Watch Devin Booker score 38, but Celtics win 116-111

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BOSTON (AP) — With Boston in danger of blowing a big fourth-quarter lead, Kyrie Irving stepped again for the Celtics.

Irving had a key 3-pointer and a driving basket in the closing two minutes, helping Boston hold off the Phoenix Suns for a 116-111 victory on Saturday.

“Kyrie’s ability to make those shots with very little space is pretty impressive,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We put ourselves in a bad spot after that fourth-quarter run.”

Irving finished with 19 points, leading a balanced attack for NBA-leading Boston (20-4). Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris each scored 17 points, Jayson Tatum had 15 and Al Horford added 14 points and a career-best 11 assists.

Devin Booker scored a season-high 38 points for Phoenix in his first game at TD Garden since he put up 70 against the Celtics on March 24. T.J. Warren had 19 points, and Tyson Chandler finished with 14 points and 18 rebounds.

Booker was certainly thinking about playing in Boston again.

“This whole week I’ve been getting questions about the game,” he said. “But like I said, it was a great night. Tried to come out and be aggressive. Just fell a little short.”

Phoenix cut a 17-point deficit to 105-103 on Chandler’s dunk late in the game. But Irving, who returned to the game with 4 1/2 minutes left with the lead down to eight, responded with a 3 from the right wing on the next possession, and his spinning shot off the backboard made it 112-106 with 29 seconds left.

“We have to do more of that for Kyrie, so he can just go out there and not have to work so hard all the time,” Horford said.

Leading by one late in the third, the Celtics closed the quarter with an 11-2 run. Marcus Morris’ alley-oop jam in the final seconds made it 89-79.

Boston then scored the first seven points in the fourth before Phoenix rallied with 15 of the next 19 points over a five-minute stretch.

“It’s just understanding the game and what’s available and not making mistakes down the stretch,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said.

Coming off a season-low two points when he played only 22 minutes, Brown scored 16 in the opening half.

 

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.