Jayson Tatum scores 34, Boston holds of Damian Lillard, Portland for win

Boston Portland

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jayson Tatum scored 34 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Boston Celtics built a big lead early before holding on for a 128-124 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

Tatum rebounded from a terrible performance in a loss to Milwaukee on Friday when he scored just five points on 2-of-18 shooting.

Damian Lillard had 30 points and 16 assists for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic added 30 points in his second official game back after breaking his leg in March 2019.

Boston led by as many as 24 in the second quarter, but Portland opened the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run, with three 3-pointers from Lillard and two from CJ McCollum, to put them on top 101-98.

Gary Trent Jr. hit a 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes to go before the Celtics used a 7-0 run to take a 125-119 lead with about 30 seconds left.

Carmelo Anthony got the Blazers within three with a 3-pointer and Gordon Hayward was called for a backcourt violation to give Portland the ball back. Lillard lost the ball and the Celtics were called for a foul to give Portland another possession with 6.8 seconds to go.

A layup by Nurkic cut the lead to one with 3.4 seconds left and Hayward added two free throws to push the lead to 127-124. Nurkic’s long inbounds pass bounced out of bounds to secure Boston’s victory.

The Celtics had a 10-point lead with less than a minute left in the third when Lillard was fouled as he banked in an off-balance 3-pointer and he made the free throw to get Portland within 92-86.

Kemba Walker finished the quarter with a basket for Boston to make it 94-86 entering the fourth.

We saw it happen nationally and it was unquestionably coming to the NBA campus in Orlando — mask fatigue.

It apparently is serious enough within the NBA restart campus at the Walt Disney World Resort that the league sent a memo to all teams reminding them of the need for their players and staff to wear masks within the bubble — and there can be punishment for those who don’t. From Marc Stein at the New York Times.

 

To date, no player inside the bubble has tested positive for the coronavirus (there was one false positive of a Kings’ player; results of testing for this past week are expected to be announced Monday). That can lead to a sense of complacency, a feeling of “if nobody has the disease why are we wearing masks?” The Lakers’ Dwight Howard has already been warned for not wearing his.

However, if the virus gets inside the bubble — and that absolutely can happen — then masks can help prevent the spread and contain an outbreak. The NBA wants to avoid what has been seen in other leagues, like the MLS or MLB, where the virus spread through and decimated a roster, throwing off restart plans for those leagues.

Masks help stop the spread of the disease. It’s that simple and it’s proven.

The NBA has been able to keep the virus at bay so far because players and staff have followed the protocols. There is natural fatigue with that, but the league has to try and keep the standards up.

Bol Bol is the Denver Nuggets’ 7’3″ breakout star of the bubble because he can block shots, drain threes, and…

Make insane transition passes?

Yes, he can do that, too. From his first real NBA game, Saturday against Miami.

Bol Bol, is there anything he can’t do?

Bol did not play in any of the Nuggets’ 65 regular-season games prior to the shut down due to injury. However, he’s now played in an NBA game that counts — the games count in the standings, the statistics count on players official career statistics — and the NBA has a rule that once a player sets foot and plays one minute in a regular-season game, he will not be considered a rookie the next season. It led to a question:

Is Bol Bol eligible for Rookie of the Year next season?

Yes he is, a league source told NBC Sports. The reasoning is that he did not play in any games before voting for the award took place — voters were told only to consider games that occurred before the March 11 shutdown — so it is only fair to have him eligible to win the award next season.

That’s very different from saying he will be a favorite to win it. The winner of Rookie of the Year tends to be a good player who gets the ball in his hands on a bad team and can put up numbers and impact winning — think Ja Morant on the Grizzlies this season (the likely ROY winner). Bol may get more run next season, but it likely will be limited minutes off the bench behind Nikola Jokic. Bol isn’t set up to win the award, the Nuggets are set up to win games and try to become contenders.

But Bol will be eligible.

The games and stats from seeding games in the NBA’s restart bubble count, meaning Saturday’s blowout win for the Clippers against the Pelicans was a little bit of history for Doc Rivers.

The current Clippers’ and former Celtics coach moved past Boston legend Red Auerbach for 11th on the all-time NBA coaching win list, his 939th coaching victory. Six more and he moves past Bill Fitch into 10th.

“Any time your name is with Red, you feel very fortunate,” Rivers said after the win.

As he is prone to do, Rivers downplayed his achievement postgame saying he was lucky to have “unreal players and unreal coaches” as well as understanding ownership while he coached. This is all true, but it still takes an elite coach to rack up all those victories.

Rivers coached the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008 and had stints as the head man with both the Magic and Clippers.

Rivers is an underrated Xs and Os tactician, but also a coach with the touch of a former player — his teams practice less than any other in the league. Rivers treats his players like adults and professionals, expecting them to take care of their own conditioning and to show up mentally focused, and veteran teams respond to that. He knows how to relate to players.

“It’s only so many coaches that could get to that mark…” Kawhi Leonard said after the game. “But he’s a coach that’s not really worried about that stat. He’s trying to focus on the main goal, and that’s winning a championship. Yeah, he really never talks about himself. It’s a team thing. I respect him.”

 

Montrezl Harrell — a leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and a player the Clippers clearly missed in their opener against the Lakers — left the NBA’s restart bubble because of the health of his grandmother, with whom he was very close.

Harrell said she died recently on his Instagram story.

“I don’t know when I will stop crying, prolly never… I don’t know how to feel right now. I feel lost empty you are my queen, my best friend, my light in all darkness. I never had you leaving my side. I don’t know how I’m do it but I got to find some way but losing you today isn’t going to make any day I wake up easy.”

Doc Rivers said he told Harrell to take all the time he needs.

“When he’s ready, he’ll come back,” Rivers said Saturday, before the Clippers blowout win against the Pelicans. “You can’t play if you’re not right mentally and because of the emotional part of it…

“His grandmother is very tight with him, so all I told him is I love him and take your time. We’ll be ready with open arms when you come.”

The Clippers bench is missing both Harrell and Lou Williams right now. Williams remains in quarantine because of his restaurant choices (he is scheduled to be out Monday). While the Clippers are not whole right now, as long as they maintain the two or three seed — they currently sit second in the conference three games ahead of the four-seed Jazz — nothing really changes.

Right now, basketball is secondary to the rest of his life for Harrell, and the Clippers told their young star to take all the time he needs. Which is exactly how you treat someone you care about.

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