Pelicans see steps forward in coming from 24 down to beat Celtics in OT

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NEW ORLEANS — Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson took what they hope will be meaningful steps in turning the New Orleans Pelicans’ season around, combining decisively to produce pivotal plays during a memorable comeback.

Ingram highlighted a 33-point performance by hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 33.3 seconds left in overtime, and the Pelicans held on for a 120-115 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday after rallying from 24 points down in the third quarter.

“Today was a day of encouragement,” Ingram said. “We just stayed together and everybody did things that they do well.”

Zion Williamson scored 24 of his 28 points after halftime and had 10 rebounds, four assists and a block for the Pelicans, who narrowly avoided losing for the sixth time in seven games. Josh Hart, who was instrumental in the comeback, had 17 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and a steal.

“We stayed true to who we were. We rallied back,” Williamson said. “Everybody – coaches, players, ball boys – everybody was just engaged.”

Jayson Tatum had 32 points and nine rebounds, and Jaylen Brown scored 25 for the Celtics, who appeared to be cruising to their third victory in four games when Tristan Thompson‘s free throws gave Boston a 79-55 lead in the middle of the third quarter.

“We kind of got away from what got us the lead, not moving the ball, guarding, and they stormed back,” Brown said. “This one definitely hurts. It’s tough. Just a tough loss – a game we 100 percent should have won.”

Added Tatum, “If we want to be a really good team, we’ve got to put teams away early, especially being up 20-some points.”

The Pelicans finished the third period on a 19-8 run, capped by Williamson’s layup after he drove nearly the length of the court to score with less than 2 seconds on the clock.

The momentum carried into the fourth.

Williamson’s put-back dunk ignited a 10-2 run during which Hart scored eight. The spurt included his driving layup as he was fouled, a 3 and a reverse put-back after Lonzo Ball‘s fast-break layup had been blocked by Daniel Theis.

New Orleans pulled even when Ingram’s transition 3 made it 98-all with 4:10 left, setting up a riveting finish to what had looked like a laugher.

The lead changed hands twice in the last 11 seconds of regulation, with Tatum draining a fall-away to make it 106-105 and Williamson hitting a layup as he was fouled to put the Pelicans up 108-106 with 6.9 seconds to go. Tatum then sank a driving floater in the final second to force overtime.

The game was tied at 112 when Ingram’s 3, set up by Williamson’s pass, put the Pelicans in front to stay.

The Celtics controlled most of the first half, scoring 19 points off of 10 New Orleans turnovers.

Tatum exploded for 17 points in the second quarter, when Boston led by as many as 19 before taking a 63-47 lead into halftime.

“We played exceptionally well for a large part of the time,” Brown said. “We just got to mature and grow up.”

Van Gundy was gratified the see his club rally from a big second-half hole just one game after seeing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead turn into an 18-point loss during a dreadful final 12 minutes against Phoenix on Friday.

“The last two games – right there – are about all the lessons that our team needs,” Van Gundy said. “You’ve just got to play through everything and keep fighting, play possession by possession by possession from night to night and from minute to minute. … Things change very, very quickly in this league, in games and in seasons. Just keep fighting.”

J.J. Redick was ejected after committing a pair of technical fouls within the first minute of the fourth quarter. His first technical came while arguing, the second after he hastily bounce-passed the ball to an official after Boston’s Nesmith was called for fouling him on a drive. Coach Stan Van Gundy said he told Redick, “I don’t remember too many guys getting ejected on a call that went their way.”

Celtics interim coach Mazzulla to coach Team Giannis in All-Star Game

New York Knicks (120) Vs. Boston Celtics (117) At TD Garden (OT)
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One way to remove the “interim” tag from your coaching resume is to earn the right to coach in the All-Star Game.

Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzula and his staff will coach Team Giannis in the All-Star Game this season. It became official when the 76ers fell to the Magic on Tuesday night, ensuring the Celtics would have the best record in the East by the cut-off date this Sunday.

The Celtics are 36-15 and in first place in the Eastern Conference, even though they have lost 3-of-4 (and needed overtime and a bad no-call on a LeBron James potential game-winner to get that victory). They have a top-five offense and defense in the league and have looked like the team to beat since the start of the season, even if they have had a few injuries and looked bored with the regular season of late.

Mazzulla deserves credit for helping the team move past former coach Ime Udoka was suspended due to an improper affair with a franchise employee. It could have been a distraction that blew up the Boston season, but he got them focused beyond that, and with that could get some Coach of the Year votes (in a crowded field).

First, however, he has to coach the All-Star Game.

Are Pistons going to hold on to Bojan Bodanovic into next season?

Milwaukee Bucks v Detroit Pistons
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For much of the run-up to the Feb. 9 trade deadline, Bojan Bogdanovic has been one of the best and most discussed players available. The 6’8″ wing who can knock down 3s and do some secondary shot creation could help a lot of teams.

One of those is the Pistons, who want to take a big step forward next season. Bogdanovic told Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype the front office spoke to him, and it doesn’t sound like he will get traded.

“Having conversations with the club, Troy [Weaver, general manager] and the owners, they assured me that we’re going to be great next year,” Bogdanovic said. “We have a lot of cap space to sign great players. We’re going to have a high pick again, so that’s going to help us a lot. We have a great young group of guys. When Cade [Cunningham] went down, that kind of hurt us big time. We were thinking that maybe we’d be fighting for the play-in tournament, but when he went down, he was our main guy. All of our offensive strategies were connected to him. When he went down, our season, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs without him.”

The Pistons reportedly have set the price for Bogdanovic at an unprotected first-round pick, which is very steep. This may simply be a case of Detroit being willing to keep Bogdanovic around if nobody wants to meet that price. They did just extend him for two years, $39.1 million and he would be the kind of professional veteran that is good to have in the locker room around a younger team.

Bogdanovic, for his part, would rather not hear the rumors.

“I heard the rumors, but I’m trying to stay away from those conversations,” Bogdanovic said. “I don’t even have any social media like Twitter. I don’t read much about that. It’s not in my control. It’s about the franchises. I’m just going to try and stay focused and play as best I can. Then, we’ll see what’s going to happen at the end of the trade deadline.”

The rumors are not going anywhere, they will stick around through the trade deadline. Bogdanovic may as well.

Report: Mavericks looking for another star at trade deadline. Good luck with that.

Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings
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Two things are true. First, the painted-over mural was right, the Dallas Mavericks desperately need a second star to go next to Luka Dončić. Second, they have backed themselves into a corner without the trade assets or cap space to easily make that happen.

It may be a longshot, but the Mavericks are open to trading anyone but Dončić to find that second star at the deadline, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reminds us.

It shouldn’t be a surprise Dallas is open to this, of course they are.

The challenges start with, what star is available? The best player maybe on the market right now is John Collins or Bojan Bogdanovic, and while both would help the Mavericks neither is changing the team’s fortunes the way they would hope.

If Toronto decides to become sellers things get interesting. However, as of the latest reports, they are on the fence and telling teams they are waiting to decide what they will do at the deadline (sell, stand pat, or become buyers). Fred VanVleet could be available, and would essentially be a Jalen Brunson replacement, certainly a step up from where the Mavericks are currently. However, the Clippers and others could drive up the asking price, plus the Mavericks would have to step up and pay him this summer, VanVleet is expected to opt out of his $22.8 million contract. O.G. Anunoby would be a great fit next to Dončić, but he is not a star, he is more of a high-level role player.

Pascal Siakam could be that second star next to Dončić, a 6’8″ wing who can finish at the rim, shoot 3s, and would be a great secondary shot creator. It’s a good fit. Siakam is not an elite defender — Dallas would want some 3&D guys added to the roster — but he would be the kind of addition Dallas needs.

Dallas can offer its three first-round picks starting in 2024, but is some combination of those picks and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood and Dorian Finney-Smith going to entice the Raptors? They will look for a massive package for Siakam and likely see better offers than Dallas can construct.

It may not be easy to pull off, and likely will wait until the offseason (at the earliest), but know the Mavericks are serious about a second star.

Knicks reportedly very interested in Anunoby, if Raptors make him available

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
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The Toronto Raptors are the one team that could move this trade deadline from a dud to shaking up the playoff race. There are 29 other GMs waiting to see what Massai Ujiri will do, and when they called, they’ve been told “the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

If Toronto does decide to trade a player beyond the expected Gary Trent Jr., then the Knicks want to be at the front of the line for defensive wing O.G. Anunoby, Charania reports.

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

There would be a lot of teams in line for Anunoby, but he is a very Thibodeau-style player — an All-Defensive Team level wing stopper who can finish and is averaging 16.9 points per game — so you can see where the interest comes from. Anunoby also is just 25 and is locked in next season at $18.6 million. While the demand for wings in general is lower this trade season — point guards and centers are more in demand — a lot of teams could use a player the quality of Anunoby. Including the Knicks.

Getting him won’t be cheap — two unprotected first-round picks (or lightly protected) with matching salary would be the price range.

All of that is moot if the Raptors don’t make him available, which is what everyone is waiting to see.