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Celtics trek to Toronto for showdown after ’embarrassing’ loss

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics were expected to be the main contenders in the Eastern Conference this season.

The Raptors have lived up to expectations; the Celtics have not.

Boston visits Toronto on Tuesday night mired in fifth place in the East after losing four of its past six games. The Raptors, meanwhile, sit No. 2 in the East and still have the first-place Milwaukee Bucks in their sights.

Both teams are coming off losses. The Celtics lost 126-116 Saturday night on the road to the Chicago Bulls. The Raptors, without Kawhi Leonard, lost Sunday at home 113-98 to the Orlando Magic.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart termed the game in Chicago as “embarrassing.”

“Each and every game becomes closer and closer to the end for us and we haven’t been playing to the best of our ability,” Smart said. “It’s frustrating because we know the potential that we have.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens holds himself accountable.

“I’ve said this before,” Stevens said. “I’m disappointed in myself.”

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, however, feels the Celtics will be better in the postseason.

“In the playoffs, when we can plan for a team, prepare for a team, I still don’t see anybody beating us in seven games,” he said.

Center Aron Baynes has been out since Feb. 4 with a bruised left foot, and the Celtics are 4-4 in his absence. He is not expected to play Tuesday.

“I feel great,” he said. “Everything is progressing well. It’s just a matter of them holding me back. But it’s for the benefit of myself. So I can’t really complain.”

The Raptors’ loss to the Magic ended their seven-game winning streak. Leonard was given what was termed a “load management” day off and is expected to return Tuesday.

The Celtics have a 2-1 edge over the Raptors in their season series, with both of their wins in Boston. The Raptors have won seven straight home games against the Celtics since 2016. The last time the Celtics defeated the Raptors in Toronto was April 4, 2015, in overtime.

Leonard is averaging 31.7 points and 9.7 rebounds through three games against Boston this season.

The Raptors were within three points of the Magic at halftime Sunday but let the game get away in the second half.

“Not that we didn’t play hard enough, we just didn’t execute.” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who had 19 points and 10 assists. “They made a lot of shots; we took the ball out of the basket a whole lot. They played well.”

The Raptors, who have been breaking in recently acquired Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, have added another player. They signed Jodie Meeks last week, and he scored 10 points — all in the second quarter — in his debut with his new team Sunday.

“That guy hasn’t played in an NBA game for 10 months and gets 10 points in what was — four minutes, maybe five minutes, five and a half minutes? — probably a little longer than that,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

“He finds the opens spaces on the weak side, sliding to the right areas, relocating to the right areas, comes off of the screens and gets into the paint.”

 

Bucks win first playoff series in 18 years, give Pistons longest playoff-game losing streak in NBA history

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DETROIT – Between on-court postgame interviews, Giannis Antetokounmpo took a pit stop at the Bucks’ bench for a drink. He appeared to need a few moments to catch his breath, so Fox Sports Wisconsin reporter Katie George asked whether he was ready.

Antetokounmpo nodded as if he didn’t give it a second thought.

Of course he was ready.

Antetokounmpo was ready for everything tonight.

He scored 41 points – the most so far by anyone this postseason – and blocked four shots to lead the Bucks to a 127-104 Game 4 win over the Pistons. By sweeping Detroit, Milwaukee got its first playoff-series victory in 18 years.

“Where we were and where we are right now,” Antetokounmpo said, “it’s been an unbelievable journey.”

The Bucks advance to face the Celtics in the second round, an awaited rematch of last year’s first-round series. But Milwaukee cared far more about its opening round than most 60-win No. 1 seeds do.

Every NBA MVP besides Kevin Garnett, who didn’t advance until his ninth year, won a playoff series in his first five seasons. Antetokounmpo, who’s favored to win MVP this year, just won his first series in his sixth season.

The wait has been even longer for Milwaukee, which ends the fourth-longest playoff-series-victory drought of all-time at 17 seasons:

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The Bucks left no doubt, beating Detroit by 35, 21, 16 and 23. This is just the second four-game sweep with every game won by at least 15 points in NBA history (Celtics over Rockets in 1980).

The sweep gives the Pistons sole possession of the longest playoff-game losing streak of all-time, 14 games:

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Detroit’s streak includes 2009 and 2016 sweeps by the Cavaliers, meaning the Pistons have now gone 11 straight seasons without winning a playoff game. That’s one of the longest such droughts of all-time (record during drought listed):

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Detroit just had no answer for Antetokounmpo, who drew 16 fouls Monday. The most impressive came as he rose to dunk on Andre Drummond, withstood contact and shifted to make a circus shot:

The play left his teammates in awe.

Eric Bledsoe: “I had to tell him, ‘Bro, you don’t understand how athletic you’ve been all season and finessing at the rim.’ That one, it was just unbelievable. It was unbelievable, man.”

Pat Connaughton: “There are sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head at some of the things that he can do. … I think the nickname ‘Freak’ is for a reason.”

Nikola Mirotic: “It was just amazing watching him tonight”

The Bucks will have a little time to lock back in.

Milwaukee-Boston will be the first series between teams coming off sweeps since Lakers-Suns in the 2010 Western Conference finals. It’ll be the first such second-round series since Pistons-Bulls in 2007.

As Antetokounmpo repeatedly said in the locker room after tonight’s game, “I can’t wait.”

Report: Luke Walton sued for sexual assault

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Luke Walton is being sued by a female reporter claiming sexual assault from a hotel room incident that dates back to before he was hired as the Lakers’ head coach (he was recently let go from that position and is currently the coach of the Sacramento Kings).

Kelli Tennant was writing a book and wanted Walton to write the forward, according to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ. The two had a business relationship and she agreed to meet him in a Santa Monica hotel to discuss him writing the forward to the book, according to the report. We’ll let TMZ take it from there:

In the suit, Tennant says when she arrived at Walton’s hotel, he convinced her to come up to his room so they could discuss the book. She claims when they got up to his room, Walton suddenly pinned her to the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body.

In the docs, Tennant claims Walton then began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest. She claims she screamed for him to stop and tried to free herself, but he held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.

She says he eventually relented and let her get up from the bed, but as she was walking towards the door to leave he grabbed her from behind and again forced his body up against hers.

The lawsuit goes on to say Walton and her would interact after that, because of her job, and he would give her exaggerated hugs, kisses, and would make lewd comments to her.

Walton took over coaching the Lakers for the 2016-17 season. The alleged assault took place while Walton was still an assistant coach with the Warriors, however, some of the comments/actions that made her uncomfortable came later while Walton was with the Lakers.

Walton has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

The Sacramento Kings have made a statement:

“We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.”

The Warriors issued this statement:

“We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”

The Lakers issued this statement:

“This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment.”

NBA fines Brooklyn part-owner Joe Tsai for Tweet backing his GM challenging referees

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I just hope he can afford this.

Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks was suspended and fined by the league for breaking a taboo and going into the officials’ locker room after the Nets’ Game 4 loss at home to challenge the referees. Marks — along with pretty much every Nets’ fan — was livid about how Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has been officiated in the series.

Brooklyn minority owner (for now) and alternate governor Joe Tsai Tweeted this about Marks.

The NBA has fined Tsai $35,000 for “making public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Tsai is the second-largest shareholder of online shopping powerhouse Alibaba and is worth an estimated $10.2 billion. He owns 49 percent of the Nets.

Virginia’s Kyle Guy staying in NBA draft, not returning to Virginia

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Virginia is going to lose three starters from its national championship team. De'Andre Hunter is a likely top-7 pick that a lot of teams think can be a good “3&D” NBA player. Ty Jerome is a bubble first-round pick expected to stay in the draft. Mamadi Diakite also has his name in the mix.

Now it’s official, Kyle Guy says he is keeping his name in the mix.

Guy had 24 points in the title game against Texas Tech and was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for leading the Cavaliers to a title.

What he brings is shooting — he hit 42.6 percent from three this past season. He moves well off the ball and can catch-and-shoot, skills that NBA teams want. However, while he was a playmaker in college his handles and passing need work to be NBA ready, according to scouts. There also are concerns about his athleticism at the next level, and with that how well he can defend.

Guy is likely a second-round pick if taken at all, but he’s all in and going to take his shot while at the hight of his college career.