Blakely: Despite gut-wrenching loss, it's all good for Celtics

Blakely: Despite gut-wrenching loss, it's all good for Celtics

NEW ORLEANS -- There was an undeniable collection of emotions inside the Boston Celtics’ locker room following Thursday’s loss at Chicago, one that left the Celtics collectively sick to their stomachs.
 
Gut-wrenching defeats have that kind of effect.

CELTICS 104, BULLS 103

But win or lose, the Celtics have not been the kind of club to let outcomes marinate on their minds too long.
 
Unfortunately, they don’t have a choice this time, not with the next opportunity to play coming in a week.
 
But as frustrated and disappointed as they were with the Bulls loss, the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
 
They hit the All-Star break with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference (37-20), winning 11 of their last 13 games.
 
And while Isaiah Thomas has been a one-man wrecking crew to opponents, as well as to longstanding Celtics scoring marks, we have seen the emergence of different players at different times stepping up in very different roles than we had seen previously.
 
It has made Boston one of the best storylines in the NBA this season outside of Golden State adding Kevin Durant.

Adding to the drama, the Celtics are a week away from the trade deadline. While nothing is imminent, Boston has lots of assets in the form of players and draft picks to get just about any deal done for any player that’s made available.
 
But Danny Ainge has made it clear he’s not willing to mortgage the future of the franchise on a player for 25 games, one who doesn’t make them appreciably better in the short or long term.
 
There are few players who can put Boston over the top in the East, let alone be made available through trade.
 
Ainge hasn’t ruled out having his team after the break look identical to the one we’ve seen thus far, and frankly, that’s not a bad thing.
 
Remember, Avery Bradley has missed almost one-third of the season dealing with an Achilles strain injury. His expected return right after the break will in some ways be like adding a new player in terms of getting him back up to speed where he’s executing at both ends of the floor the way he’s used to.
 
Jaylen Brown has been sidelined for a couple of games with a hip injury. He too will be back soon.
 
The team’s success with a relatively young core of players; Stevens’ plug-and-play system that has worked so well; Isaiah Thomas’ emergence; high draft picks in the coming years.
 
No matter how you look at it, the Celtics are a team that’s in good shape to not only compete with the elite teams in the East now, but potentially blaze a path that will keep them on the Eastern Conference short list for many years to come.

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All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

All-Stars, studs and duds: Westbrook's reign as MVP comes to an end

NEW ORLEANS – You don’t rack up triple doubles at a historically ridiculous rate the way Russell Westbrook does without being able to dish out an assist from time to time.

The biggest assist he made in the 66th annual NBA all-star didn’t make its way on to the stats sheet.

But it was historical in so many ways.

Westbrook’s advice to Anthony Davis on how to win the game’s MVP award was indeed taken to heart with Davis winning the award following the Western Conference’s 192-182 win over the East All-Stars.

Davis finished with a game-high 52 points, shattering the previous mark set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Davis won the MVP award after Westbrook had won it each of the two previous All-Star games.

Prior to the game, Davis said he did do a little lobbying among his fellow all-stars in the locker room.

“I stressed that, I think more than enough, to the guys in the locker room before the game that I wanted to get the MVP for this crowd, for this city, and I ended up doing it.”

Following the game, Westbrook acknowledged that he did speak with Davis about how to win the MVP award.

When asked about what he said, Westbrook replied, “I’m not going to tell you, but he did a good job and got it done.”

Despite not winning the MVP award, Westbrook had a dominant game of his own as he tallied 41 points which was one point shy of the previous record.

But after the game, it was clear that he was more pleased with the performance of Davis.

“It was great,” Westbrook said. “It’s definitely always a great thing to do, especially here where he plays in front of his fans, his family. It’s a great experience and definitely happy for him.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the 66th annual NBA all-star game.

 

STARS

Anthony Davis

The hometown team’s best player delivered a scoring night for the ages, finishing with an All-Star record 52 points on 26-for-39 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. The previous record of 42 points was set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962.

Russell Westbrook

His All-Star reign as the game’s MVP came to an end after having won the award the previous two All-Star games. He finished with 41 points.

 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

He was an above-the-rim monster, scoring 30 points primarily on a dozen dunks.

Kevin Durant

He was filling up the stat sheet in several categories for the West, finishing with a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Kyrie Irving

Arguably the best performer for the East, Irving had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas

There were others who had a more prolific night shooting the ball, but Thomas’ impact off the bench was indeed felt. He led all East reserves with 20 points.

James Harden

The bearded one had a triple-double as well, although not the kind he would prefer. Along with scoring 12 points, and dishing out 12 assists, Harden also racked up a game-high 10 turnovers.

 

DUDS

None

There were some guys who didn’t do much statistically, but with this being such an exhibition-like event, putting too much stock in any player’s performance is a waste of time. They are among the top 24 or so players in the NBA. No amount of missed shots or turnovers will change that fact.