Celtics

Two more Celtics crack SI's Top 50 Players list

Two more Celtics crack SI's Top 50 Players list

One year ago, Jaylen Brown was coming off a rookie season in which he averaged 6.6 points per game. Jayson Tatum was a 19-year-old making the leap to the NBA after just one season at Duke.

Now both young Celtic super-studs have been ranked in Sports Illustrated's Top 50 NBA Players for the upcoming season, with Brown coming in at No. 47 & Tatum ranking 39th.

Brown made a huge leap in his second year, finishing second on the team with 14.5 points per game (on 39.5% 3-point shooting) during the regular season before bumping that up to 18.0 points per game in the postseason. As SI points out, it's no surprise that other NBA teams were salivating over the prospect of prying Brown away from the Celtics in a trade.

Then there's Tatum, who blew away all expectations in his rookie year as he started all 99 games he played in, scoring 13.9 points per game (on 43.4% 3-point shooting) in the regular season and 18.5 ppg in the playoffs. It's no wonder that SI's Ben Golliver wrote this about Tatum: "Suddenly, the entire global basketball community was gushing like Tommy Heinsohn over Tatum’s poise, polish and gumption." Yep, sounds about right.

Brown and Tatum follow Terry Rozier on SI's Top 100 Players of 2019, after Rozier came in at No. 82. The Top 30 players on SI's list haven't been announced yet, but Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford will be included. Last year, Hayward came in at No. 16, Irving ranked 21st and Horford was 30th.

Celtics still adjusting to leader-of-the-pack status

Celtics still adjusting to leader-of-the-pack status

BOSTON – No matter who the opponent is, if you talk to them before facing the Celtics they will tell you it’s a big game.

The Celtics are seen by many as one of the best teams in the NBA and the approach taken by opponents lends some credibility to that theory.

Still, as we’ve seen in past years when it comes to knocking off one of the favorites, a letdown often occurs afterward for the winner.

And that too has been a common thread binding most of the teams that have beaten the Celtics this season, including tonight’s opponent, the Utah Jazz.

Since the Jazz knocked off the Celtics 123-115 in Gordon Hayward’s homecoming on Nov. 9, Utah has lost two of its past three games.

In fact, the six teams that have beaten Boston (9-6) this season are a combined 2-4 in the games following what many characterized at the time as a marquee victory.

This is a Boston team comprised of players from last season’s squad that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

They have talked about the adjustment that they are still making to teams playing them with a level of focus and intensity that’s noticeably different from a year ago, the kind of difference you come to expect when no longer are you among the hunters but instead the team everyone is seemingly gunning for.

“As a team, it’s our second year together,” said Al Horford. “For most of us guys, we’ve never been in this position. So, we went from...  going after people, [to] people are coming after us. Just making that adjustment. We’re learning that right now.”

And the lessons are clearly sinking in, evident by the gutsy performance Boston had in defeating the Toronto Raptors 123-116 in overtime on Friday night.

Kyrie Irving led the way with a double-double of 43 points and 11 assists, becoming just the third player in franchise history to tally at least 43 points and 11 assists in a game. Boston also got strong performances from Jayson Tatum with 21 points, and Gordon Hayward, who had 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting, to go with five rebounds, five assists and four steals while playing a season-high 39 minutes.

Marcus Smart has heard the talk about adjusting to being one of the favorites for the better part of this season. 

He's not trying to hear it as a reason for why they've let some games get away from them that were winnable. 

“It’s a little different, but that’s no excuse,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “We still have to play our game, play the way we know how to play. If we do that, it doesn’t matter what other teams do or how they approach us. We still give ourselves a great chance to win; that’s what you want.”

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

How to watch or stream the Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz game

How to watch or stream the Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz game

Fresh off their exciting overtime win over the Raptors -- payback for an early season loss in Toronto -- the Celtics get a second chance at revenge tonight when they host the Jazz, who beat them last week in Utah.

HOW TO WATCH

ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 6:30 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Brian Scalabrine, Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the livestream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch Kyle and Scal break down the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the livestream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the livestream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ

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BY THE NUMBERS

 

MR. EVERYTHING

Forget all the points -- and there were a lot of them, a season-high 43 to be exact -- or the assists -- 11 of those, too. Kyrie Irving almost single-handedly willed the Celtics to an overtime victory over the Raptors on Friday night, but his relentless efforts were maybe best exemplified on the defensive end of the floor where he is far less renowned. 

AND IT DIDN'T GO UNNOTICED

An old friend of Kyrie's -- none other than LeBron James -- gave him props afterwards.

NOT ONLY THAT . . . 

. . . but Kyrie reached a career milestone, as well.

DIDN'T DO IT ALONE

The man getting dapped up by one teammate after another following the win was Gordon Hayward, who delivered what was arguably his most complete game of the season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.