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Today: April 14, 2024

Celtics streaking toward playoffs with another 50-point victory

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LA Post: Celtics streaking toward playoffs with another 50-point victory
AP
AP
March 04, 2024

BOSTON (AP) — Steve Kerr spoiled the Boston Celtics’ last, best chance at another NBA title. And he thinks it would be harder this time around.

“This is, I think, the best version of this team that I’ve seen,” Kerr said this weekend before his Golden State Warriors were ambushed by their 2022 NBA Finals opponent 140-88 on Sunday.

“The idea is to give yourself a chance as many times in a row as you can. And they’ve done a great job of that,” Kerr said. “I think it’s just a matter of time that they break through.”

The Celtics won their 11th straight game on Sunday to improve to an NBA-best 48-12 on the season — six wins more than their closest pursuer. They are on pace for 65 wins, which would be the fourth-most in franchise history and the most since the 2008 team won an unprecedented 17th NBA championship.

The 52-point win over the longtime Western Conference power was the third-largest margin of victory in Celtics history. They are the first NBA team to record three 50-point wins in a season.

Boston led by 44 points at halftime, a franchise record. Boston’s only bigger blowout wins were by 56 points at Chicago in 2018, and by 53 against Sacramento in 2022.

“There’s a lot of respect for the Golden State Warriors,” said Jaylen Brown, who scored 29 points. “But we feel like it’s our time now.”

Jayson Tatum had 27 points and Payton Pritchard added 19 off the bench for the Celtics on Sunday, when coach Joe Mazzulla emptied the bench with 7:16 left in the third quarter.

Warriors star Stephen Curry didn’t play at all in the second half, finishing with a season-low four points — his fewest since leaving a 2022 game at Boston with a foot injury. Curry was 2 of 13 from the field on Sunday and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.

“They came out and whooped us tonight from the jump,” Curry said. “And it was one of those perfect storms of a rough (day) on our end and them taking it to us.”

The Celtics reached the Eastern Conference finals three times in four seasons under Brad Stevens from 2017-20. They finally broke through to play for an NBA title in Ime Udoka’s only season on the bench in 2022, but the Warriors sent them home in six games.

Last year’s team went to the East finals under Mazzulla before losing to the Miami Heat in seven games. In the offseason, Boston traded point guard Marcus Smart to get center Kristaps Porziņģis, and acquired Jrue Holiday to replace Smart’s defensive prowess.

“This is the best group I’ve been a part of,” Brown said. “We have experience, we’ve grown, we’ve matured. We’re primed and we’re ready.”

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA

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