In Cleveland’s 98-80 Game 1 loss on Sunday, James did not attempt a shot until there was 1:52 remaining in the first quarter, at which point the Cavs already trailed 25-8.
“He has to be aggressive and set the tone early,” Lue said Monday. “We talked about that today … being aggressive early, setting the tone, especially for these new guys, bringing these guys along. He understood that, but once again, he’s always a guy trying to get his teammates off early, get them guys going, then try to feel the game out. But be ready to set a tone.”
James explained Sunday that he was, in essence, taking what the defense was giving him.
“That’s just how the game was being played,” James said after totaling 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes. “Guys had great looks and they just didn’t go down. … There was two on the ball at times. I was assisting and guys just couldn’t make shots to start the game, so it was just how the game was going on.”
Lue said James was in good spirits after their talk Monday.
“He felt good,” Lue said. “His body felt good. I know he played 40-some minutes, but he said his body felt good. He’s in a good place. (James) just said, ‘We got to be more aggressive offensively, me being aggressive.’ That’s about it.”
Beyond James’ part in turning things around for the Cavs in Game 2, Lue was asked if he was contemplating changing up his lineup.
“We’re looking at it but I’m not going to talk about it,” Lue said.
Lue might have showed his hand when asked about how the remaining role players from Cleveland’s 2016 championship team — JR Smith and Tristan Thompson — can help.
“We’ve been talking about it as a staff,” Lue said. “I just know those guys have been through everything with us the last four years and we won a championship, went to three Finals. Tristan and JR played a big part of that. We understand that and trust me, we know that.”
Lue’s lineup adjustments could be born out of necessity as much as schematic invention. George Hill, who was cracked in the back by a Trevor Booker screen on Sunday, was still feeling the effects Monday.
“Stiff. Stiff. Couldn’t do a lot today,” Lue said. “Getting a lot of treatment and see how he feels going forward.”
Kyle Korver, who was already on a minutes restriction heading into Game 1 because of a sore right foot, missed Monday’s film session and walk-through because of an illness, the team said. Korver played just four minutes in the series opener, going 0-for-3 from the field.
Of course, as much as the Cavs may have been done in by inefficient lineups on Sunday, the fact of the matter is they shot just 38.5 percent overall as a team (including a 23.5 percent mark from beyond the arc) and 60 percent from the free throw line.
Jeff Green, the biggest culprit after shooting 0-for-7, acknowledged his role in the loss.
“Just missed shots,” Green said. “Just chose the wrong game to miss shots. That’s about it.”
There was also the issue of shot distribution in Game 1. Kevin Love went just 3-for-8 from the field.
“It’s not enough,” Lue said, adding that he had addressed Love on Monday. “He had small guys on him and he’s floating out to 3. He’s got to demand the ball in the post. He said he has to be more aggressive. They’re trying to be physical with him on his post-ups, but he’s seeing that a lot of times before. We’ve got to do a better job of getting into him because they’re playing a hard three quarters, so our guards got to be able to deliver the ball on target and he has to be aggressive when he gets it.”
Overall, Lue said that the film session didn’t make Game 1 seem like such a nightmare.
“We just got to do a better job offensively scoring the basketball and taking care of the basketball,” Lue said. “We can’t give up 21 points in transition. That’s where they thrive. If we can take those little easy points away, I think we’ll be fine.”
Or, as Rodney Hood put it: “We’ll play a lot better, I know. We can’t play any worse than we did.”
Police say they blocked off the area directly under the CN Tower and the stadium. “Relatively large” blocks of ice have been tumbling onto the streets and sidewalks. Authorities say no injuries have been reported.
A weekend ice storm resulted in power outages, canceled flights and car crashes. More than 120,000 customers across much of Ontario remained without power.
If the hole in the roof forces a postponement, it would be the third straight for the Blue Jays, who also had games against the Indians postponed Saturday and Sunday because of inclement weather in Cleveland.
Six games were postponed Sunday across Major League Baseball and two more (Orioles-Red Sox, Cardinals-Cubs) were postponed Monday, bringing the season total to 23.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
BOSTON — Desiree Linden splashed her way through icy rain and a near-gale headwind to a Boston Marathon victory on Monday, the first American woman to win the race since 1985.
The two-time Olympian and 2011 Boston runner-up pulled away at the end of Heartbreak Hill to finish in 2 hours, 39 minutes, 54 seconds. That was more than four minutes better than second-place finisher Sarah Sellers, one of seven Americans in the top 10, but the slowest time for a women’s winner since 1978.
“It’s supposed to be hard,” said Linden, who wiped the spray of rain from her eyes as she made her way down Boylston Street alone. “It’s good to get it done.”
Yuki Kawauchi passed defending champion Geoffrey Kirui in Kenmore Square to win the men’s race in an unofficial 2:15:58 and earn Japan’s first Boston Marathon title since 1987. Kirui slowed and stumbled across the Copley Square finish line 2:25 later, followed by Shadrack Biwott and three other U.S. men.
On the fifth anniversary of the finish line explosions that killed three and wounded hundreds more, Linden and Kawauchi led a field of 30,000 runners through a drenching rain, temperatures in the mid-30s and gusts of up to 32 mph on the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton.
“For me, it’s the best conditions possible,” Kawauchi said through an interpreter and with a wide smile.
In Copley Square, crowds thinned and muffled by the weather greeted Linden, the California native who lives in Michigan, with chants of “U-S-A!”
Lisa Larsen Weidenbach’s 1985 victory was the last for an American woman — before the race began offering prize money that lured the top international competitors to the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon. Linden nearly ended the drought in 2011 when she was outkicked down Boylston Street and finished second by 2 seconds.
Marcel Hug of Switzerland earned his fifth wheelchair victory, and American Tatyana McFadden won the women’s wheelchair race for the fifth time, pushing though puddles that sent the spray from their wheels into their eyes.
“It was just tough, it was so freezing,” Hug said through chattering teeth as a volunteer draped a second towel around his shoulders. “I’m just very glad that I made it.”
In this exciting new NFL world in which trades are seemingly a part of everyday life, mock drafts feel even more out of touch with what’s about to happen at the 2018 draft. Most mocks don’t account for possible trades up or down, yet only 17 of the 32 picks in the first round of last year’s draft were spent by the team who originally owned a given selection. Who would’ve expected that the Chiefs would beat the Cardinals to the punch for Patrick Mahomes?
Every year, I produce a mock that heads all the way in the opposite direction. Instead of a draft with no picks traded, this is the mock in which each and every first-round pick gets swapped. No selection is left behind. The goal is to try to create a trade for each pick that makes sense for two (or more) parties given their respective histories and present needs. I’m not saying I would suggest any teams should actually execute these trades, but if there’s a team like the Dolphins with a track record of trading up and have a need at a key position, it makes sense to build a trade in which they do so.
One important note: Each trade is independent of all the other ones. The 32 trades take place in 32 different universes where a different set of players are still available. I’ve notated picks in the 2018 draft with their round and overall spot on the board, so 2-35 indicates the 35th overall pick, which is in the second round. I’ve also limited myself to only involving a given player in a swap once during this entire exercise, so for example, there’s only one trade featuring Odell Beckham Jr.
The trade values for these swaps were calculated using the Jimmy Johnson chart, which most teams in the league still use as the primary measure of a draft pick’s value. More analytically inclined teams are likely to use something closer to the Chase Stuart chart. For me, the Johnson chart measures perceived value, while the Stuart chart measures actual value.
It’s very, very difficult to construct a trade for the first overall pick this year, given that the Browns desperately need a quarterback and have the top pick in a passer-heavy class. Any trade the Browns could make would need to solve their quarterback problem, and unlike last year with Garoppolo, there isn’t a potential franchise signal-caller floating around as a backup. You’re looking at quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott as possible trade targets, and those moves don’t make much sense for the teams on the other side.
The only exception that comes to mind is Indianapolis, where Luck missed all of last season with a shoulder injury that originally wasn’t expected to cost him any game time in 2017. Trade acquisition Jacoby Brissett played surprisingly well in Luck’s absence, and while Brissett wasn’t as good as the Stanford passer, he did enough to hold the fort for a fraction of Luck’s cost. The people who drafted Luck are out of the building, and while I suspect the current Colts regime thinks Luck is still their man, maybe the team can be blown away by an offer — especially if there’s a rookie quarterback it loves in this year’s draft.
So let’s get former Chiefs executives Chris Ballard and John Dorsey to team up on a truly earth-shattering swap. The Browns have to make a massive bet on a quarterback, so in lieu of one of the passers in this class, Cleveland moves all-in for the best passing prospect of this past generation (albeit without knowing whether he left his shoulder on the operating table). Obviously this trade would require Luck to take an exhaustive physical in Cleveland, but even that might not be enough to assure the Browns that Luck will be healthy enough for them to make this trade.
If Luck’s medicals — or the tape of him carrying the Colts earlier in his career — are enough to convince Dorsey, the Browns give up a haul. They would send the first overall pick to Indy, while moving down two slots from the fourth pick. The Colts also would get Houston’s second-round pick (No. 35) as well as Cleveland’s 2019 first-rounder, which would be more likely to fall toward the middle of the pack given the presence of Luck and Tyrod Taylor, who would still have a role as a bridge quarterback.
This deal gives the Colts a chance to hit the reset button under Ballard and stock up with three premium picks, including the first overall selection. If they guess right at quarterback, they suddenly have a franchise signal-caller making a fraction of Luck’s $25 million-per-year deal and a bunch of high draft picks to play around him. They also get to retain Brissett, who leaves them with some stability as they develop that new quarterback. If Brissett continues to play well, he would become a valuable trade asset entering the final year of his deal in 2019.
Cleveland might very well prefer to draft and develop a rookie quarterback, and the concerns about Luck’s shoulder might make it too difficult to justify dealing multiple first-round picks in the process. At the same time, though, Luck is a 28-year-old phenom who might be worth six wins per year on his own given what we’ve seen from the Colts with him out of the lineup. Is it safer to bet on Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen than it is to bet on Luck?
This deal obviously isn’t going to happen. The Colts just traded out of the third overall pick, suggesting that they don’t see a once-in-a-generation quarterback sitting there (although they might view things differently without Luck in the mix), and the Browns already traded for Taylor under the clear assumption that they’ll draft a quarterback. This is a reflection on how unlikely the offer would have to be for the Browns to move the first overall pick after years of trading down and failing on the field to be in place to make this selection.
Another pair of former co-workers team up here. Bills general manager Brandon Beane recently worked under Giants GM Dave Gettleman during their time in Carolina, and in fact, if Beane hadn’t left last offseason to go to Buffalo, he likely would be in charge of football operations for the Panthers right now. Beane has been stockpiling picks to presumably go after a quarterback in the draft, but with the Jets moving up to No. 3 , his only way to get ahead of Gang Green is to make a deal with their crosstown rivals.
The decision to trade Jason Pierre-Paul was curious for the Giants, given that it seemingly opens a spot in the lineup for star edge-rusher Bradley Chubb at second overall. Gettleman has suggested that he believes Eli Manning can play at a competitive level for several more seasons, so while it’s unlikely the Giants will find themselves in a better spot to draft Manning’s replacement, they might be comfortable rolling with their 37-year-old starter and upgrading the team around him.
They can do that by drafting Chubb or Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson at No. 2, but after years of disastrous drafts under Jerry Reese, the Giants have more than one hole to fill. If they want to roll with Eli, trading down would give them the ability to draft multiple offensive linemen with a shot of making an impact on this year’s roster. This deal also would let them take a flier on Lawson, a solid run defender who hasn’t been healthy or effective as an edge rusher after being drafted in the first round by Doug Whaley in 2016. Then they could make another move depending on what happens at the top of the draft. If they’re interested in Nelson or a quarterback like Baker Mayfield, maybe they use some of these picks to trade up with the Colts and move from 12 to six.
Buffalo has no shot of moving to the top spot, but this is the next best thing. Beane has to give up both of his first-round picks and a second-rounder this year and next, but the Bills would still have at least one pick in each round of this year’s draft. Buffalo can draft its quarterback of the future without having to entirely mortgage that future in the process.
The Jets reportedly didn’t bother to call the Giants when they were trying to trade up into the top three, a move that seems criminally incurious from Mike Maccagnan. What was the worst thing that could have happened? Was Gettleman going to laugh him off the phone then brag to all the other general managers about what a dweeb Maccagnan was? If the Jets know that the Giants are taking a quarterback with the second pick, does their trade up solely to beat the Bills to the third-best passer in this class make a lot of sense?
I would suggest that the Jets call the Giants this time around, but the problem is that Maccagnan isn’t just negotiating to move up one spot, which wouldn’t cost all that much on the draft chart. He has to beat every other offer the Giants would get for this pick, which isn’t happening if the Bills put their mind to it, or hope that the Giants don’t get any offers and aren’t interested in drafting a quarterback ahead of the Jets at No. 2.
The JPP trade at least hints at a scenario in which the Giants are planning to draft Chubb, and if that’s the case, the Jets might have an in. After trading three second-round picks to the Colts, though, the Jets simply don’t have much to offer to convince the Giants they should move down one slot. The most notable draft asset they have left is their 2019 first-round pick, but that also would be too much to move up one slot in this scenario where the Giants either don’t have a blow-away offer on the table, or don’t want to move down and risk losing their shot at Chubb.
This deal would net the Chubb (or Nelson) at a cheaper salary for the Giants and create the opportunity for an enormous return if the Jets struggle mightily next season. They’ll move up one round in this year’s draft and be guaranteed to move up next season, although the Giants will throw in an additional fourth-round pick if they make the playoffs this season. This means that that Jets will have paid an extraordinary price to move up four spots in this year’s draft, giving up three second-round picks and turning a first-rounder into a second-round pick next year, but if it keeps the Bills from drafting their guy, Maccagnan might not care.
It’s tough to find a deal that makes sense for the Patriots at the top of the draft if you assume that they’re moving up to grab a quarterback. The Browns won’t deal the first overall pick. The Jets aren’t about to move out of the third slot after giving up three second-round picks to get there. The Broncos probably want a quarterback at fifth overall. And the Colts — let’s just say they’re probably not taking Bill Belichick’s calls right now.
The Pats probably don’t have the capital to move all the way up to No. 2 without sending a key young contributor like Trey Flowers or Shaq Mason to the Giants. The fourth pick is probably about as high as they can get, and even that would take a pretty hefty overpay given that the Browns aren’t exactly lacking picks and should have a choice between Saquon Barkley or Chubb here.
If we assume that the Patriots have the 28th pick next year and don’t discount for the Browns waiting a year, throwing in that 2019 first-round pick only gets Cleveland to about $1.28 on the dollar for this swap, which might not be enough. It also might not get the Pats to Rosen if he’s the quarterback they want, although it’s more plausible that Mayfield could be on the board at No. 4.
What happens if the first three (or four) picks off the board are quarterbacks, and the Broncos don’t love the signal-callers who are there at No. 5? They’re left in a difficult predicament, given that there’s nobody else in this range who would be looking for a quarterback until the Dolphins at 11 or the Bills at 12. If Denver is interested in someone like Mayfield or Lamar Jackson, it might very well be able to trade down and still grab its guy a few spots later. If the Broncos don’t like the remaining quarterbacks at all, it’s probably better for John Elway & Co. to move down and get an extra pick in the process.
The Broncos also could be candidates to draft Nelson, but having signed Ron Leary before using a first-round pick on tackle Garett Bolles in 2017, they might find it a better use of resources to look elsewhere on their roster. The Bears are thinner along the offensive line after releasing Josh Sitton, and in their efforts to surround Mitchell Trubisky with everything a quarterback desires, the idea that they would draft Nelson in this range is hardly crazy. It’s difficult to believe Nelson would make it to them at No. 8, so they can move down 32 spots later in the draft from No. 39 to No. 71 and send a future fourth-round pick to move up and grab an immediate starter at guard.
The Dolphins aren’t exactly a team to sit back and pray for talent to fall into their lap. They’ve expressed significant interest in Mayfield throughout the pre-draft process, and while Mayfield might be on the board for them at No. 11 given that the teams picking between the seventh and 10th picks aren’t in the market for quarterbacks, it’s entirely possible that a team like the Bills or Cardinals could trade up and beat them to the punch.
With that in mind, let’s get coach Adam Gase his signal-caller and move on from Ryan Tannehill, who could actually become a fallback plan for the Bills under this scenario. While it would be mighty tempting for the Colts to grab someone like Barkley or Chubb in this spot, an extra first-round pick from a dysfunctional franchise might be too tempting to pass up. Indy also sends Miami a fourth-rounder to replace the one the Dolphins sent away for Robert Quinn. (I know picks are independent and shouldn’t be treated this way, but this is how NFL front offices talk about their selections.)
While the Cardinals’ cap situation will be better in 2018 after financial concerns forced them to lose Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu in consecutive offseasons, Arizona finds itself with a difficult decision ahead next offseason. Johnson was one of the best running backs in football during the 2016 season, but was on the bench for most of his rookie campaign in 2015 and then suffered a season-ending wrist injury one game into 2017. The Northern Iowa product is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which can’t be extended by a fifth-year option because he was a third-round pick.
If Arizona doesn’t want to give Johnson the $10 million per year he might seek as the best back not named Le’Veon Bell in free agency, here’s the Cardinals’ chance to trade up and get their quarterback of the future. Sam Bradford is a short-term solution, and if someone like Josh Allen falls past the top six picks, Arizona will remember the lesson it learned from last year’s draft and avoid staying put for the passer it wants. The Arizona depth chart at halfback would immediately look bare, but it’s way easier to imagine the Cardinals finding a replacement running back later in this draft than it is for them to find a franchise quarterback at pick 15.
Meanwhile, the Bucs manage to find their franchise running back and retain a pick in the top half of the draft, which they can use to aid the league’s worst defense by DVOA. By the Johnson chart, this trade values the (unrelated) Johnson as being worth the 45th pick in the draft. When you consider that Garoppolo was dealt during the final year of his contract for a second-round pick, it’s a reasonable return for Arizona if it doesn’t want to invest in Johnson long term.
Bears get: 1-4; 4-114 Browns get: 1-8; 2-39
If quarterbacks come off the board 1-2-3, the Browns will be sitting pretty with the fourth overall pick. They might also be in a situation where it would be better to trade down in lieu of taking Barkley or Chubb, given that Cleveland’s biggest need after drafting a quarterback is probably in the secondary.
Meanwhile, the Bears are still lacking that great edge-rusher to pair with Akiem Hicks, who has matured into an upper-echelon interior disruptor. Leonard Floyd could end up as that guy, but the 2016 first-rounder has missed 10 games over his first two seasons and saw his sack total drop from 7 to 4.5 last year. Chicago did get 18 knockdowns from Sam Acho and signed former 49ers prospect Aaron Lynch, but as the Eagles showed, you can never have too many pass-rushers.
With that in mind, the Bears can trade up here and grab Chubb, who profiles best as a 4-3 defensive end but shouldn’t be out of sorts as a 3-4 outside linebacker who will spend 70 percent of his time as a defensive lineman in sub packages. The Browns would then have picks 33, 35 and 39, setting them up for a possible move back into the first round for what would be their third first-round selection.
49ers get: 1-7; 5-144 Buccaneers get: 1-9; 3-70
After their offseason shopping spree, the 49ers have most of the pieces they would want for Garoppolo. Their biggest concern could be at guard, where the Niners have to hope that the offensive line play coalesces around new center Weston Richburg. Former first-round pick Joshua Garnett wasn’t great as a rookie in 2016 and missed the entire 2017 season, while the other guard spot has been turned over to a series of busted first-rounders (Jonathan Cooper, Laken Tomlinson) and former Broncos standout Zane Beadles, who hasn’t shown much since leaving Denver in 2014.
The Niners could stay put and take one of this draft’s defensive backs at No. 9, but if they want to grab Nelson, my suspicion is that they’ll need to move up ahead of the Bears at No. 8. If Chubb and Barkley are off the board by the time the Tampa Bay drafts at No. 7, the Bucs are better off trading down, letting the 49ers grab Nelson and drafting a defensive back of their own while picking up a third-rounder to replace the selection they sent to the Giants for JPP.
Raiders get: 1-12; 2-56 Bills get: 1-10; DE Jihad Ward
If the Dolphins don’t trade up for a passer, and one is still lurking at 10, the Bills should be on the phone trying to move ahead of Miami. Even if the Dolphins don’t actually plan on drafting a quarterback, Beane has amassed too many picks and left his playoff team too threadbare at quarterback to come away from this offseason without anybody better than AJ McCarron under center.
The 56th pick is a bit of an overpay on the Johnson chart to move from 12 to 10, but the Raiders know that the Bills will be desperate to get a quarterback while they still have a chance. Some of the cost will be offset by including Ward, who has been a disappointment since coming off the board with the 44th pick of the 2016 draft and was a healthy scratch at times last year in Oakland. He’ll be rotation depth at defensive end for the Bills.
Let’s get one more trade up for a quarterback in here before the Bills pick at 12. Just as no one saw the Chiefs coming up from the bottom of the first round to trade for a quarterback until they moved up to draft Mahomes last year, the Saints are quietly looking around at this year’s crop of quarterbacks to see whether there’s somebody who can fill Drew Brees‘ shoes in the near future. The most similar quarterback in this class to Brees is Mayfield, and indeed, Sean Payton set up a private workout with Mayfield before the draft.
Mayfield obviously wouldn’t be playing until 2019 at the earliest, but the Saints would be preparing for life after Brees in advance of their Hall of Fame passer retiring or losing significant effectiveness. The Dolphins could use the extra first-round pick, and they’ll pick up a starting tight end in the process by acquiring Hill, who is entering the final year of his deal in New Orleans.
What happens if the Bills don’t find a way to trade up and subsequently miss out on the quarterbacks they wanted to take before they’re on the clock at 12? There has to be a fallback plan, right? Unless they plan on signing Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick, the most plausible trade candidate is Foles. The Eagles haven’t been desperate to trade the Super Bowl MVP given the state of Carson Wentz‘s knee, but this would represent a significant return, with the pick swap equivalent to the 31st pick of a typical draft. The Eagles would get McCarron as a low-cost backup; they would be on the hook for only $900,000 in 2018 and a nonguaranteed $3.1 million next year. A trade up would give Philly a shot at some of the draft’s top cornerbacks, or a possible replacement left tackle for Jason Peters.
The Reed extension hasn’t exactly worked out for Washington. Injuries have kept the Florida product from matching his 2015 totals (952 yards and 11 touchdowns) over the following two seasons combined (897 yards and eight touchdowns). Nobody is questioning Reed’s talent, but with Vernon Davis under contract, Washington might very well consider whatever it gets from Reed going forward as a bonus.
Jay Gruden could be interested in trading up to draft one of the top secondary prospects, who might fall to the bottom of the top 10 if things shake out right. Swapping out Reed for Celek, who had a pair of 60-yard, one-touchdown games with Garoppolo in the fold, would free up cap space and bring a more reliable player to the roster. The 49ers have plenty of cap room, and while George Kittle exhibited promise as a rookie, Kyle Shanahan should have no trouble finding snaps for two tight ends in his offense. Reed would be a high-upside lottery ticket for the Niners.
The Packers have repeatedly tried to address their mess at cornerback, but lost Casey Hayward in free agency and Sam Shields to concussions. It’s telling that they re-signed 35-year-old Tramon Williams, who the team let leave to play younger players on the outside after the 2014 season. Davon House, who remains a free agent after an unconvincing 2017 return to Green Bay, might be next.
The Packers probably need to move into the top 10 to have a shot at Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, but there are a few roadblocks along the way. The 49ers need cornerback help themselves, although they might prefer larger corners than the 5-foot-11 Ward. The Bears probably don’t want to help their archrivals by trading down. Green Bay could trade up to 10 and hope that the 49ers don’t take Ward, but to ensure the Packers get their man, they would probably need to move up to No. 7. With a third-rounder and the top pick in the fourth round, assuming the quarterbacks are off the board by 7, the Packers should have enough in 2018 assets to get the Bucs on the line.
Cardinals get: 1-8; 2019 fourth-round pick Bears get: DE Robert Nkemdiche; 1-15, 2-47; 2019 second-round pick
If there’s still a quarterback lurking at No. 8, though, the Cardinals won’t want to run the risk of coming away from the draft without their signal-caller of the future, as was the case when they failed to move up and get Mahomes last season. The 49ers and Raiders probably aren’t drafting quarterbacks at Nos. 9 and 10, but the Bears will have to beat teams like the Dolphins from trading up to grab a QB like Jackson or Mayfield.
Here, the Bears get a pair of second-rounders to move back seven spots, where they should still be able to get help for their secondary. They also take a flyer on Nkemdiche, who was absolutely dominant for stretches in college but never seemed to work his way out of Bruce Arians’ doghouse in Arizona, and might not end up as a great fit for Steve Wilks’ defense if they spend more time in a 4-3.
Ravens get: 1-26; 2-58 Falcons get: 1-16; 6-190
Here’s where the draft can breathe. It would be shocking if four quarterbacks weren’t off the board by 16. That would be great news for the Ravens, who (at least presumably) aren’t going to be in the quarterback market until 2019 at the earliest. The easy move is to mock Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley to the Ravens in what will be the final draft for legendary former Alabama tight end Ozzie Newsome, but Ridley’s dismal combine performance suggests that the 6-foot-1 wideout should be available later on Day 1.
If the top of the draft is quarterback-heavy, this portion of the first round should be heavy on defensive players, particularly defenders in the middle of the field. The Ravens are relatively stacked there, but the Falcons still need someone to take Dontari Poe‘s role as a run-stuffing interior lineman. If Vita Vea is still on the board at 16, the Falcons might be tempted to bite on what is the biggest present weakness in their young defense.
Chargers get: 1-8 Bears get: 1-17; 2-48; 5-155
Minkah Fitzpatrick could end up looking a lot like Earl Thomas, which would make him a valuable asset for a team who spends a lot of its time with one free safety in the middle of the field, as was the case in Seattle. The 49ers might very well be interested in Fitzpatrick, given the presence of ex-Seahawks assistant Robert Saleh as their defensive coordinator.
Saleh’s former boss might have something to say about that, though, as Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley managed to coax a career season out of Tre Boston last year. Boston is a free agent, but if the Chargers don’t upgrade the interior of their defensive line, Fitzpatrick would be a logical move. This trade also comes within less than one point of being a perfect swap on the Johnson chart (1,400 to 1399.4).
Seahawks get: 1-22; 3-96; 6-187 Bills get: 1-18
The Seahawks badly need extra selections in this draft, given how few of their recent picks have made an impact. With their second- and third-rounders already traded away, Seattle will have to trade down from 18 to get another early-to-mid round selection.
That could be a deeper dive into the bottom of the first round, but in this swap, it’s only four spots to 22. If the Bills get their quarterback at 12, they can still use their mass of picks to move around the board. With a hole at middle linebacker after losing Preston Brown in free agency, the Bills could be looking at a player like Roquan Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to serve as the Luke Kuechly or Thomas Davis of Sean McDermott’s defense in Buffalo.
The obligatory Thomas trade has to fit a few criteria to justify the Seahawks’ demands. The Seahawks have reportedly been asking for first- and third-round picks as part of a Thomas deal. They get that here, but also have to give up a fourth-rounder to make it happen. They also get Jones, who has struggled at safety but has the size and college experience that could make him a valuable prospect for the Seahawks at cornerback. The team trading for Thomas would also need to make sure that it can sign the future Hall of Famer to an extension, but given Thomas’ professed affection for Dallas, that shouldn’t be an issue.
The Texans desperately need to find a way to protect budding superstar Deshaun Watson. They currently have the league’s worst tackle situation — if not its worst offensive line — and are without first- and second-round picks, preventing new general manager Brian Gaine from drafting a replacement who is likely to start Week 1.
Houston’s most expendable asset with value is Mercilus, a talented pass-rusher who is a luxury on a team with Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. The Lions would love to have a second pass-rusher across from Ezekiel Ansah, and while it means waiting a year for Houston’s first-round pick, they can look to the Browns, who are reaping the benefits of their patience with that fourth overall selection acquired in last year’s draft trade with the Texans.
Bengals get: 1-25; 3-89 Titans get: 1-21
The Bengals don’t often make meaningful draft trades of any kind, so after trading down as part of the Cordy Glenn deal, it would be surprising to see them make a second deal. This minor move would net them a third pick in the third round. Tennessee is relatively thin at inside linebacker after losing Avery Williamson, and while the Titans will give a bigger role to 2017 fifth-rounder Jayon Brown this year after playing him as a coverage linebacker, the fast-rising Vander Esch could figure in the rotation immediately before eventually taking over as a starter from Wesley Woodyard.
Bills get: 1-4 Browns get: 1-12; 1-22
Nobody is rooting for the Giants to pass on a quarterback more than the Jets and Bills (in that order). In the trade I proposed for the Giants and Bills at 2, the Johnson chart calls for Buffalo to send both of its first-rounders and a pair of second-rounders, with Lawson packaged for added value. That’s a bit high of a price — the picks alone are worth about $1.05 on the dollar relative to the second overall selection, per the Johnson chart — but it’s also the reality of how desperate teams are to draft a quarterback.
If the Bills can wait and still grab their quarterback at No. 4, though, which would be a significant savings. They can send their two first-rounders and still pay the premium (in this case $1.10) that the Browns would likely require on the Johnson chart for the fourth overall pick. Moving up would push the Bills in front the Broncos for a quarterback like Allen or Mayfield. It might take more to seal the deal given how Dorsey might not be desperate to trade down with the opportunity to grab Barkley or Chubb at 4, but the general concept applies: It will take far less to move up to the fourth spot than it would the second.
If the Patriots don’t have the draft capital to trade up for their quarterback of the future, they might as well get him a franchise wide receiver. I wrote about the possibility of the Patriots trading for Beckham after the Brandin Cooks swap, and while I still think the Giants will end up holding onto their star receiver, this is at least a plausible deal.
If the Giants were constructing a checklist for a Beckham trade, this would hit most of their boxes. They’re dealing the former LSU star to an AFC team that they’ll see only once every four years. They get two first-round picks, which is the reported asking price in a Beckham deal, although both come relatively late on Day 1. They get a replacement who can step in immediately for Beckham with Hogan, who is entering the final year of his three-year, $12 million deal and is in line for a contract the Patriots aren’t likely to hand out. Gillislee is included as a risk-free power back if 31-year-old Jonathan Stewart shows up for camp with nothing left in the tank.
The Patriots obviously get a game-breaking receiver who will serve as a primary target both for Tom Brady and whoever ends up as Brady’s permanent replacement, given that Beckham is still only 25 years old. New England doesn’t have the unlimited cap space a team acquiring Beckham might want, but if Rob Gronkowski really is retiring after this season, it would free up $10 million that could go to Beckham. The Patriots would also get to take a buy-low look at Apple, who nearly played his way off the Giants roster last year but looked like a starting cornerback over the second half of his rookie season in 2016.
Panthers get: 2-36; 3-67 Colts get: 1-24
The Colts have plenty of roster spots they might want to upgrade and four picks between No. 36 and No. 67 to use in addressing their needs. They could hold onto those four selections, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if Ballard packages two picks to move back into the bottom of the first round and get ahead of the Falcons at 26 for help on either side of the line of scrimmage.
The Titans are in a weird spot at 25. They have one of the league’s deeper rosters (and don’t need to trade down), but don’t really have the draft capital they would otherwise need to trade up for a guy who could make an immediate impact like Chubb or Nelson. The one thing the Titans might want to go after is a young pass-rusher, given that Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are both free agents after the season.
The Browns aren’t exactly overcome with riches on defense, but Ogbah would be an interesting trade candidate as a player who was drafted by the previous administration and could be pushed into a secondary role if Cleveland drafts Chubb fourth overall. The 2016 second-rounder has 9.5 sacks and 21 knockdowns over his first two seasons with the Browns, and this trade would value him as a late third-round pick. Tennessee can still go best player available at 35, while the Browns can move ahead of the Falcons if they want to draft help at defensive tackle.
The Falcons are obsessed with speed on defense, so if they’re not in the market for a defensive tackle, they could be another team consumed by the idea of trading up to draft Vander Esch. The Lions and Bills could be considering the linebacker at 20 and 22, respectively, so trading up to 19 would push the Falcons just ahead of the competition. It would also cost them Coleman, but the Falcons likely won’t have the cap space to retain their receiving back after locking Devonta Freeman in. Coleman would be a useful change-of-pace back for the Cowboys alongside Ezekiel Elliott and would likely net a quality compensatory pick after hitting free agency next offseason.
Any team that falls in love with a back like Derrius Guice has to be worried about the Steelers at 28, given the likelihood that this will be Bell’s last season in Pittsburgh. (More on that in a second.) Teams drafting at the top of the second round might wait for a running back to fall to them, but as we saw with players like Jerick McKinnon this offseason, organizations have a habit of falling for very specific skill-position weapons.
The Buccaneers don’t have much at halfback after moving on from Doug Martin, so it seems extremely likely that Tampa will come away from this draft with a new starter at running back. That guy could be Barkley at No. 7, but if the Bucs use that pick to address their defense, Tampa could move back up and take a running back at 27.
It’s easier to think of this as a series of trades. First, Washington move up from No. 13 to No. 6 by sending its first- and second-round picks, which are a near-perfect match on the Johnson chart for the sixth overall selection. Washington sweetens the pot by including the wildly underrated Thompson, who is coming off of a broken leg but is about to begin a relatively team-friendly two-year, $7 million deal. He’ll be the pass-catching half of a rotation with Marlon Mack.
Then, Washington sends the sixth pick to the Steelers to get a new franchise icon in Bell, who obviously will be in line to sign a new deal as part of the trade. Washington moves down to 28 and gains a third-rounder after losing one in the Alex Smith deal. The 808-point difference on the Johnson chart roughly values Bell as being worth the 21st overall selection of a typical draft, which would be a generous return for a guy with one year left before free agency. (You could argue that Washington could just use the sixth pick to draft Barkley and save millions in the process, but that is a level of rationality the organization has not earned.)
That leaves the Steelers, who might be giving up on signing Bell to a long-term contract. Well, how does Barkley sound as a replacement? Trading into the top 10 for a running back wouldn’t exactly be a very Steelers-y move, but Barkley’s athleticism and wide-ranging skills would make him the best immediate replacement for Bell while the Steelers are in win-now mode at the end of Ben Roethlisberger‘s career. It even creates about $6 million in new cap room for Pittsburgh to go after a veteran front seven piece after June 1.
Jaguars get: 2-42; 3-73 Dolphins get: 1-29; 4-129
The Jaguars can basically stand pat with their roster at this point, and they are going to get calls from teams who want to move ahead of the Vikings and Patriots to draft offensive linemen. The Jags are all set there after signing Andrew Norwell this offseason, so while they might look for pieces on the edges of their roster — notably a slot corner — they can probably do that in the second round. Miami moves up to find another lineman as the Dolphins desperately try to protect Tannehill. Imagine Brock Osweiler behind that line!
The Vikings have a bevy of young players who are in line for massive raises over the next two years. Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks are all free agents after the 2018 season, while Waynes will hit his fifth-year option in 2019. After giving Kirk Cousins a record annual average salary of $28 million per year, the Vikings probably can’t afford to sign every one of their young stars.
Between having Xavier Rhodes already locked in and Mike Zimmer’s long-established habit of drafting and developing cornerbacks along for the ride, trading Waynes before he gets expensive might make sense. If the Patriots don’t trade up, a move back down the board to acquire Waynes could work, given that he’ll be under cost control for two more seasons and had his best season as a pro in 2017. Minnesota could get the disappointing Jones back as a flyer, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings draft their replacement for Waynes at 23.
Oh the cruel, cruel irony. If New England does want a quarterback like Jackson or Mayfield, and they’re on the board after the top six, the Patriots would probably need to look toward the 49ers as a trade partner if they want to get ahead of the Bills at 12 and would probably need to pay a premium to make a deal with the Dolphins at 11. The Raiders could be in the conversation at 10, but I half-sarcastically wonder if the 49ers feel like they owe the Patriots one after the Garoppolo deal. The third-round pick, one of three the Pats are projected to have after including compensatory selections, makes this a slight premium on the Johnson chart.
Finally, let’s wrap this with a challenge trade. The Eagles have one of the deepest rosters in football and are returning virtually every one of their key contributors, so if any team can afford to wait a year and speculate on what might end up as a high draft pick, it’s Philly. If the Cardinals address one of their other weaknesses and don’t draft a quarterback at 15, this could be where they trade up and grab Jackson at the bottom of the first round.
They would be giving up a third-round comp pick and run the risk of a Texans situation, where the organization grossly overestimates their own chances of competing and ends up trading away a top-five pick in the next draft. Houston probably doesn’t regret what it did given what the Texans have seen from Watson, but it’s a huge risk to take given the chances Jackson doesn’t work out. Then again, turning over your passing duties to Bradford and Mike Glennon is a risk in itself.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Two days ago, Paul George started an answer to a question about the responsibility of guarding Donovan Mitchell while maintaining his offensive aggressiveness and stopped himself.
“Y’all ain’t met Playoff P yet, huh?” George said with a smile.
George, who has made a name for himself with sparkling playoff performances, had set himself up. With the memes probably chambered and ready, George was either going to live up to it or feel the wrath.
With 36 points on 13-of-20 shooting, including 8-of-11 on 3-pointers (an OKC franchise record in the playoffs) as the Oklahoma City Thunder took Game 1 against the Utah Jazz 116-108, Playoff P showed up.
“I’m going to bring it to that level on a nightly basis,” George said. “Obviously, I was hot tonight, but that’s the level I am going to bring it to every night.”
Asked how big the hoop looked for him, still on his game, George replied regarding an Instagram post: “About as big as that fish I posted.”
The Thunder’s season can somewhat be defined by the peaks and valleys George has hit throughout the season. The manifestation of the team took shape around Russell Westbrook sometime in mid-December with George slotting in as the nightly No. 2 and Carmelo Anthony as a clear No. 3 (and sometimes No. 4) in the hierarchy. The Thunder were good enough to win often on off nights from their stars, developing a bit of a formula: When two play well, they start looking really good.
And in a matchup against the Jazz, a team centered on a rookie, the Thunder entered with the two best players in the series. That’s normally a pretty good indication of who should win, but with inconsistency being the buzzword that has followed the Thunder all season, nothing was clear. There was always this idea that they were built for the postseason, with top-shelf talent ready to shine when the games mattered most, but the Thunder never established anything steady. They entered the playoffs a wild card — dangerous but unknown.
But George’s ability to elevate himself is what keeps the Thunder scary. There is no playoff version of Russell Westbrook — there’s just Russell Westbrook — but he can rise and fall in terms of efficiency and decision-making. Anthony is a threat to hit batches of 3s and could be a reliable crunch-time option in isolation when possessions stall out, but he has accepted and embraced a role playing off of his co-stars.
It’s George, though, who possesses game-dominating qualities, like those he flashed in Game 1. It was on both ends, with George suffocating Joe Ingles and disrupting the churning Utah offense while eviscerating any defender put in front of him. He had his devastating side-to-side crossover going, clearing airspace to launch from deep, yelling out, “Can’t hold me!” after one particularly ruthless step-back 3 in the second half.
George is known for his shooting streaks, and slumps, but over a longer-than-usual stretch of off nights in late March and early April, he openly questioned his mechanics and said his shot felt “funny” following a 5-of-19 shooting performance against the Golden State Warriors on April 3. A few nights later, the night before the Thunder took on the Houston Rockets in Texas, George spent more than an hour by himself shooting in the Toyota Center’s practice gym trying to work it out.
George shot it a little better against the Rockets, then a little better against the Miami Heat two nights later, and then shredded the Grizzlies for 40 points on 13-of-20 shooting on the final night of the regular season.
In the locker room postgame, with George in the back receiving treatment for a hip contusion, Anthony was ready first but asked Westbrook if he wanted him to wait until Westbrook was dressed so they could go to the interview room together. Westbrook told Anthony yes and hurried up putting on his outfit, assisted by the fact he wasn’t wearing a shirt underneath his designer gray suit. A few questions in, they were asked about “Playoff P.”
“That’s his name? That’s his new name? I’m gonna let Russ answer that one. Playoff P,” Anthony said, looking at Westbrook who shrugged in an “I don’t know, man” way.
Westbrook talked about how “P” being aggressive changes the game for the Thunder, and how his staying that way makes them a better team. This is what the Thunder envisioned when they traded for George last summer, giving up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. A true running mate for Westbrook, someone who could dominate a playoff game and turn the reigning MVP into a secondary option.
“We knew all along that we got multiple guys that can make plays, create and be explosive offensively,” George said. “We’re not going to put that pressure on just one guy. Obviously, my job is to help Russ, and with that, it’s helping the team. It’s my job to bring it and to bring it at a high level.”
The focus from the Thunder after the game, specifically coach Billy Donovan, was that there’s a lot to clean up for Game 2. He mentioned multiple times they have to be better in Game 2. There was a sense that George’s hot shooting carried them in possibly a fool’s gold kind of way — that the shots went in this time, and if they don’t next time, then things might go the other way. But then again, maybe he’s just now getting introduced to Playoff P himself.
HOUSTON — The critics James Harden claims not to hear won’t be hushed by a spectacular performance in the series opener of the first round. For Harden, now more than ever, the playoffs are about how he finishes, not how he starts.
And the Rockets, record-setting 3-point gunners whose long-range touch (outside of Harden) failed them Sunday night at the Toyota Center, needed that kind of performance from their superstar — a player who infamously no-showed as Houston’s season ended on its home court last May.
Harden torched the Timberwolves for 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range. The rest of the Rockets made only 3-of-25 3-point attempts — a rare 12 percent brickfest for a team that broke its own one-year-old record for 3s made in a season — but Harden was simply too good to let eighth-seeded Minnesota start the series by sneaking out an upset.
Time after time, “The Beard” hit big shots when momentum seemed to be swaying to Minnesota’s side. Soon after the Timberwolves took a lead midway through the fourth quarter, Harden re-entered the game and immediately went on a do-it-himself 7-0 run, hitting a floater off the glass, driving for a layup and drilling a pull-up 3 in transition.
At that point, after Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau called timeout, Harden strutted down the center of the court and pointed to the hardwood as if to remind everyone that this is his house.
Harden’s brilliance, highlighted by his 13 points in the fourth quarter, allowed Houston to overcome a rather forgettable Rockets playoff debut by Chris Paul. Paul uncharacteristically had more turnovers (six) than assists (four) and finished with only 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Paul is the co-star Harden helped recruit last summer, a pairing that led the Rockets to a franchise-record 65-win regular season to claim the top overall seed. But Sunday night, Paul’s six turnovers tied for his second-most in a postseason game (he had eight against the San Antonio Spurs in 2012).
Paul’s final blunder — an unnecessary airmailed pass out of bounds with 8.7 seconds left — could have really bitten the Rockets. But Jimmy Butler, playing with a black wrap on his sore right wrist, airballed a tightly contested 3 that could have tied the game, completing his 4-of-11 shooting night.
It also helped Houston’s cause that Minnesota’s other All-Star, center Karl-Anthony Towns, had the kind of awful playoff debut that will invite a lot of criticism during the three long days before Game 2. Towns was oddly an afterthought offensively, scoring only eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
Houston’s Clint Capela dominated the matchup between two of the NBA’s best young big men, producing 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. He had 20 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, feasting on feeds from Harden, who finished with eight assists. Capela is the first player with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in either half of a playoff game since Kevin Durant on May 15, 2014.
Harden never even watched the film that that Game 6 stinker against the Spurs that ended his season a year ago. He certainly has no interest in revisiting it now, not when he has the opportunity to make the kind of history that would make any previous playoff failures distant memories.
Sunday night was the first step. Harden and the Rockets have 15 more to go.
The remark was likely motivated by the fact that the Cavs believed they had a George-for-Kevin Love swap in place before the Pacers pulled off their surprise trade with the Thunder.
Oladipo was the best player on the court Sunday, when Indiana beat Cleveland 98-80 to go up 1-0 in their first-round series. He scored a game-high 32 points on 11-for-19 shooting (6-for-9 from 3) and added six rebounds, four assists and four steals in the wire-to-wire victory.
Gilbert’s remark got back to Oladipo, who said Sunday that he was “aware of it.”
“You could say it added fuel to the fire, I guess you could say,” Oladipo said after Game 1. “But that was so long ago. It came up recently, obviously, because we were playing the Cavs in the series, but I’m aware of what he said. Can’t control his opinion. All I’m focused on is myself and becoming the best Victor Oladipo possible.”
Oladipo closed the game with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter, outplaying LeBron James, who had just four points on 1-for-3 shooting in the final frame.
Sunday marked just the second nationally televised game for the Pacers all season, with the other coming when George made his return to Indiana with the Thunder. Oladipo certainly made the Pacers worth watching in Game 1.
“We’ve been playing like this all year,” he said. “Been playing hard on both ends all year. It just hasn’t been magnified. So it’s the playoffs now, we’ve been doing this all year. Now everybody sees, so it’s like, it’s kind of shocking to everybody, I guess you could say. But we’ve been playing hard. We’ve been playing our butts off on both ends of the floor all year.
“We’re fully aware of LeBron. We’re fully aware of his team, and we realize it’s not going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean we’re just going to come in here and just fold. We planning on winning. That’s why we came to this series. That’s why we came to play this game is to win, not just to come here and just be OK. That’s what we’re focused on: taking it one game at a time, trying to win every game.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, who said before the series that he planned to focus his defensive schemes on taking away the Pacers’ biggest strength, said Cleveland was effective in executing its plan against Oladipo, despite his 32-point night.
“We did, as far as in the pick-and-roll game,” Lue said. “I thought he hurt us catch-and-shoot, off the ball, relaxing, not being aware. I have to go back and look at it. When he did hurt us a couple times, we switched. He made a couple of 3s, which is going to happen. You’re going to give up something. As far as the blitz, I thought we did a good job of getting into him. We got a couple of steals early, which we didn’t convert on, but for the most part, defensively, we were pretty good.”
The Pacers, led by Oladipo, of course, were better.
“I thought he played with a lot of confidence. I thought he made good decisions out there on the floor,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said of his star guard. “We talked about some of the things that Cleveland would do. I thought he recognized those and did a good job of attacking. He’s been a guy who has created a lot of things for us on both ends of the floor.”
McMillan, it should be noted, never presented Gilbert’s comments to the Pacers to try to hype them up for the series, but he acknowledged the impact they might have had as they found their way back to his team on their own.
“The game itself, playing the game the right way, is what we use as motivation,” McMillan said. “Now, I’m sure our guys have heard that. I’m sure Victor, somebody might have told him that here in the last couple days. But I haven’t used that type of information as bulletin board material. For us, it’s about going out and giving all we have playing the game the right way, playing the game together. That has been the motivation from this group.”
BOSTON — For the first 47 minutes, 49 seconds of Sunday’s Game 1, the Eastern Conference first-round series between the injury-ravaged Boston Celtics and starless-beyond-the-Greek-Freak Milwaukee Bucks was about as unsexy as most anticipated.
There were turnovers — 35 combined — and some painful scoring droughts (the teams will suggest it was “playoff defense”). The Bucks often forgot how to score when Giannis Antetokounmpo went to the bench and a Boston team playing without the services of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart often found that their best offensive option was simply a wild late-clock isolation by Marcus Morris.
But the final 11 seconds of regulation were a delirious stretch that somehow morphed Sunday’s tilt from a rock fight to an instant classic.
Let’s relive four critical moments through the eyes of the players and coaches involved:
Brogdon makes the Celtics pay
The Celtics were clinging to a 96-93 lead with 15 seconds to go after a pair of Al Horford free throws (he scored 13 of his team-high 24 points at the line) and the Bucks called timeout to draw up a play. Antetokounmpo inbounded, took an immediate hand-back, and accelerated down the middle of the floor.
Celtics guard Terry Rozier cheated over to help when Morris was slow to react but that left Malcolm Brogdon wide open in front of the Boston bench. Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ pained reaction after Brogdon connected told the story of a broken defensive series.
Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks guard: “It was really for Giannis to come off and make a play, find somebody or shoot it. And he found me so I shot it with confidence.”
Brad Stevens, Celtics head coach: “We could’ve done better. That one we could’ve done better.”
Scary Terry atones
With 11 seconds remaining and the ball, the Celtics elected to take the clock all the way down and tried to spring Jaylen Brown off a stagger screen. Instead, Rozier, the third-year guard starting due to Boston’s injuries, drove when Eric Bledsoe hedged high to close the passing lane to Brown (who the Bucks had switched on a screen to cover anyhow).
When Bledsoe raced to recover, Rozier stepped back and had all sorts of space behind the arc, drilling the would-be game-winner with less than one second remaining.
Terry Rozier, Celtics guard: “[Brown] was coming off a stagger and I gave him a look and I kind of figured that Bledsoe would bite. It kind of allowed me to make a move to get to my step-back [3-pointer]. That was an option for me to shoot, it was an option for Morris to slip to the basket [after screening for Brown]. Just all three options and I went with mine.”
Jaylen Brown, Celtics guard: “I didn’t even see what happened. [Rozier] did some dribble, behind-the-back crossover. He was wide open. Hell of a move and a hell of a shot.”
Eric Bledsoe, Bucks guard: “I heard a play call. I was trying to play the stunt and [Rozier] did a great job of reading it. And he made a big shot.”
Rozier: “I haven’t seen [the play]. I’m looking forward to seeing it though.”
Middleton with the Hail Mary
Down 99-96 with 0.5 seconds left in regulation, the Bucks didn’t have many options in the catch-and-shoot situation, but the Celtics might have given Milwaukee a bit too much space in hopes of avoiding a bad foul. Despite having all five defenders above the 3-point arc, Antetokounmpo was able to fake rookie Jayson Tatum toward the hoop then threw a short pass to Middleton, who quickly launched a 35-foot heave over Brown.
It dropped, video review confirmed that Middleton got the shot off in time, and Game 1 was headed to overtime.
John Henson, Bucks center: “When Rozier hit that 3 [with] 0.5 seconds everybody was just like, ‘We’re going to have to throw something up.’ Khris got a great shot. We work on stuff like that every day and it went in.”
Khris Middleton, Bucks forward: “That’s a play we’ve been practicing for a couple weeks now, preparing for that moment. We actually flipped the side of the [floor] we usually run it in practice on. Just got a good look. Giannis was surveying the floor. [I] just tried to get open [and] knew it was at that point where it was a catch-and-shoot situation. So [I thought] if I get it in my hands, just let it go. Somehow it dropped in for me.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks forward: “First of all, before the timeout, I asked Khris if he wants the ball. He said, ‘Yes, give me the ball.’ I was looking at Tony [Snell]. Tony was wide open under the rim, then I looked at Bledsoe, then I looked at Khris again. He was far away, so I thought I can’t give him the ball, it’s too far, but I didn’t have no option. I gave it to Khris, and thank God he knocked the shot down.”
Marcus Morris, Celtics forward: “It happens. I think everybody probably thought the game was over with 0.5 [seconds] left. We guarded the 3-point line, he got a long 3 and made it.”
Brown: “I know Brad was saying just guard the 3-point line, but switch on the flares. We’re thinking screens are coming. He shoots it from the hash mark with 0.5 seconds left. That’s a hell of a shot. Take my hat off to him.”
Joe Prunty, Bucks interim head coach: “At the end of the day we had a couple of things in mind that we needed to look at because of what their defenses are. We went with what we thought was the best. Khris ended up popping to an area that he ended up getting a wide-open look. Great shot by him. Good poise by Giannis to be able to inbound the ball.”
Morris: “Playoffs, man. Crazy stuff happens. I think we all had to take a deep breath like, ‘damn,’ and be resilient.”
Al Horford, Celtics center: “That’s tough because I thought it was over. Everybody always says play to the last second and everything but, half a second, I figured we were good. As soon as he shot it, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good.’ I just had a feeling.”
Stevens: “Well, obviously Middleton made a 30-footer and you don’t want to foul in that situation, but, you know, we could’ve done better.”
Celtics collect themselves in OT
Middleton’s bomb could have easily took the wind out of Boston’s sails, especially with Horford, the team’s only healthy All-Star, looking a bit gassed after carrying the team for much of the night. Instead, Horford, who usually defers to big man Aron Baynes on opening tips, won the jump ball against Antetokounmpo to start overtime and Boston didn’t get down when the Bucks pulled ahead early in the session.
Rozier: “I was mad as hell that [Middleton] made that shot, No. 1. But we knew it’s a battle. It’s the playoffs. It happens. He hit a crazy shot, especially with 0.5 [seconds], so you know that’s tough. Going into overtime, let’s do it. Let’s stay together and let’s win this game. You get to the huddle and people was upset a little bit because you wanted to go home and wrap up Game 1. But you’re still living in the moment.”
Brogdon: “For me personally, I tried to stay even keel. My shot, Khris’ shot, Rozier’s shot, I try not to let any of that affect me. I think Khris’ shot was most noteworthy since it pushed us into OT. That was a bit more of a high. The moral of the story is we didn’t pull this one out.”
Brown: “We just take a deep breath. Brad said [Middleton’s shot] was good and he got it off [while they were reviewing it]. It was behind us at that point. Now, we got to focus on overtime and that’s what we did.”
Stevens: “I think you can tell a lot from the fight on the [jump ball to start overtime] and we got the tip after two tips and running through the [defender] to get a loose ball, and that’s when I knew we were reset. You just get back out there and play, you’re ready to play, and I thought our guys — I knew they wouldn’t hang their head about it.
Jayson Tatum, Celtics rookie forward: “We could have easily been deflated at the end of regulation, but we all stood together, and we executed. We played really well in overtime.”
Rozier: “You have to fight and that’s what we did. We had each other’s back and we never stopped believing that we were going to win and we did what we have to do in overtime.”
Stevens: “Sometimes I think they’re at their best when those things happen, you know? I think it’s just a resilient group of kids. Not kids, men.”
After Mitchell hit a pull-up jumper he turned and grimaced. He’s definitely dealing with something. And shortly after that, he checked out of the game, looking very confused, then came back in a few seconds later.
SAN FRANCISCO — Gregg Popovich reiterated that Kawhi Leonard’s continued absence from the San Antonio Spurs during their run in the Western Conference playoffs stems from the lack of clearance from the star forward’s medical team for a return to the court.
Popovich was asked Sunday whether he expected Leonard to rejoin the team at some point during the postseason.
“You’ll have to ask Kawhi and his group that question,” Popovich said. “So far, they say that he’s not ready to go. So we can’t do anything until that happens. Then, we would have to decide what’s going on from there. But that’s the first thing that has to happen.”
Popovich said Leonard remains in New York, where he is continuing to rehabilitate a right quadriceps injury, and Spurs general manager R.C. Buford confirmed that information.
Asked whether there was value in Leonard spending time supporting his teammates during the playoffs, despite being not cleared to play, Popovich declined to address the question specifically.
“He’s rehabbing right now in New York trying to get healthy,” Popovich.
A source told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that Leonard is improving and undergoing routine exams to determine his progress.
Leonard hasn’t played in a game for the Spurs since Jan. 13, and he’s participated in just nine contests all season.
Leonard briefly returned to the team from his rehabilitation stint in New York in March, but decided in April to head back East to focus on the rehab process.