Isaiah Thomas has 34 as Celtics beat Trail Blazers 120-111 (VIDEO)

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Isaiah Thomas‘ teammates kept telling him to keep shooting, that the shots would fall.

And they did.

Thomas wound up with 34 points after a slow start, including 15 in the fourth quarter, and the Boston Celtics rebounded from a loss the previous night to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-111 on Thursday.

Thomas had just a single basket in the first quarter.

“I was missing a lot of easy shots all night long. It was a tough night for me offensively. But I just stay the course,” Thomas said. “The guys keep saying `Keep shooting, just get open.’ I just try to make those shots.”

Marcus Smart added 18 for the Celtics, who had seven scorers in double figures. Thomas, who went into the game as the NBA’s No. 2 scorer behind Russell Westbrook, has scored 20 or more points in 37 straight games. He surpassed the 10.6 points he was averaging in fourth quarters to lead the league.

Damian Lillard had 28 points and seven assists for the Blazers, while Al-Farouq Aminu added a season-high 26 points, including 10 in the final quarter.

The Celtics were playing the second of a back-to-back after losing the opening game of their four-game road trip, 108-92 in Sacramento. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak.

Thomas’ driving layup gave Boston a 106-102 lead with just under 3 minutes left. Lillard made free throws and it looked like Portland got a break with a stop, but Aminu turned over the ball on the other end and Jaylen Brown made free throws to push Boston’s lead to 108-104. Smart added a layup and Portland couldn’t catch up.

“That’s a really good, hard-nosed, tough win,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.

Portland was coming off a 114-113 victory at Dallas on Tuesday night. CJ McCollum won it on a runner with 0.9 seconds left.

But the victory was costly for the Blazers. Guard Evan Turner fractured a bone in his right hand during the third quarter and will be out for the next five to six weeks.

Turner is averaging 9.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 50 games, including 10 starts. He had just been promoted to the starting lineup when he was injured.

“That was definitely tough – on top of the position we’re in. We need all the bodies we have. So it’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “I guess one perk is it’s just a bone. It wasn’t anything worse. And then, on top of that, the All-Star break is going to take a week. So hopefully I don’t miss too much.”

The Celtics were without Jae Crowder because of a family issue. Smart started in his place.

The Blazers led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but Lillard thought the Blazers were hurt after letting Boston close to 55-49 at the break after a 15-4 run. Thomas had 14 points in the second quarter.

“I think that was our first mistake, second-best team in the East right now, you give them life and allow them to feel like they’re still in the game and can take it over,” he said. “Then in third, they took the lead and from that point on it was a back-and-fourth game. Both teams competed hard. Then it got down the stretch and they just made those plays that we didn’t make.”

TIP-INS:

Celtics: Guard Avery Bradley missed his 12th game with a sore right Achilles. … Thomas was handed a technical foul for elbowing Portland’s Meyers Leonard midway through the second quarter.

Trail Blazers: Portland defeated the Celtics 127-123 in overtime on Jan. 21 in Boston. McCollum scored 35 points.

SMART MOVES: Both Thomas and Lillard praised Smart for making the difference in the end.

“He does all the stuff that’s not in the stat sheet. If you want a championship team, you need guys like that on your team,” Thomas said. “He had offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, steals, key baskets. He does it all.”

Lillard chimed in: “I thought Marcus Smart was huge for them. It probably won’t show up on the stat sheet but he did a lot of winning things for them.”

UP NEXT:

Celtics: Boston plays at Utah on Saturday.

Trail Blazers: The Blazers host the Hawks on Monday, the first of two meetings this season.

LeBron, Gregg Popovich among NBA heavyweights to comment on Trump at Media Day

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Monday was NBA Media Day and it could not get here soon enough. Yes, the offseason has been an incredible one with many players changing places. But the start of football season always means something important for the NBA diehard: basketball is coming.

Media Day comes with new questions for new players, along with hope that franchises will be able to right the wrongs of seasons past. Plus, we get to see new jerseys on stars. Yet as it always seems these days, the story of the afternoon was gathering how players had reacted to Donald Trump’s recent comments.

Specifically, Trump mentioned that he thought that players who knelt for the national anthem in the NFL were “sons of bitches”. Trump also rescinded a potential offer for a visit to the White House for the Golden State Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would vote “no” on going during a team meeting.

NBA reporters could not help but ask about the comments by Trump and the impact it had on the players, coaches, and executives during their first full scale opportunity to see players in a team setting.

Everyone from LeBron James to John Wall and Gregg Popovich had something to say.

We will be entering our first full season of the NBA with Trump and given how the first eight months of his tenure have gone, it will be interesting to see how the most socially conscious league in America responds moving forward.

Cavaliers expect Isaiah Thomas to play in games by January

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.

The All-Star point guard, acquired from Boston this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.

Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.

Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.

When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.

Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Carmelo Anthony trade causes huge leap in Thunder championship odds

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Carmelo Anthony recently wrote a goodbye letter to the city of New York, but the fact is now he is a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That apparently means increased championship odds now that he, Westbrook, and Paul George will occupy the same floor space in the Western Conference.

That comes as a bit of a surprise given the amount of talent that has moved out West over the course of the offseason. Anthony is the latest in a long list of big stars to switch conferences including Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler, Brook Lopez, and others.

Could the Thunder win the championship? It seems like long odds even given Westbrook being reigning MVP. But the most recent odds released by Bovada had the Thunder taking a huge leap in that arena.

Before the Anthony trade the Thunder were at at 25 to 1 odds to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. After this weekend and the switching of states by Carmelo, the Thunder are now at 12 to 1 to win the championship.

Perhaps more curious than the new odds for the Thunder are what happened to the win totals of both the Thunder and the Knicks. Bovada’s win total for Oklahoma City didn’t change and remains at 50.5. Somehow, New York’s win projection also did not change despite Anthony switching teams.

Are the Thunder winning the championship the season? Absolutely not. But am I going to watch a bunch of OKC games this year? Absolutely.

Carmelo Anthony writes goodbye letter to New York

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The Carmelo Anthony trade rumors are finally over.

The New York Knicks sent the star forward to Oklahoma City in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a second round draft pick. He will play alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George during a wild season to come in the Western Conference.

Anthony never wanted to leave New York, but the ineptitude of the organization finally caused such a rift between the two sides that he finally decided he would find a way to waive his no trade clause and exit his home state (Anthony is from Red Hook in Brooklyn).

Anthony only gave the Knicks a few choices to work with, and Houston was always his desired landing spot. That trade approved too to materialize, and the scope was opened up to the Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Thunder.

Carmelo arrived in Oklahoma City on Sunday, but he still isn’t leaving New York fans out to dry. In a letter released on his website on Monday, Anthony penned a goodbye letter to his beloved New York.

Via This Is Melo:

New York equipped me to make it in any other place in the world. It taught me how to Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. Saying Goodbye is the hardest thing to do. I never thought I would, especially to you. No one will ever take your place. It’s hard to find someone like you, so know you will always be missed. You helped me laugh. You dried my tears. Because of you, I have no fears. You came into my life and I was blessed. It’s time to raise my hand and say goodbye. It’s not the end, because like I’ve always said, NYC ‘til the end.

Carmelo may miss New York but we are all excited to see him with Westbrook and George in OKC. The high usage stars should make for an interesting triumvirate on the basketball floor.