Monday's NBA: Celtics even series 2-2 against Bucks; Suns’ Williams voted top coach

Josh Dubow
Associated Press

Milwaukee — Al Horford and Jayson Tatum scored 30 points apiece and led the Boston Celtics’ fourth-quarter comeback in a 116-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night that tied their Eastern Conference semifinal at two games apiece.

The two teams have alternated victories in this best-of-seven series, which continues Wednesday with Game 5 in Boston.

Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo and Celtics' Jaylen Brown battle during the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday in Milwaukee.

Horford scored 16 points and Tatum 12 in the fourth quarter alone to help the Celtics outscore the defending NBA champion Bucks 43-28 in the final period. Horford’s 30 points were a career playoff high for the 35-year-old veteran.

Tatum scored eight points and Horford had six during a 14-2 run that put the Celtics ahead for good and gave them a 106-96 advantage with 3:33 left. The Bucks wouldn’t cut the margin below six the rest of the way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists for the Bucks.

Tatum had 13 rebounds and five assists while bouncing back from a poor Game 3, when he had 10 points and shot 4 for 19. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each added 18 points for the Celtics.

More games

(At) Golden State 101, Memphis 98: SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry converted eight free throws over the final 45.7 seconds on the way to 32 points, leading the Golden State Warriors’ fourth-quarter comeback for a 101-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night and a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

Curry also dished out eight assists and grabbed five rebounds as Golden State rallied to win without coach Steve Kerr after he tested positive for COVID-19 less than two hours before tipoff.

Curry took charge just like he has so many times on the playoff stage and now his Warriors are one win from a trip to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2019. He tied it at 90 on a fall-away baseline jumper with 3:25 to go and his two free throws with 45.7 seconds to go gave the Warriors a 94-93 lead, their first of the night.

Tyus Jones had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists as Memphis missed injured All-Star Ja Morant. Dillon Brooks returned from a one-game suspension and struggled mightily, missing a 3-point try with 53 seconds left and finishing 5 for 19 with 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

It remained unclear whether Morant would be back for Game 5 on Wednesday in Memphis.

Williams named top coach

Monty Williams now has the honor that his Phoenix Suns players have been clamoring that he receive for two years: NBA’s Coach of the Year.

Good luck getting him to take credit.

Suns coach Monty Williams directs the team during the second half of a game against the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

“I’ve often said about my life that God knocks the ball out of the park and I get to run the bases,” Williams said. “Yeah, my name goes on the plaque, but my name represents a lot of names.”

The 50-year-old Williams won the award on Monday after leading the Suns to a franchise-record 64 wins during the regular season. They were NBA’s best team by far, finishing with eight more wins than any other team.

Williams joins Cotton Fitzsimmons (1988-89) and Mike D’Antoni (2004-05) as coaches who have won the award with the Suns.

The runner-up to New York’s Tom Thibodeau last season, Williams was the runaway winner this time. He received 81 of 100 first-place votes from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, finishing with 458 points.

Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins was second with 17 first-place votes and 270 points. Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Boston’s Ime Udoka also received a first-place vote.

Williams is known for his calming presence on the sideline and tight relationships with players. He was brought to Phoenix in 2019 to rebuild a franchise that had been among the worst in the NBA over the previous decade and quickly delivered, especially once 12-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul signed with the Suns in 2020.

Williams said bonding with his players and their families has been rewarding.

“It’s probably more important than everything that we do, from the X’s and O’s to the drills, to even playing games,” Williams said. “I’ve probably lost out on jobs because people thought I was more interested in the relationship piece than the competition piece. I think they both go hand in hand.”

Paul and fellow All-Star guard Devin Booker both posted on social media earlier Monday that Williams had won the award, even though no official announcement has been made.

Said Booker on Twitter: “Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams has been voted the NBA’s COY, book tells sources. A formal announcement is expected later today.”

Paul added: “WD WS…Congrats Coach Mont on Coach of the Year!!” The WD WS reference is a motto for the Suns, which means well done is better than well said.

Phoenix won a franchise-record 18 consecutive games from Oct. 30 to Dec. 2, including a 16-0 record in November. That was tied for the second-most wins in a month without a loss in NBA history, trailing Atlanta’s 17-0 record in January 2015.

Williams led the Suns to the NBA Finals last season, where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. They are currently tied 2-2 with the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.

This is Williams’ second head coaching job in the NBA. He led the New Orleans Pelicans for five seasons from 2010 to 2015, making the playoffs twice, but was fired after being swept in the first round of the playoffs in 2015.

Paul played for Williams during part of his tenure in New Orleans. The two reunited in the desert and have had considerable success.

Both are still searching for a title, but have learned to enjoy the smaller victories along the way.

“We all want to win a championship, and yet there are some things we do along the way that you can try to enjoy to the best of your ability,” Williams said. “But you’re still focused on how you get there. It’s these opposing deals at times. You want to enjoy it, but you’re pounding the rock.”

Kings hire Brown

The Sacramento Kings officially announced the hiring of Mike Brown as their new head coach with hopes he can end the NBA’s longest playoff drought ever.

General manager Monte McNair said Monday that Brown was picked to replace interim coach and former Pistons coach Alvin Gentry. The Kings fired Gentry after a season during which they set an NBA record by missing the playoffs for a 16th straight year.

“Mike has consistently demonstrated his ability to lead winning teams throughout his long and successful coaching career,” McNair said in a statement. “He has worked with some of the best players in the NBA and is one of the league’s premier defensive minds. I am excited to bring his extensive experience to Sacramento.”

Brown currently is an assistant with Golden State and will remain with the Warriors for the rest of their playoff run. Brown previously had two stints as head coach in Cleveland, where he guided the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, and had one stint as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Detroit Piston coach Dwane Casey, left, and Sacramento Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry.

“He’s an amazing coach and amazing friend,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Sacramento made a great choice. I’m so thrilled for Mike and his family. It’s, a loss for us. But this is how it’s supposed to work.

"You want people who are really talented on your staff who can come in and contribute and have a great experience and hopefully learn and grow at the same time. And then hopefully be able to to advance careers and move on to something that person wants. Mike’s ready to do this again. He’s excited and we’re thrilled for him.”

Brown is the latest former Golden State coach to take over the Kings.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive took over the franchise in 2013 after being a minority owner with the Warriors and immediately hired Michael Malone off Golden State’s staff as his first head coach.

Ranadive then hired former Warriors assistant Luke Walton as head coach in 2019 and promoted former Warriors assistant Gentry to interim coach after Walton was fired last November.

None of the moves have led to success for the NBA’s worst-performing franchise of the past 16 years.

The Kings have failed to make the playoffs in each of those seasons, setting the record for the longest drought in NBA history. They went 30-52 this past season under Walton and Gentry and their .366 winning percentage was their worst since the 2017-18 season.

Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown gestures during an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in San Francisco, Nov. 4, 2019. The Sacramento Kings have agreed to hire Brown as their new head coach.

Since moving to Sacramento in 1985, the Kings have had only one stretch of success, making the playoffs in all eight seasons under coach Rick Adelman from 1999-2006. Adelman was fired in 2006 and remains the only coach in the Sacramento era to post a winning record in any season.

Brown comes with a strong pedigree, having worked as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and Steve Kerr at Golden State.

He got his first head coaching job in Cleveland in 2005. He helped LeBron James and the Cavaliers make the Finals in his second season before getting swept by the Spurs. He was fired in 2010 after winning 127 games the previous two years but failing to get back to the Finals.

After a year off, Brown replaced Phil Jackson with the Lakers and didn’t have nearly the success he had in Cleveland. The Lakers went 41-25 in his first season and he was fired after starting the next season 1-4.

Brown returned to Cleveland the following season and went 33-49 before getting fired again after one season.

Brown was then hired in July 2016 by the Warriors to take over as lead assistant after Walton left to take over as head coach of the Lakers.

Brown takes over a team that allowed the second-most points in the NBA despite getting a lift on that end of the court from rookie Davion Mitchell.

Point guard De’Aaron Fox was in and out of the lineup, missing 23 games with a variety of injuries. Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis arrived in a deadline deal by general manager Monte McNair. Sabonis made a big splash in Sacramento before sitting out the final nine games with a knee injury.

Although McNair has brought some order to the front office, he still hasn’t been able to build a roster capable of contending for a playoff spot.