Associated Press

Celtics earn validation, come from down 17 — twice — to beat Warriors



All things in the NBA this season are measured against the prohibitive favorite Golden State Warriors. There are great storylines — the rise of the Sixers, for example — but when it comes to what will happen next June, it’s all about Golden State.

Boston had won 13 games in a row, but still when Warriors came to town Thursday that was the measuring stick. It’s all about Golden State.

Validation. The Boston Celtics came from 17 points down — twice — to have Kyrie Irving make the key plays down the stretch and beat the Warriors 92-88. It was again Boston’s best in the NBA defense that kept them in it,  aided by the fact that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 5-of-20 from three (and they missed a lot of good looks), and then down the stretch Irving shook off the cold shooting he had all night and made plays.

It wasn’t a pretty game — both teams had a true shooting percentage under 49 percent — as befitting two of the top five defenses in the NBA. The Celtics may not want to bet Curry misses that many open threes in a game again, but he was off and having a rough night Thursday. The big difference in the score was Boston had 19 more free throw attempts, both because they were the more aggressive team attacking the rim most of the night, then in the final minutes, they got the 50/50 calls.

The best player on the court for Boston was second-year man Jaylen Brown, who finished the night with 22 points. Kyrie Irving had 16, but on 16 shots.

Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 24 points, while it was an off night from Stephen Curry — 9 points on 14 shots, and 2-of-9 from three — as well as Klay Thompson that did in the Warriors.

A Celtics win before Thanksgiving is meanless in trying to project out to a potential NBA Finals — both of these teams will evolve into something else by then. LeBron James will have his say on who is in the Finals, James Harden and Chris Paul would like to make a statement, too. We’re a long way from final answers.

Still, this Celtics’ win matters now. It’s validation for a team that now must be considered a contender for the East, and maybe the Larry O’Brien Trophy.


Giannis Antetokounmpo to tell his story on 60 Minutes this week (preview clip)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up hocking wares — clothes, sunglasses, whatever — on the streets of Athens, Greece. He easily could still be living there, the tallest salesman in a poor part of a country with high unemployment and real challenges.

Instead, he is a multimillionaire living comfortably in the United States, and is one of the 10 best basketball players in the world — and still improving. In a few years we may well be saying he is the best player on the planet.

Antetokounmpo will be telling his story on the legendary television news magazine 60 Minutes this week, and the show released a clip. Check it out.

This is the best missed free throw to game winner you will ever see

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We’ve all seen this situation before at every level of basketball: A team down three points gets fouled in the final seconds and has two free throws, so the shooter aims to make the first free throw then miss the second and create a rebound he or a teammate can grab then throw back in to tie the game. It works about as often as an NFL Hail Mary — either the shooter makes the shot anyway or the defense gets the board — but what other choice is there?

Nobody has ever pulled it off as well as Paulinho Boracini of the Brazilian league team Cearense.

Intentional or not (and I lean not), he banked the second free throw off the rim toward the corner, ran it down himself and hit the game-winning three.

Damn. That’s impressive.

(If Boracini and Cearense sound familiar, you win the award for “watching too much Knicks preseason basketball” because they played New York in a 2015 exhibition.)

Giannis Antetokounmpo doubtful with ankle injury for Bulls game

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks say Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful for Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The All-Star forward got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


Anfernee Simons declares for NBA draft straight out of high school (kind of)

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Anfernee Simons spent the last year playing high school basketball. But because he did so as a fifth-year prep after technically graduating from high school last year and turns 19 in June, he’s eligible for the NBA draft.

Following a path taken by Thon Maker and considered by Jonathan Isaac, Simons – as expected – is turning pro.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Anfernee Simons will forgo his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, he informed ESPN.

Simons informed ESPN that he will sign with agent Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports Representation

Simons looks like a mid-first-rounder, though his range is quite wide considering how large of a jump he’s making. Teams can learn relatively more about him in workouts and interviews.

A 6-foot-4 shooting guard who specializes in scoring, Simons is quick on his feet with a quick release off the dribble – with range from beyond the 3-point arc to an impressive floater game. Those floaters will be important, because Simons isn’t nearly strong enough for the NBA. He’s also a lackluster passer, though because of physicality concerns, no team will count on Simons to run an offense anytime soon, anyway. He’ll have time to develop as a distributor.

By signing with agents, Simons loses his college eligibility. Drew Rosenhaus, a big-name football agent, isn’t certified with the National Basketball Players Association. Petriella’s only NBA client has been Diamond Stone, a 2016 second-rounder who’s out of the league. They’re all in this bold venture together now.

As the NBA considers changing its draft rules for young prospects, Simons will be an interesting case study. He obviously meets the draft-eligibility requirements in the one-and-done era, but he’s also jumping from prep-school competition to the NBA. The league’s strength and nutrition programs should serve him well. His overall development could influence the wider debate.