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Isaiah Thomas’ 29 points, 15 assists send Celtics past Jazz 115-104

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BOSTON (AP) Isaiah Thomas had 29 points and a career-high 15 assists, and the Boston Celtics made 17 3-pointers for the second straight game in beating the Utah Jazz 115-104 on Tuesday night.

Al Horford and Jae Crowder added 21 points apiece and Avery Bradley scored 14 for the Celtics, who have won four of five and eight of 10.

The Celtics ended Utah’s four-game winning streak and beat the Jazz for the ninth straight time in Boston.

Gordon Hayward led Utah with 23 points. Derrick Favors scored 12 and Rudy Gobert pulled down 13 rebounds, extending his streak of 10 or more to 21 consecutive games.

Thomas, coming off his career-high 52 points Friday against the Heat, has scored at least 20 in 19 straight games. He added another personal best Tuesday with 15 assists, two more than his previous high of 13 against Charlotte in December 2015.

Thomas’ 3-pointer with 2:53 left in the second quarter started Boston on a 10-4 run that gave the Celtics a 54-45 halftime lead. Boston stretched the lead to 68-54 early in the third.

Shelvin Mack pulled Utah to 73-65, but the Celtics pulled away again. Horford started the run with a 3 from the top of the key and Thomas drove through traffic for a layup. Marcus Smart added a basket before Crowder hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to put Boston up 83-66.

Utah’s only points during the Celtics’ run came on technical foul shots by Hayward, one for a 3-second violation and another when Crowder was called for a technical during a timeout.

Boston went up by 15 early in the fourth before the Jazz used an 11-3 run to pull to 98-91 on consecutive layups by Joe Johnson. That was as close as it got and the Jazz were forced to foul late, sending Thomas to the line four times. He was perfect from the stripe for the second straight game.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Raul Neto banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Utah a 29-28 lead entering the second quarter. … Hayward and Mack were teammates at Butler under Celtics coach Brad Stevens. The 2009-10 Bulldogs clinched a Final Four berth in Salt Lake City with a win over Kansas State on March 27, 2010. … Boris Diaw scored 15 for Utah, and Favors had a career-best seven assists.

Celtics: Boston again tied its season high for 3s. Crowder and Thomas each hit five from beyond the arc. … Bradley returned to the lineup after missing one game with an illness. … The Celtics have not lost at home to the Jazz since March 14, 2008, when Utah won 110-92. … Thomas’ 52-point game Friday against Miami was the fourth-highest scoring total in team history. He set a franchise record with 29 points in the fourth quarter against the Heat.

UP NEXT

Jazz: Visit Toronto on Thursday in the third of a five-game road trip.

Celtics: Host Philadelphia on Friday night. The Celtics have won eight straight over the 76ers.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.

Donald Sterling’s wife petitioning NBA to overturn his lifetime ban

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Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled his lawsuit against the NBA and his wife. Reconciled with Shelley Sterling, Donald sounds – in a recent interview with James Rainey of NBC News – ready to move on.

Rainey:

But his wife, Shelly Sterling, also 83, said in a separate interview that she has not let go of at least one formal blot that remains on Sterling’s record: the lifetime ban from the NBA that was imposed on the long-time Clippers owner after his racist remarks against African-Americans attending games.

Shelly Sterling said she personally approached Silver and also had her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, talk to the league office about lifting the lifetime ban, which prevents Donald Sterling from attending NBA games. Her intention is not to allow her husband to do business with the league, but to clear his record, in consideration of the 33 years he spent as an owner.

“”I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly Sterling said. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”

The NBA won’t lift the ban for the same reason it implemented the ban: Associating with Sterling was costing the league money.

Time has cooled the resentment toward Sterling, but overturning the ban would return the venom – and much of it would be directed toward the league. There’s no good reason to open that box.

Besides, Sterling – with his lengthy record of racism and sexism – doesn’t deserve clemency. People like him deserve far more comeuppance than they’ve gotten.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.

Hawks hire Travis Schlenk as general manager

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The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.

That’s done.

Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.

Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.

But the job won’t be easy.

The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.

Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.

Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.