With help from Mark Cuban, Delonte West begins rehab

Former NBA player Delonte West has spent years majorly struggling with serious problems off the court. But finally, there’s good news. Here’s Boston.com reporting:

Former Celtics guard Delonte West is taking the first steps toward rehabbing his life.

In a tweet on Friday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban shared an image of West — who has struggled with bipolar disorder, homelessness, and substance abuse — smiling while riding a horse.

“Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you, Delonte West,” Cuban wrote.

Cuban wanted to add that while West is off to a good start, the journey is far from complete.

“A long, long, long way to go, but he has taken the first steps and shared these with all of us as a thank you for the love and support.”

Definitely click that link atop this entry for more on West, and what Mark Cuban did to help.

Hopefully, West stays on a positive path. We’re rooting for him.

Isaiah Thomas aims for return to NBA

Guard Isaiah Thomas was a big deal for a while. And then injuries struck, and lingered on and on. And soon he became an afterthought. But that’s not he way he wants to be remembered. And he’s ready for a comeback. Here’s Boston.com reporting:

Isaiah Thomas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski he has “no more pain” after undergoing a hip resurfacing procedure five months ago and is hoping to contribute to an NBA roster this upcoming season.

Thomas pieced together one of the more memorable individual runs in Celtics history in 2016-17, averaging 28.9 points per game and willing the team deep into the playoffs. He pushed through a lingering injury as much as he could yet was ultimately ruled out for the final three games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics then traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, in a deal for Kyrie Irving, and Thomas has never been the same since the setback he suffered in a March 2017 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since that season, he’s played a total of 84 games in four years with four teams.

He believes he’s recharged and is poised for a bounce-back season, calling it “like night and day” since he had the procedure to fix a bone-on-bone issue that bothered him for three years.

If Thomas is truly healthy now, then he’s surely worth signing to a non-guaranteed contract, as a scoring option off the bench.

Heat eliminate Celtics in Eastern Conference Finals, advance to NBA Finals

Sunday night at the Disney NBA bubble in Florida, the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 125-113, winning the Eastern Conference Finals in six games. The Heat advance to the NBA Finals, where they’ll face the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 of the Finals is Wednesday night on ABC TV.

Boston.com: The Celtics had a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Miami didn’t flinch. The Heat went on a 19-6 run to take a seven-point lead with just over four minutes remaining. They moved the ball with confidence and went back to their zone to reinvigorate themselves on the defensive end. Bam Adebayo led the way for Miami’s offense as it extended its lead to 12-points with three minutes left.

Boston.com:The Heat continued to ride that momentum, while Boston struggled to handle its opponent’s relentless energy. This series really came down to crunch-time execution, and that was the case again Sunday night. The Heat outscored the Celtics 35-17 over the final nine minutes of Game 6, leaving their final mark on the Eastern Conference Finals with authority.

Boston.com:The Celtics played great defense early in the fourth quarter, effectively slowing down the Heat, but their inability to close out games reared its head late. Miami exerted its dominance down the stretch as it did in all four of its Eastern Conference Finals wins, a fitting way to seal the deal in Game 6.

Boston Herald: “Though four Celtics scored at least 20 points, led by Jaylen Brown’s 26, they were unable to get the requisite stops. That especially was true where Adebayo and his rolls to the rim were concerned. The Celtics also missed a plethora of open shots down the stretch, with players like Gordon Hayward (5-for-12) and Kemba Walker (5-for-15) missing open layups. With the Celtics caught between his interior attack and the omnipresent threat of Miami’s shooters, the Heat put this one away with a 26-6 run in the fourth quarter that effectively squelched the Celtics’ season.

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “Sunday’s victory was powered by 32 points and 14 rebounds from Adebayo, as well as 22 points from Butler, 19 from Tyler Herro, 15 from Iguodala, 15 from Duncan Robinson and 13 from Goran Dragic. For the Celtics, there were 26 points from Jaylen Brown, 24 from Jayson Tatum, 20 from Marcus Smart and 20 from Kemba Walker.”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “After going down six earlier in the fourth quarter, the Heat got a three-point play from Adebayo with 6:16 to play to go up 101-100. The counterpunching continued from there, with Celtics center Daniel Theis fouling out with 5:30 to play and the Heat then calling time out while up 104-102. A minute later, a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer put the Heat up 107-102. The Heat eventually made it a 26-6 run, for a 14-point lead. At one point, the Celtics went 3 1/2 minutes without a point. By then, it was time for the white flag from the Celtics.”

Celtics played harder than Heat in Game 5, says Jimmy Butler

The Heat are in good shape, up 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Celtics, but issues do exist for Miami that need to be addressed in their quest to end this thing tomorrow. Here’s the Miami Herald:

Defense was certainly an issue for the Heat in Game 5, as the Celtics scored a series-high 121 points on 45.2 percent shooting and committed only 11 turnovers. Boston also outrebounded Miami 50-38 and scored 15 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds.

“They were playing harder than we were,” Jimmy Butler said following the Heat’s Game 5 loss. “We’ve just got to correct that. That’s where it starts for us. Any time anybody is playing harder than we are, we are not playing our best basketball. I think a lot of it for us comes from how hard we play, how together we play, and we’ve got to get back to doing that.”

But the Heat’s defense, which was a strength in the first two rounds of the playoffs, has struggled for most of the series.

The Heat, using a mix of its zone and man-to-man schemes against the Celtics, has allowed 114.5 points per 100 possessions in the East finals. For context, only two NBA teams finished the regular season with a worse defensive rating.

Game 5 was fascinating in that the Celtics started slow and looked ready to pack it up and go home, then steadily improved as the game progressed, and have every reason to walk into Game 6 with increased confidence. Boston has momentum. Time for Miami to show what they’re truly made of.

Celtics doing good job defending Heat three-pointers

The Heat remain in good shape in the Eastern Conference Finals, but upon seeing their 3-1 series lead on the Celtics become a 3-2 lead, it’s still a series. And one thing keeping the Celtics competitive has been their perimeter defense, especially in the last few games. Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel on it:

After going the entire season and two-plus rounds of the playoffs without shooting below 30 percent on 3-pointers in consecutive games, the Heat now have done so in the past three against the Boston Celtics, going 1-2 in that span.

“They’re very good at defending the 3-point line,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve taken us off of some of our normal rhythm threes. We’ve also missed some open ones. We just need to work more persistently to get the type of shots we want, in our wheelhouse, which we’re very capable of, even against a very good defense like Boston.”

The downturn started at .273 (12 of 44) in the 117-106 loss that drew Boston within 2-1 in this best-of-seven series. It continued at .270 (10 of 37) in the 112-109 victory that pushed the Heat to a 3-1 series lead. Then, Friday night, it went off the rails, at .194 (7 of 36) in the 121-108 loss that cut the advantage down to 3-2 going into Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. Game 6 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

“Our guys are extremely ignitable. It can happen just like that,” Spoelstra said, snapping his fingers. “But we have to do a lot more things defensively, where we’re not just hoping that we make a bunch of threes and a bunch of shots.”

As it is, the past two games mark just the second time this season the Heat have gone consecutive games without converting more than 10 3-pointers.

Game 6 is Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Celtics beat Heat in Eastern Conference Finals Game 5, 121-108

Miami Herald: “The Heat led the Boston Celtics by 12 points in the second quarter and never trailed in the first half of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Miami, just one win away from the 2020 NBA Finals, was just two quarters away from completing its stunning run to the NBA’s championship series. In the third quarter, it all unraveled. A seven-point halftime lead swung into a 14-point deficit for the Heat and the Celtics, who blew double-digit leads in the first two games of the NBA Conference Finals, rallied to stave off elimination with a 121-108 win in Lake Buena Vista. Miami, which still leads the series 3-2, will have to wait until at least Sunday at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to clinch a spot its first NBA Finals since 2014.”

Boston.com: “Boston opened the game 1-for-12 from the floor, with eight of those attempts coming from deep. That five-plus-minute span also included three turnovers to highlight their discombobulated opening stint. No rhythm and a lack of effort rose to the surface, just as it had in their previous three losses. The Celtics’ struggle to win the battle in the paint stuck out in the first quarter as well, getting outscored 12-2 in that category over the game’s first 12 minutes. With the season on the line, Boston shot 25 percent in the first quarter. They were lucky to be down just seven at the half, but the Celtics didn’t give in and quickly turned things around after the break.”

LA Times: “We’re prideful. We want to do well. … Our deal was to come out and play, come out and compete and give it our best shot, and I thought we played pretty well in the second half, but we’re going to have do it again and again because of the position we’re in,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “…We’re trying to be our best. We care about competing. We care about representing our team and our organization well, and we care about each other. It’s why you compete.”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “Tatum has been all over the place this series. Good. Bad. Dominant. Disappeared. But in that third quarter he scored 17 points and picked up his Celtics as they turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead. Brown has been more in and out than Tatum. But on Friday night with the Celtics season on the line he did everything necessary in scoring 28 points and making all the plays that mattered. “They started attacking, we stopped guarding,” Jimmy Butler said. “Never a good thing for us. After that it was all downhill.” So that was that. The game. The night. The thought the Heat could move as easily into the Finals as they had in dispatching Indiana and Milwaukee earlier in the playoffs. Did anyone really think this series would be like those?”

South Florida Sun Sentinel: “The Heat got 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Butler, 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Bam Adebayo, as well as 23 points from Goran Dragic and 20 from Robinson. “We’ll be ready to go on Sunday,” Butler said. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 31 points, supported by 28 from Brown… The Heat closed 7 of 36 on 3-pointers, the 19.4 percentage the Heat’s lowest of the postseason. But it also came after shooting 12 of 44 on threes in Game 3 and 10 of 37 from beyond the arc in Game 4. “Regardless of whether it’s going in or not,” Spoelstra said, “that can’t affect your commitment on the other side of the floor, and it felt like it did.” Robinson closed 3 of 11 on 3-pointers, the rest of his teammates 4 of 25.”

Jayson Tatum, Brad Stevens discuss Game 4 Celtics first half struggles vs. Heat

The Celtics dropped Game 4 to the Heat last night, and now trail 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Here’s Boston.com with quotes on head coach Brad Stevens and star forward Jayson Tatum:

The Celtics, who outscored the Heat by double digits in the first halves of Games 2 and 3, were sloppy from the get-go. Boston committed 11 turnovers in the opening 24 minutes, causing them to have their lowest first-half point total of the playoffs, and trailed the Heat 50-44 at halftime.

“I thought our first half we looked, for whatever reason, we didn’t look crisp,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game. “And obviously that showed itself in our shooting numbers. I thought we were lucky to be at 50-44 at halftime, to be candid.

“For whatever reason, our first half wasn’t as good as it’s been.”

Jayson Tatum failed to score in the first half, missing all six shots he took and failed to make it to the free throw line.

“I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Tatum said of his first half performance. “I didn’t score in the first half, that’s unacceptable. I know I have to play better. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Turnovers also wrecked the Celtics in Game 4. They had 19, with six coming from Tatum, with four from Marcus Smart and another four from Jaylen Brown. The entire Heat team had just eight.

A positive for the Celtics is, they did step up nicely in the second half. They just need to put it all together for the length of a full game. Which has been tough against a Heat squad that the entire world clearly underestimated.

Celtics guard Romeo Langford undergoes wrist surgery

Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford underwent surgery today to fix the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist.

He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA playoffs.

Langford has played little in these playoffs, and isn’t a part of the team’s core playoff rotation. He has played one minute in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, and a total of seven minutes in the second round against the Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics are currently down 2-1 to the Heat in the series. Game 4 is Wednesday night.

Marcus Smart discusses Celtics locker room yelling, and Game 3 win vs. Heat

After their recent Game 2 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat, loud yelling was heard by reporters stationed outside the Celtics locker room. That’s a perfectly normal thing to happen in sports. The Celtics, who then got Gordon Hayward back in action for Game 3, grabbed a victory. Here’s Boston.com with more on what went down:

Following the Celtics’ loss to the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, arguing was heard coming from Boston’s locker room. After two difficult losses in a row to Miami, the fighting amongst teammates seemed like an inevitable outcome of a team in disarray.

Yet the Celtics flipped the narrative in Game 3, responding with a dominant 117-106 win to cut the Heat’s series lead to 2-1.

Marcus Smart was one of those involved in the locker room argument, but explained on Monday why the team was able to come back stronger afterward.

“Electrifying, what happened in the locker room,” Smart told reporters. “We’re a family, a family fights all the time. I fight with my brothers all the time. But at the end of the day, we can fight with each other and nobody else can. It happens between families, especially a family like ours who has been together so long. It’s going to happen.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who play with their feelings on their sleeves,” Smart continued, “who play with their heart on their sleeves, play with their heart night in and night out, and we weren’t supposed to be happy down 2-0, especially with those two games that we gave us. We’re playing against a great Miami team and we can’t have those lapses like that. Of course emotions are going to fly, but we’re a family and it happens.”

Heat have some adjustments to make for Game 4 vs Celtics

The Heat know what they need to focus on heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 against the Celtics. Here’s the Miami Herald with a look at some issues:

The Celtics made adjustments after dropping the first two games of the East finals, and now it’s the Heat’s turn to adjust to those Boston adjustments that worked Saturday. Miami held a team film session Monday morning, and Crowder said there was more film study on the schedule for Monday night.

One of the big adjustments will simply be to play better defense.

The Heat has allowed 113.3 points per 100 possessions in the East finals. For context, only four NBA teams finished the regular season with a worse defensive rating.

Boston is shooting an efficient 47.3 percent from the field in the East finals, a team shooting percentage that would have ranked fourth best in the regular season…

The Celtics outscored the Heat 60-36 in the paint in Game 3. It’s the most paint points Miami has allowed this postseason and just the fourth time it has allowed 60 or more paint points this entire season.