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The Warriors bench goes above and beyond in the late rally against the Mavs

The Warriors failed in their quest for a Conference Finals win, but what the bench did in their comeback attempt shouldn't be forgotten. (Author: Gardener)

MavsDALLAS — As the fourth quarter began Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Steve Kerr could see the writing on the wall. It was time to save his stars and get some time on the bench for the last 12 minutes. Little did he or anyone know what a show the Warriors reservists and youngsters would put on before falling 109-100 after going 29 points down going into the final third. The Warriors were 15 points down before halftime, and a 16-minute rain delay at halftime thanks to two leaks in Dallas' roof during a thunderstorm changed nothing. The Mavs continued to rain in and out of the arena, opening the third quarter on a 10-3 run. Golden State was outscored by 14 points in the third quarter, prompting Kerr to start the fourth with a lineup of Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and Nemanja Bjelica. They didn't play like a group ready to move on with a blowout before getting on a plane in the morning and heading home for Game 5. Not only looking to prove themselves, these five wanted to continue silencing a crowd that was growing quieter by the minute in their quest to sweep the Mavs. Though the end result was a Warriors defeat, this was nothing short of a victory for the second unit. The only question was why Kerr decided to turn to Steph Curry and shortly after Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins with more than three minutes remaining after the reserve reduced the deficit to just eight points after a 3-point corner from Kuminga had. "With about five minutes left, we cut it down to about 14," Kerr told reporters. It felt like we had a chance with three and a half minutes left when we put Steph and Klay and Wiggs in the game. I also felt like the group that had that great run in the fourth quarter might get a little tired there, so I just made the decision to see if we could pull off a miracle. "It wasn't supposed to be. Dallas was great tonight, they deserved the win. They executed, they played with more power and this is the conference finals. You could argue that the bench mob deserved their fight They finished a combined minus 103 in plus minus The bench was a combined plus 53. At the same time, this was the Warriors' chance to finish the Mavs and enjoy a long break before the NBA Finals begin June 2 Curry "Keeping Thompson and Wiggins on the bench as spectators? Anyway, the bench did more than anyone could have imagined. They made 32 of the Warriors' 39 points in the fourth quarter. The ball moved much better in that fourth quarter , something Lee partially attributes to this group fighting on days off and consistently finding that when they're not in the rotation they get game-like action, be it 3v3 or 5v5. The Warriors had just 16 assists in the first three quarters and 10 in the last frame alone. They doubled the mavs in rebounds, stole the ball three times and Moody deflected passes left and right. "Our job was to get out of there, keep playing the game, and try to fight back, and I did that," Moody said. Luka Dončić and the other main Mavs players should have sat back and rested in the fourth quarter. That was not the case. With the Mavs' lead cut to 18 points, Dallas coach Jason Kidd took no chances. Due in large part to the Warriors' backups, Dončić had to play nearly 38 minutes. Jalen Brunson finished the game with 34 minutes, Dorian Finney-Smith with 39 and Reggie Bullock with 38 minutes. That's far from ideal after what looked like a blowout on the Mavs' home court. "Even though we didn't come away with the win, those guys had to play for the rest of the game," Moody said. We had to go back to San Francisco and play them again and they didn't get a break in the second half. "They had to play every 40 minutes." But he scored six points and had four assists in the fourth quarter. That time truly belonged to the Warriors' two rookie teenagers in Kuminga and Moody. Kuminga, 19, led all scorers in the fourth quarter with 10 points. After Otto Porter Jr. suffered from left foot pain, Kuminga earned the veteran's rotation spot after not playing a second in the last two games. He ended up playing 22 minutes off the bench where he scored 19 points along with nine rebounds and finished as a plus-9. Moody, 19, also earned his place in the rotation and started the second quarter again. In 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, Moody scored eight points, hit both of his 3-point attempts, grabbed two rebounds and walked away with two steals. He ended up playing 23 minutes, scoring 10 points and was up 4. Those two lottery picks from last year are now only behind Kobe Bryant in minutes played by a 19-year-old in a conference finals series. For a team still led by grizzled veterans in Curry, Thompson and Green, it's more than heartening to see what two young pups are doing so deep in the playoffs. "It's been great because they've had an opportunity to go out there and make an impact, impact the game, build some confidence and experience in this series and how it feels to be out there," Curry said. “Since Otto is out, GP is out, there are minutes available and for us to finish this series, Game 5, I am sure they will play some minutes out there. The Warriors didn't get the job done Tuesday night in their Game 4 loss. But the bench, led by the future of the franchise, went above and beyond to push the Mavs to the limit. It should be felt in two nights and later this post-season and possibly further beyond that for years to come.

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Why this latest installment in the Dubs dynasty is the most rewarding

These Golden State Warriors' final trip to the NBA Finals, which requires a win over the Dallas Mavericks, will be their most rewarding. (Author: Gardener)

the Dubs dynastyYour Golden State Warriors are - miraculously admit it - just a single win away from a slightly less proud return to the NBA Finals. It was a messy campaign that I may have been working on all season, but undeniably successful now. That run to the finals (knock on the laws of probability wood) will possibly stand as her most inspiring achievement since the 2015 campaign. Surely it's the most unlikely. Golden State has long been vilified for myriad reasons, sometimes just, sometimes not, and their long list of accolades have been undermined or bitterly asterisked, but this postseason is without a doubt one of their greatest achievements in the Stephen Curry era, especially in light of the Regular season turmoil. A team willing to be the best version of their imperfect selves is a beautiful thing. And already another very long season of NBA basketball is almost in the history books of the recent past. The aforementioned sweepers, the Boston Celtics, are now the consensus-best team in the league but spent the first half of the season calling out to one another and attending player-only meetings before Ime Udoka's stern hand scared them straight . On the opposite coast, the Los Angeles Lakers fielded an unsuccessful superteam based solely on how good their regulars were in the final years of the Obama presidency. The Utah Jazz once again came ridiculously close to earning our respect, but the Memphis Grizzlies announced themselves with exclamation points. Giannis and the Bucks lost Khris Middleton at the worst possible time. But unlike many years past, there was an intriguing, unfamiliar quality to how everything would shake as we neared closure. There was never a definite hegemon that felt truly inevitable at any point. The team that came closest to that sort of ironclad last-man-standing inevitability was the Phoenix Suns, who, as no one should ever let you forget, flamed in a compelling way against the very same upstart Dallas Mavericks the Warriors are currently in have thrown a dropkick pit. The Mavericks, who should have won Game 2 against Golden State and definitely could have won Game 3, just weren't quite ready yet. The Warriors have respectfully postponed Luka Doncic's coming out party. That's good and right. J. Carlesimo coached this team and has been there longer than Luka. He will be back shortly. Maybe not these warriors. The balance found this season has more or less worked (sometimes more, sometimes less), but Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have all looked very mortal more often than ever this year. This isn't knocking; only the linear progression of time is mentioned. Jordan Poole is a deadly threat to be reckoned with on offense, but his slippery footwork and cunning around the basket in no way translated to the defensive end. Jonathan Kuminga is at least a year or two away from unleashing his full arsenal of potential. James Wiseman remains a 7ft question mark. Joe Lacob's bridge to the future will tilt more in favor of the future with each passing year as the Big Three grow gray facial hair. Whatever the future holds, it's the short-term present that has fought its way through at the high stakes at this hour, rumored to have sanctified this unlikely third act of the warrior dynasty, the most precarious act but in many ways already the greatest rewarding, especially after these two lost years. Previous Warriors teams spent nearly a decade making a leisurely stroll to the finals look insultingly easy. This time, this season, it certainly wasn't an effortless outing or a carefree stroll in the park. Like those amazing San Francisco Giants teams, nothing was easy; It was a defiant campaign led by the old boys who beat their sundown away and eventually became a bizarre world version of the Rasputin-era San Antonio Spurs. It was often reminiscent of the squads before Durant, you know, back when the Warriors were rowdy high-flyers, all inspiring defense and game-changing offensive spins. But this team's regular-season version has always felt only slightly ajar from their fully formed selves. At their lowest point, it seemed like a reasonable conclusion that they were headed for a first-round exit. They rose to the occasion, outlasted the MVP, then a wild and deep Grizzlies team, and now they're about to put down one of the next faces in the league. Championship save or a win against Boston or Miami, this team went ahead and leaned into the best version of themselves at that crucial point. You can't make me feel bad about this team right now. How long that will take, who can say, but hopefully until at least October 2022. The 20 Best Dating Apps of 2022 These Are the Best Deals on Amazon Today Some may find this kind of emotional resolution premature until a) the Warriors die Mavericks officially dispatch or b) they continue to defy fathertime and conventional wisdom and steal another championship ring. Again, not to hex the one team that certainly doesn't need to be hexed, but I decided to watch the finale with a Don Draper sense of enlightenment from the series finale. I'll take a "smile because it happened" attitude. Win or lose, the Warriors play with house money from now on. This is my "Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Warriors." There are always issues that need to be addressed next season, things that need to be addressed, but outcomes like these tend to wipe out season-long ailments and roster-related illnesses, at least temporarily. Sure, I'm still doing a little, but I'll move on to We Appreciate. I haven't done that nearly enough this year and will make up for lost time while things remain at a high level. Briefly recall a non-exhaustive list of things they overcame or survived this season: - a tailspin in the second half after a blistering start - Steph Curry lost his touch of three after breaking the all-time record - an absolute losing year for James Wiseman - significant missed time for every member of the Big 3 (and Andre Iguodala) - several embarrassing crunch-time moments of casual breakup (Dallas, Indiana, Orlando, etc.) - so many games with Big Hungover Energy too start and see opponents' double-digit leads predictably Next season will surely bring new problems and (possibly) new solutions and (certainly) new frustrations. But this year, this unlikely year, the warriors got the message. So, take a breath or a shot of soju or whatever it is that centers you and calibrates your mind and make an effort to just enjoy what's next and remind yourself who this team is and what a run it is you know what that means, except for Joe Lacob, who pats himself on the back and calls himself a genius. Put simply, this one feels special. These aren't the bulletproof, reality-warping teams of the Durant years. They're not even the young side of 2014-16 that chased wins and played with unsustainable panache. They are something different and new, something unfinished and imperfect. Whatever they are, they've managed to regain a joy that was once out of place. In doing so, they became the best kind of team to cheer for. Once lost, but now found and now finally, for the first time, an underdog who needs to prove himself. It feels good. So good that even if the Warriors lose by 60 on Tuesday night, my blood pressure will be fine.

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Caturday Night Fever: Tony Gonsolin appears as a star

Dominant breaking pitches have turned Tony Gonsolin into a cool cat. (Author: Gardener)

Tony GonsolinMaybe it's because the last few years have felt like a decade, but it feels like Tony Gonsolin has been around for a while. However, the Dodgers' 6'3" right-hander has amassed just 175.1 major league innings since his debut in 2019. Thanks to a Covid-shortened season and a few IL stints related to shoulder pain in 2021, he's pitched about as many innings as you'd expect from a traditional starter in a single MLB season. In those 175.1 innings, broken down into 34 starts and eight relief appearances, the former 9th-round pick has had a solid if unspectacular 178 strikeouts to 71 walks. Much more impressive is that in his 3+ year career to date he has carried an ERA of just 2.62 and a WHIP of 1.078. So what is Gonsolin doing, leading its elite numbers? Gonsolin's repertoire consisted of a four-sailer that sat a little under 94 MPH combined with a Reagan-era splitter and an 87 MPH slider with just a pinch of a diving curveball thrown in in his first three seasons. His mix was four-seam heavy, but the supply was still less than 50% of the pitches thrown. This year, however, Gonsolin has thrown more of his breaking pitches, resulting in a more even mix. He's using his four-sail about ten percent less than in previous seasons, while using all three of his breaking and off-speed pitches more often than he did in 2021. And there's a very good reason why Gonsolin has pitched his splitter to almost 30% its pitches. He creates more vertical movement on it than ever before. The chart below shows how dramatically his sliver has improved in terms of vertical movement since joining the league. So far this season, this splitter has two inches more slope than average for this pitch in the majors. Gonsolin's Shards have already been credited with eight saves and opponents are batting just .130 against this year. And that wasn't even his best pitch in that regard. These pitches have also generated puff rates of 38.9% and 37.5%, respectively. So far opponents are hitting .344 and hitting a sturdy .625 against the four sailor. It's obviously been his least effective offering so far, but he's only using it about a third of the time and is going there less and less. It's also worth noting that despite such strong puff rates on his breaking pitches, Gonsolin ranks in the bottom half (44th percentile) of the league in overall puff rate, thanks in large part to his poor 8.6% puff rate on this four-seam fastball . He does slightly better on the overall strikeout rate, ranking in the 52nd percentile. His only other glaring flaw is his walk rate, which sits at 11.4%, putting him just in the bottom quartile of MLB pitchers. Tony Gonsolin is known to love cats. And this season he's brought about a contact as soft as a kitten's fur. Its average allowable exit speed is 87.1 mph, which ranks 24th among starting pitchers and places in the top quartile. He is third among qualifying starters at only 1.5 barrel/PA%. Even better, he leads all of Major League Baseball in hard-hit percentage, allowing hard shots on just 23.3 percent of balls hit. The 20 balls he's allowed to hit at 95 mph or harder is the lowest total among starting pitchers, easily beating Zach Eflin (24) and Max Scherzer (28), who are ranked 2nd and 3rd. Obviously Gonsolin has been fantastic this season. His average draft slot overall was about 265, which would have made him a final round flyer in mixed standard leagues and placed him outside the top 80 starting pitchers. So far he was the 17th most valuable starter in the standard 5×5 classification. Even with the return of the dead-ball era, it's asking a lot for a pitcher to maintain an ERA under two runs per game, and Gonsolin probably won't do it because it's unlikely a pitcher will. He throws a nice, even mix of pitches with tons of movement and makes some of the softest contacts in the league. I'd like to see the walk rate drop a bit, and he's only served more than five innings twice in seven starts, so quality starts might not be all that common. I think it's important to list players you really like in real life and Gonsolin seems like a really likable player. Gonsolin is currently slated for his next start next Saturday, May 21 in the Phillies. It's a great test early in the season against a strong Philly offense. Take the opportunity to see Gonsolin for yourself, and maybe check out a pair of fine cat slippers while you enjoy the game.

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Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat need help getting back to the NBA Finals

With Jimmy Butler slow, Kyle Lowry slower and Tyler Herro in courtside couture, the Celtics defense was not viable. (Author: Gardener)

Jimmy ButlerThe Celtics pull off an impressive 102-82 win over the Heat to tie the series 2-2. The Celtics pull off an impressive 102-82 win over the Heat to tie the series 2-2. BOSTON — Midway through the third quarter on Monday night as the Celtics stretched their lead to as much as 32 points, Rudy Gobert couldn't resist. "This Boston defense is tough," the Utah Jazz Center tweeted. This was both harmless and accurate at a time when the Celtics were choking the Miami Heat and rewriting a string of records on their way to a 102-82 win that tied the Eastern Conference Finals 2-2. Gobert noted that the Celtics looked great on defense, although Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart was out with an ankle injury. Gobert, a three-time DPOY, still seems salted that Smart beat him for the award. What Gobert said, however, is that despite Smart's absence, the Heat were powerless to score against Boston at half court. The Heat are hurting at the moment and it looks like they'll need some help to win two of the three games left to reach the finals. Be it the injury gods, the Celtics themselves or some offensive savers yet to be discovered. Projecting a strong and content front after the loss, they looked forward to returning home with home field advantage for Game 5. "It's part of the playoffs, there are these extreme ups and downs," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "We've proven that we can find offensive solutions in very different ways." The Heat have shown throughout the season that they can handle adversity. They were plagued by injuries and ever-changing line-ups, but still ended up with No. 1 in the East. Spoelstra was again a candidate for Coach of the Year for his ability to consistently piece together a working engine. However, the situation Miami finds itself in is a real test of that track record. Three of their key attacking players are struggling with troublesome injuries. Tyler Herro, the sixth man of the year, missed Game 4 with a groin injury and is struggling to walk without pain. Playing through an infection in his right knee, Jimmy Butler appeared to have trouble getting lift and separation, shooting just 3 of 14. After coming to the line 26 times in the first two games, Butler was in the last three Halftimes only there twice when knee problem flared up. Still coming off a hamstring injury, Kyle Lowry has shot just 5 of 17 in the two games since returning to the lineup. There is only a one-day rest period between games in the conference finals - for television purposes it has long been, regardless of the effect of game quality - and three hours of flying on the days off. The injuries don't have much time to heal. It has nothing to do with my knee," Butler said despite the results. "I just have to get better. Heat star Bam Adebayo said: "Injuries are part of it, it's part of the playoffs. You just have to find a way to win.” That attitude in the circumstances is part of Heat's longtime mantra: "We've had enough." That's been Spoelstra's guiding principle when faced with adversity all these years, and it is even today. But against this Celtics team and defense that has been the star of their playoff run and impressive enough for an expert like Gobert to give their approval, the Heat's optimism is harder to sell. When the Heat clinched the surprise win in Game 3 on Saturday, they were helped by a slew of Celtics turnovers that fueled offensive chances and resulted in a staggering 33 points. Even then, the game was only decided in the final minutes. The Celtics shut that tap on Monday; They turned the ball just three times in the first half and gave up just seven points less turnover for the game. With Butler Slow, Lowry Slower and Herro in Courtside Couture it was impossible to survive. Miami started the game incredibly 0-of-14 from the field and improved only slightly from there, finishing with just 33% shooting. Derrick White, starting instead of Smart for the third time this postseason, was spectacular as he protected boundaries for Boston and pulled off three steals. And everyone wearing green and white was tied into the game plan, which included keeping bodies in front of Adebayo and forcing shots from middle range. Miami had a measly eight points under their belt in the first half when the game was decided. Spoelstra, as is his nature, dismissed the worrisome situation as temporary. "We don't apologize," said the coach. We can win it if the floodgates open and 3s hit. We can do it by Jimmy taking over a game. This Heat team has thrived on disrespect all season. At the start of the playoffs, the sportsbooks only had them in fifth place in the odds of winning the East, despite their top placing. Adebayo was furious that he wasn't in the top three for Defensive Player of the Year awards - Gobert was the last finalist spot. The Celtics have been the big favorites in this series, but the Heat are yet to fall behind. "That's what you want," Spoelstra said. We'll do this together and then we'll go back to Miami and get ready for Game 5."

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Celtics, Heat in tight streaks despite games being anything but

BOSTON (AP) - Huge leads. Outbreaks. (Author: Gardener)

BOSTONBoston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots over Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin ( 16). Fans applaud after a drive by Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) in the second half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference NBA Basketball Playoffs against the Miami Heat Monday, May 23, 2022 in Boston. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots over Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler ( 22). Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) drives to the basket against the Miami Heat during the second half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference NBA Basketball Playoff Finals Monday, May 23, 2022 in Boston. Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) drives past Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (2) during the second half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference NBA Basketball Playoff Finals, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Boston. Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) is pressured by Boston Celtics center Al Horford, left, during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Basketball Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Boston. Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra calls on his players while taking on the Boston Celtics in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference NBA Basketball Playoffs Finals Monday, May 23, 2022 in Boston. The Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics is as close as can be and it's back to Miami, all with two wins apiece. Boston scored 18 of the first 19 points Monday night en route to a 102-82 win in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series. The Celtics led by as much as 32 points in the third quarter - a big gap even for a series full of them. "Sometimes when you have two really competitive teams, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a one-point game," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “That means it can be flammable in any case. Both teams are ignitable.” And they seem to take turns catching fire: the team that got blown out won the next game every time. "What they did to us, we can do to them," Spoelstra said. This is part of the playoffs. There are these extreme ups and downs, especially when you have two teams that are pretty close and evenly matched.” And games dominated by defense don't always make for entertaining television. The series moves to Miami for Game 5 on Wednesday, with Boston guaranteeing another home game on Friday. The Heat would host Sunday's crucial seventh game if needed. "I think human nature matters, when you win a game you can relax a little," said Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who played in Game 4 31 points after scoring 10 on 3-for-14 shooting in the previous game “Obviously when we lose a game we feel like it's all or nothing in the next game and then we come out "I think we have to have that attitude in Game 5 - that it's a must - win game because tonight was basically that," he said. We could all feel it. I think that showed in the way we came out." It was the fourth straight game by a 20-point lead, two of which exceeded 30. There have been four lead changes throughout the series - just one in second half and none in the fourth quarter. Right," said Miami guard Victor Oladipo, who came off the bench more than eight minutes into the first quarter to score the first basket of the Heat after they were already 18-1 down . In a seesaw series, Game 1 was the most competitive of games, with the Celtics leading early by 13 points before Miami outplayed them 39-14 in the third quarter to finally take the lead. The Heat held a double-digit lead for most of the fourth quarter. In Game 2, Boston built up a 34-point lead en route to a 25-point win. The Heat said they were embarrassed at their home pitch and Game 3 was the payback; they shot out to a 26-point lead in the first half. And after losing big at home on Saturday, the Celtics led 8-0, 18-1, 26-4 in the first quarter of Game 4. "Obviously (it's) because we lost the last game," Boston center Robert Williams III said. “I feel like our team is like that. Although the Heat reduced their 26-point lead to one in Game 3, Boston never led the entire game. On Monday night, the Celtics led by double digits for more than 43 of the 48 minutes despite shooting under 40%, with their starters going 3-for-20 from within 3-point range. "It's sometimes an inconsistent streak by both teams," said Boston coach Ime Udoka.

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Don't overlook the importance of the Celtics winning the big men's Game 4 battle

The big men of the Celtics don't have a cool name like Heat's Edrice Femi "Bam" Adebayo. Al Horford and Robert Williams usually only reply to Al and Rob, which […] (Author: Gardener)

Game 4The big men of the Celtics don't have a cool name like Heat's Edrice Femi "Bam" Adebayo. Al Horford and Robert Williams mostly just reply to Al and Rob, which is the naming equivalent of basic fundamentals, although the latter is still occasionally screamed as "Timelord". But in the Celtics' tense 102-82 loss in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals Monday night, Horford and Williams were so effective at both ends of the court, particularly in neutralizing Game 3 tormentor Adebayo, that they might as well "Wham" Horford and "Slam" could have been Williams. Horford delivered one of the strangest stat lines you'll see this postseason for a player crucial to the win - it was a Draymond Green special of sorts. In 33 minutes he made just two shots, hitting a 3-pointer and two free throws for his 5 points. This was one of those nights where his value and importance could be found in boxing everywhere else: he snagged 13 rebounds, blocked 4 shots - including one in the fourth quarter where he was either greeting the crowd or glancing into the distance , where the pulverized basketball landed - and dealt 3 assists. Perhaps most importantly, he set a physical tone by crushing Adebayo, who had just 9 points and 6 rebounds after dominating the Heat's Game 3 win (31 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals) . And he did it straight away: Horford Adebayo snatched the ball away on the first move of the game. "Bam made it work in the last game and the lads take it personally," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka afterwards. Horford also contributed his usual array of intangibles. After Marcus Smart was out with a high ankle sprain, Horford subtly took over some of the ball-handling duties and made a point of pushing the ball himself onto the court after virtually every one of his rebounds. We should go beyond calling Horford unsung because most fans know how good he is. But it was nice to see him get a little "sung to" by the Garden crowd midway through the third quarter as, after stealing the ball from Kyle Lowry on one possession and blocking a shot on the next, he got a loud standing ovation . There was a lot of pre-game excitement waiting to see who was in and out for both teams, that physicality of that particular series and the long season as a whole took its toll on both squads. The word Williams, who missed Game 3 with knee pain and underwent meniscus surgery in late March, would play seemed crucial to the Celtics' chances, even more so than the fact that the ground leader and defensive threat Smart was there are outside. Adebayo throttled Celtics backup center Daniel Theis in the bubble two years ago, and he did it again in the Heat's Game 3 breakaway's dominating opening minutes before Udoka decided it was prudent to opt for others options to decide. The Celtics, faced with the threat of falling 3-1 behind and watching this extraordinary season (well, since January anyway) gradually turn black, needed Williams to play and they needed him to play well to play. And what a relief it was that when the Celtics took control early and refused to back down, he wasn't just trying his sore knee but being his usual active, often electrifying, self. Williams scored 12 points on 4 of 5 shots, hit all four of his free throw attempts (he's made 14 of 16 from the line in the postseason), grabbed 9 rebounds, blocked two shots and made his presence known to the Heat at all times. "Every time they went to the basket," noted Brian Scalabrine on NBC Sports Boston's postgame show, "they kept an eye on where Robert Williams was." On offense, Williams remained relatively earthbound by his usual high-flying standards. He caught a lob from a driving Horford for an early slam, but his biggest contribution was doing some grunt work and helping the Celtics retain possession - he had five offensive rebounds - on a night when the Celtics only 39.7 percent shot. It was the Celtics' 25th rebound of the night to Heat's bare nine when Rob Williams found a miss from Grant Williams 10 minutes, 41 seconds into the second quarter. The Celtics finished the first half with 41 rebounds, including nine from Williams and eight from Horford, for a total of 69 rebounds. Williams hobbled slightly as he finally checked out about 7 minutes from time, which immediately raises concerns about his status for Wednesday's Game 5 in Miami. "The knee feels great... [just] wearing it day in and day out and spending a lot of time with the trainers. On Monday night, Williams' knee reacted well enough to help the Celtics react exactly as they needed in Game 4. And so the countdown continues: Two more victories bring the Celtics into the final.

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As the Celtics chase Banner 18, their run is really about the Lakers

Boston's seemingly unlikely run to the No. 18 banner isn't necessarily about beating Miami or even Golden State, it's about getting a leap ahead of those damn Lakers, writes our John Tomase. (Author: Gardener)

18First the Celtics have to beat the tinny heat, followed probably by the formidable Warriors. But this unlikely run toward Banner 18 is actually about a whole different team — the Lakers. Do you remember them - Showtime, Shaq and Kobe, the LeBronaissance? For decades, the Celtics served as the Yankees or Canadiens of the NBA, the team that not only holds the most titles but also has an absurd lead. For Boston sports fans of a certain age, the Celtics single-handedly absolved the Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots of their sins. The Sox hadn't won in nearly a century, the Bruins couldn't beat the Habs, and the Patriots were best known for nearly going bankrupt when Michael Jackson's hair caught fire. So thank god for the Celtics. From Bob Cousy and Bill Russell to John Havlicek and Dave Cowens to Larry Bird and the Big Three, the Celtics have been reloading relentlessly, often at the expense of the Lakers, who won five titles in Minneapolis before anyone cared about basketball, and then only another despite a decade by Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. The Celtics always got in their way and we loved it. When Bird raised his 16th banner in 1986, the Lakers finished a distant second with nine. They would certainly never fill that gap in our lives. But Magic Johnson and Showtime won the next two championships. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led a three-peat in the early 2000s. After losing to the Celtics in 2008, the Lakers clinched back-to-back crowns, the latter a seven-game slugfest of vengeance over the dying breaths of the new Big Three. When the Celtics imploded against the Heat in the 2020 bubble, it meant they had no chance of defending the honor of the franchise. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were basically unstoppable anyway, and they bowled Miami in six games. Celtics Talk: Is Robert Williams Key To Celtics Beating The Heat? And just like that, something incredible happened: The Lakers separated the Celtics by 17 titles. LeBron and AD went nowhere and the Lakers opened 2021 as favorites for a replay. And then that year unfolded like a disaster movie as James finally showed his age, frequently showing his frustration and only being shown the door for the fourth time in his career and missing the playoffs entirely. Across the country, no one considered the Celtics contenders. Kyrie Irving's departure had doomed the organization to middle-class, despite the presence of potential superstar Jayson Tatum. Which franchise can lose Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier in quick succession, replace them with a busted Kemba Walker and bounce back? Certainly not the Celtics. We spent more time examining their Tank-A-Thon draft ratings than any chance of making the playoffs. But they weren't, not even close. They caught fire in January and now most of the NBA is on fire. Behind the league's most suffocating defense and a three-point bomb attack, the Celtics flattened their competition. They went down the stretch 33-10, swept the nets in the first round and then outlived defending champion Bucks in seven games. If they can stay focused and beat the Heat for two more games, they will return to the Finals for the first time in 12 years. And once they get there, it only takes them four wins to restore the franchise to its rightful place at the top of the all-time NBA hierarchy and push the Lakers back to second place, where we all agree they are belong. You should do it for the Cooz, who at 93 is still perceptive and defending the honor of his era against outrageous guys like J. You should do it for Russell, the greatest champion in team sport history. You should do it for the legends we've lost in the last five years alone, from Havlicek to Sam Jones to K.C. Jones to our own Tommy Heinsohn, who would love hell while imploring Tatum and co., "Get out and run!" They should do it for Bird and Chief and certainly Danny Ainge, who built most of the current roster. The post-Bird years were some of the worst in franchise history, a dark age that lasted three decades before Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen all joined forces. However, this group was never destined to win more than one or two as they met like in their respective 30s. Defensive Swiss Army Knife Robert Williams is 24 years old. We could rightly be looking forward to the birth of the NBA's next mini-dynasty that would make Boston a destination again. Meanwhile, the Lakers are in a crisis. They need a new coach, James turns 38 in December, the Russell-Westbrook experiment has failed miserably and Davis is reportedly set to be sold to half the league's teams. It's possible the Celtics are preparing to put a real distance between themselves and the Lakers in the title division in the next few years, but that's ahead of us.

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Heat, Celtics now in a best-of-3 to decide the East title

MIAMI (AP) - Back. The Miami Heat want this pattern to continue. The Boston Celtics are hoping to break that trend. And the team that prevails Wednesday night is a game away from the NBA Finals. The Eastern Conference Finals was nothing more than a series of mood swings set to continue with Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday. The top-seeded Heat and second-seeded Celtics are tied at two games apiece; that... (Author: Gardener)

EastMiami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) is pressured by Boston Celtics center Al Horford, left, during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Basketball Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Boston. The Miami Heat want this pattern to continue. The Boston Celtics are hoping to break that trend. And the team that prevails Wednesday night is a game away from the NBA Finals. The Eastern Conference Finals was nothing more than a series of mood swings set to continue with Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday. The top-seeded Heat and second-seeded Celtics are tied at two games apiece; The Heat rallied in the second half to win Game 1, Boston used a huge first-half run to react and win Game 2, Miami responded in Game 3 and the Celtics cavorted in Game 4. Boston Celtics -Forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots over Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Basketball Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Boston. "It's not surprising," Boston coach Ime Udoka said on Tuesday. I've known Miami and (heat coach Erik Spoelstra) for a while now and that's the epitome of who they are - toughness. Both teams have adjusted the energy that comes from losing and now it's our turn to be more responsive to a win.” The Celtics – even without Defenseman of the Year Marcus Smart, who was sidelined again, this time with a sprained ankle – left no doubt in Game 4, took an 18-1 lead to open the game and never came close to giving up control. The Miami starters combined for 18 points in Game 4 — yes, combined the lowest such total for a start of five in a playoff game in at least 40 years. The Heat were missing Tyler Herro with a groin problem, Jimmy Butler didn't look right (although he insisted) after missing half of Game 3 with knee pain, and Kyle Lowry, Max Strus and P. There have been no lead changes since the first Quarters of Game 2; Boston took control of that game and never let go, Miami took a big early lead in Game 3 and kept it late but never fully relinquished the lead, and the Celtics took a chokehold from the opening seconds in Game 4. "What you see here is a great series," Spoelstra said. Game 5 in a draw series are always swing games. When a series is tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 in a best-of-seven series ultimately wins 82% of the time. "It's like a new show," said Jayson Tatum of Boston. Boston took 40 more free throws than Miami in Games 3 and 4 combined; in Game 4 alone, the difference was 24. The problem is aggression (or lack thereof), Butler said. "I think we have to be more of a powerful team, come into our own color, don't shy away from contact and play from the inside out," said Butler. The Celtics have lost three quarters and two games in this series. Of the 16 quarters in this matchup so far, the Celtics have won nine and drawn four more. The two quarters that hurt Boston the most are obvious: the third quarter of Game 1 (Miami wins 39-14 to turn the game around) and the first quarter of Game 3 (Miami wins 39-18 to set the tone to indicate for this victory). . The other quarter the Heat won was meaningless as Miami edged Boston 30-26 in the fourth blowout of Game 4. The Heat are 9-6 all-time in best-of-seven streaks tied after four games, including 1-0 this season after beating Philadelphia in the East semifinals. The Celtics are 34-13 in best-of-seven going 2-2 in Game 5, also 1-0 this season - after losing Game 5 in the East Semifinals to Milwaukee but winning the last two games of that series had. Boston is favored by 1.5 points in Game 5 as of Tuesday, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Miami is 4-1 at home as underdogs this season and has been favored in 35 of their last 36 home games on Wednesday. Waiting to see if Herro can play in Game 5, The Heat are up against Butler (knee), Lowry (hamstring), Tucker (ankle), Strus (hamstring) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring), who are at least slightly handicapped last games. Smart is still trying to get the pain out of his sprained ankle and Celtics center Robert Williams III - who has been slowed down this series by ongoing recovery from knee surgery - said he emerged from Game 4 with no significant problems.

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3 things we learned from Game 4 of Monday's Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals

The Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat 102-82 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday to level that streak 2-2 before returning to Miami for Game 5. (Author: Gardener)

Game 4 of Monday'sIf you're trying to determine the winner of that series, or just the winner of a game in that series, you can also assign the Boston Celtics odd numbers and the Miami Heat even numbers, blindfold yourself, and roll a pair of dice. Heading into Game 4 on Monday, the Heat led that series 2-1 after beating the Celtics by six points in Game 3. However, they led by as much as 26 points, so maybe this really wasn't as close as many had imagined. The Celtics knew they had their backs to the wall and needed to play big compared to what happened in Game 3. In the first quarter of Game 4, the Celtics came out hot, beating the Heat by 18 points and holding onto just 11 points on a 3-20 shooting. Defensively, Boston were suspended for this game and as they continued to be stopped on defense their offense started to click. Even with Marcus Smart sidelined with an ankle injury, the Celtics were able to roll past Miami with one of their best defensive performances of the season to earn a 102-82 win in a game that saw them lead by as much as 32 points with 31 points in 8th -16 shooting saw Jayson Tatum look like his All-Star self after a poor 10-point performance in Game 3, finishing 32-38 from the free throw line. Boston shouldn't expect to hit that many free throws every night, but their aggressiveness paid off in large measure, and we should assume their game plan for Game 5 on offense in terms of attacking the basket from the touchline will be similar. With that series now tied 2-2, there is still virtually no separation between these two teams as they now face a "best-of-3" scenario with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake. Game 4 ended in a resounding win for the Boston Celtics, but here's what we learned from their win Monday night. For two very even teams, especially on defense, it's really shocking to see how much this series has tipped back and forth in terms of consistency. We really haven't seen a close game between these two teams and while Game 3 turned out to be the closest game in this series where the Heat only gained 6 points, this game still wasn't really close. Heading into Game 5, we could brace ourselves to see another blowout win by either side, but that probably won't be the case. Now that that series is at 2-2, both teams will feel a bit of pressure, especially since a Game 5 win puts them one win away from making the NBA Finals. So far in this series, the team that wins the first quarter has won three of the four games played, with Game 1 being the only exception. Coming out hot and starting strong has opened up those massive leads in this series, and if both sides can come out of the deep early in Game 5 on Wednesday, we could look forward to another overwhelming win. This series may only be 2-2, but if you break things down by quarters, the Celtics lead the run with 9-3 in quarters won, and the two teams have drawn in four different quarters throughout the series. Based on that, many would believe the Celtics are leading this streak and potentially taking the chance to end it in Game 5. They have to credit the Heat for the work they did in their two wins, just as Miami has outplayed Boston by 17 points overall in those two games, but ultimately this series is Boston's loser. Jimmy Butler aside, the rest of the Heat roster can be very inconsistent on the offensive end of the parquet, and while Bam Adebayo put on a stellar performance in Boston in Game 3, he really didn't show the rest of the series averaging just 8.3 points , 6.3 rebounds and shooting 9-15 (60%) from the floor in the other three games in this series. Not only did Bam Adebayo underperform, but Tyler Herro is struggling with a groin injury, Kyle Lowry still seems to be struggling a bit with a hamstring injury, and without these guys' performance, the Heat will have to rely on Jimmy Butler to pull it all together to do. The Heat are a great defensive team and it shouldn't come as a surprise that they're winning this series given that Game 5 and possibly Game 7 will be on their home field, but this is the Celtics' series to lose and they've proven it this with her playthrough of four games. For Miami to win two of their next three games and advance to the NBA Finals, not only do they need other guys outside of Jimmy Butler to step up, but they also need to remain aggressive on offense. Max Strus, Tyler Herro, Gabe Vincent, Kyle Lowry and a few others are capable of knocking down threesomes, but Boston wants Miami to shoot from deep. They've shot just 33.8% from three-point range this series, and when they take perimeter jumpers, the Celtics defense wins. With the two victories of the Heat in this series, what stands out above all is that they attacked the rim aggressively and were able to score in the color. The Heat used the pick and roll to their advantage and had a lot of success in the postseason, driving from screens to baskets and either converting layups or getting to the free throw line. In Games 1 and 3 of that series, the two games that won the Heat, they averaged 44.0 points in the suit and averaged 24.0 free throw attempts per game. In their two losses in Games 2 and 4, the Heat averaged just 35.0 points in the suit and averaged 18.0 free throw attempts per game. That's where the difference lies in this series for Miami, and if they can ramp up offensively in Game 5 and just take the open, high proof threes, they can go 3-2 in this series against Boston. It can't just be Jimmy Butler doing things offensively. All ball handlers and guards for Miami need to stand up and realize that aggressiveness on offense leads to wins for them.

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Brad Stevens' acquisition of Derrick White is paying off for the Celtics in this playoff

Game 4 marked White's final contribution, making admirable use of Marcus Smart and emphasizing the cleverness of Stevens' move. (Author: Gardener)

Brad Stevens'Derrick White (center) scored the first 7 points of the game and the Celtics were on the run. The Celtics' landslide victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals -- a "contest" in name only -- was also a Gino-esque victory dance for Brad Stevens, the president of basketball's first year operations, and his prized pickup. It showed Steven's vision and the depth of the roster he assembled and then renewed at the close by making the very un-Danny Ainge-esque decision to grant a pair of first-round picks in a deal to acquire point guard Derrick put white by the San Antonio Spurs. Don't forget the importance of the Celtics winning the big men's battle in Game 4. Say hello to White and Stevens for the Celtics ensemble's 102-82 triumph Monday night that even sent the series back to South Florida as a best-of-three affair. The trade to acquire White never looked better than with him admirably filling in for heart-and-soul Marcus Smart, who was doing hors de hoops with a right ankle injury he sustained in Game 3 had drawn, in a game that you absolutely have to win. Like the man he replaced, White's influence extended beyond the box score. He was Boston's power animal and accepted the challenge of the moment by finishing with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block. "He was great," said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “Part time starter when the boys are out he checks so many boxes for us. Like I said, it's not just things that show up on the stat sheet or in the rating, but he's the guy who moves the ball extremely well and defends multiple positions extremely well. “We don't lose much if certain guys go in or out. Having a player of White's caliber who can step in for an important figure like Smart speaks to the Celtics' calling card - their strength in numbers. During the playoffs, various players have appeared in various games as supporting beams to keep the NBA Finals dreams of core Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Smart alive. It was White's turn on Monday night and he wasted no time. The fifth-year guard set the tone by scoring the first 7 points for the Celtics. After White threw a fast break alley oop to Tatum, the score was 16-1. In a 180 from Game 3, the Celtics were big after the first quarter. They led 29-11 behind 12 points from Tatum - who outplayed the Heat himself after scoring just 10 points in Game 3 - and 10 points from White. The winning team in each game of this whiplash series has led by 20 points or more. Without the best defenseman in the league, the Celtics didn't miss a shot. Miami was down to 57 points at 8:55 in the fourth quarter. Not a single heat starter recorded double-digit points. "Obviously I miss Smart, keep saying hello to D-White," said Celtics center Robert Williams. "I feel like his energy early in the game set the tone for a lot of us." And thanks to Stevens for doing everything he could to win White. Ainge's fingerprints are everywhere on this team, from the Jays and Smart to Grant Williams and Robert Williams as late first-round picks. There were role players who thought they were better, like Marcus Morris. If the Celtics don't win the series, it will be one of the biggest missed opportunities in the history of the Boston sport. Stevens was brought off the bench and seems to have a better flair for creating a working squad than his old boss. He's also willing to part with valuable first-round picks for it. He sent a 2021 first-round pick to Oklahoma City to break Kemba Walker's contract and win back Al Horford. He gave up this year's first-rounder as well as a first-round pick swap in 2028 to bring White on board. It wasn't always the smoothest transition for White, who started 48 of 49 games for the Spurs. "You get thrown in the middle of the year, no training camp, nothing," White said. “They have something that they have established, play all year round, I don't know how many months together. But like the man who acquired him, White was determined to be aggressive. "The team did a great job of just being like, no, just be you," White said. It was ugly and rugged, but an exceptional performance propelled the Celtics to a crucial Game 4 victory. This was already a memorable run for White. He missed Game 2 when his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Hendrix, who shares the same name as Robert Williams' infant son. The streak has been one of on-court amnesia as the slate is wiped clean and a team wiped out every game. Neither team could strike a balance. The Celtics hope to change that in Game 5 with or without Smart on Wednesday. White will be waiting in the wings, ready to play his part, however big or small. That's what championship roleplayers do. This is how the Brad Stevens-built Celtics roll and a big reason they rolled in Game 4.

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