Celtics triumph in back-and-forth blockbuster against Lakers, Bucks win potential Finals preview

By Sports Desk December 14, 2022

The Boston Celtics survived an almighty fourth-quarter collapse to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 122-118 in overtime on Tuesday.

Boston controlled the first half on the road, building a 65-50 advantage at the long break, but after reaching an 88-74 lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, everything began to fall apart for the visitors.

From that point on, the Lakers launched a 32-5 run to take a 106-93 lead with four minutes to play, but then it was the home side's turn to go into their shell, allowing the Celtics to storm back with a 17-4 run.

Anthony Davis had two free throws with 28 seconds on the clock, leading by two, but missed both. Jayson Tatum capitalised and tied the game with a contested mid-range jumper over LeBron James, before the four-time NBA MVP's potential game-winner was way off.

The Lakers had nothing to offer in overtime, scoring only four points in the first four minutes to allow the Celtics to build a game-winning lead.

It was a crucial win for the Celtics to snap a two-game losing skid, improving their league-best record to 22-7 and retaining bragging rights over their long-time rivals.

Tatum was the deciding factor, scoring a game-high 44 points on 15-of-29 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists, while running-mate Jaylen Brown chipped in 25 points (10-of-21) and 15 rebounds.

Both Lakers stars delivered, with Davis' 37 points and 12 rebounds continuing his MVP-calibre season, while James had 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Portis pulverises the Warriors

All-NBA Milwaukee Bucks duo Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 50 points, but it was Bobby Portis off the bench producing the best performance in his side's 128-111 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Portis had his best game of the season with 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and 11 rebounds, while two-time MVP Antetokounmpo had 30 points on poor efficiency (nine-of-26 shooting), 12 rebounds and five assists.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 20 points (six-of-17), but it was not nearly enough to stop his side from taking their third loss from their past four outings, and dropping their road record to 2-12.

The Bucks have now won eight of their past 10 to improve their record to 20-7, and they are 13-3 at home.

Giant-killing Rockets take another scalp

After knocking off the Bucks in their last game, the Houston Rockets collected another big scalp with a 111-97 triumph over the Phoenix Suns.

The Rockets were led by second-year scoring sensation Jalen Green, who had 26 points on seven-of-17 shooting – hitting 11-of-12 free throws – to raise his team-high average to 21.8 per game.

Third overall draft pick Jabari Smith Jr continued to impress, only attempting five total shots, but finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds, hitting all three of his three-pointers. The six-foot-11 wing is hitting a respectable 36.8 per cent of his threes on a healthy 5.8 attempts per game.

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  • Milwaukee Bucks trade for All-Star Damian Lillard Milwaukee Bucks trade for All-Star Damian Lillard

    Damian Lillard finally has a new team, though it's not the one the NBA world had been expecting.

    The Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to send their franchise icon to the Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster three-team trade that also involves fellow star players Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton, ESPN reported Wednesday.

    Portland will receive Holiday from the Bucks and Ayton and rookie Toumani Camara from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Lillard, a seven-time All-Star who requested a trade this summer with the Trail Blazers in a rebuild.

    The Blazers will also get Milwaukee's unprotected 2029 first-round pick as well as the right to swap first-round selections with the Bucks in 2028 and 2030.

    Phoenix will receive veteran center Jusuf Nurkic and forwards Nassir Little and Keon Johnson from Portland, as well as guard Grayson Allen from Milwaukee.

    Lillard had expressed a preference to be dealt to the Miami Heat, but the Blazers were unable to work out a trade to his desired destination that would satisfy their requirements for multiple draft picks and young players to add to their young core of rookie point guard Scoot Henderson and second-year wing Shaedon Sharpe.

    The 33-year-old will instead be joining the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, but was dealt a stunning loss by the eighth-seeded Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

    Lillard joins two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, three-time All-Star Khris Middleton and first team All-Defensive Team centre Brook Lopez as the nucleus of a Bucks squad that will be considered one of the favourites in the East after finishing 58-24 last season.

    The trade, which is still awaiting league approval, also ends the 11-year tenure for arguably the most popular player in Trail Blazers' history. Lillard leaves Portland as the franchise's all-time leader in points (19,376) and three-point field goals (2,387), while his 5,151 assists rank second in team history.

    Lillard is also coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game and matched a personal best by shooting 46.3 per cent from the field, though a calf injury limited him to 58 games and he did not play after March 22.

    The Blazers' season didn't go nearly as well, as they finished 13th in the Western Conference with a 33-49 record. Lillard's displeasure over the team's poor finish, plus its decision to keep its first-round draft picks instead of moving them for a win-now player, prompted him to formally issue a trade request in July.

    Holiday, who earned a second career All-Star nod in 2022-23, could be on the move again soon, as ESPN reports Portland is expected to field trade offers for the 33-year-old point guard after taking Henderson with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft.

    The 25-year-old Ayton figures to remain part of the Blazers' long-range plans with three seasons left on a four-year, $133 million extension he signed in 2022. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game last season and has averaged a double-double in each of his five NBA seasons.

    Phoenix gets a ready-made replacement for Ayton in Nurkic in addition to building needed depth to its star-laden core of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and offseason pickup Bradley Beal.

    Nurkic averaged 13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds while starting 52 games for Portland last season. 

  • 'Business as usual' for Middleton despite Giannis uncertainty 'Business as usual' for Middleton despite Giannis uncertainty

    Khris Middleton is not getting caught up in speculation surrounding team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is uncertain over his Milwaukee Bucks future.

    Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP, has recently cast doubt on whether he will be staying with the Bucks.

    The 28-year-old has made it clear that he wants to win another championship, having helped the Bucks to glory in 2021.

    But Middleton is staying focused on his preparations for the new season, instead of paying too much attention to the talk around the Bucks' star man.

    "I think it's kind of business as usual either way," Middleton told ESPN.

    "It doesn't affect me personally. I don't think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he's come up in contract extension talks.

    "We always want him back for sure. Let's be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he's one of the best players in the world.

    "He's one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organisation, to keep putting us in a position to win championships."

    Middleton believes Antetokounmpo's comments are about keeping the pressure on, for both himself and the team.

    "But I think it's just something that he just wants to keep putting pressure on everybody. That's himself also," Middleton added.

    "He's not just pointing a finger at everybody else saying, 'You guys have to do this for me'.

    "I think he's putting that pressure on himself to be better, to come in and be great every year. So there's no pressure on, there's no added pressure when he says that to us as a team, or me as a person, that I have to be better."

    The Bucks won their fifth straight division title last season, yet lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, resulting in the departure of head coach Mike Budenholzer.

  • Rockets' Porter arrested, charged with assault of his girlfriend Rockets' Porter arrested, charged with assault of his girlfriend

    Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was arrested Monday and charged with assault and strangulation of his girlfriend.

    Porter and his girlfriend were staying at the Millennium Hotel in New York, and per a police report, she was upset he returned early in the morning and locked him out of the room.

    Porter was able to gain access to the room with the help of hotel security, and he then assaulted her, according to the report.

    At 6:45 a.m., police responded to a 911 call accusing Porter of assault and after an investigation, the police arrested the 23-year-old with the felony charges of assault and strangulation.

    "Upon arrival officers were informed that a 26-year-old female sustained a laceration to the right side of her face and was complaining about pain to her neck," a police spokesperson said. "A preliminary investigation on scene determined that a known individual struck her multiple times upon her body and placed his hands around the neck."

    The woman, former WNBA player Kysre Gondrezick, was taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation.

    The Rockets issued a statement following the arrest to ESPN.

    "We are in the process of gathering information surrounding the matter involving Kevin Porter Jr.," the statement read. "We have no further comment at this time."

    Porter was second on the Rockets in scoring last season with a career-high average of 19.2 points per game while averaging a team-best 5.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

    He is entering his fifth season in the NBA and fourth in Houston after spending his 2019-20 rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Selected 30th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2019 draft, Porter was traded to the Cavs and sat out the beginning of the 2020-21 season following an investigation of a single-car crash.

    Cleveland ended up trading him to Houston in January 2021 after he incited an outburst in the locker room with team officials.


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