Celtics

Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Team USA stunned by Australia, 98-94; Marcus Smart debuts for US

Marcus Smart made his debut for Team USA, which saw its 78-game international winning streak end in a 98-94 loss to Australia early Saturday in Melbourne.

Smart,  who had been bothered by a calf injury throughout training camp as the Americans prepare for the FIBA World Cup next week in China, started and scored seven points, had three assists and one rebound in nine minutes. Fellow Celtics guard Kemba Walker led Team USA with 22 points.

The other members of the Celtics contingent - a.k.a. "Team Shamrock" - Jayson Tatum (five points) and Jaylen Brown (eight points) came off the bench as the US, which had a 10-point lead in the third quarter, lost for the first time since 2006 with NBA players on its roster.

Former Celtics big man Aron Baynes, now with the Phoenix Suns, had 13 points for the Aussies, who were led by a 30-point performance from Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. 

With an injury to the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma keeping him out of the World Cup, the 12-player US roster is set and it will include all four Celtics. The Americans open against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1 in China.

The last US loss with NBA players was in the 2006 world championship semifinals to Greece, a team that next week will feature NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Team USA enters the World Cup No. 1 in the FIBA rankings 

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Walker said. “Lesson learned for us.”

 

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Gordon Hayward injury: Celtics star set to return to practice Saturday

Gordon Hayward injury: Celtics star set to return to practice Saturday

It sounds like Gordon Hayward is still ahead of schedule in his rehab from a hand injury.

The Boston Celtics forward has been out since Nov. 9 with a fractured left hand and originally was pegged to return sometime around Christmas Day.

But president of basketball operations Danny Ainge revealed Thursday that Hayward should be back at Celtics practice in a few days.

"Gordon is progressing on the court," Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich." "He'll probably practice with us this weekend, on Saturday."

While that doesn't mean Hayward's return is imminent -- the Celtics still don't have a target date, per Ainge -- the 29-year-old returning to basketball activities less than a month after his injury is an encouraging sign.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself and get too excited about it, but I think he's progressing really well," Ainge added.

Hayward was doing conditioning, non-contact and even shooting drills as of last weekend and had a meeting with doctors via FaceTime this past Monday.

It sounds like that meeting went well, and if Hayward's first practice goes well this weekend, it's possible he could be back in the lineup by or before Christmas Day.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Why Danny Ainge is sympathetic toward refs in LeBron James travel fiasco

Why Danny Ainge is sympathetic toward refs in LeBron James travel fiasco

The entire world saw LeBron James travel Wednesday night.

(If you haven't, watch it below. It's really bad.)

So, how could the referees possibly miss the call?

That's what many are thinking after Wednesday's Los Angeles Lakers-Utah Jazz game. But Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has a theory that the NBA Referees' Association will appreciate.

"You can see in the clip on Twitter, the referee is not looking at LeBron," Ainge said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" during his weekly intervew. "There's no contact between him and the guy that's guarding him, and (the ref) is just looking in another place.

"... It wasn't like they're trying to let LeBron get away with something as much as, nobody at that particular second had their eyes on LeBron dribbling the ball out at half court."

But shouldn't the referee be watching the guy with the ball?

Ainge offered another defense of officials by sharing an example from a recent Celtics game.

"I was showing my wife and kids, we were watching a Celtics game on the road, and Marcus Smart got hit in the face after he released his shot," Ainge said. 

"And I was showing them, 'Look at the referee standing there.' She was looking at the shot up high. You can see her head looking right at the hands to see that Marcus wasn't hit -- which he wasn't -- and then her head immediately went to the feet to make sure that the defender wasn't coming underneath him. So she was concentrating on that while the guy was hitting Marcus across the head."

Ainge's point: Officials can't watch everything all at once, and the result is the occasional missed call.

In James' case, it was an egregious missed call that officials probably should have seen anyway. But as long as those calls aren't made against his Celtics, Ainge can have some sympathy for the stripes.

"I'm not making excuses for the referees," Ainge added. "It's just, refereeing is really hard. ... I think there's a lot of missed calls. That's a nature of our profession and I don't think it's going to change."

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.