coach or assistant head coach, and yet is he suddenly about to gain LeBron James' respect? He's been an assistant coach for a dozen years, but suddenly he's supposed to rule a tumultuous culture that also includes the snarling Anthony Davis and the combative Russell Westbrook? He's worked in obscurity for most of his 26 years in professional basketball, and suddenly he's said to be ready to take on one of the highest-profile positions in the sport? But maybe also perfect? After all, the Lakers are arguably the craziest operation in the league. Maybe they can use their craziness with craziness. Perhaps their wily veterans can be shaken by an untried innocent. Perhaps this seemingly hopeless team needs a coach who has nothing to lose. The only certainty is that the Lakers are such a mess that they have no choice but to take their chances. "So excited!!!!!!!!" tweeted James upon hearing the news late Friday afternoon. "Congratulations and welcome, Coach Dham!!" Exclamation points aside, James would probably have preferred Doc Rivers, the Philadelphia 76ers coach who was among the Lakers' favorites a few weeks ago after they fired the overwhelmed Frank Vogel. But Rivers wasn't fired from Philadelphia, and the 76ers didn't want to give him up, so the Lakers ultimately couldn't pursue him. That left them with a trio of nondescript finalists: Ham, former Portland coach Terry Stotts and former Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson. When choosing the 48-year-old Ham, they relied on reliability rather than experience. Ham was the Lakers' player development coach under Mike Brown from 2011-13 and worked well with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. He later worked with MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo at the Milwaukee Bucks. Ham knows and understands and connects with stars. It seems his hiring is a sign the Lakers are hoping to see their two biggest stars working together again. Ham was also apparently hired on the promise that he can figure out the erratic Westbrook. The Lakers want to trade him, but his attitude and $47 million contract make that almost impossible, so they were clearly looking for a head coach who could somehow get him fit. Ham certainly faces a sizeable task, even for one of the Lakers' greatest coaches at 6-7, as huge questions crop up from every corner. Sure, he was on the Detroit Pistons' bench when they defeated the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals. And yes, he has a title ring as an assistant for Milwaukee in 2021. But that's hardly enough bling to give him instant credibility with James, who not only builds the team, he basically trains it. As well as gaining James' approval, Ham will need to carefully orchestrate his minutes next season when James is expected to overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer. As Ham navigates the slow end of James' career, he must also find a way to ignite a fire under Davis, who is constantly plagued by nagging injuries compounded by a lack of personal resilience. Then there is Westbrook. He wants to control the ball. But he can't control the ball. Westbrook's resounding deterioration marked perhaps the lowest singles moments in last year's record 33-49 and embarrassing playoff miss. On the plus side - which is increasingly difficult to find even between bold purple and iridescent gold - there is precedent for Ham's potential success. That season, the Boston Celtics reached greatness under rookie head coach Ime Udoka, and the New Orleans Pelicans thrived under former journeyman Willie Green. Then again, the last time the Lakers hired a first-time NBA coach, his name was Luke Walton... Walton, you'll remember, was replaced by the mild-mannered bird who led them to an NBA championship in 2020. ..

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New Lakers coach Darvin Ham has a daunting to-do list

Landing the Lakers' head coaching gig was the easy part — here are four challenges Ham faces this offseason. (Author: Gardener)

New LakersWhat Darvin Ham has accomplished in the last month shouldn't be neglected: The 48-year-old raked in more than a decade of NBA assisting experience to earn a high-profile job by beating two other former head coaches. Even so, Ham will likely find that getting the job was relatively easy. The Lakers have yet to officially announce their hiring as head coach, but you can bet Ham is working on one of the most demanding and scrutinized jobs in the league — he was at the team's facility in El Segundo on Saturday. As a former assistant coach with the Lakers under Mike Brown, he knows how quickly the pressure can mount. As a Stars Advisor with experience in player development, he knows how difficult it can be to deal with Superstars and their egos. For first-time head coaches - even ones as seasoned as Ham - there are always bumps along the way. Head coaches need to learn the nuances of game management, work on delegation, and inevitably face surprises here and there when they start out. Of course, the Lakers are interested in attracting some head-coaching talent around him, ESPN has reported, and it wouldn't be surprising if they try to add Terry Stotts or Kenny Atkinson, the other two finalists for the job to bring to consult Ham. In the past, this has been a problem for the front office: They scrutinized first-time head coach Luke Walton's staff and then played a big role in hiring Frank Vogel's assistants. Does he start recruiting coaches from behind the bench who are ready for a front seat from one or any of these staffers? He also has the somewhat awkward role of deciding who could stay on from Vogel's staff, many of whom have experience from Championship year 2020 but have been in limbo since Vogel's sacking. Ham was on a handful of different teams that had different structures and schemes. At Atlanta, he was on hand for a 60-win Hawks team that was largely starless but thrived through a selfless plan. While LeBron James will always encourage certain playstyles, Ham will help fill in the gaps that determine what type of support staff to get: How do the guards defend? Will the Lakers play with a traditional center, a five-man spacing, or will it fall to Anthony Davis? The front office is key to squad building, but Ham's vision will help define the kind of players they're looking for - and after last season's failure it's understood it will be a top priority, players to find schemes that match those of their trainer. James wasted no time in publicly supporting Ham, who he played against early in his career when the manager was still in a jersey. Of course it's exciting to find a candidate James believes in - does that mean James listens and compromises with his coach in games? This went really well in Milwaukee, where Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday don't seem to have ego issues with their coaches (Antetokounmpo was another big supporter of Ham's head coaching candidacy). For example: James has rarely defended at the level he consistently delivered throughout the 2019-20 regular season, back when he was hungry and felt he had something to prove after missing the playoffs. Davis can also be pushed back to that level, both by imposing more physicality as a big man and becoming more assertive when he gets to the edge on offense. It's reasonable to expect both to be motivated in their own right, but Ham and his staff need to channel that motivation towards getting the best out of both players. If the Lakers manage to sell Westbrook and his $47.1 million option for next season before October, then that won't be Ham's problem. But given that Westbrook is so difficult to trade and The Athletic reported that Westbrook's role has been a talking point in coaching interviews, it's more than conceivable that the Lakers could have him on the team in the fall. It's no secret how Westbrook can be a more effective player for the team: Last season, coaches wanted him to put up more screens and attack from role, evolving from the primary ball handler to a more powerful weapon for the basket. Westbrook can also be more vigilant on defense: less prone to taking risks and more accountable within the team scheme. If Westbrook makes the list, it will be compelling to see if a new voice in the dressing room can persuade him to take on the role, which he has previously seemingly had no consistent interest in casting. One of the reported reasons for Vogel's dismissal was that he was unable to reach Westbrook.

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Will Defense, Shooting, and Turnovers Outweigh Home Court in Heat-Celtics Game 7?

Q: For Game 6, as much as I can "appreciate and enjoy this one with all it was worth," wouldn't losing three out of four home games in a row be considered unacceptable? – TG, Queens, New York. A: Not against an opponent of this caliber, arguably the more talented team, arguably the healthier team. (Author: Gardener)

Will DefenseMiami Heat fans cheer for their team against the Boston Celtics during their Eastern Conference Finals playoff game on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Q: For Game 6 as much as I can, "cherish and enjoy this one for all it was worth," Wouldn't it be considered unacceptable to lose three out of four home games in a row? That's not meant to be an excuse if it were to happen, just that I wouldn't overstate home play in a matchup like this. Both teams have shown that they look very good regardless of the venue. And both teams have shown the inconsistency of looking lousy at home too. Of all the factors that go into Game 7, I'm not sure the venue would make the top of that list. Q: Isn't it strange that in the year the Heat ended so great, 30-11, Dion Waiters, who played great, got injured and the Heat didn't make the playoffs. The last two deep runs in the playoffs injured Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic two years ago, and this year Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry. Strange for the best conditioned team. A: In a way you also answered part of your question when you mentioned "deep runs". The longer you play, the greater the risk of injury. And I know that many will point out the supposedly grueling exercises and extensive training sessions. The Heat hardly practiced this season, especially in the second half of the season, especially in the playoffs. They also cut back on game day shootarounds a long time ago. Often the lonely preparation for games was a pre-game walkthrough of under an hour. Sometimes injuries just happen. And sometimes they happen at the wrong times. Q: Miami Heat preparing prospects for summer league? To leave them on the bench for the entire playoffs like Omer Yurtseven, when like him they could help the team enormously in a series like the one with the Celtics? That's absurd. A: The leap from summer standout to rotation is rarely a one-season affair. So Omer Yurtseven is right on schedule in many ways. The point of the article about the Heat's work with young players even in the playoffs is that with so many older players on the roster, a youth injection is important. In many ways, this has made the past six weeks a win-win.

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Whatever happens in Game 7, this Celtics season has been fun

COMMENT: Watching the Celtics rise from an average team to one of the best in the NBA this season has been a treat. (Author: Gardener)

Game 7Whatever happens in Game 7, the Celtics' season has been fun. Game 7. This is supposed to be fun. I have no idea if the Boston Celtics can travel to Miami on Sunday night and win a third away game against the Heat and reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a dozen years. I have no idea if the Celtics, who defend tenaciously like wolverines, will show up, or if the Celtics, who are firing wide-open shots and turning the ball around like it's covered in murder hornets, will take on the Heat. I just know it's gonna be fun. It might be euphoric, it might be disappointing, but it will be fun. Do you remember where this team was in January? On January 6, the Celtics lost a 16-point halftime lead to the New York Knicks. Boston was 18-21 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. The fans didn't think about the Eastern Conference Finals. They had hoped that the Celtics would have a tepid streak and only make the playoffs. Or, if they were particularly nihilistic, they called on Brad Stevens to blow up the team, turn the rest of the season into a flaming Viking funeral and try to hit a big lottery win. We know what happened after that. The Celtics woke up. They went 33-10 for the remainder of the regular season and climbed to second place in the East. This type of mid-season turnaround is not uncommon, but it is rare. It's rare for Sasquatch to ride a unicorn in a field of four leaf clovers. That's why it's fun, as much as it feels like the Celtics made things harder than they needed to be with losses to the Heat in Games 1, 3 and 6. Think about your expectations in early January. Still, it was a pleasure to watch these Celtics improve and develop. If you lose Game 7, don't roll over. The contract between fan and team should be short. The Celtics are frustrating at times, making blood pressure and goosebump-raising decisions on the pitch, but you can't blame them for ever calling. It's hard to win in professional sports, and the Celtics have made four conference finals in six years. This comes not long after the longest stretch of mediocrity in team history. When I was a kid, the Celtics were the only safe bet in Boston sports. The Red Sox would always find new ways to break your heart and stunt your growth. The Bruins made the playoffs every season but hit a wall called the Montreal Canadiens who were always good enough not to be good enough. The Celtics, on the other hand, were always good enough. i need a time machine Not to go back and place bets on every Super Bowl or throw that sixth-grade bully down a well, but to warn the 13-year-old self not to get so cocky about the Celtics. It was adorned with caricatures of the newly crowned Celtics champions. They had just tossed the Houston Rockets aside like 7-foot candy wrappers in the Finals. Enjoy it, I would say to a 13-year-old. There is no doubt, when it is said that the Celtics will take 22 years to win Banner 17, the 13-year-old would scoff, puff out his chest and point to the cartoons Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. The Celtics aren't going anywhere except for more victory saves. I could tell my younger self from 1986 to avoid Game 6 of the World Series in a few months because you won't believe how the Red Sox will kick hope out of your soul, but I wouldn't. There's a segment of Boston fans too young to remember either the glory years of the Bird teams or the low point years of the '90s and early 2000s. All you know is the little frustration that comes with reaching the conference finals only to come up short. If the Celtics lose Sunday night, those fans could call this season a failure, and they'll be wrong if they do. We know what failure looks like. There are no deep playoff runs. Sign up and get high school sports news and scores delivered to your inbox from preseason to the championships.

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