Isaiah Thomas scores 41 for Celtics in 113-109 win over Pistons

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BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 24 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and the Boston Celtics held off the Detroit Pistons 113-109 on Monday night to extend their winning streak to four games.

Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford scored 13 for Boston, which had to rally after Detroit surged midway through the fourth quarter and the teams traded the lead.

Andre Drummond had 28 points and pulled down 22 rebounds for the Pistons, who outscored Boston 60-38 in the paint and outrebounded the Celtics 51-44. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 18 points for Detroit, which lost its third straight.

Thomas extended his run of games with at least 20 points to 32 in a row and carried Boston down the stretch, making nine free throws in the fourth quarter while going 15 for 15 from the line.

Boston led 109-107 with 31 seconds left and gave the Pistons a chance with a backcourt violation. Reggie Jackson drove for a layup, but missed and Jonas Jerebko pulled down the rebound for Boston, then held on tight. The Pistons ended up fouling Thomas, who hit both free throws and added two more with 7.5 seconds remaining.

Boston led 54-46 at halftime and 79-70 after the third quarter, which was full of missed shots and big bounces off the rim.

The Pistons came out strong in the fourth, capitalizing on some sloppy plays by Boston and pulling within reach on a 9-2 run. Morris hit a 3-pointer, just the second of the game for Detroit, to pull the Pistons within 88-86 and the Pistons regained the lead a few minutes later when Boston sent Caldwell-Pope to the line by fouling him on a 3-pointer.

Caldwell-Pope made all three to put the Pistons up 91-90 – their first lead since going up 27-26 in the second quarter.

The lead went back-and-forth until Thomas’ three-point play with 4:13 left put Boston up 99-98.

Detroit got within a point again when Drummond’s two free throws with 2:46 left made it 104-103, but Thomas answered again with another 3-pointer and Boston held off the Pistons the rest of the way.

TIP-INS

Pistons: Detroit was 1 of 15 on 3-pointers in the first half. … Coach Stan Van Gundy called President Donald Trump’s travel ban “scary” when asked about it before the game, saying the policy reminded him of Japanese internment camps and Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. “It’s starting to get really, really scary stuff now. We’re getting into the days of, now we’re judging people by their religion – trying to keep Muslims out.” … Detroit sent F Henry Ellenson and guards Michael Gbinije and Darren Hilliard to Grand Rapids of the D-League.

Celtics: Marcus Smart hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Boston a 26-25 lead after the first quarter. … Horford returned after missing the previous two games with a strained groin. … G Avery Bradley (sore right Achilles’ tendon) missed his seventh straight game. Coach Brad Stevens said Bradley is getting closer to being able to practice, but was not sure how soon he could play again.

 

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.