Three takeaways from peak Celtics showing up, beating Heat in Game 4


Where have these Celtics been?

With their season down to a win-or-go-home Game 4 on the road, the “real” Boston Celtics — the team that made the Finals a season ago, the one that finished with the second-best record in the NBA and had dominating wins like crushing the Bucks on Christmas — showed up in Miami.

The result was a 116-99 Celtics win over the Heat that kept their season alive. Game 5 is back in Boston on Thursday night and is again win-or-go-home for the Celtics (who trail 3-1 now).

Here are three takeaways from Game 4.

1) Jayson Tatum showed up ready to play — even in the fourth quarter

Jayson Tatum was the best player on the court.

Boston needs that to have a chance and has been waiting, hoping for this Tatum to show up all Eastern Conference Finals. He did Tuesday night… eventually. He had three early turnovers before settling into the game but eventually found his groove.

Still the fourth quarter loomed — Tatum had not knocked down a bucket in the fourth quarter through three games. He was getting to the line a little, making a few plays, but he was not taking over like a top-four MVP candidate should.

After getting a little rest at the start of the fourth, Tatum came in for a Celtics team struggling against the Heat zone, and he instantly got the ball inside and hit a little jumper that started to swing the momentum. Soon everything came together and Tatum was a force, hitting 5-of-7 shots on his way to 11 points in the frame.

This was the Tatum the Celtics needed. Now they need him to show up for Game 5.

2) Where have these Celtics been?

It wasn’t just Tatum, this was the Celtics TEAM nobody had seen for a week.

Boston was defending, running (even on Heat makes), moving the ball to the open man, and most importantly hitting their 3s — the Joe Mazzulla Celtics need the 3s to fall to get a flow.

Boston shot 18-of-45 from 3 (40%), and with that everything worked. Mazzulla even called good timeouts.

The peak of the Celtics came in the second half when they started the third on an 18-0 run (they had another 12-0 run later).

Jaylen Brown scored 17 points, Derrick White added 16 and Grant Williams finished with 14 off the bench.

These Celtics have shown up at different points this season, what has been concerning is consistency. They need to show up the rest of the way, there is no margin for error now.

3) Like Gabe Vincent‘s ankle, Heat say they are fine, ready for Game 5

Heat fans don’t need to stress. They still lead the series 3-1, it’s human nature to relax a little when far ahead in a series and comfortable, and the Celtics got hot from 3 but haven’t been consistent from deep all season.

More importantly, there’s the vibe from the team that wasn’t stressed about how they would handle the loss and avoid getting in their own heads.

“Do the same thing that I do, that we do, after every game. We are going to listen to some music. We’re going to drink some beers back there. We are going to go have some wine,” Jimmy Butler said. “I don’t think that you can just focus on basketball all the time. You have to be able to get away from the game a little bit. Think about it, but at the end of the day, you fall back on your habits, how consistent you’re going to be. Myself and my teammates, we’re going to do the same thing. We’re going to smile. We’re going to be in this thing together like we always are, and we are going to go get one on the road.”

“Our guys really want this. It just sometimes happens that way,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Offensively, we didn’t get into a great rhythm. Offense probably hurt us as equal as some things with our floor balance defensively. So we have some work to do to shore that up.”

Butler led the Heat with 19 points, Gabe Vincent had 17, and Caleb Martin had 16 off the bench.

The one area of concern was Vincent rolling his ankle in the second half. While he got it re-taped and returned to the game at the end, Spoelstra said it will be tomorrow before they have a good feel for if he can play in Game 5. Kyle Lowry is banged up, too, leading to some questions about guard depth.

But this is the Heat, you know they will come out in Game 5 focused, like they do every game. Miami fans don’t have to worry about consistency.

Milwaukee Bucks reportedly to hire Adrian Griffin as head coach

Detroit Pistons v Toronto Raptors
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Buzz had been growing for a week that Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin was the favorite Bucks coaching candidate of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nick Nurse had his backers in the organization, but in a superstar-driven league, the wishes of players like the Greek Freak hold a lot of sway (especially with him up for a new contract in a couple of years).

The Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly hiring Griffin as their next head coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This reaction from Fred VanVleet should tell you all you need to know about how the Raptors players felt about Griffin.

This hire is a gamble by the Bucks, turning the keys of a contender over to a rookie coach, but Griffin is more than deserving of a shot. Griffin spent eight years as a role player in the NBA — after going undrafted out of Seton Hall hand having to play in the Philipines — and then got into coaching, starting as an assistant in Milwaukee from 2008-2010. Griffin is seen as a defensive-first coach with a strong player development background (he worked with Jimmy Butler in Chicago). He’s been at or near the top of the “guys who deserve a shot” list for years and was in consideration for the open Raptors job in Toronto.

Instead, he now takes over a contender, although with a roster that is getting older and more expensive fast (free agent center Brook Lopez turns 35 this year, Khris Middleton is 31 and has a $40.4 million player option, Jrue Holiday is 31 and extension eligible come the fall).

Griffin will replace Mike Budenholzer, who was let go despite winning a championship with this team in 2021. Budenholzer is a process guy and was considered too rigid and slow to make adjustments in the playoffs, and this year’s first-round elimination by the No. 8 seed Miami Heat was seen as the culmination of that (even though Antetokounmpo missed two games due to a back injury). Griffin will bring a different voice and some new looks to a Bucks team still in its championship window.

Don’t be surprised if the Bucks hire a former NBA head coach to be Griffin’s lead assistant, to give him a veteran voice as a sounding board.

Nurse had been considered one of the frontrunners for this job, but now looks like someone destined to land in Philadelphia or Phoenix.

Heat guard Gabe Vincent reportedly to play in Game 6


Officially, Heat guard Gabe Vincent is listed as questionable for a critical Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night. He missed Game 5 due to a sprained ankle suffered late in Game 4 but was a partial participant in Saturday’s shootaround, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

However, a report from Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports points to what everyone expects: Vincent will play in Game 6.

Miami needs him back if they are going to win Game 6 at home and end this series (the Heat lead the series 3-2).

Not just because Vincent has averaged 17.5 points per game this series, but because of his ball handling and shot creation. In the second half of Game 4 and through Game 5, the Celtics changed their defensive game plan, becoming aggressive at jumping passing lanes, bringing doubles on drivers, and trying to force turnovers. During the regular season the Celtics were a bottom-five team in forcing turnovers by design — they bet that their impressive one-on-one defenders could make shots difficult and so off-ball defenders largely stayed home on guys off the ball and didn’t take risks. That changed and Miami struggled to adjust in Game 5, with Kyle Lowry — starting in place of Vincent — having three costly early turnovers.

Vincent back in the lineup could help counter the Celtics’ defense. Miami also needs great games from Jimmy Butler (who looked tired in Game 5) and Bam Adebayo, who also had an off game in Boston.

The Heat want no part of a Game 7, they need to close this series out Saturday night. They need Vincent to do that.

Coaching carousel update: Nick Nurse has strong, not universal, support in Milwaukee


Five open coaching jobs remain around the NBA: Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.

Here is the latest on the searches to fill those openings.

• Nick Nurse may be the first domino to fall with him having drawn interest from the Suns, Bucks and 76ers. Nurse has strong support in Milwaukee, but it’s not universal, reports Ian Begley of

So it’s worth noting that, as of earlier this week, Nick Nurse’s candidacy had strong support within the organization. Though not all key stakeholders in Milwaukee were aligned on Nurse, per SNY sources.

• Nurse has interviewed in Phoenix as well. Their top target was current Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, according to multiple reports, but Begley reinforces what has been reported here at NBC Sports and other places: The Clippers are not expected to part ways with Lue. Even if they do, the Clippers will not let their coach walk to a division rival in Phoenix.

• Momentum appears to be building behind Suns’ assistant coach Kevin Young getting a promotion in Phoenix, with Marc Stein reporting he got a key endorsement.

Word is Young, who has also interviewed for the head coaching vacancies in Milwaukee and Toronto, has received a strong endorsement from Suns star Devin Booker.

• It would be risky to put a first-time head coach in charge of a contender in Phoenix. If new owner Mat Ishbia goes that route, look for the Suns to get a former NBA head coach to be his assistant (don’t be surprised to see that in Boston next season as well, where Joe Mazzulla is expected to remain as coach).

• Nurse, former Nets’ head coach and current Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin remain the finalists for the Bucks head coaching job. Stein reports Giannis Antetokounmpo is “intrigued” by Griffin.

• Toronto’s coaching search could be influenced by which direction team president Masai Ujiri decides to take the roster, something else up in the air. From ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip Real GM).

“In talking to folks that have been in touch with the Raptors recently, the Raptors don’t seem to know which direction they’re going to take. Whether or not they are going to focus on re-signing Fred VanVleet, extending Pascal Siakam, potentially making other roster upgrades. Or whether or not they’re going to send Fred VanVleet in a sign-and-trade, maybe investigate moving other players be it OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam.”

• Multiple reports have Bucks’ assistant Charles Lee and former UConn coach Kevin Ollie as the frontrunners to be the next head coach in Detroit. Pistons’ ownership reportedly backed the Brinks truck up to Monty Williams’ house but he was not interested, Stein reported. The buzz has been that GM Troy Weaver is backing Ollie.

• The only coaching vacancy filled so far this offseason is Ime Udoka taking the job as the Rockets’ head coach.

Karl Malone pulls in $5 million with auction of 1992 Dream Team memorabilia

USA Men's Basketball Team vs Croatia, 1992 Summer Olympics
Richard Mackson /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

At one of Karl Malone’s car dealerships in Utah, the Hall of Famer used to display some of his memorabilia from the 1992 Dream Team — game-worn jerseys from Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, among other items.

Wednesday night, Malone auctioned off 24 pieces of that memorabilia, netting him a cool $5 million, something reported by Darren Rovell at the Action Network.

The biggest seller was a game-worn Michael Jordan jersey from the USA’s 127-76 thrashing of Lithuania in the medal round, it went for more than $3 million.

Other items sold include $360,000 for a Larry Bird game-worn jersey and $230,400 for a Charles Barkley uniform.