The 2019-20 season saw the emergence of Jayson Tatum as a genuine star.

Tatum – the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft – turned potential into performance as he capped a memorable campaign with All-Star honours for the first time in his career.

An elite scorer, Tatum was at the forefront of everything good about the Celtics before and after the coronavirus pandemic.

But, the Celtics still lost in the Conference finals for the third time in four years – beaten 4-2 by the Miami Heat at Walt Disney World Resort – after finishing third in the east with a 48-24 record.

The Celtics are yet to reach the NBA Finals since 2009-10, while the historic franchise have not got their hands on the Larry O'Brien trophy since the Doc Rivers era in 2007-08.

As the Celtics reflect after watching the Los Angeles Lakers equal their record for most championships (17), we review the team's 2019-20 campaign using Stats Perform data.

 

Boston's dynamic trio

Kemba Walker's arrival in Boston helped create a formidable trio alongside Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

After spending his entire NBA career at the Charlotte Hornets, four-time All-Star Walker opted for a new challenge via free agency by committing to a four-year, $141million contract with the Celtics.

As a result, Terry Rozier left the Celtics for the Hornets in a sign-and-trade last year.

Since investing in Walker, the Celtics have put together a stellar trio, which became just the second group of three team-mates in NBA history to average 20-plus points and 2-plus three-pointers made per game apiece in a season (minimum 50 games played).

Walker averaged 20.4 points and 3.2 three-pointers made per game during the regular season, to go with Tatum (23.4ppg and 2.9 3pm) and Brown (20.3ppg and 2.3 3pm).

The only other trio to do so were the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in 2017-18.

 

Tatum joins elite list

It was a coming of age for Tatum, much to the delight of the Celtics and all those connected with the team.

Tatum cemented himself as one of the best players in the league by averaging 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game – up on his 2018-19 averages of 15.7ppg, 6.0rpg and 2.1 apg.

The 22-year-old also enjoyed a fine playoff campaign, becoming only the third player in NBA history to average 25.0-plus points, 10.0-plus rebounds and 5.0-plus assists per game in a single postseason with 15 or more games played.

Lakers superstar LeBron James (in 2014-15 and 2019-20) and Boston's Larry Bird (in 1983-84 and 1986-87) are the only other players to reach the feat.

 

Lack of depth

For all of Boston's good work and impressive starting five, their lack of depth was exposed in the playoffs.

The Celtics relied on their starters more than any other team in the postseason at 83.3 per cent with 1,549 of their 1,859 points scored by the starting five, ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (83.1 per cent), Indiana Pacers (82.6 per cent), Houston Rockets (77.3 per cent) and Portland Trail Blazers (76.5 per cent).

As for the portion of minutes played by starters in the postseason, the Celtics (75.0 per cent) again topped the list ahead of the Pacers (72.2 per cent), 76ers (72.0 per cent), Utah Jazz (71.8 per cent) and Rockets (70.9 per cent).

The Celtics had fewer than 25 bench points in each of their last 15 playoff games this year, one of the longest streaks in a single postseason in the past 35 years, only behind the Detroit Pistons (19 in 2005) and Pacers (17 in 2013).

The problem of a thin bench was likely exacerbated by the number of close games the Celtics played in, since teams usually need their best players on the floor for longer periods of time in tight encounters.

Boston had eight playoff games decided by five points or less, tied for second most in a single postseason in franchise history.

Also, this was the second consecutive year the Celtics had some issues with turnovers in the playoffs. After going plus-1.4 for turnovers in the regular season, Boston were then minus-1.4 in the postseason.

The Miami Heat's fairytale season continues after setting up an NBA Finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers at the expense of the Boston Celtics.

Bam Adebayo led the way as the Heat topped the Celtics 125-113 to seal a 4-2 series victory in the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.

The Heat had not reached the Finals since losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 showpiece, while LeBron James was still in Miami.

Miami were not expected to challenge for the championship after missing the playoffs last season, having finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, but Jimmy Butler's arrival has helped transform the Heat.

Butler put up 22 points, but it was Adebayo who ignited the Heat with a season-high 32 points and 14 rebounds in Game 6 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Tyler Herro added 19 points off the bench, while veteran Andre Iguodala dazzled – going five for five from the field and four for four from three-point range for 15 points as the Heat advanced to the Finals for the sixth time.

The Celtics bowed out, despite Jaylen Brown's 26 points and Jayson Tatum's double-double of 24 points and career-high 11 assists.

Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart also had 20 points apiece for Boston.

 

Heat face Lakers

The NBA Finals will get underway on Wednesday. The top-seeded Lakers will be looking to claim their first championship since 2010.

The Boston Celtics stayed alive in the NBA playoffs with a 121-108 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Jayson Tatum (31 points and 10 rebounds) lifted the Celtics at the Walt Disney World Resort on Friday as they reduced Miami's series lead to 3-2.

The win came after Miami made a better start, at one stage leading by as many as 12 points.

Tatum scored 17 third-quarter points as the Celtics rallied on their way to a victory that kept them alive in the playoffs.

Jaylen Brown (28 points) also starred, while Kemba Walker (15 points) and Daniel Theis (15 points and 13 rebounds) were also key contributors.

Duncan Robinson (20 points) had put Miami in position in the first half before the Celtics' fightback.

Jimmy Butler finished with 17 points, while Goran Dragic had 23 before fouling out.

Coming off his Game 4 heroics, rookie Tyler Herro managed just 14 points.

Game 6 of the series is on Sunday.

 

Nuggets face Lakers

Leading the Western Conference finals 3-1, the Los Angeles Lakers are a win away from a first NBA Finals appearance since 2010 ahead of facing the Denver Nuggets again on Saturday.

Tyler Herro led the Miami Heat to a 112-109 win over the Boston Celtics and a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Herro, the 13th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, stole the show in Game 4 of the playoff contest at Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old had 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, to go with six rebounds and three assists, in an impressive performance.

Herro's career-high 37 points put Miami within a win of a first NBA Finals appearance since 2014.

As Herro led the way, Jimmy Butler (24 points and nine rebounds), Bam Adebayo (20 points and 12 rebounds) and Goran Dragic (22 points) all chipped in for Miami.

Herro's 37 points were the most by a rookie in the Conference finals or later since Magic Johnson's 42 in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, as per STATS.

In a worry for Miami, All-Star Adebayo appeared to suffer a wrist injury late in the game.

The Heat held a half-time lead for the first time in the series, although they were pulled back by Boston.

Scoreless in the first half, Celtics star Jayson Tatum erupted for 16 third-quarter points, finishing with 28 for the game.

Kemba Walker had 20 points and Jaylen Brown contributed 21, but the Celtics are staring at an Eastern Conference finals defeat.

 

Lakers face Nuggets

After the Denver Nuggets cut the Los Angeles Lakers' Western Conference finals lead to 2-1, the teams meet again on Thursday.

The Boston Celtics responded in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat with a 117-106 win in Game 3 on Saturday.

Trailing 2-0 after giving up big leads in the opening two games, the Celtics bounced back at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum led the way with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, plus eight assists, as Boston reduced Miami's series lead to 2-1.

Jaylen Brown finished with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, while Kemba Walker contributed 21 points and Marcus Smart poured in 20.

In another boost for Boston, Gordon Hayward made his return from an ankle injury in his first appearance since August 17.

He contributed six points in more than 30 minutes off the bench.

Bam Adebayo again starred for Miami with 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Tyler Herro impressed off the bench with 22 points.

But Miami never led in Game 3 and were unable to produce another comeback after trailing by 13 points at half-time.

Boston pushed out to a 20-point lead during the fourth quarter before Miami rallied, but the Heat fell short.

 

Nuggets face Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers will look to go 2-0 up in the Western Conference finals when they take on the Denver Nuggets again on Sunday.

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse did not feel "especially satisfied" despite the defending NBA champions beating the Boston Celtic 100-93 to level their series at 2-2.

Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry starred for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-final playoff, leading them to a crucial Game 4 win on Saturday.

Siakam posted 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Lowry claimed a double-double of his own with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

The Raptors had suffered back-to-back losses at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in the first two matches of the series, but following their buzzer-beating win in Game 3, they are back on level terms.

But Nurse was not getting carried away and he wants more from the Raptors as they look to take charge of the series.

"We don't think we're defending a title," said Nurse. "We're just trying to get this team to do what they can do at as high a level as they can.

"And that, to me, is the job. I don't feel especially satisfied about winning this game tonight or how we played.

"I think that's what we're supposed to do and this is what we're working for – to get these guys to play as hard as they can and play together to get the result, and just go back to work and try to do it a little better again tomorrow."

While the Raptors were grateful to tie the series, there was more than a hint of rueful thinking from the Celtics, particularly Kemba Walker.

The four-time NBA All-Star finished with 15 points and eight assists, but he shot just nine times and successfully converted one of six from three-point range as the Celtics routinely faltered from beyond the arc.

"I got to be more aggressive, I wasn't aggressive enough," he reflected. "That's unacceptable on my behalf, to be honest. There's no way I can just be taking nine shots. That's unacceptable.

"Honestly, man, I thought we had great looks. I thought we had great looks throughout the whole game.

"We just really missed. We missed a lot of open ones that we know we can make. Like I said, we've got to make them. We have to make shots. When guys get shots, when guys are open, we've got to knock those shots down.

"We'll do better. We'll do better."

LeBron James has no intention of playing if NBA games are staged behind closed doors due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that the league had sent memos to teams advising them to prepare for the possibility of games taking place without fans.

That measure has already been implemented in Italy, where a government decree this week stated that all sporting events are to be played behind closed doors until April 3.

The outbreak originated in China but has now spread across most of the world and there have been over 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, where 17 people have died.

It has played havoc with the sporting calendar in many countries and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain saw their trip to Strasbourg postponed this weekend, yet one of the NBA's biggest names is not interested in the possibility of playing in empty arenas.

"We play games without the fans? Nah, it's impossible," the Los Angeles Lakers star told reporters.

"I ain't playing. If I ain't got the fans in the crowd, that's who I play for. I play for my team-mates, the fans, that's what it's all about.

"If I show up to an arena and there ain't no fans in there, I ain't playing. They can do what they want to do.

"I ain't ever played the game without no fans, ever, since I started playing ball.

"I don't give a damn, this isn't Europe. They can do what they want to do."

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker also hopes it does not come to that for the NBA.

"That would be terrible," he said, as quoted by ESPN.

"That would be boring. They might as well cancel the whole game before that. That would suck.

"But at the end of the day, it is getting serious. I don't know. It would be very weird, though, for sure."

However, James' Lakers team-mate Alex Caruso admitted he would understand if preventative measures were put in place.

"It's a nice privilege to be able to play basketball, but I would like to be able to live many, many years past this," Caruso said.

"If it is a legit thing that needs to be done, do whatever you have to do. People watch on TV way more anyway."

Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 in the revamped NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday.

Unlike previous years, every quarter counted in the name of charity at the United Center, where the new format was unveiled for the showpiece event.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

The cumulative score of the first three quarters was 133-124 in favour of Team Giannis. The final target score was set by taking the leading team's cumulative score and adding 24 – the 24 representing Kobe Bryant's jersey number.

LeBron James and his team earned bragging rights in the 69th edition of the All-Star Game – hometown hero and Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis (20 points) making one of two free throws to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo's side.

While Davis scored the winning point, Kawhi Leonard (30 points) received the All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award, renamed in honour of the five-time NBA champion.

Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month, was honoured prior to tip-off.

Magic Johnson led an eight-second moment of silence for Lakers legend Bryant and former commissioner David Stern as both All-Star teams came together to hold hands, before delivering a heartfelt speech.

Team LeBron made a fast start, outscoring Team Giannis 53-41 in the first period before the latter won the second period 51-30.

Neither team could be split in the third, though Team Giannis went into the fourth quarter leading Team LeBron – who rallied to win for the third successive year.

James and Chris Paul finished with 23 points each, while Ben Simmons (17) and James Harden (11) were also in double-digits for Team LeBron.

Team Giannis were led by Antetokounmpo (25 points, 11 rebounds), Joel Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds), Kemba Walker (23 points) and Rudy Gobert (21 points, 11 rebounds).

Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard headline Team LeBron, while Team Giannis includes Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam for the NBA All-Star Game.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo finalised their teams for the showcase event, which will take place at the United Center in Chicago on February 16.

James used the number one pick to draft Los Angeles Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis to Team LeBron, while reigning MVP Antetokounmpo countered by selecting Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Team LeBron's starting five consists of James, Davis, Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard, Dallas Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic and Houston Rockets star James Harden.

Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Toronto Raptors star Siakam, Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker and the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young are the starters for Team Giannis.

Team LeBron reigned supreme last year – James' squad winning 178-164 over Team Giannis in Charlotte.

 

Team LeBron

Starters: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Reserves: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)

Team Giannis

Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
Reserves: Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will return as NBA All-Star team captains after leading the vote for February's showpiece contest in Chicago.

Three newcomers – Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Pascal Siakam – will also take the floor for the 69th edition of the annual exhibition game.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James captained Team LeBron to victory over Team Giannis in 2019 and the pair will renew their rivalry at United Center on February 16.

James, an All-Star for the 16th year of his illustrious career, will have the chance to draft Dallas Mavericks sensation Doncic onto his team for the first time, the MVP contender a walk-up selection amid a brilliant sophomore season in the NBA.

All-Star regulars James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard round out the Western Conference starter pool.

Atlanta Hawks guard Young topped the count among Eastern Conference backcourt options to secure a start alongside the Boston Celtics' Kemba Walker.

The pair gained selection ahead of four-time All Star Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons, who scored poorly in the fan portion of the vote.

Siakam's selection comes after averaging a career-best 23.5 points per game for the Toronto Raptors this season, while injury troubles failed to prevent Joel Embiid from sealing a frontcourt berth.

Fan ballots were weighted at 50 per cent, while current players and the media contributed 25 per cent of the starter vote.

Captains James and Antetokounmpo will select their teams from the eight other starters, while NBA head coaches will be responsible for choosing the 14 reserves that will be announced on January 30.

 

Eastern Conference starters:

Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Western Conference starters:

James Harden (Houston Rockets), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

LeBron James offered no excuses for the Los Angeles Lakers' display in their heavy defeat to the Boston Celtics, labelling it a "good, old-fashioned butt whooping."

The Lakers went down 139-107 to the Celtics on Monday - only the seventh time in the history of the regular-season rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics in which the margin of victory has been 30 points or more.

It was also the largest win by one team over the other since the Lakers beat the Celtics by 35 points in March 1969 and James knows his side were not up to scratch.

"I mean, listen, it was just a good, old-fashioned butt whooping," James said, in quotes reported by ESPN.

"That's all. They beat us in all facets of the game: outside, interior, points off turnovers, offensive rebounds. So, it's the main ingredients in the loss.

"We haven't moved on yet. [Tuesday], we will. Still simmering right now, which it should. But it's a long NBA season. You don't want to have games like this, but if you do, you try to learn from the mistakes. Or you do learn from the mistakes, and you move on."

Monday's big win for the Celtics was also a huge moment for Kemba Walker, who finally ended his career-long losing streak against James - a run which had lasted 28 games.

Walker, who scored 20 points in the win, kept his cool when asked about snapping the unwanted streak.

"I'm happy I got one at least, before he goes," Walker told reporters. "Who knows how long he can play, because he's just incredible. But you know, it's only one. One and 28.

I know everybody is making a big deal of the record. I have the utmost respect for LeBron and he's one of the greatest players of all time. If there was any guy I couldn't beat, it'd be him.

"He's such a great player, done so much in this league, has been so far. It just feels good to win. I'm more excited about the way we played, the way we came out, especially with the struggles we've had in the last couple of weeks, that's what I'm more excited about."

Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker is listed as "probable" for Wednesday's NBA clash with the Brooklyn Nets.

Celtics guard Walker missed Monday's 103-102 win over the Sacramento Kings due to a neck sprain.

Walker was hospitalised following a scary collision against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Friday.

The three-time All-Star – with his head down – bumped into team-mate Semi Ojeleye during the second quarter of Boston's 96-92 loss.

Walker had been averaging 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game heading into the clash against the Nuggets.

Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker is "doubtful" for Monday's NBA game against the Sacramento Kings due to a neck sprain.

Celtics guard Walker was hospitalised following a scary collision against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Friday.

The three-time All-Star – with his head down – bumped into team-mate Semi Ojeleye during the second quarter of Boston's 96-92 loss.

After the Celtics provided an update on Walker earlier on Sunday, head coach Brad Stevens told reporters: "Obviously they went through a series of things with the Denver doctors, and a series of things when he got back yesterday with our doctors.

"So he is continuing to be monitored in case any of that stuff shows up.

"But he's been good, and he feels good. It's kind of a minor miracle based on what we saw the other day. But the strain is real, and he's got some soreness in his back and neck. That's it."

Walker, who did not practice on Sunday, had been averaging 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game heading into the clash against the Nuggets.

"It's always scary. And that's the reason he's doubtful [for Monday], to be honest," Stevens added. "I think he could probably play with the strain part, but we want to make sure [that] with the way he hit, and certainly because of the sensitivity to head injuries."

Kemba Walker has been discharged from hospital and will be assessed again on Saturday after suffering "concussion-like symptoms" in Boston Celtics' defeat to the Denver Nuggets.

The three-time All-Star point guard was wheeled off on a stretcher at the Pepsi Center following a collision with his team-mate Semi Ojeleye on Friday.

Walker was treated for more than eight minutes on court after ploughing into Ojeleye's midriff head first.

The 29-year-old underwent tests at Denver Hospital, but was allowed to rejoin his team-mates before they returned to Boston.

Walker will face further checks ahead of an NBA meeting with the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden on Monday.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after his side's 96-92 loss: "It's tough on both teams to see that.

"And it was good to get at least early reports of good news from our standpoint.

"But the head injury thing is super scary, and - so you're always thinking about it, and you still have to play the last 27 minutes, which is not a fun part of it, but I thought our guys and Denver competed really hard the rest of the game."

Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker was taken to hospital with "concussion-like symptoms" after a scary collision against the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

With his head down, Walker bumped into team-mate Semi Ojeleye during the second quarter at the Pepsi Center.

Amid fears the three-time All-Star had suffered a neck injury, the Celtics announced Walker was taken to hospital.

"Kemba Walker has been diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms. He is being transported to the hospital for further evaluation," the NBA team wrote on Twitter.

"Further updates will be provided as appropriate."

Walker had contributed three assists and a rebound in 12 minutes before his injury.

The 29-year-old had been averaging 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game heading into the clash against the Nuggets.

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