Celtics Hall of Famer Paul Pierce: ‘I’m taking Tatum over KD after last year’s playoffs’

“I think him going against Kevin Durant was a passing of the torch,” explained the Truth.

Hall of Fame Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce likes what he sees in star Celtics forward Jayson Tatum these days as the latter continues to build a case as the leading candidate for the NBA’s 2023 Kia Most Valuable Player award.

Posting an excerpt of a recent episode of his Showtime Basketball “Ticket and the Truth” podcast featuring former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett, The Truth revealed how highly he holds Tatum compared to his all-time great peers in the league. “I think after last year’s playoffs, he surpassed Kevin Durant as far as a better player in today’s NBA,” suggested Pierce.

“I’m taking Tatum over KD after last year’s playoffs,” he reiterated.

“I think him going against Kevin Durant was a passing of the torch. I’m not taking that away from KD, KD is still one of the greatest players ever. He’s still one of the best in the game.”

“I just think Tatum today has passed KD,” finished Pierce.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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Kevin McHale pleasantly surprised by Boston Celtics’ hot start after tough offseason

“I was like ‘Oh my goodness, what a way to start the season,'” said McHale.

Like many of us, Hall of Fame Boston Celtics big man alum Kevin McHale was worried about the team he won two titles with in the 1980s as they reeled from injury and scandal. “I was like ‘Oh my goodness, what a way to start the season,'” said McHale on Sirius FM via Basketball Network’s Nicole Ganglani.”‘ You get to the Finals, next thing you know the season’s starting, the coach is out and you’re like ‘What the hell.'”

“But this team is stronger than any one person,” offered the former Celtics forward. “The team honestly is stronger than any one coach.”

McHale suggested that the team taking ownership of their season was a difference-maker, noting “you don’t win championships unless it’s your team.”

“When it’s your team and you take everything personally, you take practices personally, you take losses personally, and you take everything personally that happens because this is your team.”

“This is the Celtics’ team,” he explained. “Joe just happens to be there doing a tremendous job.”

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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Takeaways: Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins blast road-weary Rockets

Warriors veterans Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins each hit eight 3-pointers on Saturday, whereas the #Rockets made just three as an entire team. That made for a difficult formula.

On night two of a back-to-back, the young Houston Rockets were no match for Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and the defending NBA champion Warriors in San Francisco. With Curry and Wiggins hitting eight 3-pointers apiece, Golden State won, 120-101 (box score).

Kevin Porter Jr. led the Rockets with 20 points and 4 assists, though he made just 6-of-16 shots (37.5%) and 1-of-9 on 3-pointers (11.1%). As a team, the Rockets hit just 3-of-28 (10.7%) from behind the 3-point arc on Saturday, making for a tough formula versus the sharpshooting Warriors, who made 25-of-52 from 3-point range (48.1%).

Rookie forward Tari Eason added 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds off the bench in 29 minutes, making 6-of-10 shots (60.0%). One night after surprisingly winning in Phoenix, the Rockets fell to 6-17 on the 2022-23 season, while Golden State improved to 13-11.

Scroll on for highlights, analysis and postgame interviews. With the team’s tough four-game Western Conference road trip complete, Houston finally returns home for Monday’s matchup versus Philadelphia. Tipoff at Toyota Center is set for 7:00 p.m. Central.

Reaction: Jalen Green scores 30 points, leads Rockets to stunning rally in Phoenix

Jalen Green scored a team-high 30 points and helped the #Rockets overcome a 16-point deficit in the second half, leading to a stunning road win over Devin Booker and the Suns.

After a pair of uncompetitive losses in Denver, the young Houston Rockets responded with one of their most feel-good victories of the 2022-23 season in Friday’s 122-121 win at Phoenix (box score). The Suns led by 16 points in the second half before the visitors stormed back, headlined by 13-of-19 shooting (68.4%) in the fourth quarter.

The Suns (15-7), who own the best record in the Western Conference, had a six-game winning streak snapped and lost at home for just the second time this season. Meanwhile, the rebuilding Rockets (6-16) won for the first time on a four-game road trip at West contenders.

Jalen Green scored 20 of his team-high 30 points in the third quarter, and he drew a key foul and added a go-ahead free throw in the final 30 seconds to secure the win. Houston won the fourth quarter, 36-25, with Suns star Devin Booker — despite scoring a game-high 41 points — missing a shot at the buzzer that would have won it.

Green made 6-of-10 shots (60.0%) in the third, making for the highest-scoring quarter of his young NBA career, and his 16 free-throw attempts on the game (making 12, or 75%) were a career high. He also contributed with key defensive plays versus Booker, particularly late.

Rookie forward Jabari Smith Jr. added 17 points and 6 rebounds for Houston on 7-of-12 shooting (58.3%) and 3-of-5 on 3-pointers (60.0%), while Bruno Fernando registered 14 points and 7 rebounds in only 14 minutes off the bench on 7-of-8 shooting (87.5%).

Kevin Porter Jr. had 15 points and a team-high 7 assists for the Rockets, with several going to Fernando late via pick-and-roll scenarios.

Scroll on for highlights, analysis and postgame interviews. Houston finishes out its road trip with Saturday’s matchup at defending NBA champion Golden State, with tipoff at 7:30 p.m. Central.

The secret to Boston’s success? Per Marcus Smart, ‘having a coach that can believe in you’

“I think once Coach put his trust in me, we’ve seen how it’s allowed me to blossom and this team to blossom,” said Smart.

Whatever magic interim Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has in his corner that’s contributing to the team’s historic offense, it is not because he used to play the point, according to veteran Celtics floor general Marcus Smart. “Whether Joe was a point guard or not, he’s a great coach,” explained the Flower Mound native in a recent interview with Heavy’s Steve Bulpett.

“I don’t think it’s the point guard aspect; I think it’s just being a great coach and … understanding that everything I do is to win games,” related Smart, who is enjoying one of the best statistical seasons of his career under Mazzulla.

“I’m not a selfish person,” Smart suggested. “So I’m always going to make the right play nine times out of 10.”

“Just allowing me to do that, trusting me, don’t freak out because I make a bad play or I turn the ball over or I take a shot and miss,” he added. “I think once Coach put his trust in me, we’ve seen how it’s allowed me to blossom and this team to blossom.”

“So just having a coach that can believe in you and allow you to run the team like he needs you to, that means everything,” explained Smart — and the results on the court for Boston at 18-4 with the NBA’s best record have underscored his points.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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Sam Hauser’s coach at Virginia credits his strong self-identity for his success with the Boston Celtics

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett believes Hauser being comfortable playing his game has made his NBA success possible.

Sometimes, just being comfortable in your own skin is all that it takes to succeed in the NBA. Of course, it helps if that skin is wrapped around a body with the requisite athleticism and a brain with enough basketball IQ to get the job done, but in the case of Boston Celtics reserve forward Sam Hauser, that much is under control, per his former head coach at Virginia, Tony Bennett.

Sam knows who he is,” he explained in a recent interview with SI’s Chris Mannix. “So many guys don’t know who they are. They’re so desperate to become someone that they aren’t, or they’re trying to prove it, that they end up disqualifying themselves or hurting themselves.”

“Sam is very clear on who he is as a player and a person,” added the Virginia coach. “And that’s gold when you got that.”

“He understands clearly, ‘This is my identity. This is who I am.’ And he’s not going to veer from it,” added Bennet.

And from the perspective of the Celtics, that is absolutely fine from where they sit given what we have seen so far.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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Mfiondu Kabdengele credits a shift towards playing team-focused basketball for his second shot at the NBA

“Now I have the idea that I can still have the impact that I had in college, now it’s just going to look different,” Kabengele said.

Boston Celtics two way big man Mfiondu Kabengele has reinvented his game to play a more team-oriented style after his initial stint in the NBA went sideways after his laser focus on his individual game ended up hurting the teams he played for. Now, he has another chance to make it in the league after reorienting his efforts toward making his teammates better.

Speaking with The Athletic’s Jay King, Kabengele broke down the sea change in his play style. “Once I let go of what I wanted to look like and (decided it was about) the impact I wanted to have, and whatever that looked like, I was going to be OK with it as long as the impact was there, that’s when I felt like a switch changed,” he suggested.

“Because now I wasn’t worried about getting a certain amount of shots up, shooting a certain type of way. It’s more just about impact. And whatever that led to in a game, if it led to a win I was satisfied.”

“Now I have the idea that I can still have the impact that I had in college, now it’s just going to look different,” Kabengele added.

“And I’m OK with what it’s going to look like. I have no worries about that. I’m just worried about the impact I will have on the court.”

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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‘Disappointed’: Rockets blasted from opening tipoff by Jamal Murray, Nuggets

#Rockets coach Stephen Silas on Wednesday’s blowout loss at Denver: “You can’t ease into these games. You’ve got to come in with a defensive mindset, a hard-play mindset, together.”

In a game that wasn’t competitive from the opening tipoff, the young and rebuilding Rockets were no match for the Western Conference’s second-best team in Wednesday’s 120-100 loss (box score) at the Denver Nuggets.

Alperen Sengun led Houston (5-16) with 18 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes, shooting 8-of-12 (66.7%) overall.

Jamal Murray led Denver (14-7) with 26 points in 31 minutes on 9-of-15 shooting (60.0%), including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers (66.7%). Back-to-back NBA MVP Nikola Jokic added 17 points, 9 rebounds and a game-high 12 assists, shooting 7-of-9 from the field (77.8%).

“I was disappointed with how we began the game,” said head coach Stephen Silas, whose team was outscored in an overwhelming first quarter, 44-24. “Against teams like this, you can’t ease into these games. You’ve got to come in with a defensive mindset, a hard-play mindset, a together mindset. We were even the rest of the game, but when you start like that, it’s hard to win.”

Kevin Porter Jr. had a team-high 23 points and 5 assists for the Rockets, making 5-of-7 from 3-point range (71,4%). However, he made only 3-of-11 (27.3%) from inside the arc. Jalen Green had 16 points on just 6-of-16 shooting (37.5%) and 1-of-7 on 3-pointers (14.3%).

Rookie forward Jabari Smith Jr. continued his recent shooting surge with 13 points, making 3-of-6 from 3-point range (50%).

Read on for highlights, analysis and postgame interviews from Denver. Houston finishes its four-game Western Conference road trip with a tough back-to-back on Friday and Saturday at Phoenix and Golden State. Tipoffs are at 8 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

Boston Celtics unfazed by courtside visit from Prince and Princess of Wales

It was “just another game” for the Boston Celtics despite hosting the Prince and Princess of Wales, who were in house for Boston’s big win Wednesday night.

On Wednesday evening, the Boston Celtics played host to the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince William and Kate Middleton. With a royal couple in attendance, the Celtics secured a 134-121 victory against the visiting Miami Heat, Boston’s fifth straight win.

Prince William and Princess Catherine sat courtside alongside Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steven Pagliuca, Boston mayor Michelle Wu, governor-elect Maura Healey and Celtics great Satch Sanders. The royal couple is visiting Boston as part of a larger trip centered around the Earthshot award ceremony on Friday.

Despite the tremendous fanfare, the Boston Celtics didn’t pay the royal visitors much mind.

Stromile Swift, the source of Luke Kornet’s post-dunk bird celebration, gives Celtics his stamp of approval

The former No. 2 pick supports Kornet’s hand-birds and the team that generates the dunks behind them.

Stromile Swift may have been out of the league for some time, but his explosive athleticism and slam dunk celebrations are still on the minds of NBA players today.

When Boston Celtics backup big man Luke Kornet borrowed Swift’s bird-like hand gesture to celebrate a dunk of his own and revealed Swift was the inspiration for it, word swiftly (pun intended) made it back to the former LSU standout.

“I thought the celebration was good, but the interview was even better,” said Swift of Kornet’s cribbing his post-dunk celebration via NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. “I’m just happy some of these younger guys still remember me.”

For Swift, it was also a mark of the camaraderie shared by the Celtics.

“You can see how much those guys enjoy playing with each other,” said the nine-year NBA vet.

“It’s a long season, you’re traveling all over the country, and you don’t always have that sort of relationship with guys. You can see those guys are having fun out there.”

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3F9DvjQ

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