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Sixers in search of closer, remain positive despite fourth-quarter collapse 05.14.12 at 10:05 am ET
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Andre Iguodala and the 76ers weren't able to close out Paul Pierce and the Celtics in Saturday's Game 1. (AP)

This was the script Doug Collins dreamed of — his team clinging to a six-point lead, early in the fourth quarter on the road, despite multiple runs by the Celtics. His collar loosened, ever so slightly, as Lou Williams got a hand on a Ray Allen jump shot, and then pulled up in transition to bury a long-range shot of his own. Seconds later, Lavoy Allen sank a textbook baby hook shot, and the 76ers opened up a 10-point lead.

The momentum abruptly came to a halt, however, as the Celtics went on a 12-2 run over the next five minutes. The Sixers offense proved to be non-existent at the worst possible time, and suddenly, with just under five minutes left to play, Philly was trading baskets in a one-possession game with the Celtics. The lead, the security, and hopes of catching Boston off guard and stealing home court vanished.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Collins said. “We are off to a really good start. What we needed here, coming in today on the road, we fought on some. When it is all said and done, we had a great chance to get this game today and just had four really bad offensive possessions that really hurt us.”

What may trouble Collins most is not how his team blew the lead, but who blew the lead. Going into the fourth quarter, everything appeared to be working for the 76ers. Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner had 16 points each, the Sixers forced Rajon Rondo into committing six turnovers, they outscored Boston’s bench 20-14, and they were even shooting 4-of-10 on 3-pointers.

A big question mark going into this series, though, was if Philly’s playmakers – Iguodala, Turner and Williams — could come through down the stretch.  Saturday night, the answer was no. The three combined to go 2-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter. And, as their shooting touch failed them, none were able to get to the foul line. Williams had a shot blocked, Iguodala had two of his sent the other way, and both had turnovers in critical moments. Most telling is that not one 76er scored more than four points in the fourth quarter.

“That’s sort of the sign of a team that’s trying to grow and figure out what it is to play this kind of championship basketball in the NBA playoffs,” Collins said.

As much as the Sixers did struggle, Rondo was great when he needed to be, atoning for an uneven night. In the final frame alone, he had six points, four assists and five boards. The assists came from Rondo pushing the ball upcourt. The Celtics scored seven of their 14 fast-break points in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the scariest aspect of Rondo’s fourth-quarter performance was each of his three field goals coming from 18 feet and out.

“When he starts making shots, you have to honor that,” Turner said. “That allows the other guys to get space. It allows [Kevin Garnett] to get on the block one-on-one with a guy, or Paul [Pierce] to iso, or for Ray [Allen].”

Said Doc Rivers: “I thought Rondo’s shooting, obviously, down the stretch was fantastic. He wanted those shots. We ran that play, we were going to switch Ray and put him in that spot where the guy curls back up, and Rondo wanted that play. He wanted the shot and he took it. That has to be great for his confidence.”

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Irish Coffee: Celtics Get No Respect 10.07.10 at 10:02 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

NBA.com released its ninth annual GM Survey, and I’ll tell ya: Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than the Celtics. Sixty questions were posed to the league’s general managers. Here are the highlights (or lowlights) …

  • 63 percent of GMs believe the Lakers will win a third straight title. The Heat got 33.3 percent of the vote, and Boston got the remaining 3.7 percent. However, 100 percent of GMs think the C’s will win the Atlantic Division, so they’ve got that going for them.
  • 75 percent of GMs believe the C’s are the best defensive team in the NBA, and Rajon Rondo received the most votes (32.1 percent) as the NBA’s best on-the-ball defender. Defense wins championships, no?
  • Kevin Garnett picked up votes for best defensive player and best interior defender in the league, but Dwight Howard dominated both categories.
  • 66.7 percent of GMs predicted Kevin Durant would win MVP. Kobe Bryant was next on the list with 25.9 percent of the vote. Semih Erden did not receive a vote … yet.
  • 55.6 percent of GMs would take Durant to start their team. Only 25.9 percent said they’d take LeBron James. To me, this is the most surprising outcome. In 2009, LeBron got 78.6 percent of the vote . Apparently, his reputation took a hit within the NBA, too.
  • Not a single GM picked Rondo as the NBA’s best point guard . Deron Williams got half the votes, followed by Chris Paul (35.7 percent), Steve Nash (10.7) and Chauncey Billups (3.6). Billups over Rondo? Really?
  • The only Celtic to receive a vote for best player at his position was Garnett, and he finished well behind co-winners Pau Gasol (isn’t he a center?) and Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Ray Allen won two categories: best pure shooter and best at moving without the ball. Ray also received a vote for the player who will make the best coach.
  • GMs believe Doc comes up with the best defensive schemes in the league. Doc Rivers received a vote for the NBA’s best coach, but Phil Jackson won in a landslide. The “who’s the best manager/motivator of people” vote was closer, but Jackson still won (46.4 percent to 26.8).
  • Believe it or not, the C’s Luke Harangody is the most likely rookie to be a sleeper success.
  • The Garden is not the hardest building to play in. EnergySolutions Arena in Utah is.

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NBA mock draft 2.0 06.22.10 at 6:48 am ET
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Kentucky point guard John Wall is holding steady at No. 1. (AP)

Kentucky point guard John Wall is holding steady at No. 1. (AP)

On Thursday night, the next batch of young talent enters the NBA in the 2010 draft. The consensus No. 1 pick by the Wizards remains John Wall, and Evan Turner is most likely to be selected second by the 76ers. However, since our last mock, there have been players who have seen their stock rising.

Two of those players are Luke Babbitt from Nevada and Paul George from Fresno State. Babbitt’s offensive prowess and shooting ability have teams considering him in the second half of the lottery. George’s athleticism and and NBA body make him one of the best small forwards in this draft, tempting teams to give him another look.

Also, an international player makes his first appearance in our mock at pick No 21. Power forward Kevin Seraphin from France is a raw talent with a lot of potential, something that teams have reached for in past drafts when evaluating players from overseas.

While Seraphin makes his way into our first round, another international player in Donatas Motiejunas is left off after deciding to withdraw from the draft. Unlike many of the previous drafts, this one doesn’t boast exceptional international talent. Excluding the first few picks, it also seems like one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory.

1. Washington

John Wall, Kentucky, Fr., PG, 6-foot-4, 196 pounds

Wall is the no-brainer No. 1 pick in this draft. Possessing incredible quickness and athleticism that allows him to drive by defenders in a Rajon Rondo-like fashion, he will give Washington a true point guard to play alongside Gilbert Arenas.

2. Philadelphia

Evan Turner, Ohio State, Jr., SG, 6-7, 214

Turner was the best player in college basketball this past season and is far from just a consolation prize after Wall. With the ability to play three positions with his size, Turner is a versatile scorer who can create his own shot at any time. Think Brandon Roy with the ability to fill up a stat sheet. Though Philadelphia could use a frontcourt player, this is a case of taking the best player on the board — and a really good one at that. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wizards pull one out of the hat 05.18.10 at 8:32 pm ET
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The Washington Wizards won the NBA Lottery on Tuesday night in Secaucus, New Jersey. The New Jersey Nets had 250 of the 1000 chances or a 25 percent chance of gaining the first overall pick for the NBA Draft in late June. John Wall of Kentucky and Evan Turner of Ohio State are considered two of the likely choices to go first overall to the Wizards. The Nets actually finished third behind Washington and No. 2 Philadelphia.

“I have no idea,” Wizards general manager Ted Leonsis said when asked on ESPN whether he would take Wall with the No. 1 overall pick.

Irene Polin, the widow of former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, represented the franchise and wore the world championship ring of her late husband when the franchise won its first and only title as the Washington Bullets in 1978.

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