Celtics

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways from Celtics' bounce-back win over Suns

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways from Celtics' bounce-back win over Suns

Well, the losing didn’t last very long. 

The Celtics shook off their second loss of the season from 24 hours earlier and came away with a solid 99-85 win in Phoenix led by Jayson Tatum’s 26-point, 11-rebound performance for his second double-double of the season. 

It was relatively close until the Celtics closed out the second quarter with a 20-4 run to lead 57-42 at the half. 

Boston (11-2) continued to pull away in the second half in what was a surprisingly cushy win over a Suns team that had won five of its past seven and was playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. 

However, the victory could be bittersweet if Marcus Smart is lost for an extended period with an ankle sprain suffered in the fourth quarter, although postgame comments from Smart and coach Brad Stevens make it sound as if the injury was not as severe as it looked. Smart left after scoring 17 points to go with four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Boston’s success on Monday was similar to what they had done in their 10-game winning streak but wasn't apparent in their 100-99 loss in Sacramento on Sunday, a game in which Smart’s potential game-winning shot hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rolling out as time expired. 

On Monday, the Celtics’ defense forced turnovers early on, which took the Suns out of running their offense as efficiently as they are accustomed to. And that kept Devin Booker, who came in having averaged more than 42 points against the Celtics, from ever getting into any kind of rhythm. 

It was a quality win over a quality opponent on the road, a victory that came about by Boston getting back to doing the things that had allowed them to run off their impressive winning streak. 

Here are a few more takeaways: 

MARCUS SMART

We often talk about Marcus Smart as being the heart and soul of this team. It’s hard to imagine anyone being more locked into Monday night than Smart, who knew he had to lead the defensive focus on limiting the high-scoring Booker. Still, as we’ve seen with Smart this season more than any other, he’s intent on showing he can impact the game at both ends of the floor. In addition to leading the defensive efforts, Smart also had a strong game scoring with 17 points. However, the ankle injury makes him questionable for Wednesday against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

DEFENDING BOOKER

Considering how Booker has torched the Celtics for an average of 42.5 points in the previous four games against them, the Celtics had to feel really good about limiting him to just 20 points. And they did so with a multitude of defenders coming at Booker from a multitude of angles via double-teams, triple-teams, tilting in his direction … if it involved defense, chances are high that the Celtics tried it at some point in limiting Booker. Whether Smart is available Wednesday or not, the Celtics will have to employ a similar all-hands-on-deck approach defensively if they are to somehow limit the Clippers’ two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. 

CELTICS BENCH 

This group doesn’t score a ton of points, but they are starting to make the most of their chances to impact what matters most to the Celtics - winning. Brad Wanamaker continues to be their most consistent guard off the bench, scoring 10 points to go with six assists and three steals. Grant Williams, who picked up his first DNP-CD (Did not play- coach's decision) in the loss in Sacramento, maxed out his opportunity to play with four points, two blocks and a slew of hustle plays that Boston absolutely needed from him tonight. The C's also got solid contributions from Robert Williams and Carsen Edwards. 

FIRST-HALF KEMBA

It has been well documented how Kemba Walker has struggled offensively in the first half of most games this season. 

Not Monday.

The Celtics got late-game Kemba, in the first half for a change. He wound up with 19 points, 13 of which came in the first half on 6-for-11 shooting with all five of his misses coming from 3-point range.  

The Celtics really needed Walker to put his imprint on the game early so they could get off to a good start, establish control of the game and pull away in the end. 

“I try to come out and make the right plays,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin after the win.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

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Brad Stevens addresses whether Kemba Walker played too many minutes in All-Star Game

Brad Stevens addresses whether Kemba Walker played too many minutes in All-Star Game

Kemba Walker will miss his third straight game for the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night as he continues to recover from a left knee injury.

Walker logged 29 minutes during the NBA All-Star Game, but experienced soreness and swelling in his knee afterward that has prevented him from suiting up with the C's. That begs the question, should Walker have gotten as much playing time as he did?

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens addressed that question Tuesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand."

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.

"That's a good question," Stevens said. "I don't know. I think the biggest thing -- and I said this last week or whatever -- if our medical staff and/or Kemba would have thought that there was any way that he would have come back with more soreness and more swelling, he wouldn't have played. He wouldn't have chose to play. Like, he's not going to do that. So I think it was an unfortunate deal that, you know, the swelling happened. That was kind of the difference in how his knee presented versus how it presented in the past. And it was pretty significant.

"We knew he was going to be out a little bit here, but now what we've tried to do is say OK, what's the best way so we don't play the back-and-forth game? And so that we can have him feeling great and you're not in as much of a day-by-day, 'OK how's he feeling today? How's it going to present tomorrow?' So he's focused in the last three days in really strengthening."

Stevens also reiterated that he doesn't expect this to be a long-term issue with Walker.

"No, he's had regular scans on that really ever since he got back from USA Basketball just to continue to make sure. And by regular, I mean maybe once every other month or once every month-and-a-half. So no, nothing structurally."

Watch below:

Stevens hasn't ruled Walker out for Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz, though it's more likely he'll miss his fourth straight contest.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Blazers odds: Best NBA picks with two All-Star guards out

Celtics vs. Blazers odds: Best NBA picks with two All-Star guards out

The Boston Celtics have had some trouble with Western Conference opponents this season. 

Will the Portland Trail Blazers continue that trend?

The Celtics enter Tuesday's game in Portland with a 14-8 record against the West, compared to a 25-9 mark against Eastern Conference foes. They've also lost three of their last five road games versus West opponents -- their latest a one-point defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday -- and will be without Kemba Walker for the third consecutive game.

The good news for Boston? The Blazers won't have star point guard Damian Lillard due to a groin injury and have lost four of their last six.

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

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

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.

Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. ET

Moneyline: Jayson Tatum is on an absolute tear, with 30-plus points in four of his last six games. The Celtics (-310) are 8-2 over their last 10 games and should take care of business as long as Tatum shows up.

Point Spread: The Blazers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games and failed to cover without Lillard in Sunday's win over the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics (-7.5) , meanwhile, have covered in six consecutive games as a favorite.

Point Total: Portland hasn't allowed fewer than 100 points since early January, while four of Boston's last five games have hit the over. I'll go OVER again on 223.5 point total.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 75-44-1 (62.5% success rate)

NBA Lock of the Night

Milwaukee Bucks (-1) at Toronto RaptorsYes, the Bucks just played an overtime game in Washington on Monday night. Yes, the Raptors are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. But Milwaukee is 49-8 for a reason. I'll take the best team in the NBA in a virtual pick 'em.

New Orleans Pelicans (+7.5) at Los Angeles LakersZion Williamson and his band of Lakers cast-offs (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart) rolling into Staples Center and pulling off the upset? I could see it. Either way, the Pelicans should keep this close.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 38-40-1 (48.1% success rate)