Sports

Celtics have figured out Kevin Durant, plus why so many great college basketball coaches are retiring

Happy Thursday everyone! Whew, what a crazy Wednesday that was.

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE BOSTON CELTICS…

It is not fun to play against the Celtics. the Nets and their superstars are finding that out the hard way. Boston used suffocating defense and balanced offense to win 114-107 and take a 2-0 series lead.

  • The Celtics outscored the Nets 29-17 in the fourth quarter.
  • Seven of the Eight Celtics who played reached double-digit pointsled by Jaylene Brown (22) and Jayson Tatum (19).
  • After 39 points in Game 1, Kyrie Irving had 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
  • Kevin Durant had 27 points, but he went just 4-for-17 from the field. It was Durant’s fourth-worst shooting night in his playoff career, and he had more turnovers (six) than made field goals.

The Celtics have made things extremely difficult on Durant because every player knows how to defend him. It’s not just Brown and Tatum, but the trio of Al Horford, Grant Williams and, of course, Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart who have done terrific work. Our NBA guru Jasmyn Wimbish explains Boston’s outstanding defense.

  • Wimbish: “That’s what makes Boston’s defense so elite. It has the ability to switch nearly everything, and the Celtics have so much length and athleticism that it’s not entirely surprising that Durant looks flustered on offense. … This is without a doubt the best any team has ever defended Durantand it’s going to force Brooklyn to adjust for the rest of the series to try and figure out a way to get him better opportunities.”

For more on Durant’s struggles, check out Brad Botkin’s column.

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE KENTUCKY WILDCATS

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Watch out, college basketball: oscar tshiebwe is coming back to Kentuckyand the 2021-22 National Player of the Year is looking to avenge a disappointing end to the season.

  • Tshiebwe is the first reigning National Player of the Year to return to college since Tyler Hansbrough in 2008(!). Hansbrough and North Carolina won the title the following season.
  • Tshiebwe’s 15.1 rebounds per game were the most in more than 40 yearsand he also added 17.4 points per game.
  • However, Kentucky lost to Saint Peter’s in the Round of 64.

Tshiebwe’s return pushes Kentucky up to No. 2 in our college basketball reporter Gary Parrish’s Top 25 And 1.

  • Parish: “The Wildcats’ ranking is based on CBS Sports National Player of the Year oscar tshiebwe returning to school alongside fellow starters Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks, the latter of whom has declared for the NBA Draft but is maintaining his college eligibility. For now, I’m projecting 5-star guard Shaedon Sharpe to enter and remain in the NBA Draft considering he’s a projected top-10 pick — but, let the record show, John Calipari‘s Wildcats could move to No. 1 if Sharpe ultimately decides to play next season at UK.”

Tshiebwe is returning to Kentcuky, but several other big names from around the country declared for the NBA Draft yesterday, including…

  • paolo banchero
  • Kofi Cockburn
  • Johnny Juzang

Here’s our NBA Draft underclassmen decision tracker.

honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

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THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS…

lastseason, Deebo Samuel emerged as one of the most dangerous weapons in all of the NFL. This season, he wants to bring his talents elsewhere. The 26-year-old star you have requested a trade from the 49ers after breaking off contract negotiations with the team.

According to reports, the 49ers very much want to pay Samuel, but Samuel is set on playing somewhere else. He has scrubbed the 49ers from his social media accounts of him.

Just how good is Samuel? Consider this, since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970…

  • There’s been 99 instances of a player having 1,400+ receiving yards in a season.
  • There’s been 631 instances of a player having 8+ rushing touchdowns in a season.
  • There’s been ONE instance of a player having both in the same season: Deebo Samuel in 2021.

So, yeah, he’s pretty darn good.

Now, where could Samuel end up? Our NFL expert Bryan DeArdo has five potential landing spotsincluding…

  • DeArdo:chiefs Samuel would replace Tyreek Hill ace patrick mahomes‘ top receiver. … The Chiefs, who currently have the 29th and 30th overall picks in the draft and four picks in the first two rounds, have plenty of trade capital… The Chiefs also play in the AFC, which is another reason why Kansas City would be the most likely destination should the 49ers deal Samuel.”

… AND ALSO NOT SUCH A GOOD MORNING FOR DEVIN BOOKER AND THE PHOENIX SUNS

Two games into what they hope will be a long playoff run, the Sun’s are dealing some tough news: Star guard Devin Booker is unlikely to play in Games 3 or 4 of Phoenix’s first-round series against the Pelicans due to a hamstring strain.

  • Booker suffered the injury in the third quarter of Game 2, which the Pelicans won 125-114.
  • Booker scored 31 points in the first half of the game but was scoreless in the second half before departing.
  • Booker has not been ruled out for the series.

The Suns are still a major favorite in the series. They went 5-2 during a December stretch that Booker missed due to a left hamstring injury. In the regular season, Phoenix had a net rating of +4.7 with Booker off the court, a number that would have ranked sixth in the NBA. Of course, it’s not nearly as good as the +9.5 net rating they posted when he was on the court, but it’s still really good.

Not so honorable mentions

Villanova head coach Jay Wright retires; Kyle Neptune to take over 🏀

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Another offseason, another shocking retirement among the men’s college basketball coaching ranks. Hall of Famer Jay Wright is retiring after 21 seasons with Villanova. Reports of Wright’s impending retirement started Wednesday evening, and he called a team meeting later in the night to make it official.

Wright’s resume is simply outstanding.

  • 642-282 career record at Villanova (21 seasons) and hofstra (seven seasons)
  • Villanova’s all-time winningest coach (520 wins)
  • Two NCAA championships (2016, 2018); one of 15 coaches with multiple championships
  • Four Final Four appearances (2009, 2016, 2018, 2022)
  • Eight Big East regular-season titles (outright and shared); five Big East Tournament titles

Why did Wright choose now to leave? Our college basketball insider Matt Norlander, who was one of the first reporters to break the story last night, has the details.

  • Norlander: “Fresh off his fourth Final Four appearance, Wright is deciding to walk away from the grind of college basketball. Privately, he has shared frustrations with some of the significant changes with the way the sport operates. He’s also gone through some understandable burnout with the grind of the job, one source said.”

Now at the helm for the Wildcats is Kyle Neptune, who was Wright’s assistant from 2013-21 before spending this past season as the head coach at Fordham. The Rams went 16-16, a marked improvement from their 2-12 record the year before.

Make sure to check out Gary Parrish’s column on Wright as well.

Embiid plays hero as 76ers take 3-0 series lead over Raptors 🏀

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Joel Embid picked a great time to make what he admitted was the best shot of his career. the 76ers‘ star center knocked down a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining in overtime, lifting Philadelphia to a 104-101 win over the Raptors. The 76ers now lead the series 3-0, and no team has ever blown a 3-0 series lead.

  • It was Embiid’s first career game-winner in the final second of a game.
  • Embiid finished with 33 points (28 after halftime) and 13 rebounds.
  • Tyrese Maxey and james harden both had 19 points.

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

We’re watching the NBA playoffs. Here’s how you can, too.

And also…

🏒 Maple Leafs at Lightning8 p.m. on ESPN

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