Celtics

Celtics extend win streak to eight with 104-88 win over Magic

Celtics extend win streak to eight with 104-88 win over Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have been the primary forces behind so much of what the Boston Celtics are doing well during their eight-game winning streak.

On Sunday, it was key contributions off the bench from Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. The reserve duo brought energy and grit during the Celtics' 104-88 win over Orlando on Sunday night.

Boston (8-2) carried a modest eight-point lead into the fourth quarter, but quickly pushed that advantage to double-digits as Smart and Rozier hustled for loose balls to help turn a tight game into a blowout in the final quarter.

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"Their impact is huge," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "I thought a big part of our playoff success last year was Smart and Terry coming off the bench together and that has been validated in the first couple of weeks of the season."

Smart was one of six Celtics players in double figures with 11 points to go along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Rozier added six points and seven rebounds.

"We play really well off of each other," Smart said. "When Terry has the ball he can create for himself and when I have the ball vice versa.

"Me and Terry, we just complement each other."

They helped put together an impressive defensive performance by the Celtics, limiting the NBA's best 3-point shooting team to just under 21 percent from behind the arc. Boston outscored the Magic 27-19 in the fourth quarter while leading by as many as 23 points in the final period.

The Magic (6-4) only got six points from leading scorer Evan Fournier. Nikola Vucevic was held to just 13 points, which included a 1 for 4 showing from beyond the arc. It was the eighth time during this current eight-game winning streak that the Celtics have held an opponent to under 94 points.

Boston, meanwhile, received strong scoring from Jaylen Brown and Horford, who finished with 18 points and 14 points, respectively.

"We're in a good place presently but we understand there are still some things we can control on that end, some effort things as well as principle things," said Irving, who only scored one point in the second half and finished with 11 points on the night. "But we feel like we are in a good place, but obviously there is always room to improve."

The Magic, which has been slowed by injuries to their top two point guards, were out of offensive rhythm for the second straight game and their second straight loss. They shot just 36 percent from the field and converted only 6 of 29 3-point attempts.

"We didn't execute great shot selection and patience at times," said Orlando coach Frank Vogel. "Credit Boston's defense because they take you out of your stuff, your first action or your first look and you have to be patient against that."

TIP-INS

Celtics: Morris, who made his season debut during Friday's win over Oklahoma City, was inserted into the starting lineup for Sunday's game. Celtics coach Brad Stevens, however, said Morris will not play in Monday's game at Atlanta. Morris missed the first eight games due to a sore knee. ... After a subpar first half on Friday, Irving had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the first half Sunday to help the Celtics take a 49-38 lead into halftime.

Magic: Point guard Elfrid Payton missed his eighth straight game with a strained left hamstring injury, but Vogel is expecting him to be ready to go against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. ...The Magic converted just 3 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Visits Atlanta on Monday to conclude a back-to-back on the road.

Magic: Hosts the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

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New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

LOS ANGELES – Both players and coaches involved with Sunday’s All-Star game like the new format, but will surely look to tweak a couple of things.

Among the more likely changes will be the process involved in not just selecting the team, but making the selections known to the public. 

Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan has an idea, one that’s shared by some players, media and maybe most important, NBA fans. 

“Televise it,” DeRozan said. “Give the people what they want to see. I think everybody wants to see it. At the end of the day every single person that gets picked, you are an All-Star, so it doesn’t matter where you really go, so I think televise it.”

MORE - Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

The new format involved their being two captains – LeBron James and Stephen Curry – who picked their respective teams from the 22 remaining All-Stars regardless of conference affiliation. 

The NBA also increased the amount of money given to each player on the winning team - $100,000 – while the losing team members each received $25,000.

Regardless of what the changes may be going forward, it’s clear that players see this new format as the blueprint for how All-Star games should be structured going forward.

“This kind of changed the culture of it a lot, for the better,” said Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler. “It’s only going to get more and more competitive because guys see how it was for the last five minutes of that game. Everybody wants to compete.”

Here are five takeaways from the 67th NBA All-Star game with Team LeBron defeating Team Steph 148-145. 

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Kyrie Irving

There were others who scored more, had more assists and certainly grabbed more rebounds than Kyrie Irving. But one of the more telling developments in the game was how Irving returned to the game in the fourth down 10 points, and didn’t leave until Team LeBron emerged with the win seven minutes and 16 seconds later. Even in an All-Star setting, Irving’s impact on winning stands out. Along with his 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Team LeBron was a +16 when Irving was on the floor – tops among all All-Star starters. 

 

LeBron James

The calendar says he’s 33 years old. But other than that, there’s nothing about LeBron James that even remotely looks like his time as the best player on the planet will end anytime soon. In a game full of stars on the rise as well as established stalwarts such as himself, James totally crushed it Sunday night in walking away with his third All-Star game MVP trophy after a double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds to go with eight assists.  

 

DeMar DeRozan

We know him as the king of the mid-range game. But as we saw on Sunday, DeRozan has a lot more offensive versatility that he’s capable of unleashing. He’s arguably the biggest reason why Toronto has the best record in the East right now. Playing for Team Steph, DeRozan tallied 21 points attacking the rim off the dribble and of course, knocking down mid-range jumpers

 

Jimmy Butler

A bit under the weather, Butler never set foot on the court to play. The league’s leader in minutes played this season (37.3), Butler wasn’t expected to play a ton of minutes anyway. Still, it would have been nice to see him out there even if it was for a minute or two. He’s one of the league’s best two-way players whose play has been instrumental to the Timberwolves looking very much like a playoff team this season. “I have to rest,” Butler said. “I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

 

Joel Embiid

The ring leader of Philadelphia’s “Trust the Process” movement, Joel Embiid, was impressive in his All-Star debut. For Embiid, it’s one thing to believe you are one of the NBA’s best players. It’s an entirely different matter to step on the floor with the game’s best talent and validate yourself as one of the game’s best players.  “During the season, I thought I was a top-five or top-10 player in the league,” said Embiid who had 19 points and eight rebounds. “And before the game I wanted confirmation of it. I felt like I could hang with them.”

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Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

Irving, Horford give seal of approval to All-Star changes

LOS ANGELES -- Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close All-Star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph, 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along with 10 rebounds and 8 assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game, which had a different format this year. LeBron James and Stephen Curry picked the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making [defensive] plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time All-Star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the All-Star Game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), that’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game -- LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 -- but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but . . . $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”

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