Jayson Tatum shines in Celtics' 86-81 win over Lonzo Ball, Lakers

Jayson Tatum shines in Celtics' 86-81 win over Lonzo Ball, Lakers

LAS VEGAS -- Danny Ainge has said on more than one occasion that if he couldn’t trade away the number one pick last month, he would have used it to select Duke’s Jayson Tatum, a player Boston wound up getting two spots later in the draft.

After seeing Tatum perform against the top two picks in this year’s draft – Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz and on Saturday, Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, Ainge might have been on to something.

Saturday was the latest installment in what has been an impressive string of impressive performances for the 19-year-old Tatum who led the Celtics to a 86-81 win over the Lakers.

He led the Celtics with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

In matchups against Fultz and Ball, Tatum not only had better numbers but wound up getting the victory which speaks to both his impact as a player on the game and the bottom line – winning games.

But Tatum’s performance on Saturday was special because it came in front of a packed gym that was predominantly pro-Lakers.

And as the Lakers stormed out to a 10-0 lead to start the game, Tatum’s demeanor never changed.

As Boston chipped away at the Lakers early lead, there were plenty of Celtics chipping in with points or key rebounds or solid defensive stops.

But when it mattered most, it was Tatum delivering the big plays – not Ball who finished with a triple-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

And while it was just a summer league game, it certainly didn’t have the look or feel of one.

As you glanced at the fans sitting courtside during Boston’s Summer League game against the Los Angeles Lakers, larger-than-life athletes such as Floyd Mayweather could be seen.

And the usual cavernous scene high atop the Cox Pavilion Center on the University of Las Vegas campus was filled with fans, a seldom seen sell-out for a summer league game.

They weren’t there to reminisce over the epic battles waged between the two most storied franchises in NBA history.

They were there to see basketball – or rather Lonzo Ball who was selected by the Lakers with the No. 2 overall pick.

When the summer league pairings were set up, this was supposed to be a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, presumably point guards Markelle Fultz and Ball.

But the Celtics traded the pick and so folks were left with a matchup that while not nearly as tantalizing, it was nonetheless well worth watching as Boston’s first-round pick Jayson Tatum did his part to keep the crowd engaged.

There were other standouts for both teams, for sure.

But when it came to oohs from the crowd, it was very much the Ball & Tatum show.

While Tatum’s strong showing has been exclusively against summer league talent, current Celtic guard Terry Rozier had a chance to play with him and the other summer league guys before they began playing summer league games.

Rozier liked what he saw, for sure.

“He can play,” Rozier said. “He never played rushed. He just played at his level of pace. He was great. He’s a good player.”

Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic


Morris returns to Celtics starting lineup vs. Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics will turn to a familiar starting lineup as they try to get back on their winning ways following Wednesday’s loss at Miami.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Marcus Morris will be in the starting lineup tonight against Orlando, joining the usual Celtics foursome of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.


Morris’ availability tonight was not a given, similar to it being in question prior to Wednesday’s game against the Heat.
Morris has been dealing with soreness in his left knee which kept him out for the first eight games of the season and has limited his playing time since then.
Stevens said Morris will likely not play against Indiana on Saturday but no final decision has been made. Since returning to the lineup, the Celtics have played Morris with a minutes restriction in addition to not allowing him to play in any back-to-back games.

Morris has made it clear that he does not like having his playing time limited while not playing in any back-to-backs, but has repeatedly he understands why it is being done and won’t fight what the coaching and medical staff believe is best for him and the team.


Celtics' bounce-back ability put to the test

Celtics' bounce-back ability put to the test

BOSTON – When it comes to bouncing back from defeat, the Celtics don’t have a ton of experience with that this season.
As impressive as their 16-game winning streak was, a truer sense of where this team is at lies in how they respond.


Their first chance to bounce back comes tonight against the Orlando Magic (8-10) who will put Boston’s team cohesion to the test.
With so many new players to the roster this season, it has been somewhat surprising how well players have come together. It was instrumental to Boston’s winning streak, which was the fourth-longest in franchise history.
“It’s two things,” said Al Horford. “A lot of credit to coach [Brad Stevens], really setting the emphasis on the things that he expects from our group. And then credit to our younger guys and our guys in general, to pick up those concepts and play for each other out there on the defensive end. That’s what we try to do every night.”
When you talk about Boston’s young players, it begins with the rapid improvement of second-year wing Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum.
“I just think that they’re starting to see, to understand the game more especially on the offensive end,” Horford said. “I think they’re starting to identify reads. It’s a process. They’re going to keep learning; it’s a long season. But that’s the one thing, from the beginning of the season until now, I feel like they have the ability to read plays and make plays for themselves and others.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game at TD Garden: 

The Magic are on a bit of a streak, but not the kind any team would like to have. They come in having lost six in a row. The Magic have struggled to knock down 3-point shots and rebound in that span. They're ranked among the league’s bottom 10 in both categories.

Boston has had its problems scoring in the paint this season, averaging 38.5 points, which ranks 27th in the NBA. But that might change tonight against a Magic team that has been among the worst limiting points in the paint all season. Scratch that. They are the worst, giving up a league-high 51.0 points in the paint this season.

Boston’s 16-game winning streak was impressive, especially when you consider their schedule which included their past eight games being played in a 16-night stretch with a game every other day. It’s not so much the challenge of so many games close together, but the inability to have any time to practice. “For a young team like ours, practice is really important,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston earlier this season. “But the schedule is what it is. You play every game as best you can, practice when you can practice and go from there.”

The Celtics got 34 points from their bench in Wednesday’s loss at Miami, an improvement over what the second unit has been able to deliver most of this season. They come into tonight’s game ranked dead-last in the NBA in shooting (33.5 percent) and next-to-last in 3-point shooting (27.7 percent). Scoring-wise, they average 28.6 points, which ranks 24th in the league, but log an average of 18.8 minutes which ranks 14th in the NBA. So why do they get major minutes? Because more often than not, they find a way to come out ahead of their second unit brethren. For the season, Boston’s bench has a plus/minus of +1.6 which ranks eighth in the league.

One of the biggest concerns for the Celtics coming into this season was rebounding. So far, so good. The Celtics average 47.2 rebounds per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA. To put that in perspective, if Boston maintains that average, it would be the franchise’s highest rebounding average in 40 years (49.8, 1977-78).