Jaylen Brown scores 46, but Knicks outlast Celtics in 2OT barnburner

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NEW YORK — Julius Randle scored 35 points, Evan Fournier made the go-ahead 3-pointer in the second overtime and added 32 against his former team, and the New York Knicks outlasted Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics 138-134 on Wednesday night.

Brown scored a career-high 46 points after overcoming a bout of COVID-19 and Jayson Tatum had the biggest basket of his awful opener with a three-point play that gave Boston a 134-133 lead with 1:05 remaining.

Fournier then hit his fourth 3-pointer of the overtimes with 56 seconds to go and Derrick Rose finished it off with a basket with 22 seconds to play as the Knicks finally put away a game they seemed to have won much earlier.

The Celtics put together a push late in regulation of their first game under coach Ime Udoka and Marcus Smart tied it with a 3-pointer at the buzzer:

RJ Barrett scored all of his 19 points after halftime and Obi Toppin added a career-best 14 for the Knicks. Kemba Walker had 10 points and eight assists against his previous team.

Tatum had 20 points and 11 rebounds, but was 7 for 30 from the field, including 2 for 15 from 3-point range. The U.S. Olympic gold medalist missed badly on a jumper that could have won it at the end of the first overtime.

The Knicks showed off more offensive punch than last season’s team that finished 41-31 in its first season under Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau, making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. That was largely behind the all-around play of Randle, the runaway winner of the Most Improved Player award, and a defense that led the league in fewest points and lowest shooting percentage allowed.

They put six players in double figures Tuesday, but it was the defense that let them down on the final possession of regulation, allowing the Celtics to race up the floor after Randle’s two free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining. Smart was wide open near the sideline to tie it.

Fournier made three 3s in the first 1:20 of OT but the Celtics kept answering, with Tatum’s 3 knotting it at 128 with 2:58 to play. Perhaps out of gas, neither team scored again until the second OT.

Brown tested positive on Oct. 8 and played in only one preseason game. He said he had minor symptoms but got in two good days of workouts leading into the game and determined he was ready to play after the morning shootaround, with the Celtics ready to play him in short stints if necessary.

Nothing ended up short on this night. Brown’s 46 points are the 10th most ever in a season opener:

Randle hit two 3-pointers during an 8-0 start that kept the loud cheers from the pregame festivities booming into the early minutes of action. But Brown scored 20 points in under 8 1/2 minutes as the Celtics went ahead 35-29 after one.

They remained ahead 58-54 at halftime despite Tatum shooting 3 for 10.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Boston was without F Al Horford, who is back for a second stint with the organization, because of health and safety protocols. … G Josh Richardson was out with a migraine. Udoka said it developed after the morning shootaround and worsened at the team hotel.

Knicks: New York was without centers Nerlens Noel (sore left knee) and Taj Gibson for what Thibodeau called “personal reasons — good personal reasons.”

COACHING THE CELTICS

Thibodeau, a Celtics assistant when they won the 2008 NBA championship, said he got to know Udoka a bit through USA Basketball and visiting the San Antonio Spurs, where the replacement for Brad Stevens in Boston was an assistant to Gregg Popovich. Stevens is now the Celtics’ president.

“Obviously being the head coach of the Celtics is a great responsibility. I think he’s prepared himself extremely well with the people he’s worked for, the coaches that he played for, all his experiences,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got a terrific staff, he’s got Brad to lean on there too as well so I have great respect for him and that organization.”

UP NEXT

Celtics: Host Toronto on Friday.

Knicks: Visit Orlando on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series.

PBT Podcast: Golden State Warriors season preview

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
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The Golden State Warriors will enter the season hanging banner number four from this era and passing out their championship rings, but this is a team with more questions than most returning champs.

Otto Porter and Gary Payton II are gone and their minutes will go to a young core — Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — who are going to be asked to carry a larger load. Particularly during the regular season.

Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area joins Kurt Helin of NBC Sports to break down this coming Warriors season, what to expect, and if the young core can get the older vets to the playoffs rested and ready to defend their title. There’s also talk of what comes next in Golden State, as some hard contract choices are coming in the next few years.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Khris Middleton says he will miss start of season following wrist surgery

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Two
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When Khris Middleton first went under the knife this summer to clean up issues with his left wrist, he expected to return in time for the start of the season.

At Bucks media day Sunday, Middleton said he’s not going to make that opening night goal but should be back early in the season, as reported by Jamal Collier of ESPN.

The Bucks open the season on the road Oct. 18 against the Celtics (who have their own set of issues heading into this year).

Middleton’s importance to the Bucks was evident in the playoffs, when not having him as a secondary shot creator was a key aspect of their seven-game loss to the Celtics.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. A healthy Bucks team — with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday as the core — enter the season as serious title contenders. But they need Middleton, so they will not rush him back.

Zion, Nash, Davis: Seven players, coaches who enter NBA season under pressure

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Every NBA season comes with pressure — the pressure to win, the pressure of fan emotions and expectations, and for players the pressure that this is their livelihood. There is real pressure to stick in the NBA and earn that handsome paycheck.

But some players and coaches enter this season under more pressure than others.

Here are seven players and coaches who are under added pressure this season.

Anthony Davis

“This is not going to work without AD. No disrespect to Bron, no disrespect to Russ. They’re going to be who they are… but AD, having AD available…. it’s going to be invaluable. He’s the centerpiece to that championship table we’re trying to build.”

That was new Lakers coach Darvin Ham talking about Anthony Davis — the lynchpin to everything Ham hopes to do in Los Angeles. As he said, LeBron James will be LeBron (read: elite, even at age 37), and Russell Westbrook will be Russell Westbrook (he’s saying all the right things, but…), but if the Lakers are going to be any threat in the West it starts with Davis. Ham needs the Davis from the bubble — healthy, elite defender, playmaker, solid midrange jump shot — because he plans to run the offense through AD.

More than just this season, the Lakers have to come to a decision: Is Davis the No.1 option they can turn the franchise over to after LeBron steps away? Can he physically carry that burden and not break down? Davis can be one of the game’s elites, but is he ready to carry the Lakers franchise? Their future direction depends on that answer.

Zion Williamson

The acquisition of CJ McCollum last season helped bring the Pelicans together. They made a push into the playoffs with a solid core of McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance, Devonte' Graham and others. Watching New Orleans you couldn’t help but think, “If Zion Williamson were healthy…”

Now we get to find out. Williamson is reportedly in the best shape of his life (take all offseason conditioning comments with a shaker of salt) and ready to resume his role as a No.1 offensive option and maybe the best interior scorer in the game. The pressure of getting paid is off Williamson — he got his max extension — but the pressure of living up to it is just starting.

Steve Nash

When your star player says “him or me” during the offseason — even if that ultimatum gets rescinded — you enter the season under a microscope. Nash would have been getting a close look even if Kevin Durant didn’t drag his name into his offseason drama — there are plenty of front office people around the league not convinced Nash is up to the task in Brooklyn. There is enormous pressure on this team to get things right — to avoid a meltdown — and if things go at all sideways in Brooklyn Nash will be the fall guy. His seat is already warm.

Kyrie Irving

While we’re in Brooklyn… Ben Simmons is the logical first name to pop into your head when thinking of players under pressure with the Nets — and with good reason. We haven’t seen him on an NBA court in over a year and his play and fit are critical to the Nets’ hopes of contending. But there is another player who faces real contract pressure in Brooklyn.

Kyrie Irving wanted a trade out of Brooklyn this summer, the Nets said “go ahead and find one,” and Irving found his market was not nearly as deep and strong as he expected (the Lakers were interested, and he reportedly was interested in them, but any trade would have involved Russell Westbrook and got too tricky). Irving is in a contract year now and there is pressure on him to remind everyone that, when focused and committed, he is an All-NBA point guard and game changer. But will he stay focused and committed this season?

Tom Thibodeau

Knicks president Leon Rose came out this week in a softball-filled interview on MSG Network and backed his coach. When asked if Thibodeau was under pressure, Rose said, “I don’t see it that way at all. The way I say it is we’re continuing with the plan.” Nothing went according to plan with the Knicks last season. While not all of that was Thibodeau’s fault — he didn’t cause Julius Randle‘s shooting regression — if things get off to another slow start after spending money on Jalen Brunson this summer, somebody is going to have to pay the price. Thibodeau’s job may not be as secure as Rose tries to paint.

James Harden

James Harden is positioned to have a monster regular season. He’s asked to be more of a playmaker, get the ball to MVP candidate Joel Embiid, put Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris in positions to thrive, and score a few points in there as well. Harden could be poised for an All-NBA level regular season — and then the playoffs start. That’s where the pressure is. Harden’s long history of playoff foibles (including some flat outings against the Heat last year) will be under a microscope this season because Daryl Morey has built a team of solid role players — this team is good enough. It’s up to Harden (and Embiid) to prove he can also be an elite player in the postseason.

Kawhi Leonard

Steve Ballmer has paid an enormous… well, it’s chump change to him, but it’s still an enormous amount of money to turn the Clippers from league laughing stock into a respected franchise (sorry, it’s true Lakers fans). These Clippers are contenders. But that title contention rests on the shoulders of Kawhi Leonard. He has to both be healthy and play like the guy who helped lift the Raptors to a title. If Leonard and Paul George are healthy and playing like their All-NBA selves come the postseason the Clippers are a massive threat — two-way wings win playoff series and the Clippers would have two of them. It’s just on Leonard (and Paul) to be that guy.

Westbrook says he’s ‘all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win’

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
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Welcome to NBA media day, when optimism overflows and everyone swears there are no chemistry problems, no fit questions, it’s all puppies and rainbows with their team.

The night before Lakers media day, Russell Westbrook got a head start on saying the right thing in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Trade? Not worried about it. Fit? Not going to be a problem. Everyone is good now if you ask Westbrook, and he was in trade talks all summer is irrelevant.

“I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted [by the Lakers] or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete…

Maybe [he is] as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”

Words are nice, but actions are what will matter. Westbrook reportedly said all the right things to LeBron James and Anthony Davis a year ago before getting traded to the team, but his not wanting to play a role and fit in was a big issue. Westbrook swears it won’t be this time, whatever Ham wants Westbrook will execute.

“There’s so much optimism on how we can be great, how AD, LeBron, myself — can be unstoppable in my opinion,” Westbrook said.

That’s optimism. Even if Westbrook fits in, Davis stays healthy all season, and LeBron continues to defy father time, these Lakers are not title contenders. A playoff team for sure, but not contenders.

These Lakers will face adversity — maybe early, Los Angeles has a rough first couple of weeks — and how the Lakers, under new coach Darvin Ham, respond to those challenges will define their season. Last season’s response from the Lakers was… not good. They rolled over. Ham has promised not to let that happen, but there will be things out of his control.

Last season Westbrook was one of those things for Frank Vogel, we’ll see how he responds this season.