Celtics pull off the kind of comeback vs. Bucks that last season's team couldn't have done

Celtics pull off the kind of comeback vs. Bucks that last season's team couldn't have done

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Knicks, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then NBC Sports Boston has the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.


BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are fun again.

The team’s double-digit, second-half comeback against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night confirmed that all the positive vibes emanating from the Auerbach Center since late June were no mirage. Down big to the very team that ended Boston's disaster of a 2018-19 season, the Celtics summoned the resilience of a previous era and produced the sort of comeback that used to be their calling card.

The sort of comeback that last year’s team rarely produced.

The Celtics, in their quest to avoid lingering on all that contributed to what ailed them a year ago, will not soon admit as much, but it’s hard to argue: This team might finally have its mojo back. Whatever the trials and tribulations of a year ago sapped from this team might have been restored by a new-look roster eager to play like the chip-on-the-shoulder squads that used to roam the Garden.

To put it simpler: Last season's team doesn’t win Wednesday's game. That team would have rolled over, pointed fingers, suggested they’d be better in the future, then repeated the pattern over and over.

That's why Jayson Tatum smiled when he was asked about the chemistry of this team and whether the feeling in this locker room is different from last season.

“That’s a good question,” said a grinning Tatum before eventually echoing the company line about it only being four games into the season.

Yes, the Celtics could fall directly back into old habits. They could go out and get rolled by a lowly Knicks team on Friday night. But while letdowns and inconsistency became the calling card of last season's squad, this group simply doesn’t emit a vibe that suggests that effort and lack of mental toughness will be the reason they come unglued on certain nights.

“We’re tough. We’re not going to shy away when things go wrong,” said newcomer Kemba Walker. "We’re going to win as a team, and we’re going to lose as a team. When things are going bad, what I’m going to try to do is keep us together. That's the most important thing for this year.

"Tonight was a great example of that. We could have easily lost this game by a lot. But we kept on talking to each other, just keeping each other confident, and that’s going to be important for us throughout this year.”

For those that were around for last season’s frustrations, you could sense the appreciation in Wednesday’s comeback. Gordon Hayward shook off a slow start and scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, making seven of his nine shots after the intermission. That included a fuse-lighting 3-pointer off solid ball movement to open the third quarter. He fed Walker for another triple soon after and the Celtics launched from there.

"Feels great, especially since we got knocked out by these guys, and they were dealing kind of easy with us in the first half,” said Hayward. "The vibe was down and for us to get a comeback win like this was huge for us.”

Too many times last year, things started to go sideways for the Celtics and they never caught themselves. It was accentuated when they met the Bucks in the conference semifinals a year ago and, after stealing Game 1, Hayward disappeared, Kyrie Irving checked out, and the team accepted its fate while losing four in a row to free themselves from the perpetual roller coaster ride that was the 2018-19 season.

On Wednesday, the Celtics buckled up. They came out with a defensive focus to start the third quarter and good things started happening. When Jayson Tatum hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to cap a frame in which the Celtics outscored Milwaukee, 38-18, he emphatically slapped hands with a courtside Paul Pierce.

"Good to see him,” said Tatum.

The comparisons to the Isaiah Thomas-era Celtics will be inevitable in the aftermath of the comeback. That spunky group of overachievers made double-digit rallies their trademark. Those teams found a way to overcome whatever obstacles were thrown in front of them. It bled into Irving’s first season here when Boston overcame injuries to surge to the cusp of the NBA Finals.

That’s not to suggest that this year’s team is on a Finals path, or that an October win over a primary conference rival somehow suggests they’ve climbed towards the top tier of East teams.

What it says is that this team might have a similar makeup of the teams that so endeared themselves to the region before last season's slog. They proved it by playing a gritty second half all while without two starters as Jaylen Brown was a late scratch due to illness and center remained in flux due to injuries. Stevens confidently dispatched 6-foot-4 center Marcus Smart to check Giannis Antetokounmpo and he limited the reigning MVP to  22 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and three turnovers, which sorta feels like a quiet night by the Greek Freak’s standards.

In typical Brad Stevens fashion, he was already looking ahead to how his team responds to this win.

"The key is how do you handle good nights and then how do you handle the storms that are coming inevitably in the season,” said Stevens. "I’m really encouraged because when this team was in halftime, they were saying all the right things, they were thinking all the right things.

"I thought, again, at the end of the second quarter, we wanted to cut into that lead so bad, we were just trying to hit it out of the park every time we shot. So finally we just settled down and just hit singles and jut played the right way. At least you give yourself a chance. The guys really competed, played a really good team. I don't think it necessarily tells as much. We're only four games in.”

True, Coach, but four games into last season, we kinda had a bad feeling about where the team was going. Stevens himself threw up caution flags in the preseason.

It was Stevens who noted this summer that, with tempered expectations for his squad, all he really wanted was to get back to being a team the region could embrace. The sort of team that embodied what it means to play for the Celtics and in the city of Boston.

Maybe it’s an overreaction to one game but this just feels different.  Yes, the Celtics are fun again. There will be bumps along the way, but Wednesday night suggested it's OK for fans to wrap their arms around this team again.

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Report: NBA to launch 16-team 2K tournament

Report: NBA to launch 16-team 2K tournament

It looks like Esports' time to shine is finally here.

With all the major sports leagues on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA has come up with a creative solution to create some new basketball-based programming.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the league will be hosting a players-only NBA 2K tournament beginning Friday that will air on a major network. Haynes is reporting that the tournament will feature 16 NBA players and will take place over the course of 10 days.

This is a good way for the league to create some new basketball-related excitement with the season currently suspended. It will certainly be fun to see how players who are so good on the basketball court can fare in the realm of basketball video games.

It's unclear if a member of the Boston Celtics will be involved in the tournament, but it certainly is possible. The ideal Celtic to be featured would be Gordon Hayward, as he's an avid gamer and would almost certainly be able to lead the 2K Celtics to some victories.

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If Hayward isn't the choice, Grant Williams would be another logical option. He disclosed to NBC Sports Boston's A. Sherrod Blakely that he loves playing video games on an episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast shortly after he was drafted.

No matter what, it will be entertaining to watch NBA players square off against each other again, even if no Celtics are involved in the 2K tournament.

Speaking of 2K action, be sure to check out our latest Celtics simulation. The 2K-C's took on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night as they looked to keep their winning streak alive.

How well does 21-year-old Jayson Tatum compare to 21-year-old Michael Jordan?

How well does 21-year-old Jayson Tatum compare to 21-year-old Michael Jordan?

We know that Jayson Tatum is on the path to NBA stardom. But is he on a similar pace to one of the greatest players ever to play the game, Michael Jordan?

You be the judge.

Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf) checked out the statistical comparison between Jayson Tatum and Michael Jordan during their 21-year-old seasons. And when looking at the numbers on a per 36-minute basis, they were relatively close in most major categories.

In addition to the numbers pictured, Tatum averaged 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.9 blocks per 36 as a 21-year-old. Meanwhile, Jordan got 5.5 assists, 2.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks per 36.

So, Jordan edged Tatum in most categories, save for Tatum's rebounding advantage and his ever-so-slight blocks advantage. Of course, it's worth noting that Jordan entered the league as a 21-year-old rookie, so he had no NBA experience while he put up these excellent numbers. Tatum had 143 games of regular-season experience and 19 games of playoff experience before his 21st birthday.

Regardless, the point is that Tatum is still developing very well and the fact that his numbers can even be comparable to one of the NBA's all-time greats is an excellent sign. He should continue to progress and should soon be one of the top players in the NBA if he continues on his current trajectory.

Tatum may not reach Jordan level. Few ever do. But the stats indicate that he's on the right track very early on in his career.

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