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The Boston Celtics played at New Orleans Sunday within hours of Kobe Bryant’s death. Putting the focus solely on basketball while trying to process the passing of Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash, was an understandable challenge.
The Celtics return to the routine of the regular season Tuesday night and continue their three-game road trip with a visit to the Miami Heat. The game coincides with the pre-Super Bowl hype that will envelop South Florida until kickoff Sunday. The Celtics, meanwhile, will try to push aside the distractions after a 123-108 loss to Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.
“Yeah, it was hard to play. It was tough,” Jaylen Brown told the Boston Herald after the loss.
Kemba Walker scored 35 points in the loss Sunday. His thoughts were elsewhere.
“I’m pretty sure Kobe would have wanted us to play. That’s the kind of fierce competitor he was,” he told The Herald.
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The Celtics will face a Heat team playing home games on back-to-back nights. The Heat crushed the visiting Magic 113-92 Monday night.
NBA fans and bettors can follow the action via the NBACast, co-hosted by NBA experts Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux, starting at 8 p.m. The #NBACast offers live, in-game analysis, up-to-the second breakout stats and — as always — will take your questions. The NBACast is sponsored by Bookies.com.
The game will also air on TNT. It was scheduled to be part of a doubleheader but the later game between the Clippers and Lakers was postponed in light of Bryant’s death.
Bam Adebayo delivered his third triple-double (20-10-10) of the season in the Miami victory on Monday.
He, too, honored Bryant after the game.
"It was about honoring Kobe," Adebayo told the Associated Press. "I felt like I had the `Mamba Mentality' tonight. ... I never got to meet him but he's here in spirit."
Entering play Tuesday, the Heat (32-14) hold a one-game edge over Boston (30-15) in the loss-column and are tied with Toronto for the No. 2 seed in the East. Milwaukee leads everyone with a 40-6 record, tops in the NBA.
Boston's play against the Pelicans continued its season-long trend of struggling down low and the Celtics were outrebounded 54-37 Sunday. Things were far worse on the offensive glass, where Boston was decimated 18-7. To further accent Boston’s troubles, Jayson Tatum (groin) and Enes Kanter (hip) did not play Sunday. Tatum is doubtful Tuesday and Kanter will miss the game in Miami.
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Looking beyond Tuesday night, the Celtics are at +170 to win the Atlantic Division at Unibet, while daring bettors can get +2000 odds on the Celtics to win the 2020 NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the Heat are +3000 to win the championship.
Jimmy Butler (ankle) and Goran Dragic (calf) returned to action on Monday after missing Miami’s loss at home to the Clippers on Friday night. Meanwhile, Kendrick Nunn (Achilles) missed his second straight game Monday.
The Celtics and Heat first met this season in Boston on Dec. 4. The Celtics chilled the Heat 112-93 at TD Garden, thanks in large part to 31 points from Jaylen Brown.