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


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.


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.