The Boston Celtics are back.
OK, it was only one game, but a resounding win over the defending champion Warriors is something that can turn a team around.
Gordon Hayward scored 30 points on 12-for-16 shooting as the Celtics never trailed on their way to a convincing 128-95 win over the Warriors at Oracle Arena.
“We put a lot of emphasis on being connected, being together,” Kyrie Irving told TNT’s Caron Butler afterward. “When we’re all clicking like that, we’re hard to beat.”
Irving had 19 points and 11 assists to help Boston bounce back from Sunday’s 115-104 home loss to the Rockets and put to rest – at least for one night – talk of the Celtics’ recent struggles. With his team looking to come together for the stretch run, a win in Oakland could do wonders for their title hopes, which had looked bleak after the Celtics closed February on a four-game losing streak.
It was the third 30-point game of the season for Hayward, who has struggled all season to find his groove since suffering a gruesome leg injury in the first game of the 2017-18 season.
For the Warriors, the 33-point loss was the biggest of the season and worst blowout at home during coach Steve Kerr’s five-year tenure.
Rockets solve Toronto dilemma
The Rockets aren’t used to winning in Toronto.
Houston had lost nine of its last 11 visits north of the border and were facing a stiff challenge against the East elites, who were 27-6 at home entering Tuesday’s matchup.
Midway through the second quarter, all appeared to be going to plan, with Houston building a 22-point lead. But nothing comes easy in Toronto, and the Raptors rallied to regain the lead midway through the third quarter.
Then James Harden woke up.
Harden scored 19 of his 35 points – including the team’s final 16 points – in the fourth quarter to lead the Rockets to a 107-95 victory and extend their winning streak to six straight.
Harden led the Rockets in scoring for the 42nd straight game, the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. He also kept another streak alive, topping 28 points for his 39th straight game. That streak is the second-longest in NBA history, with Wilt Chamberlain (71 games) holding the record.
Conley comes alive
Harden wasn’t the only star taking over in the fourth quarter Tuesday. In Memphis, Mike Conley scored a career-high 40 points, including 19 in the final period to rally the Grizzlies to a 120-111 win over the Trail Blazers.
After going scoreless in the first quarter and tweaking an ankle, Conley returned and went 6-for-7 from the field in the fourth quarter, igniting the crowd with a performance for the ages. This four-point play, which came with 1:38 left, put a ribbon on the Grizzlies’ upset victory.
“The crowd was really into it, the energy in the building was there,” Conley said. “It was just a fun environment. My teammates had fun, I had fun.”
Memphis is still 26-40 and ahead of only Phoenix in the Western Conference standings, but for one night at least, Conley and the Grizzlies gave the Memphis faithful something to cheer about.
“It’s fun for him, a guy we battle for,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We understand how classy he is, the type of person he is. Any success that he has, you enjoy it for him. He deserves it all. All the good things that happen to him, he deserves it because of the way he carries himself every day, the way he works every single day. There’s so much respect and appreciation for him as a human being and as a basketball player.”
Dish of the Night
Marcus Smart had one of the best dimes of the night, finding a cutting Gordon Hayward with the behind-the-back wraparound feed.
Towns to the rescue
The Wolves entered Tuesday night on a three-game losing streak and seeing their playoff hopes dwindling. It didn’t help they were facing the Thunder, who welcomed the return of Paul George, who had missed three games with a right shoulder injury.
But Karl-Anthony Towns put his team on his shoulders, scoring 41 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 131-120 win over Oklahoma City.
This dunk in the third quarter put the Thunder on notice:
But this dunk capped off his second 40-point game of the year and put an exclamation point on the Wolves’ win:
Stat(s) of the Night
Karl-Anthony Towns has scored 182 points over his last five games, the best five-game stretch in team history. Towns also moved into fifth place on Minnesota's career scoring list, passing Wally Szczerbiak (6,777 points).
A thing of beauty
There’s something mesmerizing about a great Phantom Cam clip, and no better example than two superstars going face to face:
If at first you don’t succeed…
Try, try again …
OK, third time’s the charm:
Zach LaVine might have got the last laugh there, but Myles Turner got the win, leading the Pacers to a 105-96 win with a career-high seven blocks to go along with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
If the playoffs started today …
After tonight’s action, here’s how the matchups would break down: