Watch Caris LeVert drop 51, Nets come from 17 down in fourth stun Celtics in OT

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BOSTON — Caris LeVert scored 37 of his career-high 51 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to help the Brooklyn Nets erase a 21-point, second-half deficit and beat the Boston Celtics 129-120 on Tuesday night.

It was a stunning end to a four-game losing streak for Brooklyn, which is trying to hold onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston has lost two straight.

LeVert had all of Brooklyn’s 11 points in the extra period, finishing just three points shy of the Nets’ season high for a player. Kyrie Irving scored 54 points against Chicago on Jan. 31.

LeVert also sent the game to extra frame, getting fouled on a 3-point attempt by Marcus Smart and connecting on all of his free throws with 0.2 seconds left.

That capped a 51-point fourth quarter by the Nets, a franchise record for most points in any period.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 22 points. Kemba Walker returned to action following a five-game absence with left knee soreness and had 21 points. Smart added 14 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.

Boston went just 1 for 6 from the field in overtime.

The Celtics played without Jayson Tatum, who sat out with an illness. They also lost Gordon Hayward, who left the game at halftime with a bruised right knee. Boston scored 23 points off 21 Brooklyn turnovers and was in control before the Nets rallied behind LeVert and their bench.

Irving, who left the Celtics in free agency this past summer, was sidelined for the Nets’ second visit of the season to Boston after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to relieve a right shoulder impingement. Irving was ruled out for the season in February because of the injury.

His absence didn’t stop fans from taunting him with chants of “Where is Kyrie? Where is Kyrie” in the fourth quarter.

The Nets trailed by 17 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied to 106-103 with 2:28 to play on a 3-pointer by by Chris Chiozza. Walker responded on the Celtics’ next trip with a 3 of his own. LeVert then connected on a jumper on Brooklyn’s ensuing trip to make it 109-105.

It was 110-105 when LeVert made another 3. But Walker found Robert Williams under the basket, who was fouled on his dunk and completed the three-point play.

The Nets got it back to 116-112 with less than a minute to play when Brown came up empty on a jumper. LeVert was fouled on Brooklyn’s next trip down the floor, but made just one of his two free throws.

Brooklyn got the rebound and LeVert had a great look at a 3, but his shot rattled in an out. Boston’s Daniel Theis got the rebound, was fouled and hit both of his free throws.

DeAndre Jordan got a dunk with 6.7 seconds left to make it 118-115. The Celtics had trouble getting the ball in bounds and Rodions Kurucs forced a tie up with Walker with 3.6 seconds left. He won the ensuing tip-off and called timeout with 1.4 seconds left.

Brooklyn got the ball into LeVert, who was fouled and calmly sank his three free throws to send it to overtime.

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

Indiana coach hot seat
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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

Pelicans big Zion Williamson
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The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
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The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.