Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Phoenix continued to foul intentionally — seemingly to set up more scoring chances for Booker — while Thomas and the Celtics padded their scoring titles from the line.
Thomas had a big night of his own with 18 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to go along with seven assists. Al Horford had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, Crowder had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Boston and Gerald Green scored 15 points in 12 minutes off the bench for Boston.
Booker finished with seven rebounds and six assists to go with his 70 points, which included 24-of-26 from the foul line.
Well, that was something. So long Elgin Baylor! Devin Booker (with an assist from Earl Watson) broke a record that had been standing so long that it came from the era when the Lakers name made sense (see also: Jazz, Utah; Grizzlies, Memphis).
Yeah, Booker is, for now, the most anonymous (by far) of the six guys who have scored 70 or more in the NBA, but he’s only in his second year, just like Elgin, back in ’59, when he put up 64 points against Boston while playing for the Minneapolis team.
Page 2: Where Boston players didn’t like Watson running up Booker’s score…
Despite a double-digit deficit in the final minute, the Suns called two timeouts to advance the ball to halfcourt and fouled the Celtics twice to earn extra possessions. Booker scored 11 of his points over the final 1:48.
Thomas admitted some of the Celtics were unhappy by the commitment to lifting Booker’s stat line.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that,” Thomas said after his team’s 130-120 win. “To continue to call timeouts, continue to foul when we’re up 15. But it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him the most points possible. And hat off to him, though. He played a hell of a game.”
Boston’s players were visibly irked on the sidelines and during dead ball situations at the end of the game.
When asked about it, Suns coach Watson had a rather tart reply:
Earl Watson on Suns fouling down the stretch: "If you have a problem with it, do something about it."
— James Toscano (@Jimmy_Toscano) March 25, 2017
And you know, I get that from the ‘keep Booker from scoring 60+’ in the first place perspective, but on the other hand, if you, the coach, decide to use up your timeouts and call for intentional fouls, there’s not much the other team can do about that.
…but Booker’s got the right perspective…
Booker: "I heard Brad Stevens yell 1 time: ‘He has 47 points!’ And I was like, ‘Coach we’re losing, I’d rather be winning right now with 10"
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 25, 2017
Jaylen brown congratulated Booker. Booker: "I told him you're here in Boston. You're winning, so you should be more happy than me."
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 25, 2017
…and Jae’s busting chops.
Celts weren’t thrilled with way Suns got Booker to 70. Jae Crowder expressed frustration on Instagram (original comment appears deleted) pic.twitter.com/x8K3b0ryKV
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) March 25, 2017
Missing from that tweet: Booker’s response:
So this is where we’re at in 2017: The Celtics three main rivals are the Wizards, Raptors and …. Suns?
Page 3: Where the Celtics are inconsistent … and consistent
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he didn’t pay attention to all the Suns did so Booker could become the sixth player in NBA history with at least 70 points in a game.“You can ask (the players) that,” Stevens said. “Like, I don’t bother myself thinking about other teams, what they’re (doing). I have enough trouble coaching ours. You know, we don’t play with enough sustained level of play and that’s pretty consistent for us. And that’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes. We just don’t do it. We were good for six minutes, though, at the start (of the game).”
Their longest losing streak this year has been three games, and the schedule is light enough that it is unlikely they will face a longer one over the season’s final few weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his team has maintained its consistency by focusing on each game as a standalone event. Big wins aren’t celebrated for long and bad losses do not linger.
“And hey, this team has done really well over the past few years at responding to adversity,” Stevens said before his team’s 130-120 home win Friday over the Suns. “Like, there hasn’t been very many times where I’ve been concerned with a losing spiral.
“I think that’s something that takes a lot of grit and a lot of toughness. It’s hard to keep a positive mind-set. But I think it helps if you just focus on what your job is, do it well, and trust that everybody will do theirs as well, too.”
The Celtics are undeniably improving; last year they had some truly stinky stretches around December and January. This year? Despite having far more extensive injuries, they have been much more consistent on a game to game basis. In games? That’s another story.
But this is also still a very young team. The minutes weighted average age of the team last year was 25 and 3 months. This year it’s only 25 and 10 months.
They’re still on that upward climb, figuring out what it takes to squash late game runs in the NBA.
Finally: Brad wasn’t going to get ejected to watch the Butler game
According to MassLive, at least.
Good thing you didn’t, coach.
Tar Heels take care of business!
North Carolina easily handles Butler, 92-80 to advance to the #Elite8 pic.twitter.com/10nffqMqjP
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 25, 2017
The rest of the links
MassLive: Devin Booker scores 70 points, but Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics dispatch Phoenix Suns, 130-120 | Devin Booker scores 70 points: Boston Celtics’ Jae Crowder swaps trash talk with Phoenix Suns youngster on Instragram
CSNNE: Thomas: ‘We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery’ | Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game | Booker on 70 points: ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates’ | Horford on Booker’s 70-point game: ‘It’s amazing what he did’
Boston Herald: Celtics hotter than Suns, survive Devin Booker’s 70 points for victory | Bulpett: 20-year-old’s 70-point effort one for the record Booker, but some Celtics take offense to Suns coach’s tactics
Boston Globe: Phoenix’s Devin Booker drops 70 on Boston in loss
NESN: Celtics Wrap: C’s Top Suns 130-120 Despite Devin Booker’s 70-Point Night