Celtics praise injured teammate Kyrie Irving’s text message of support

Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving sent a group text message to his teammates before Game 2, the contents of which resonated with his teammates before they took a commanding 2-0 lead in a first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving, who attended Game 1 and sat official nfl football jerseys on the bench during the first half, was not spotted inside TD Garden for Game 2, but his teammates said his words of encouragement helped them before Tuesday’s 120-106 triumph.

“[Irving] sent us a message before the game today, just telling us what to expect,” said Shane Larkin, one of Boston’s ballhandlers thrust into a larger role due to Irving’s season-ending knee surgery.

“We have a lot of guys in here that have never seen a playoff game. So he really gave some words of advice today and we all read it, made some comments back, and he just had an open conversation with us and he’s definitely helping off the court now that he can’t be out there with us fighting.194

“He’s definitely still locked in with us every single game.”

It’s notable that Celtics players have gone out of their way to praise Irving’s leadership, particularly when juxtaposed to a situation like San Antonio and the lingering uncertainty surrounding Kawhi Leonard.

The Celtics have won their first two games of the playoffs in large part because of the contributions of players like Terry Rozier, who hasn’t committed a turnover in 78 minutes of floor time since elevating to a starting role in place of Irving.

For 21-year-old Jaylen Brown and 20-year-old Jayson Tatum, Irving’s leadership and playoff experience is even more valuable.

“Kyrie talked to us before the game, just kind of let us nfl football jerseys for sale know what to expect, a lot of things to expect, and for us to stay locked in, and not worry about if we hit some adversity or whatever, just play through it,” said Celtics All-Star big man Al Horford. “And I thought our guys just did that. [The Bucks] made a run and we stayed poised and moved onto the next thing.”


Jaylen Brown youngest in Celtics history to score 30 in a playoff game

Celtics second-year swingman Jaylen Brown authentic nfl jerseys cheap became the youngest player in franchise history to score 30 points or more in a playoff game during Tuesday’s Game 2 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brown scored a postseason career-high 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting while helping the Celtics run away with a 120-106 triumph in an Eastern Conference first-round series at TD Garden.

The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series 2-0.

At age 21 years, 175 days, Brown topped a record that Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn held for six decades after scoring 30 points at age 22 years, 209 days against the Syracuse Nationals on March 23, 1957.

Per Basketball Reference, the only active players to score 30 points or more in a playoff game at a younger age than Brown are Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings and LeBron James.193

“I think Jaylen loves the moment,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I think he really appreciated the opportunity to compete on this stage and at this level. And we’ve seen him against the better teams in the league all year be able to really raise his level in some of the biggest games.”

Brown set a new career high with 12 field goals, and he connected on 5 of 12 3-pointers.

“I put a lot of time in this summer and over the course of the year just improving, offensively,” Brown said. “Just coming into the draft, that was one of the biggest things people nitpicked me on, so that was one of the things I wanted to get better at. But I think the trust issue starts with Brad. When Brad tells you to shoot it, it gives you another level of confidence when your coach is like, ‘Shoot it!’ So when Brad tells me to shoot, I feel much better about it.”

Heinsohn, who was courtside Tuesday providing color official nfl football jerseys commentary for NBC Sports Boston, laughed when asked if he could remember his record-setting night.

Brown scored 12 first-quarter points, routinely attacking the basket, including a loud left-handed flush over former teammate Tyler Zeller. Brown came back with 10 points in the third quarter as the Celtics pulled away.


NBA players react to Andre Ingram’s impressive debut

When the Los Angeles Lakers called up Andre Ingram from the G League and signed him for the final two games of the regular season on Monday, nfl jerseys for cheap they were in desperate need of another body on the wing to fill the void left with Brandon Ingram (concussion protocol), Lonzo Ball (left knee contusion) and Kyle Kuzma (sprained left ankle) out due to injury. All the Lakers needed was a few solid minutes here and there from the 32-year-old rookie to give Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, Alex Caruso and Tyler Ennis a breather.

But the Lakers could have never predicted the stellar performance they got from Ingram against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night — 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocks in 29 minutes in his first NBA game — nor him nearly leading them to a come-from-behind win against the best team in the NBA.

Los Angeles ultimately lost to Houston, 105-99, but Ingram’s impressive debut — after 10 years of grinding in the G League — dwarfed the game’s outcome. The uplifting story had social media losing its mind,cheap nfl authentic jerseys  including several notable NBA players — and a certain Lakers legend — who felt as shocked and inspired as everyone else.


The entire NBA wants to put Aron Baynes on a poster

Few would have blamed Baynes if he simply covered his head or rolled out of the way of the speeding reigning MVP. But as Westbrook raced past Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum at the top of the 3-point arc,authentic nfl jerseys cheap Baynes did the only thing that made sense to him — he scrambled to his feet then leapt to contest as a full-throttle Westbrook launched into him.

The force of their mid-air collision knocked Baynes from just inside the charge circle to below the baseline. A desperation swipe by Tatum might have caused Westbrook to lose control of the ball going up and prevented Baynes from enduring an undesirable career highlight.

Instead, the sequence displayed what Baynes has brought to the Celtics all season: A sturdy backline defender who is utterly fearless in giving up his body despite opponents routinely attempting to put him on a poster.

“My job is to try to make every shot attempt of the opponent’s as tough as I can. If that’s me putting my body on the line then each time I’m going to step up and do it,” Baynes said. “It’s fun for me. I like it when guys are focused on [trying to dunk on] me because then they’re not focused on their game.”

Baynes logs only 18.3 minutes per game, but he starts each half alongside All-Star Al Horford in Boston’s frontcourt, and there’s an obvious difference in the Celtics’ defensive intensity when Baynes is on the floor.

The Celtics own a defensive rating of 97.2 with Baynes on the court this season. That’s the best individual defensive rating for a qualifying player in the NBA this season and it’s also 4.3 points per 100 possessions better than Boston’s league-best defensive rating of 101.5 overall.

Jaylen Brown was one of the first teammates to reach Baynes as he laid face-down under the basket.

Baynes had just put his life in jeopardy when he contested a Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk attempt, and now Baynes needed a minute to, as he would later quip, make sure all his parts were in the right place.

A Matthew Dellavedova screen had pinned both Horford and Shane Larkin, nfl jerseys for cheap allowing Antetokounmpo a free run at the hoop late in the first quarter of an October meeting between the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. Baynes left his man on the opposite block and rose up as the Greek Freak reared back for a ferocious tomahawk.


Ideal Opponent: Oklahoma City Thunder

Though the Thunder own a 1-1 split with the Rockets this season (they’ll meet for the third and final time on Saturday), this is still a matchup Houston should be hoping it gets.

No potential Western Conference playoff team allows a higher percentage of opponents’ shots to come from beyond the arc than the Thunder, according to Cleaning the Glass.nfl nike jerseys stitched And if you’ve paid attention to the 2017-18 season for more than five seconds, you’re probably aware that the Rockets like to get those threes up.

Houston is on pace to set an NBA record by taking more than half of its attempts from deep.

Maybe Paul George gives the Thunder a fighting chance against James Harden in one-on-one matchups, and maybe Steven Adams can help slow down Clint Capela’s roll game. But the Thunder have been horrible at defending the exact shots the Rockets love.

Unless OKC completely changes its personnel and schemes—a list of to-do items would include playing smaller, removing Carmelo Anthony from the starting and closing units, and convincing Russell Westbrook to defend more than once every five possessions—this feels like a three-fest Houston is destined to win easily.

We won’t do this for everyone, but there are sure to be “why not Team X?!” cries in light of Houston’s excellent marks against just about everybody in the West. The Rockets are 4-0 against both the Jazz and Wolves, for example.

But three of those wins against the Jazz came before Rudy Gobert spurred Utah’s dominant run in late January, so we can’t fairly judge Houston against this version of the Jazz. And we’re going to say some bleak things about the Wolves in a bit, so they catch a break by ducking mention here.

From a pure matchup perspective, there are lots of pushover opponents for the Rockets. nike authentic nfl jerseys cheap That’s what happens when you’re the best team in the league. Oklahoma City just happens to feature a particular weakness that plays into the Rockets’ hands.


Next year’s MVP award is Anthony Davis’ to lose

Coming out of college, Anthony Davis was supposed to be the NBA’s next great defensive big man, locking down the paint against all opponents with the intimidating rim protection of a throwback player. He was hyper-athletic and long, with a 7-5? wingspan, nfl jerseys for cheap and in college he had run away with the NCAA defensive player of the year award. On offense, he was a rawer prospect with the explosiveness to finish around the rim but a questionable jumper and lack of a polished attacking style. His comps: Marcus Camby, Bill Russell, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Fast-forward six years and Davis is in the midst of a late-season surge into MVP runner-up. He did remain a strong shot-blocker, ranking second in the NBA with 2.2 BPG this season, and he has made the NBA All-Defense second team in two of the past three seasons. But, surprisingly, scoring has become his calling card as a pro. Davis is second in the NBA in points this season with an efficient 28.2 PPG on 61.6 percent true shooting, and he has finished in the top seven in scoring for four straight seasons. Davis worked hard on his perceived scoring weaknesses, and he’s made them strengths with an excellent face-up game off the dribble that is bolstered by a consistent jump shot that he can knock down out to beyond the 3-point line.

Instead of Russell, Camby or even Duncan, Davis’ pro game has been more reminiscent of a combination of two legendary bigs who weren’t often mentioned before the 2012 draft: David Robinson and Dirk Nowitzki.

Davis, like Robinson, had a late growth spurt that took him from playing guard to center. Robinson was 5-foot-9 his junior year of high school, grew to 6-7 in his senior year, then up to 7-1 while at the Naval Academy. Davis was 6-3 as a junior in high school but hit 6-10 by the time that he graduated. Both players retained much of the quickness and skill of their shorter selves even after they attained their full heights.

Like Robinson, Davis is a dangerously fast big man who can fly down the court to finish on the break. He is a nightmare finisher around the rim on alley-oops (82.4 EFG on 370 lobs since 2013-14 season, per Second Spectrum) and offensive rebounds (66.1 EFG on 263 tips since 2013-14, per Second Spectrum). In iso situations, cheap nfl jerseys Davis has a Robinson-like lightning-quick first step with the confident handle of a former guard on drives (52.7 EFG on 628 driving layups since 2013-14, per Second Spectrum). The latter feature is one of the keys to his face-up offensive style that has served him so strongly as a pro.


Bucks win in overtime despite offensive dysfunction late

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best basketball players in the world. authentic nfl jerseys cheap Yet he did not touch the ball in the final 35 seconds of regulation and several possessions in overtime during the Milwaukee Bucks’ 124-122 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center.

That is inexcusable.

On a night when the Bucks should be celebrating the fact that they are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth after consecutive wins on back-to-back nights over the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers, Friday night’s victory, and the way in which it transpired, offered another reminder of just how much work the organization has to do in the offseason — in finding the right coaching staff to help Antetokounmpo grow and creating the proper roster composition to allow that growth to be achieved.

Antetokounmpo is too dominant of a player, even on an off night when he was 8-for-20 from the field and struggled to find a rhythm early, to ever go through stretches late in games where he isn’t touching the ball. He didn’t even have a point, assist or turnover in the final 2:18 in regulation. When asked if his teammates had to do a better job finding him late in games, Antetokounmpo demurred, but his answer should scare the Bucks front office about the short-term future.

“A better job?” Antetokounmpo said. “I wouldn’t say that. I asked for the ball. [Eric] Bledsoe wanted to take a shot and then Khris [Middleton] wanted to take the shot, so I always trust my teammates and if they feel like they can execute in those moments in the game I’m just going to trust them and hopefully they end up well. We got the win, that’s all that matters. And I trust my teammates they’re going to find me when it matters the most.”

Yes, Bledsoe scored 39 points, including outscoring the Lakers by himself 11-10 in overtime and knocking down seven of his 12 three-point attempts. But there were far too many possessions late where Bledsoe didn’t look to pass and there was little to no ball movement. More important, it’s not Bledsoe’s team — nfl jerseys for cheap it’s Antetokounmpo’s. Antetokounmpo is the 23 year-old superstar and face of the franchise. He’s paid to deliver — and has multiple times this season — in exactly those kinds of moments. If he wants the ball, he should get it.


Russell Westbrook and the siren song of the 3

Russell Westbrook finishes every pregame routine the same way, standing out of bounds deep in the left corner, slightly behind the backboard. He holds the ball under an arm, taking in bets from team staffers. One try? Two tries? Four tries?

Whenever it goes down — most often after one or two attempts — cheap nfl jerseys Westbrook will hold his pose for a split second, then sprint through the tunnel and to the locker room.

It seems he has spent his career set on proving to no one in particular he’s a good shooter. This is just one example. Westbrook is confident he needs only one try to make that pregame shot. And if he doesn’t make it, the next one’s for sure going down.

Westbrook’s relationship with the 3-pointer is a complicated one. It’s a shot he loves to take, but one that doesn’t always love him back. Each one is released with an unflinching, unwavering resolve, albeit from the hand of a career 31 percent shooter from behind the arc. It’s been an ongoing struggle.

“I need to stop taking as many as I’m taking, to tell you the truth,” Westbrook said in 2014. “I’m going to take those down as the season goes along.

“It’s not always a great shot for myself or my team. So I’ve got to do a better job of taking those out. My advantage is attacking, regardless of who’s in front of me. That’s my advantage. And I’ve got to use my advantage to help my team and help myself.”

After he said that, he went 0-of-5 from 3 the next game.cheap nfl authentic jerseys It was classic Westbrook, with self-awareness and self-belief at war with each other. Like Tiger with his driver, or Fergie with the national anthem. It’s the battle Westbrook has waged with himself for much of his career.

This season, out of 159 qualified 3-point shooters, Westbrook ranks 158th in percentage. During last season’s MVP campaign, Westbrook was free to fire unfettered. He attempted a career-high 7.2 3-pointers per game, hitting a career-best 34.3 percent. Some of his most memorable moments came from behind the arc, like the shot against Orlando, or the shot against Memphis, or the shots against Boston, or the shot against Denver.


Testing the NBA draft waters? More complicated than it sounds

The majority of college basketball teams saw their seasons end over the past two weeks, with only 21 non-international players in our latest mock draft still alive in the NCAA tournament or NIT. As prospects’ seasons come to a close, underclassmen are being advised by the NBA league office to authentic nfl jerseys cheap proceed with caution when testing the draft waters — a process that’s more complex than it appears.

The NCAA made sweeping changes to its early-entry rules in 2016, once again allowing players to evaluate their draft stock by attending the NBA combine and private team workouts between when the early-entry list is released in late April and 10 days after the conclusion of the combine in late May.

This is not to be confused with the NBA’s early-entry rules, which require players (in this case, mostly internationals) to withdraw no later than 10 days before the draft in order to retain eligibility for future drafts. That deadline this year is 5 p.m. ET June 11.

Early entrants can withdraw from the NBA draft only twice — and if they do, they’re not allowed to withdraw again should they declare a third time before exhausting their college eligibility. For example, Rutgers junior Corey Sanders can enter the draft after withdrawing as a freshman and sophomore, but he can’t test the waters. Should he go undrafted, he technically could return to school as long as he files a letter to his college athletic director declaring his intentions before the NCAA deadline. An obscure NCAA rule conflicts with NBA rules, an NBA official confirmed to ESPN.com, creating this quasi-loophole in which a prospect could play his final college seasons as an undrafted free agent.

Leading up to this year’s early-entry deadline at midnight on April 22, around 150 or more players from around the world will send NBA commissioner Adam Silver a letter officially making themselves draft-eligible. That will include some of the biggest names in college basketball, such as Trae Young,nfl jerseys for cheap who already announced his intentions on ESPN, as well as some seemingly random players from anonymous schools and conferences looking for their 15 minutes of fame.

In late February, NBA executive VP of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe sent college coaches an application for players to request an evaluation from the Undergraduate Advisory Committee (UAC), formed in 1997 to assist players in the decision-making process.

Who had the best sneakers of Week 22 in the NBA?

For no particular reason,stitched nfl jerseys china players all around the league this week dusted off several now-vintage pairs from LeBron James’ long-running Nike signature series, making for a makeshift celebration of the 15-year run of James’ elite-level play.98

Nike’s LeBron series is now the longest-running consecutive signature line for an NBA player (Michael Jordan retired after his 14th Air Jordan model). James himself wore his current LeBron 15 sneaker in a special-edition colorway Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers, fittingly in Nike’s backyard. They were styled in a bright-orange-and-gray striped look inspired by some of the brand’s earliest shoe-box designs.

PJ Tucker has been honoring James’ game all year and unearthed a pair from LeBron’s second season in the league. The perfectly matching, red and silver Nike Zoom 20.5.5 model was dubbed to highlight the elite company the 19-year-old phenom was among after his rookie year. At the time, James joined only Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as rookies to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Wizards wing Mike Scott also wore a pair from James’ second season, the Zoom LeBron 2, while Hawks guard Malik Beasley broke out the “Cork” LeBron X, which commemorate James’ first championship.

While still sidelined from game action for another week, Stephen Curry celebrated his 30th birthday Wednesday by debuting his new Curry 5 signature model during his pregame workout. The design takes heavy inspiration from his March 14th birthday, and the many angles, curvatures and theories related to Pi Day (3.14).nike authentic nfl jerseys cheap

Rounding out the week was a great gesture from Grizzlies teammates Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr, who wore white sneakers autographed by several young patients currently receiving care at the nearby St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.