Celtics find way to beat Hawks despite Millsap's 45 points

Celtics find way to beat Hawks despite Millsap's 45 points

BOSTON - On a personal level, Sunday was a big game for Hawks forward Paul Millsap.

The underrated Millsap has been a star in this league for years, and is actually playing in his 10th NBA season.

But he's always been a bit under the radar on a national scale.

That might change after his historic performance against the Celtics on Sunday, despite the fact Boston got the best of Atlanta and won, 104-95.

The loss wasn't due to a lack of effort on Millsap's part. He dropped 45 points on 19-for-31 shooting, becoming the 11th player to score at least 45 points on the Celtics in the playoffs.

Millsap scored just 26 points combined over the first three games of the series, and had shot 4-for-21 combined over Game 2 and Game 3. But Sunday's Game 4 was a completely different story.

“Just put an emphasis on being aggressive," Millsap said. "I felt like I wasn’t aggressive in the first three games and especially on the road, your backs against the wall you got to be aggressive. So, I just wanted to do that tonight and set a tone that way.”

Some Celtics players like Amir Johnson spun it after the game by saying they were fine with Millsap scoring the way he was as long as the other players weren't doing much offensively. There is some truth to that. The Hawks' second-highest scorer was Jeff Teague, who finished with just 13 points.

“He was scoring so many different ways," Brad Stevens said of Millsap. "I mean, I think we had him for nineteen points in the post, all on different guys, so we were trying a bunch of different things. We were trying to dig hard. The most disheartening shot was probably when we dug really well and made him pass it and then (Dennis) Schroder hit the big three to go up. Because, you know, now you’re just bringing him attention and you’ve got shooting all over the court and that’s hard.

"So he scored on face ups, he scored on catch-and-shoot threes, he scored on drives and then he scored on the post. So the only place that we were really going to have to consider doubling was probably the post, and I didn’t want to do that because of the shooting. So we were going to try everyone until we got stops.”

Stevens finally found the right recipe: a healthy dose of Marcus Smart. Smart moved onto Millsap during the fourth quarter and limited him to just two points on 1-for-5 shooting the rest of the way, roughly 14 minutes.

"Number one is Marcus is an excellent defender with great strength," Stevens said, "so he’s able to make post catches difficult, he’s able to guard him on the drive, maybe not as much in the deep post, but he didn’t let him catch it in the deep post. And then he did a great job getting him off the glass. Now, in credit to Millsap, when you’ve scored 45 in three quarters, which I’ve never done, nor have I ever dreamed of doing, I’m imagining it’s tiring. So I think that certainly he deserves a lot of credit for that performance. Millsap was awesome.”

Millsap admitted that Smart was "tough" on defense. But he also seemed to echo what Stevens said after having logged about 32 minutes by the time Smart took him.

"Just guarded me at the right time," Millsap said.

We'll find out on Tuesday if that's all it was.

Kevin Garnett predicts Marcus Morris' game-winner right before it happens

Kevin Garnett predicts Marcus Morris' game-winner right before it happens

Kevin Garnett was paying close attention to Tuesday night's thriller between the Celtics and Thunder.

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On KG's Area 21, the former Celtics great watched as Boston rallied in the game's final minute to make a stunning comeback. Right before Marcus Morris drilled the game-winner, Garnett called it by saying, "The Morris twin will end up shooting this or something because he like 'yeah I'm about the moment'"

Not a bad call. Morris certainly was "about the moment" Tuesday night as he has been multiple times this season.


Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

Jayson Tatum comes up big vs Paul George, Thunder

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum had another strong performance for the Boston Celtics, doing so against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Paul George, a player Tatum has acknowledged on more than one occasion he has looked up to. 

That admiration didn’t get in the way of Tatum delivering a big-time performance in helping Boston rally from six points down with 12.7 seconds to play, to knock off the Thunder 100-99.

Tatum tallied a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. And doing so at 20 years and 17 days old, Tatum became the youngest player in franchise history to tally at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game.

“It feels good,” Tatum said when asked about his first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound game in the NBA. “But honestly, I’m just glad we won. That was a big win against a great team and it was fun playing out there today.”

Impacting the game on multiple levels offensively along with being a defensive and rebounding force are qualities often associated with George who became familiar with Tatum prior to last June’s NBA draft which is when the Celtics selected him with the third overall pick. 

“I reached out to him before he was coming into this draft and I got to talk to him,” said George, who had 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds against the Celtics. “It’s an honor when you see young talent. I‘ve been inspired by many in this league so it’s great to inspire the younger generation in this league.”

And while Tatum may be young, he continues to prove himself up for whatever challenges await him. 

“We are going to keep throwing to the wolves and keep going to him in those moments,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

Boston closed out the game with an 8-1 spurt in the final 24.7 seconds, with Tatum either scoring or assisting on five of those points which includes assistant on Marcus Morris’ game-winner.

Tatum’s composure down the stretch comes from being influenced by many, including George who considers it “an honor” that Tatum holds him in high regard. 

“At the end of the day, us veteran guys want the younger guys to take the game further and advance much farther than what I was,” George said. “There’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson (Tatum) that are probably already looking up to Jayson (Tatum).”