Kyrie Irving scores 28, Celtics rain threes on Bucks to win 117-113

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BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics went outside and stayed there while knocking off the last of the NBA’s unbeatens with a barrage of 3-pointers.

The Celtics set a franchise record for 3-pointers with 24 in a 117-113 win over the Bucks on Thursday night, handing Milwaukee its first loss of the season.

“We got a lot of open looks. We were taking what they were giving us,” said Gordon Hayward, who hit three 3-pointers while scoring a season-high 18. “Those are big shots for us. We have to be able to hit those.”

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 28 points, including six 3-pointers as the Celtics shattered the club record of 19 and came up one short of the NBA record.

Al Horford also scored 18, hitting four from beyond-the-arc, and Marcus Morris made five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points.

“It was probably a little more than we wanted to shoot, but those were the shots that were there,” said Horford, who also led the Celtics with eight assists. “We definitely want to be better, but we did a good job. I just felt like we moved the ball well. That was encouraging to see.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to the lineup after missing one game while in the NBA’s concussion protocol and led Milwaukee with 33 points and 11 rebounds.

Antetokounmpo helped lead the Bucks to a 62-22 advantage in points-in-the-paint, but it wasn’t quite enough for Milwaukee to overcome Boston’s outside shooting.

“We were all shooting really well,” Morris said. “We were just knocking them down and our guys got hot.”

Milwaukee, the last unbeaten team left in the NBA after beating Toronto on Monday night, came up just short after a furious rally in the fourth quarter.

Down 15 entering the final period, the Bucks opened on a 12-0 run and were within a point in the final minute, but the Celtics held on for their fourth straight win.

“We still think we are one of the best teams,” Antetokounmpo said. “Tonight we didn’t have an `A’ or `B’ game. Probably a `C’ game, but we were still close to winning the game in Boston.”

Khris Middleton and Malcom Brogdon scored 16 apiece and Eric Bledsoe had 13 points and seven assists for the Bucks.

The Celtics, whose previous record for 3-pointers was 19, came one short of tying the NBA record of 25, set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a win over the Atlanta Hawks on March 4.

Boston didn’t score in the fourth until Jayson Tatum hit a 3-pointer with 9:13 left in the game. Milwaukee continued to push and pulled within 113-112 when Bledsoe made 1 of 2 from the foul line with 13 seconds.

That was as close as the Bucks would get as the Celtics sealed it from the foul line.

Irving hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the second quarter and Boston led 55-53 at halftime. He opened the second half with three straight from beyond-the-arc and the Celtics appeared to be cruising with a 93-78 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“We can get better. We can play better, but credit to Boston tonight,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

 

Manny Pacquiao says he has thought about buying part of NBA team when he retires

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At age 40, Manny Pacquiao is not retiring. Even if you and some boxing pundits think he should. Tonight (Saturday) he fights Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and is expected to pull down about a cool $26 million for his trouble. If you’re getting paid like that, why retire exactly? He has said he wants to fight another five years or so.

After that, he’d like to buy part of an NBA team.

That’s what he told TMZ in a pre-fight interview.

He said he has thought about buying a piece of an NBA team after he retires. Pacquiao, a basketball nut who uses the sport as part of his training, owns an entire semi-pro league — the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League — in the Philippines (one of the most basketball-crazy nations on earth). Pacquiao said he thinks his experience with that league would help him as an NBA owner, that some of the skills will translate, which is likely true. Pacquiao said it’s about finding the right opportunity.

Forbes estimates that Pacquiao will have earned, after Saturday’s fight, more than $500 million in his career. Various websites estimate his net worth in the $200 million range. He’s got the money to jump in as a part owner.

In an NBA that loves personalities and characters — and one always trying to gain more traction in Asian markets — don’t be shocked if this happens someday.

Once Pacquiao retires.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.