Celtics finally rounding into form as Jaylen Brown torches Lakers

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Matt Eppers, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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The Boston Celtics have had so many Hall of Famers come through the organization over the years, you know it's an impressive feat when none of the franchise greats have accomplished it.

Jaylen Brown poured in 40 points on 17-of-20 shooting Thursday to help Boston get a 121-113 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Brown just missed matching his career high of 42 but became the first Celtics player in team history to score at least 40 points in a game on 85% shooting.

"Tonight he was really dialed in scoring the ball," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "You're not going to always shoot as efficiently as he did tonight, obviously that's like once-a-season type numbers usually. But he's had a great year and he continues to get better. Tonight was the night he got going, and we tried to ride that as much as possible."

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The Celtics have won five in a row and seven of their last eight to climb into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Brown is averaging 28.4 points over the last five games on 56.7% shooting overall and 41.5% from 3-point range.

The Lakers welcomed a limited number of fans back to Staples Center for the first time this season, but Brown was happy to spoil their return.

"Just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Brown said. "The Celtics-Lakers matchup is a matchup that kids dream about, so regardless of who's on the floor, I'm excited to play. That energy, having those Lakers fans back in the arena, we just wanted to come out and get a win."

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Jayson Tatum was limited to 14 points Thursday, but he too has been on fire during Boston's five-game winning streak. He is averaging 30.4 points on 51% shooting overall and 44.7% from 3-point range.

Tatum admitted earlier this week that his is still overcoming the affects of COVID-19, but he is "close" to 100%. Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker are also healthy now after dealing with injuries.

With the team getting healthy and Tatum and Brown's stellar play, the Celtics appear to finally be rounding into the championship-contending form expected of them.

Here are four more things to know today in the NBA:

Giannis back from injury

Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a six-game absence Thursday to help the Milwaukee Bucks cool off the Atlanta Hawks. The two-time reigning MVP was back after resting his sore left knee and scored 15 points in Milwaukee's 120-109 win. He shot 7-of-12 from the field in 25 minutes as the Bucks were in control for much of the game and had seven players score in double figures. The Hawks had won seven of their last eight and are still 16-6 under interim coach Nate McMillan.

"Watching this team play six games, I realize this team is really, really good," Antetokounmpo said. "I just want to help as much as I can."

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AD close to returning

The Lakers faltered on the court Thursday, but they got good news before the game when coach Frank Vogel said Anthony Davis had been cleared to resume full practice. Davis has been out since Feb. 14 with a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg, but his return now appears imminent. Vogel said Davis is "unlikely" to play Saturday or Monday during a two-game set against the Utah Jazz, but it is "not out of the question" that Davis could suit up.

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Point God indeed

Chris Paul is proving why he's so deserving of the "Point God" nickname. Paul had 13 points, 11 assists and no turnovers Thursday to help the Phoenix Suns hold off the Sacramento Kings 122-114. Over his last four games, Paul has dished out 40 total assists with just one turnover. The 16-year veteran is averaging 8.8 assists per game this season and needs 16 to pass Magic Johnson for fifth-most all-time.

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Game of the night: Clippers at Sixers

After taking control of first place in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers face one of the best in the West when the Clippers come to town Thursday. Philadelphia has won three straight, including a big win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. The Clippers enter the game riding the league's longest active winning streak at seven and have won 13 of their last 15.

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Celtics finally rounding into form as Jaylen Brown torches Lakers