Celtics

Celtics vs. Suns odds: Best NBA picks as C's look to end slide

Celtics vs. Suns odds: Best NBA picks as C's look to end slide

The Celtics will try to begin to reverse a slide that has seen them lose two in a row and five of their past seven when they welcome the Phoenix Suns to TD Garden on Saturday night.

The C's are just 4-5 in 2020 after back-to-back losses on consecutive nights at home to the Detroit Pistons and on the road in Milwaukee. Phoenix, meanwhile, figures to be a Western Conference also-ran at 17-24 but comes in having won three of their past four, including demolishing the Knicks 121-98 on Thursday night.

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 Celtics are 20-5 against below .500 teams, but three of those losses have come in the new year (to the Wizards, Spurs and Pistons). So, despite a 16-4 home record and taking on one of the lesser lights in the West, the C's are no sure thing. 

Here are our betting predictions for Celtics-Suns, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, 7 p.m., ET

Moneyline: Is this the night the C's put it all together again? They'll be without Jaylen Brown (thumb), as they were in Milwaukee, and will be facing a guard in the Suns' Devin Booker, who two years ago went off for 70 points at the Garden against them. Still, with a three-game losing streak staring them in the face, look for the Celtics (-260) to come away victorious.

Celtics Mailbag: Readers have no shortage of ideas to get C's back on track

Point Spread: As for covering, a lot points to the Suns being able to make this a close one. Phoenix has four of its past five against Eastern Conference foes, is respectable 8-10 on the road, has a motivated Aron Baynes returning to Boston for the first time he was traded on draft night and there's the Booker factor. Also, DeAndre Ayton, coming off a 26-point, career-high 21 rebound performance in the win over the Knicks, missed this season's first matchup in Phoenix. Still, look for the Celtics (-6) to regroup for a double-digit win.

Point Total: It's the defense that has let the Celtics down recently. They've allowed 115 points per game in their past three (1-2) and a 51.6 opponents' field goal percentage. The Suns have the NBA's 18th-ranked defense and allow 114.3 points per game on the road. Go with the OVER.

Pat's record, pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell, picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 7-8

NBA Locks of the Night

Philadelphia 76ers (-4) at New York Knicks: The Sixers are still without Joel Embiid, are on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, where they're only 7-14 and are playing their third game in four nights. Still, it's the Knicks. 

Milwaukee Bucks (-10) at Brooklyn Nets: Let's see what Kyrie has to say about his teammates after dealing with Giannis & Co. 

Pat's record, pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell, picking NBA locks against the spread: 5-5

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

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.”