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Boston Celtics downplay locker room frustrations following loss to Miami Heat

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After the Boston Celtics blew a second straight second-half lead and lost 106-101 to the Miami Heat on Thursday night, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was yelling at his teammates in the locker room before leaving the room swearing, according to ESPN’s Malika Andrews.

Smart left the locker room yelling, “Y’all on some bulls—,” according to Andrews, and there were several loud clanks — like someone throwing things — coming from inside it, while several players, beyond just Smart, were yelling.

While Smart left without speaking to reporters after being requested following Game 2 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, those who did speak — Celtics coach Brad Stevens, guards Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum — all tried to downplay the situation.

“It was nothing,” Walker said. “It was nothing.”

“Guys were emotional after a hard game,” Stevens said. “Hard loss.”

“It really just, a lot of emotions just flying around,” Brown said. “Obviously we feel like we could have won, we should have won, but we didn’t. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That’s it.”

“I don’t know who said that,” Tatum said. “I mean, we’re 0-2. I mean, we’re frustrated, but this is team sports.

“We’re not supposed to be happy we’re down 0-2, but nothing out of the ordinary, just talking about the game. It’s cool. Got to get ready for the next one.”

In order to get ready for the next one, the Celtics will have to figure out what happened to them in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and the third quarter of Game 2 — both of which saw Boston cough up double-digit leads (14 points in Game 1, and 15 in Game 2). Boston was outscored 37-17 in the third quarter Thursday night, disintegrating in a hail of missed shots and ugly turnovers.

“Man, they outplayed us,” Walker said. “They outplayed us. It’s really unacceptable on our behalf. It was just a really bad quarter for us.

“We didn’t continue to do the things that we did to get us up and get us that lead. I think we got kind of comfortable and those guys, they took great advantage of it. They played hard. They played really hard. They played a lot harder than us. They wanted it.”

But even after that, the Celtics managed to stabilize themselves once again. And after going on a 15-2 run, Boston took a 94-89 lead with 4:25 remaining when Walker buried a 3-pointer, and it appeared the Celtics might be able to survive their disastrous third quarter.

Only just when it seemed the Celtics had things squared away, they quickly fell apart again. Miami closed the game with a 17-7 run, including nine straight to go from trailing by two to leading by seven with just over a minute to go.

And while the Celtics managed to get back within shouting distance thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Brown, his potential game-tying triple from the corner in front of Miami’s bench with 15.1 seconds remaining was long, and Jimmy Butler hit a pair of free throws to ice the game for the Heat.

“We just got to be sound, execute and stay together,” Brown said. “That’s it. We feel confident about our abilities, we feel confident about our game plan.

“We just haven’t executed it to the extent that we know we can. Two games, we came up short towards the end of the game, and we’re looking forward to Game 3. We’ve gotta find a way to win.”

The Celtics struggled mightily against Miami’s zone defense in the second half, going 5-for-15 from the field and committing five turnovers. Boston had similar issues throughout its seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Toronto Raptors, one it only barely managed to survive after kicking away a couple of games it arguably should have won.

Now, after doing so in the first two games of this series, the Celtics find themselves two games away from elimination against a Miami team that is 10-1 in the playoffs. To add insult to injury, Butler himself said after the game that the Heat don’t have as much talent as this Boston team — an advantage that should only edge further in Boston’s favor if forward Gordon Hayward, who was upgraded to doubtful before missing Game 2, is able to return either in Game 3 on Saturday night or Game 4 on Wednesday.

“That’s what [defense is] about, winning championships,” Butler said.

“That’s how we’re going to win. We have to make it a tougher game. We have to get it out of the mud, as we say, because on a talent level, I think Boston has an edge.”

So far, whether it’s being out-toughed or out-executed, Boston hasn’t been able to play at a sustained level for an entire game. And, because of that, the Celtics find themselves in a two-loss hole in this series.

“We just haven’t played a full 48 minutes of being locked in and executing the game plan,” Brown said. “I feel like maybe about 75 percent, we played really well. It’s always one quarter or one sequence of events where we have lapses, and against this team, we can’t have those.

“If we take that away, we’ll win.”

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Toronto Raptors say they’ll cooperate with NBA investigation of alleged assault by Terence Davis

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TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors say they will cooperate fully with the NBA’s investigation of guard Terence Davis following his arrest in New York on charges including assault.

The team made its first public comment on the case in a statement Friday.

Davis faces several charges after police said he hit his girlfriend in the face during an argument at a Manhattan high-rise on Tuesday.

According to a criminal complaint, the woman’s son was standing next to her when Davis hit her, causing the child to fall.

“Incidents of this kind are addressed and managed by the league through the joint NBA-NBPA policy on domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse,” the Raptors said.

“The Toronto Raptors take these issues very seriously, and we will fully cooperate and support the League in its investigation of this matter as we work to determine the appropriate next steps for our team.”

Davis’ attorney, Greg Esposito, has said his client denies the charges. Davis is free on his own recognizance and his next court date is set for Dec. 11.

Davis, a 23-year-old guard, played college basketball at Mississippi before joining the Raptors as an undrafted free agent before the start of the 2019-20 season. He averaged 7.5 points per game and was named to the league’s All-Rookie Second Team.

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Michael Jordan’s race team unveils Bubba Wallace’s new ride

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On Friday morning, the 23XI Racing team unveiled the long-anticipated news of its manufacturer and technical partner, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.

But what stole the show was when driver Bubba Wallace and team co-owner Denny Hamlin unveiled their race car, bearing the number and colors made famous by Hamlin’s ownership partner, Michael Jordan.

The Chicago Bulls-esque red, white and black Toyota Camry featured Jordan’s No. 23 on the doors and the 23XI Racing team logo on the hood and quarter panels, hopefully to be replaced by sponsorship before the team makes its NASCAR Cup Series debut in less than four months at 2021 Daytona Speedweeks.

Lost in the excitement of seeing Michael Jordan’s car with Michael Jordan’s number was the real story, a technical alliance that gives MJ’s team — and its driver — a chance to compete.

Joe Gibbs Racing is the flagship organization of Toyota Racing Development and the team Hamlin has driven for throughout his 16-plus-year Cup Series career. The TRD relationship includes an agreement with JGR that allows 23XI Racing to purchase equipment and share technical information.

“My main goal for 23XI Racing is to be competitive for a championship as soon as possible,” Jordan said in a statement. “Our partnership with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing gives us the equipment, resources and expertise to do it.”

“There’s no doubt that Bubba has outperformed the equipment he’s had, week in and week out,” Hamlin said on “CBS This Morning,” sitting alongside his driver — with both sporting Air Jordan sneakers — as he spoke of Wallace’s four seasons in the Chevys of Richard Petty Motorsports.

Then, referring to Wallace’s 2013-14 seasons in the Truck series driving for Kyle Busch, Hamlin added, “This is a great opportunity for him to return to the Toyota family, a family he was with early in his career, and it’s an exciting partnership for everyone.”

Added Wallace: “I’m still processing it every day. … I’ve just got to make sure I do my part and deliver each and every time out next year.”



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Sources — Mike D’Antoni finalizing deal to join Steve Nash’s staff with Brooklyn Nets

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Mike D’Antoni and is finalizing a deal to become an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets, reuniting him with his former MVP point guard, Nets coach Steve Nash, sources told ESPN.

The Nets are hiring D’Antoni and well-regarded assistant Ime Udoka, who spent seven of the past eight seasons on Gregg Popovich’s staff with the San Antonio Spurs, sources said.

Nash has constructed a strong coaching staff for his first season as a head coach, including associate head coach Jacque Vaughn. The Nets are expected to be among the league’s championship contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn debut of Kevin Durant.

Udoka spent seven years as an assistant under Popovich with the Spurs, and the 2019-20 season as the top assistant with the Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s been a candidate for several head coaching jobs in recent years.

For D’Antoni and Nash, this is the third time they’ll be together, including a memorable 2004-08 run with the Phoenix Suns that saw the birth of the Seven Seconds or Less Offense and the emergence of Nash as a Hall of Fame point guard in the system.

D’Antoni coached Nash on the Lakers (2012-2014) for a far less successful stretch after Nash’s body had been eroded by injury.

D’Antoni is one of the most successful and innovative coaches of this generation. He spent the past four years with the Houston Rockets before choosing to walk away without a contract extension at the end of the 2019-20 season.

D’Antoni was 217-102 in his four seasons as Rockets coach, advancing once to the Western Conference finals and three times to the conference semifinals. D’Antoni, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, led the Rockets to the highest winning percentage in the Western Conference over the past four years (.682), trailing only the Toronto Raptors (.695) in the entire league.

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