Tagged in: Celtics

Brown scores 30, Celtics beat Bucks 109-86 to even series

There was a moment during the Celtics’ series-opening loss to the Bucks when it seemed as if Jaylen Brown would never make a shot.

Early in Game 2, it felt like he might not miss.

Brown scored 25 of his 30 points in the first half, and Boston beat Milwaukee 109-86 on Tuesday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.

“It’s the playoffs. That’s it,” Brown said. “We can’t let one game kind of dictate how this series goes. We wanted to be aggressive from the gate.”

Brown shook off a dismal shooting night in Game 1, going 9 for 10 in the first half, including 5 for 5 from the 3-point line. Jayson Tatum added 19 points and eight assists. Grant Williams concluded with 21 points. Al Horford had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We wanted to come and play like our season was on the line and we did,” Brown said.

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The series doesn’t resume until Game 3 on Saturday in Milwaukee.

Boston finished 20 of 43 from beyond the arc and scored 24 points off 16 Milwaukee turnovers.

“We wanted to match their physicality and punch back tonight,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “A big message was show them who we are.”

They did that.

The Celtics played without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart after he was ruled out before the game with a bruised right thigh he sustained in Game 1. 

Derrick White took his place in the starting lineup, making his first start in a playoff game since 2019 when he was with San Antonio.

“The ship’s got to keep going. Everybody got to do a little bit more,” Tatum said.

Even without Smart, the Celtics clamped down on Giannis Antetokounmpo after his triple-double in the series opener, limiting him to 28 points — mostly in the third quarter — nine rebounds and seven assists. Jrue Holiday added 19 points and seven assists. Bobby Portis chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds.

Antetokounmpo said the Celtics are doing a lot to make it tough for him inside.

“Strong bodies, being active, being physical —- that’s pretty much it,” he said. “It’s gotten tougher to find your teammates.”

With Smart watching in street clothes from the bench, the Celtics scored the game’s first seven points on their way to taking an 18-3 lead and forcing a quick timeout by the Bucks.

Boston scored from a variety of different spots on the court during the run – attacking both at the rim and inside the paint. It also included 12 points from the 3-point line, where the Celtics struggled for most of Game 1.

“It’s not Wilt Chamberlain down there (in the paint),” Udoka said. “We can get downhill and attack.”

Antetokounmpo missed his first six shots before ultimately getting on the scoreboard via a dunk with less than a minute left in the opening period.

It didn’t stop Boston from banking a 32-21 lead heading into the second quarter, boosted by 17 points from Brown –a career playoff-high for a quarter.

The Celtics continued to share and kept Milwaukee’s defense in chase mode, eventually taking a 65-40 edge into the half.

The Bucks cut into what had been a 26-point Celtics lead in the third quarter. Antetokounmpo keyed the charge with 18 points in the period. A 10-0 Milwaukee run, aided by a more than five-minute Celtics scoring drought, trimmed Boston’s lead to 72-56 late in the third quarter.

Milwaukee kept nibbling away and got it down it to 94-82 on a pair of free throws by Antetokounmpo. But Tatum made a 3-pointer and Boston pulled away again.

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Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year award for first time

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the league announced Monday.

It’s the first DPOY award for Smart, who is the first guard to take home the honor since Gary Payton in the 1995-96 season. Payton was on hand at the Celtics practice facility Monday to give Smart the award.

In a social media post later Monday, Smart stated he was “blown away” by the honor.

Smart received 257 points (37 first-place votes) to finish first in voting. Forward Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns (202 points, 22 first-place votes) and center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz (136 points, 12 first-place votes) ended up second and third, respectively, in voting from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.

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Smart concluded the season ranked seventh in the NBA in steals per game (1.68) for a Celtics team that led the league in defensive rating (106.2) and points allowed per game (104.5). He also was ranked fifth among all NBA guards with a defensive rating of 105.2, and was first in the league with 1.1 loose balls recovered per game.

Smart, who started each of the 71 regular-season games he played, also finished tied for 10th in deflections (106) and charges drawn (16) and had a career-high 3.2 defensive rebounds per game.

The eighth-year player is the second Celtic ever to win DPOY, joining Kevin Garnett (2007-08).

Big men have dominated the award since its inception in 1982. Smart and Payton are only the two point guards to have won it. Shooting guards have won it another five times, but none since Michael Jordan in 1988. And centers and forwards have won all the rest, including Gobert in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Speaking last month, Smart said guards deserve more respect in the voting. “I’m not taking anything from the bigs,” he told ESPN.

“A vital part of the game is protecting the paint. But, as guards, we do a lot more before [our man] gets to the paint. … Contesting the 3, contesting pull-ups, making sure he doesn’t get to his spots.”

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Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry has sprained left foot, expected to return by playoffs

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is expected to return for the beginning of the Western Conference playoffs with a left foot sprain, but will undergo further evaluation with specialists, sources told ESPN.

Curry and the Warriors are conferring with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a renowned foot specialist, on the injury, sources said.

Curry suffered the injury in a collision with Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart on Wednesday night, and an MRI overnight revealed the foot sprain. There’s no structural damage and Curry is considered to have avoided serious injury, sources said.

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The play occurred in the second quarter when Curry and Smart dove for a loose ball and Smart rolled on top of Curry’s leg.

Curry initially tried to walk off the pain but left the game after being checked out on the bench. After halftime, he was ruled out for the rest of the night.

Neither Warriors coach Steve Kerr or forward Draymond Green called the play on which Curry was injured dirty but deemed it “dangerous” and “unnecessary.”

“I saw the ball, I dove for the ball, trying to make a play,” Smart stated after the game. “Unfortunately, that occurred.”

Curry’s injury comes just two games after Green returned from a back injury that held him out two-and-a-half months. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, who returned from two-and-a-half-month hiatus in January, have played just 11 minutes together this campaign.

“It seems like every time we get someone back, someone else goes down,” Green said. “So, it’s definitely a worry.”

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Tatum scores 33 to help Celtics push past Hawks 107-98

Jayson Tatum had 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help the Boston Celtics rally in the second half and beat the Atlanta Hawks 107-98 on Tuesday night.

Derrick White and Grant Williams each added 18 points off the bench. Marcus Smart concluded with 16 points and four assists.

Boston has won 10 of its last 12 and three of four since the All-Star break.

The Celtics played the final three quarters without starter Jaylen Brown, who left the game in the first quarter with a right ankle injury. Being able to recover from Brown’s injury taught the team a lot, Smart stated.

“It just shows, that if we continue to come out like this, this is the team that we are. This is the identity that we have. It’s going to be hard for teams,” he said.

Trae Young had 31 points. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 25 for the Hawks, who have lost two of three.

“They came out aggressive, ready to attack and I thought we got back on our heels,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We just settled for the long ball. We didn’t attack.”

Atlanta led by as many as 17 points in the first half before that cushion evaporated in a 14-0 run by Boston to open the third quarter.

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The Hawks shot selection didn’t help, going 7 of 31 from 3-point range in the game.

“I think we kind of bailed them out and let them off the hook taking some shots and obviously not attacking like we did in the first half,” Young said.

The Celtics seized on it and kept their momentum going, outscoring the Hawks 31-13 in the period to take a 82-78 edge in the fourth.

The surge was keyed by Boston’s defense, which held Young to just nine points after halftime. The increased intensity was a response to a plea by coach Ime Udoka at halftime for his team to be more physical.

“It’s part of us. It’s part of me. It’s something that when we’re being physical, it helps us on the defensive end. But also on the offensive end,” Smart said.

Boston’s lead grew to 102-88 with 3:11 left in the game following back-to-back 3-pointers by Williams. Both baskets were set up by defensive plays by Smart. First, he chased down De’Andre Hunter on a fast break and came up with a block from behind. Then, he stepped in front of an errant pass by Bogdanovic to start another Celtics’ sprint out.

The plays were examples of how they want to play, Smart said.

The Celtics entered the game at full strength for the first time in weeks, but that changed in the first quarter when Brown left with a right ankle sprain after taking an awkward fall during a drive into the lane.

He grabbed at his right leg as he toppled to the ground, but was able to walk to the locker room on his own power. Udoka stated he was able to move around on the ankle in the locker room, but he is day to day.

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Ball’s triple-double carries Hornets past Celtics, 111-102

LaMelo Ball had a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Charlotte Hornets to a 111-102 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Terry Rozier led Charlotte with 28 points against his former team. Miles Bridges scored 22 and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 18 for the Hornets, who won for the ninth time in 12 matches.

“To come in here and get a win — we want to make a statement,” Rozier said. “We want to get to where they’re at as an organization.”

Dennis Schröder paced Boston with 24 points. Jaylen Brown scored 21 and Al Horford had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought we had a lot of good looks and we moved the ball really well,” Brown said. “They made a lot of tough baskets. They came and outplayed us.”

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Boston star Jayson Tatum was hampered by foul trouble and concluded with just 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting in 35 minutes. The Celtics had won five of six.

“I thought part of the foul trouble affected him overall as well as some other guys,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “That was my message to the team: Impact the game when the shot’s not falling.”

The Celtics were just 14 of 46 on 3-point attempts.

Boston sliced a 12-point deficit to 88-84 early in the final quarter but Charlotte scored 10 of the next 14 points, pulling ahead 98-88 on Oubre’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:55 to play. Ball had nailed a 3 from the left corner two minutes earlier.

“The competitiveness and resiliency was there in the fourth quarter,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.

The Celtics cut it to 102-96 on Horford’s 3 with 2:48 left, but Ball nailed a 3 from in front of Boston’s bench and Rozier followed with one on the Hornets’ next possession.

Boston trimmed the margin to six one more time, but Rozier nailed another 3 to seal it in the final minute.

Ball grabbed a rebound with 0.2 seconds left to complete his triple-double. He said Bridges reminded him how close he was.

“He was like: ‘Box out and you’ll get that last rebound,’” Ball said, pointing to Bridges sitting next to him at the postgame news conference. ”I said, ‘Oh, you’re right!”

Rozier hit three from beyond the arc in a 62-second span of the third quarter, pushing the Hornets’ lead to 75-61. They were up 86-74 entering the fourth.

“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Rozier said. “We just want to keep going. We’re not satisfied. We’ve got to stay humble and keep on having fun and playing out there. That’s the main thing.”

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Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo in protocols, ruled out for Wednesday, but Khris Middleton (knee) questionable

The Milwaukee Bucks listed Giannis Antetokounmpo as out for Wednesday’s game versus the Indiana Pacers after he was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols Tuesday night.

Antetokounmpo went into the protocols a day after scoring 20 points in 34 minutes in a 117-103 loss to the Celtics in Boston. Bucks guard Wesley Matthews has also been in the protocols the past two matches.

Later Tuesday, the Bucks added guard Donte DiVincenzo to the protocols list, giving Milwaukee six players out of play for Wednesday’s game: Antetokounmpo, DiVincenzo, Matthews, DeMarcus Cousins (personal reasons), Brook Lopez (back surgery) and Semi Ojeleye (calf strain).

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To clear the protocols, a player must either be out for a minimum of 10 days or return two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart.

Tuesday’s news now leaves Antetokounmpo’s status for Milwaukee’s rematch with Boston on Christmas Day in doubt.

In one positive piece of news for the Bucks, All-Star Khris Middleton was only listed as questionable for Wednesday’s match after positive results from imaging done on his hyperextended left knee suffered during Monday’s loss.

The injury occurred when Middleton collided with teammate Rodney Hood as they went after a defensive rebound late in the third quarter, and his leg buckled awkwardly. After he winced and stayed on the ground for a moment, Middleton got up and limped to the other end of the court for Milwaukee’s ensuing offensive possession.

As soon as it was over, however, the Bucks committed a foul, and Middleton walked straight off the court and into the locker room.

It turned out, however, that Milwaukee’s positive thoughts after the game about Middleton’s status — including comments from coach Mike Budenholzer, Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, as well as Middleton being seen leaving the locker room under his own power — proved true, and he should miss little time, if any.

Milwaukee has six games over an 11-day span starting Wednesday, followed by a road game in New Orleans, home games versus Cleveland and Houston, a road game in Dallas and then the Christmas Day showdown with Boston at home.

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Nets head to second round, beat Celtics 123-109 in Game 5

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden had just eight matches together in the regular season, few enough to wonder how good they could really be.

Five games versus Boston provided some answers — and a chance to keep making up for all their lost time.

“We just don’t want to take any of this time for granted,” Irving said. “This doesn’t happen too often kind of in our culture, in our history, where three of the best scorers to ever play the game are on one team.”

Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first postseason triple-double with Brooklyn, leading the Nets into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 123-109 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in Game 5.

Irving scored 25 points and Durant had 24 for the Nets, who will face the Milwaukee Bucks in their first appearance in the second round since 2014. The No. 2-seeded Nets will host Game 1 versus Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Saturday.

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“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Durant said. “I mean, he’s a two-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Despite their limited time together during the regular season, the Nets’ three superstars showed how potent they can be in this series, particularly when they combined for 104 points in Game 4.

“We weren’t even worried about the playoff run yet, we were just happy to be on the court together,” Harden said. “So it’s great to get one series out of the way and like I said, we’ll take tomorrow off and we’ll recoup and get ready for a tough Milwaukee team.”

Brooklyn was nowhere near as potent as Game 4, when it rang up 141 points. But a little explosive stretch here and there was good enough to wrap it up.

The finishing one came with the Celtics trailing by just eight with under eight minutes to play.

Durant then made a 3-pointer, Jayson Tatum turned it over and Irving nailed another 3 on the break, pushing it to 103-89 with 7:19 to play.

Evan Fournier scored but Harden answered with another 3 and Bruce Brown scored inside, an 11-2 burst in less than 90 seconds that broke it open at 108-91 midway through the fourth.

Tatum had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who made the Eastern Conference finals last year but went quickly with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker unavailable.

“Jayson continued to make plays. We didn’t do enough as a team. But he showed a lot of mettle this year,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated.

Fournier added 18 points and Romeo Langford had 17 starting in place of Walker, who missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury.

“It’s been a lot. Injuries on top of injuries. Guys not being able to play together. A lot of personal stuff. It’s life, things more important than basketball, but you’ve got to be professional,” guard Marcus Smart said.

The Nets were eager to avoid a return to Boston after a fan threw a water bottle at Irving after Game 4, but the clincher didn’t come easily.

The Celtics hung in the game, not letting the Nets build a double-digit lead until a 7-0 burst early in the second half made it 66-54. Boston recovered and trailed just 86-79 after Tatum made a jumper at the buzzer to end the third.

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Irving scores 40, Nets beat Celtics 121-109

Kyrie Irving scored 40 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 121-109 triumph over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.

James Harden had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, which improved to 25-13 with its 12th win in 13 matches. Landry Shamet added 18 points and fellow reserve Jeff Green concluded with 11. Joe Harris added 12 as the Nets won without Kevin Durant and newcomer Blake Griffin.

Jayson Tatum scored 31 points but Boston had its four-game winning streak snapped. Marcus Smart added 19 in his return from injury, Daniel Theis had 17 and Jaylen Brown chipped in with 13.

The first meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals since Christmas emphasized the gulf between the teams. Specifically, Brooklyn’s quick strike offense.

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The Nets started the fourth with an 88-86 lead, but it took just more than 3 minutes to extend the advantage to 100-90 even as Irving sat on the bench.

After Boston cut the lead to five following Tatum’s jumper, Irving and Joe Harris checked back into the game and the Nets promptly outscored Boston 21-14 for the remainder of the game. In that 7:34 stretch, Irving made two 3s and two free throws versus his former team, and when Green slammed a two-handed dunk with 43 seconds left, the outcome was basically decided.

Smart had missed 19 games dating back to Jan. 30 with a strained left calf. He played 21 minutes after Boston coach Brad Stevens said before the game that the guard would be limited to 20-22.

How did the Celtics settle upon that time frame? “What I do is I get told and I follow instructions,” Stevens deadpanned. “It’s a lot like being married, right? My wife tells me what to do and I do what she says. That’s pretty much how this all works with the minute restrictions.”

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Tatum lifts Celtics past Pistons for weekend split

Jayson Tatum hit a fallaway as Blake Griffin stumbled with 2.9 seconds left, then tied up the Detroit veteran on the other end to help the Boston Celtics defeat the Pistons 122-120 on Sunday for a weekend split.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points. He hit a late 3-pointer and was 13 of 16 from the field, two nights after his late miss sealed a loss in the opener in Detroit.

“We haven’t been good, especially down the stretch, executing-wise,” said Marcus Smart, who added 17 points and eight assists. “We got to our spots, we got the ball where we wanted it, and those two players made great shots and great reads. They won us the game.”

Tatum had 24 points and 12 assists for Boston. The Celtics shot a season-best 57%.

“It seems like they made every shot, especially Brown,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I want to see how many teams do a good job on Jaylen Brown and Tatum. They’re probably two of the most dynamic players I’ve seen in a while.”

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Jerami Grant scored 22 points for the Pistons, his career-best fifth consecutive game with at least 20. 

Svi Mykhailiuk had 15 points despite not entering the game until under four minutes left in the third quarter.

Semi Ojeleye hit three 3-pointers in less than five minutes to open the fourth quarter for Boston. Sekou Doumbouya and Mykhailiuk responded with back-to-back 3s to give Detroit a 108-106 lead with 6:01 left.

Mykhailiuk scored eight straight Detroit points, and the Pistons took a 118-117 lead on Mason Plumlee’s free throws with 42.2 seconds left. That set up Brown’s 3-pointer with 34.0 seconds to go, and Grant made two free throws 12 seconds later to tie it at 120.

On Friday night, Detroit defeated Boston 96-93 for its only win of the season, with the Celtics missing their final 10 shots and going scoreless for the final 4:15.

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Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker out until January after stem cell injection in knee

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stated Tuesday that the upcoming NBA season will indicate how much of a long-term problem Kemba Walker’s left knee will be moving forward.

“I think this year will tell us a lot more,” Ainge said Tuesday morning of Walker, who the team informed will be out until at least January after he was given a stem cell injection and put on a 12-week strengthening program after last season ended.

“He saw some specialists over the last six or eight weeks, and they all came to the same conclusion, and I think that gave Kemba a great peace of mind as he went to different, really good doctors in our country and got the same opinions. He’s on a program, and he seems to be in a very good, happy spot.”

Ainge said the anticipation from those meetings was that surgery would not be necessary.

After the Celtics signed Walker as a free agent to a four-year max contract in the summer of 2019 to replace Kyrie Irving, he spent the latter portions of the regular season dealing with ongoing soreness in his left knee — particularly after the All-Star break — before the season was suspended March 11.

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Then, once teams resumed on-court work in late June ahead of the NBA restarting its season in late July, Walker had another setback with his knee, and was put on a minutes restriction both during the weeks leading up to the restart and throughout the seeding games inside the league’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Walker looked very good versus the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, but he struggled as the Celtics progressed throughout the postseason — particularly after taking a hard fall during the second round versus the Toronto Raptors when he appeared to tweak the knee.

Ainge stated it was possible Boston rushed Walker back too quickly for the bubble — a touchy subject in Boston, given the history surrounding Isaiah Thomas after his hip issues following Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2017 — before almost immediately walking back his own statement.

But just when Walker’s season will start — and when he will be a full participant for the Celtics — remains very much up in the air. The Celtics said in their statement that Walker’s game-availability status will be updated in the first week of January, which is roughly when his 12-week strengthening program should end.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Walker is going to start playing 30-plus minutes a game. Instead, the expectation is that Walker will slowly be ramped up over time, in a similar fashion to the restart in Orlando.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Walker’s return was affected in part by the fact that the NBA season is getting started sooner than everyone had anticipated.

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