Celtics

Celtics know what’s on the line tonight

Celtics know what’s on the line tonight

CLEVELAND —  The historical implications of tonight’s Game 6 are not lost on the Celtics.

A win would do more than punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.

It would continue the franchise’s undefeated streak of winning playoff series when they open with a 2-0 series lead.

It could potentially end LeBron James’ tenure with the Cavs.

And then there are all the benefits that the current crew of Celtics will surely benefit from because of the team’s unexpected success advancing to the NBA Finals.

Still, none of that stuff matters to Jaylen Brown right now.

All of his focus, all of his attention is locked on to one thing right now - finding a way to win tonight.

“I try to focus on what’s in front of me,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston.  “I try to keep the guys around me focused on what’s in front of them. Everything is what it is. You can think about that stuff when the season is over. But right now, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played. Everybody has a job to do. We don’t have time to think about the impact we’re making; we just have to keep on making it.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines to watch heading into this pivotal Game 6 between Celtics and Cavs in Cleveland: 

LEBRON AND TURNOVERS


The Celtics defense hasn’t been able to contain LeBron James as much as they would like, but they have forced him into more mistakes than he’s accustomed to. In his first 11 games of this postseason, James had just one game of six or more turnovers. 

In the five games against Boston, James has turned the ball over six or more times in four of the five games.

Currently averaging 5.8 turnovers per game, the last time he averaged five or more turnovers in a playoff series was against the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics when he averaged 5.3 per game.

GAME 6 HISTORY


The Celtics are 31-30 all-time in Game 6 matchups, which includes a 20-24 record on the road.

Meanwhile, LeBron James is 12-9 in elimination games, averaging 33.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists with an effective field goal percentage of .528.

FIRST QUARTER


Coaches and players talk all the time about playing four quarters of good basketball, but each of the first five games have been greatly influenced by what happens in the first.

The two teams have been separated by at least 13 points in four of the five games.

AL HORFORD


If you’re wondering why it seems Al Horford’s production has declined in this Cleveland series, a lot has to deal with touches; or in Horford’s case a lack of touches.

Against Cleveland, Horford is averaging 54 touches per game which is down from the Milwaukee (75.1) and Philadelphia (66) series.

STAT TO TRACK


Rebounding has been more than just something to pay attention to.

It has been the true difference-maker in this series with the winner of every game in this series coming away with the edge in rebounding.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Jayson Tatum, NBA All-Stars honor Kobe Bryant with well-played All-Star game

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USA Today Sports Images

Jayson Tatum, NBA All-Stars honor Kobe Bryant with well-played All-Star game

CHICAGO -- The untimely death of Kobe Bryant was the theme leading up to Sunday night’s All-Star game which was won by Team LeBron, 157-155.

The night began with a series of tributes to Bryant which included a stirring speech given by Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.

Throughout Johnson’s speech, there was the occasional “Ko-be, Ko-be, Ko-be!” chant from the stands.

And the actual game itself was one of the better-played All-Star games in recent memory courtesy of a new format that seemed to go over well with all involved. 

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.

The game came down to big shots and big stops by both teams, a fitting end to the night considering how all involved wanted to honor Kobe Bryant and did just that with a brand of basketball that in many ways was part of the Kobe narrative of elite play at both ends of the floor. 

Chris Paul acknowledged the challenge of playing the game at a high level and not think about Bryant who was a major influence for many of today’s All-Star players. 

“It was tough early, especially early,” Paul said. “For a lot of us, it's still surreal. It's not real until you start showing pictures and talking about it. But I think the best way we could honor Kobe, Gigi, and everyone involved was to play like we played, you know what I Mean? Me and Russ (Russell Westbrook) kept talking about it, that's one thing about Kobe, whenever he was on our team in the All-Star Game, there wasn't none of that cool stuff. There wasn't none of that. It was like, as long as they throw the ball up, let's get to it.”

LeBron James added, “You could definitely feel his presence just from the start. From every moment from the fans chanting his name till you seen the numbers. Every time you saw Giannis' team run on the floor, you saw the 2-4. So he was definitely here.”

Former NBA All-Star Richard “Rip” Hamilton was among those in attendance at the game. 

He and Bryant were both prep stars who grew up competing with and against each other in Pennsylvania and were at times roommates during all-star competitions.

Hamilton acknowledged he still hasn’t fully come to grips with what happened to Bryant and the others. 

“It hurt me, man, it hurt me to my core,” Hamiton told NBC Sports Boston. “And I still haven’t fully recovered from it. Him and I go back way before the NBA and the glitz and glamor and everything else. It’s a thing that … it still impacts me to this day.”

And once the current crop of All-Star players stepped on the floor, Team Giannis wore jersey number 24 (Kobe Bryant’s number) while Team LeBron wore jersey number 2 (the number of GiGi Bryant, Kobe’s daughter). 

Boston’s Jayson Tatum is among the many players on the floor whose game was heavily influenced by Bryant who along with his daughter Gigi, was killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. 

The relationship between Tatum and Bryant had grown into a friendship strengthened by Bryant’s interest in mentoring Tatum who has never shied away from acknowledging how influential Bryant has been in his life, both on the court as well as off the court since coming into the NBA. 

“He was the reason I started playing basketball,” Tatum said recently. “To have him reach out and try and help me, wanna work with me was something I would never forget.”

Jayson Tatum forges key relationships at memorable first All-Star Game

Jayson Tatum forges key relationships at memorable first All-Star Game

CHICAGO -- In the days leading up to Sunday night’s 69th NBA All-Star game, Jayson Tatum, playing for Team LeBron, was intent on going at teammate and member of Team Giannis, Kemba Walker, every chance he could get. 

True to form, Tatum went right at Walker moments into the second quarter when both were on the floor together. 

He tried to take him into the post, but Walker wasn’t having it. 

Tatum then pulled up for a fadeaway jumper that was off the mark. 

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.

Chalk that up to one of the many memories Tatum will take away from his first All-Star appearance. 

Tatum would finish with six points while Walker tallied 23 as one of the key performers in Team Giannis' comeback that fell just short as Team LeBron escaped with a 157-155 win with the game-winning score coming on an Anthony Davis free throw. 

But when it comes to the NBA All-Star game, points, rebounds and assists mean little. 

More important are the relationships that are formed and in many instances, strengthened at such events. 

Tatum has been one of the players in his age group for years, so there are a number of All-Stars that he has had a prior connection to, prior to tonight’s game. 

But the one that has been arguably most important to his growth this season, has been that between him and Walker. 

“Kemba, that's my guy,” Tatum said. “Our relationship and friendship has grown a lot over this season so far, from USA basketball to playing on the Celtics to experiencing All-Star together. So it's been a good ride. We're enjoying it.”

Walker is playing in his fourth All-Star game, a player whose status among the NBA’s elite is well cemented. 

Prior to this season, Walker talked often about the growth he saw in Tatum’s game when they were Team USA teammates, along with fellow Celtics Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. 

Recognizing Tatum’s talent, that’s one thing. 

But more than anything, Walker has made a point of encouraging Tatum to continue striving for greatness, and not worry about how that will impact him.

“I’m good. I know who I am and what I can do in this league,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston recently. “Jayson’s really good and part of my job here, is to let him know how great he is and do whatever I can to help him be great all the time.”

During an interview with NBC Sports Boston during All-Star weekend, Walker echoed those sentiments about Tatum. 

“Like I’ve been saying all year, he’s a special talent,” Walker said. “He deserves to be here. I’m happy I’m able to share this one with him; especially his first one. This is the one he’s never going to forget, ever. I’m happy to be a part of it.”