Celtics

Lakers screwed up (and might have saved Celtics) by not going after Kemba Walker

Lakers screwed up (and might have saved Celtics) by not going after Kemba Walker

Failure to make every right decision isn't failure. If it were, front office jobs in sports would be week-long day camps for adults. 

But man, did the Lakers screw up in hindsight and man, are the Celtics better off for it. 

Had the Lakers gone all-in on Kemba Walker to pair with LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the start of whenever teams do their tampering way before free agency, they'd have their super team. The next few years of titles might already be determined and the Celtics would be in absolute purgatory, having experienced a net loss of two star players. 

The Lakers didn't do that, though. They swung for the fences with Kawhi Leonard, knowingly waiting it out while the other free agents relocated throughout the league. 

I asked Abby Chin on Boston Sports Tonight Monday if we should be more critical of the Lakers for not going for Kemba or another max player out of the gate. She rationally outlined just how stacked a trio of LeBron, AD and Kawhi would be and added what I might be overlooking: that the Lakers had to have thought they were getting Kawhi. Otherwise, why risk it, right? 

I get those points, and I really hadn't considered the last one strongly enough. I'm not sure if it's enough to save the Lakers from criticism. This is a league where, as we've seen more times recently than I've liked, even being under contract doesn't mean jack when it comes to a player slipping away from a team. Short of a verbal commitment — another thing we've even seen doesn't mean anything — it was arrogant of the Lakers to assume they had Kawhi in the days leading up to free agency. 
 
As time went on without him signing, they should have at least considered the possibility that Kawhi was waiting for one of the other teams to add another star. If they still felt good about their odds by the end of the week, they were as foolish as observers like us, only they were actually talking to the guy. 

Saying their decision blew up in their face would be a stretch, but they could have been the odds-on favorite to win it all next season rather than sitting with the Clippers, Bucks and Sixers near the top of a wonderfully close field. 

Either way, it's worked out great for the Celtics. Boston isn't at the top of that list with the aforementioned teams, but if they hadn't gotten Walker? Yikes. Maybe they'd have gotten Nikola Vucevic. Even with Vucevic, they'd be looking at either accepting fate as a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team while young players hopefully developed or a trade of young players for a star. Either way, it would be a much bigger step backwards than the situation in which they currently find themselves.

It also helps that Kawhi got the hell out of the conference. 

Maybe Kemba wouldn't have had interest in the Lakers, but considering he said he came to Boston for the ability to win championships, why in the world would he pass on a potential opportunity to play with LeBron and Anthony Davis? 

The Lakers didn't know that Kawhi was going to pull off what he was able to orchestrate with the Clippers. They also didn't know that Kawhi was going to join their group. The way the Lakers navigated the unknown ended up being one of the heaviest dominoes of this bonkers NBA offseason. 

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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

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Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

So. Close. 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning floater as time expired hit seemingly every part of the rim, paused for a moment before rolling out as time expired in Boston’s 100-99 loss to Sacramento. 

‘It was a good look in that moment,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. 

The loss snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak, in addition to preventing them from being the first team in NBA history to win 11 in a row after dropping the season opener.

Sacramento (5-7), after dropping their first five games this season, have now won five of their last seven with the lone losses being a road game at defending NBA champion Toronto and a controversial defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.  

After spending most of the first half playing catch-up, the Celtics — in all-too predictable form — swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the third quarter to take a 75-71 lead into the fourth quarter despite the offensive fireworks put on by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (game-high 35 points). 

In the fourth, Boston’s slim lead didn’t last long with the Kings tying the game at 75 less than a minute into the quarter, only for Carsen Edwards to drain a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top, 78-75.

Things remained close for the rest of the game before Smart’s potential game-winner rolled out as time expired.  

Here are some takeaways from Boston’s one-point loss at Sacramento.

KEMBA IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

We have come to expect the best from Kemba Walker when the game matters most: the fourth quarter. That was not the case on Sunday, with Walker going scoreless in the fourth quarter to finish with just 15 points. You certainly love the season-high nine assists he tallied, but Walker’s greatest impact on this team night-in, night-out is his scoring down the stretch.

BUDDY HIELD 

The Kings gave Hield a four-year contract extension worth as much as $106 million, and he showed on Sunday why he's worth every penny. Time and time again, he came up with one big shot after another while often being draped by Boston's best perimeter defender — and one of the best in the NBA — Marcus Smart.  Hield led all scorers with 35 points on an efficient 14-for-24 shooting performance from the field.

TURNOVERS

One of the biggest keys to the Celtics’ fast start to the season has been their ability to limit their mistakes. They came into Sunday’s game averaging a league-low 11.7 per game. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half alone.

SEMI (OJELEYE) AUTOMATIC

Ojeleye hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, capping off a 7-0 Celtics run to bring Boston within four points (36-32) with 6:30 to play in the first half. He would finish the day with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including a career-high-tying three 3-pointers. It was indeed a breakout scoring game for Ojeleye who came into Sunday’s game having scored just 14 points in Boston’s 11 games this season. 

THEIS IS NICE

While his play doesn’t necessarily find a home on the Celtics’ highlight reel, there’s no getting around the impact that Daniel Theis continues to make on this team. Usually he does it by excelling at intangibles such as setting screens, boxing out and rolling to the basket. But on Sunday, Theis’s impact was made in the more traditional sense: getting points. He finished with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season. It was also the second time in the last three games Theis has reached double figures scoring. 

LINE ‘EM UP

The Celtics did not shoot the ball well against the Kings, but their aggressive play offensively led to a number of trips to the free throw line, which was a huge difference-maker in the game’s outcome. For the game, the Celtics were 21-for-24 from the line, compared to the Kings who were just 10-for-12 at the free throw line, which included Richaun Holmes’ game-winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.