Celtics

About Last Night in the NBA: Raptors roll, Lillard shines, Nuggets rally

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About Last Night in the NBA: Raptors roll, Lillard shines, Nuggets rally

WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT 

FORSBERG: There’s the Raptors we expected

Celtics fans were a little bit too giddy to see both the Sixers and Raptors drop their Game 1s on the other side of the East bracket. Philly bounced back Monday night while pretty much producing Boston’s entire Game 1 scoring output as part of an absurd third-quarter offensive outburst. Then, on Tuesday night, the Raptors steadied themselves by thoroughly throttling the Magic, 111-82. 

The scary part for Celtics fans: Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points on 15-of-22 shooting over 33 minutes. Kyle Lowry shrugged off a scoreless Game 1 and put up 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Danny Green didn’t even score and the Raptors led by as much as 34 and never trailed. Boston fans should be praying to the basketball gods that Marcus Smart’s oblique feels better should the Celtics and Raptors cross paths in May.

Leonard’s big night is also troublesome because it’s a reminder that this isn’t the Raptors of the old, the one that wilted on the big stage and couldn’t get past Round 2 in the East. Leonard brings experience and championship composure. Boston’s best hope is that the Raptors and Sixers wear each other out a bit in Round 2.

Game of the night was in Denver where the Nuggets rallied from 19 down to save their season. Gregg Popovich should have thrown Jamal Murray’s game ball in the stands after all the big shots Murray hit in closing time to seal that win. Also, these playoffs need more Isaiah Thomas (DNP).

BLAKELY: The Raptors are alive; Portland's potent potential; Nuggets get rocked, then rally

Just when it seemed the Raptors were barreling towards another year of early postseason extinction, they remind us all why they spent a good chunk of this season as the league's front-runner in terms of their overall record. 

Kawhi Leonard (37 points) was a matchup nightmare (again) for Orlando, and unlike Game 1 he had some help last night from Kyle Lowry.  Scoreless in Game 1, Lowry redeemed himself with a strong stat line (22 points, seven assists, four rebounds, two steals) to remind us all as to why he's a five-time All-Star. They haven't wrestled home court away from Orlando yet, but it seems just a matter of time before the Magic will pull a postseason disappearing act. 

Damian Lillard isn't under the radar, but you watch him play and think just how big a deal he would be in a bigger market with more exposure. He's not just the best player on that Blazers roster, he's a top-5 point guard in this league, right up there with Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving.

This series with Oklahoma City is far from over, but you have to like what the Lillard-led Blazers were able to do in their two wins. 

Denver is a more talented team than San Antonio, and it took the Nuggets a while to start playing like it in a must-win Game 2 matchup. A big-time third quarter for Gary Harris and an even better fourth quarter for Jamal Murray not only gave Denver the win but a much-needed confidence jolt as the series shifts to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4.

SO... THAT HAPPENED


NUMBER OF NOTE

The Thunder went 5-for-28 (17.9%) on 3-pointers in Game 2 against the Blazers, and are now shooting 16.4% on 3's in the series (10-for-61).

THEY SAID IT...

"We gave up 38 points in the fourth quarter. End of story." 

--Spurs HC Gregg Popovich, loquacious as always, after San Antonio blew a 19-point second-half lead. (Actually, they allowed 39 in the fourth, but we don't want to antagonize Pop.)

TUESDAY'S SCOREBOARD

  • Raptors 111, Magic 82 (Series tied 1-1)
  • Nuggets 114, Spurs 105 (Series tied 1-1)
  • Trail Blazers 114, Thunder 94 (Series tied 1-1)


WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT

FORSBERG: Fiiiiiiinally, Game 2

It’s rather absurd that there were 78 freakin’ hours between tip-offs of Games 1 and 2 between the Celtics and Pacers. It’s been quite the slog considering how electric the rest of the playoffs have been (and what a rock fight Game 1 was for Boston and Indiana).

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Tuesday that he isn’t married to the starting 5 that he trotted out in Game 1 but wasn’t about to offer any hints on potential tweaks (all of Boston’s rotation players were wearing starter green when practice opened to reporters on Tuesday). 

Said Stevens: "We reevaluate everything every day. I don’t want to overreact. I don’t think we played great at the start of either half, but I didn’t think we were bad. I thought we guarded, we tried to do the right things. I thought that we had some offensive possessions that could have been better, but that was the whole game, and Indiana had a lot to do with that and I don’t want to take that away from them. We’ll reevaluate it every day but that’s what it is right now."

While Jaylen Brown had a quiet offensive night in Game 1, the guess is that the defensive success the Celtics had will encourage Stevens to stick with him in place of injured Smart with the starters. What’s more likely to cause tweaks in these playoffs are the potential chess match and, should Indiana start tinkering how it deploys its bigs, maybe Boston is forced to counter further out in the series.

SHERROD: Carry-all Kyrie

The Celtics need Kyrie Irving to score. They need him to get others involved as well. He also is tasked with elevating his defense. How about a couple of hot dogs, hold the mustard and ... yes, the Celtics are asking a lot of Irving in this series with his workload only increasing in its scope and importance following Marcus Smart's oblique injury suffered against Orlando on April 7. 

“I miss him,” Irving said. “He makes my job a lot easier; just because I don’t have to dribble the ball as much or create as much. You have a second lead guard that can go out there and just really make decisions; make good decisions for our team.”

The absence of Smart has transformed playoff Kyrie into Carry-All Kyrie because the Celtics have little choice but to lean on the six-time All-Star to elevate his play on all levels with scoring, play-making and defense being the Big Three. 

But he'll need some help, too. 

Marcus Morris was that guy in Game 1, scoring 20 points which equaled Kyrie Irving's team-high total for Game 1. 

Who will it be tonight?

Terry Rozier? Gordon Hayward? Jaylen Brown?

TONIGHT'S SCHEDULE

  • Pacers at Celtics, Game 2 (BOS leads 1-0) — 7:00 pm, NBC Sports Boston (Celtics Pregame Live at 6:00 pm)
  • Pistons at Bucks, Game 2 (MIL leads 1-0) — 8:00 pm, NBATV
  • Jazz at Rockets, Game 2 (HOU leads 1-0) — 9:30 pm, TNT

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Any time the Boston Celtics play in Los Angeles, there are bound to be celebrities in the crowd. The Celtics and the Lakers have arguably the greatest rivalry in NBA history, after all, so watching them square off is a must-see event when both teams are good.

But on Sunday afternoon, there was one famous person in the crowd that caught the attention of Celtics rookie Grant Williams. That would be Celtics legend and 11-time NBA champion, Bill Russell.

Russell appeared at the game to watch the Celtics in action, but also wore a jersey to honor the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. And evidently, Williams took some time to talk to Russell at halftime.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

After the contest, Williams communicated what his message to the NBA great was.

“I just wanted to thank him for everything he’s done for the game,” Williams said per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. “I said I was thankful, because he was so impactful. He was a dude who was one of the best players in the game, a historic Boston legend, and honestly it was just good to see him in person for the first time. You see all the celebrities in LA and all this stuff, but I was more focused on Bill Russell than anybody else. Denzel was there, all those other guys, but Bill was special.”

And Williams also communicated that getting a chance to play in a Celtics-Lakers rivalry game in front of one of the best players of all-time was "really cool".

“It was really cool, especially a game of that magnitude and intensity,” Williams said. “Lakers vs. Celtics, something that one of the biggest rivalries in sports and playing against LeBron, it was fun. It was a competitive environment. Hopefully he enjoyed it.”

It's really nice to see that Williams truly appreciates NBA history and one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. He will surely remember this moment for a long time.

During his rookie season, Williams is averaging 3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game while playing 15.5 minutes off the bench. The 2019 first-round pick could play a key role as a small-ball center for the squad as they gear up for a playoff run.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

Jayson Tatum is starting to emerge as one of the NBA's young superstars. And his performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers only fueled the hype surrounding him over the course of the past month.

The Boston Celtics forward had one of the best outings of his career on Sunday. He tied a career-high with 41 points and did everything he could to help keep the Celtics alive against the Lakers. They couldn't ultimately pull off the win, but losing by just two without Kemba Walker's services was certainly impressive.

Tatum did a lot to power the C's and keep them in the game. And some of his most notable peers took notice of his performance.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

After Tatum's excellent outing, Lakers forward LeBron James posted to Instagram to congratulate and encourage Tatum. Here's a look at James' post.

That's a decent gesture from James, and it's one that Tatum won't soon forget. And neither will he forget the seemingly emotional embrace the two shared after the tightly contested contest ground to an end.

It's also worth noting that Tatum did play as part of Team LeBron at NBA All-Star weekend. So, they likely connected there and it sure seems that James, who drafted Tatum in the All-Star captains' fantasy draft, admires the young star's game.

Over his past 10 games since returning from a groin injury, Tatum has averaged 28.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for the Celtics. If he keeps producing at that clip, it'll be great news for the team's hopes of being a playoff contender.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.