Celtics

Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo could miss game vs. Celtics with knee sprain

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Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo could miss game vs. Celtics with knee sprain

The Boston Celtics may avoid Giannis Antetokounmpo when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

The Bucks announced Sunday that Antetokounmpo suffered a minor joint capsule sprain in his left knee during Friday night's game vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. As a result, he will miss at least the final two games of Milwaukee's current road trip.


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.

Antetokounmpo's status for the March 12 C's-Bucks matchup remains up in the air and will be updated later this week. It'll be the third time the Eastern Conference juggernauts have faced off this season, with both teams earning victories against one another in their two meetings.

Milwaukee currently boasts an NBA-best record of 53-10. Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists so far this season.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Thunder-Celtics, which begins Sunday at 5 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 6 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Ex-Celtic Shane Larkin reflects on EuroLeague season shutdown, his own future

Ex-Celtic Shane Larkin reflects on EuroLeague season shutdown, his own future

BOSTON -- Shane Larkin’s expectations playing internationally weren’t all that different than his days in college at Miami or during his stints in the NBA, the last of which was two years ago with the Boston Celtics. 

He wants to compete; and in doing so, wins usually follow. 

That was indeed the case for Larkin, who played with Turkey’s Anadolu Efes squad, which had its sights on being this year’s EuroLeague champion. 

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But those dreams were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was at the heart of the EuroLeague cancelling the remainder of this season, one in which Larkin was the league’s top scorer and his team had the best overall record prior to the season prematurely ending. 

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Larkin said on the CelticsTalk Podcast. “We were in first place. We had a great season going on. So, I felt we had a great opportunity to win a championship. But at the end of the day, sometimes things happen like that with a bigger purpose. This virus came around and impacted people in so many negative ways. I just think right now, health is more important than chasing a championship. At the end of the day, I think it’s the right decision. Health is the most important thing and that’s the reason they canceled it, so it’s cool with me.”

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Larkin had an Instagram post recently that included his thoughts on the league resuming play while indicating that a “large majority” of players did not want to resume playing under the current status of the COVID-19 virus. 

Knowing that would mean an abrupt and premature ending to this fairy tale of a season for him and his teammates, was a tough pill to swallow. 

“We were all dying to get out there and play,” he said. “We’re all disappointed that we won’t have a chance to fight for a championship but we’re all good with the decision because health is the most important thing.”

Larkin, who was with the Celtics during the 2017-2018 season, became an international star this season. 

He led Anadolu Efe in scoring with 22.2 points per game while connecting on 53.0 percent of his shots from the field, 50.9 percent from 3-point range and 90.3 percent from the free throw line. 

Larkin’s numbers in Boston -- 4.3 points while appearing in 54 games -- weren’t nearly as good as they were overseas in large part because he was playing behind Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart.

He looks back on his time in Boston with fond memories; well, most of the time, anyway. 

“I used to think about it (that season) a lot,” Larkin said. “Especially the way it ended for me; it was kind of unfortunate.”

Larkin’s season ended in Game 4 of Boston’s playoff series against Philadelphia when he suffered a left shoulder injury while trying to go underneath a Joel Embiid screen.

“I was done for the rest of the playoffs,” Larkin recalled. “So I always think about how I could have maneuvered that screen a little differently to try and help the team out. But it was an unbelievable run. I saw a lot of guys take their careers to another level in that series.”

The same can be said for Larkin with what he has done overseas. 

His numbers this past season validate him as arguably the best player in the EuroLeague, which is widely considered the next-best professional basketball league in the world, behind the NBA.

Larkin will be a free agent this summer and is open to pretty much whatever comes his way be it in the NBA or picking up where he left off overseas. 

“I don’t know when any of my free agency stuff will start,” Larkin said. “So, I’m sitting around, waiting for that to happen; stay in shape, keep my body right and see what happens. In this current state, nobody knows what’s going to happen anytime soon. So, I have to stay prepared for any opportunities that come across and see what happens."

2020 NBA Playoffs: Why this year's champ will be one of the greatest champions ever

2020 NBA Playoffs: Why this year's champ will be one of the greatest champions ever

A return to the NBA season is shifting ever-so-slightly to becoming a reality, with Orlando’s Disney World appearing to be the venue of choice for the league to resume the 2019-2020 season. 

And while there are some who will surely slap an asterisk over whichever team emerges as an NBA champion this year, that’s far from how the next NBA champion should be viewed in the pantheon of previous title winners. 

When you look at the journey whichever team hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy (in August? September? October maybe?) will have had to go through, it will be the kind of postseason gauntlet that no team has ever had to endure. 

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And that makes the next NBA champion, able to have overcome the stop-and-start season due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, worthy of being in the conversation for having one of the greatest seasons ever. 

The whole notion of any NBA champion being less than worthy of the title is crazy. 

In 2015, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors won their first of three NBA titles within a four-year window, and their opponent's starting point guard missed some or most games in each of their playoff series that year. 

But that team and subsequent Warriors squads are still regarded — as they should be — as elite champions. 

TEAM HEALTH NOT AS BIG AN ISSUE

The one thing that teams worry the most about going into the playoffs — health — won’t be anywhere close to being as big a factor as it has in past years. 

The global pandemic put the brakes on the NBA season and sports in general, providing a number of NBA players with various bumps and bruises plenty of time to heal up and be as close to being fit as possible for a lengthy postseason. 

Of course, there will be rust for all players to shake off, and some players won’t be in nearly as good a condition to start the reboot to the season as they would be if the season had gone on without interruption. 

But the injuries that teams are often trying to manage and navigate around at the end of the season won’t be there because of the extended time without games and practices. 

For the Celtics, the idea that you can essentially stay where you are in the standings, get Kemba Walker more than two months of rest with no games and practice while potentially playing a handful of games prior to the postseason, gives Boston a great shot at making a deep playoff run. 

And unfortunately for the Celtics, the same can be said for just about every other team in the postseason picture. 

So that means regardless of what your playoff seeding will be, regardless of how healthy your team as a whole will be, your opponent will also be close to being at their peak physically which means every series — more likely than not — will be harder to win than previous years. 

And for those who point to how teams can still be impacted by players getting hurt during the ramp-up to the playoffs, the risk of that happening in games prior to this postseason becomes much smaller when you’re talking about a handful of potential regular season games leading up to this year’s playoffs versus the slate of 60-plus games they’ve already played.

Given the option of having kept playing while navigating rest in between games and practices, or having an extended lay-off where conditioning and rust are bigger concerns than the actual wear and tear on the body, the former is the preferred option for any team with legit visions of winning a championship. 

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NO HOME-COURT “ADVANTAGE”

The top teams spent all season working towards positioning themselves to host a Game 7 in front of their fans if a series came down to that.

But with all 16 teams likely playing games at one neutral site, the home-court edge no longer exists. 

The playoffs become more like an expanded NCAA Tournament filled with “best-of” series instead of a one-game, winner-take-all format. 

Not only does this eventually result in the better team winning the series, but it takes out of the equation one of the biggest X-factors when it comes to playoff success — fans. 

Without them, it becomes a whole lot easier for a “road” team to pull off an upset or two in a series that they weren’t supposed to compete in, let alone win games. 

THE RISE OF THE ROLE PLAYER

And maybe one of the biggest factors in games played without fans will be a team’s role players.

Often we see backups, particularly on the road, succumb to the incessant chants and boos and verbal barrage they get from fans. 

Fans do it because they know as sure as the sun rises and LeBron James goes deep into the playoffs, those verbal taunts have a way of impacting role players in a negative way. 

But if they’re playing in front of no fans as expected, role players and reserves can simply enter the game and focus on the task at hand without the usual distractions. 

And the impact this will have on the playoffs is better play from the backups, which could mean the difference between advancing to the NBA Finals and becoming one of the greatest teams ever, or getting bounced in the first round.