Celtics look like top seed; Warriors rested for surging Jazz

Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood, center, celebrates with forward Joe Ingles, second from left, of Australia, and forward Joe Johnson, second from right, after scoring as Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers, left, walks away and forward Gordon Hayward watches during the second half in Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

BOSTON (AP) — For the first time this postseason, there is a calm beginning to settle over the Boston Celtics.

The top-seeded Celtics struggled to find their footing at the outset of their first-round series with Chicago after their leader Isaiah Thomas’ sister was killed in a car accident.

But after four straight wins to finish off the Bulls and overcoming a slow start and lost tooth by Thomas to earn a double-digit win over the Wizards in the opener of the East semifinals, Boston now resembles the team it looked like at the end of regular season. It plays Washington in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

In the night’s other game, Golden State, the West’s top seed, is playing on eight days’ rest as it opens its semifinal matchup with Utah. The Jazz are coming off a Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night.

Before Game 1 of the Boston-Washington series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about the lack of deep playoff experience for a team that hadn’t made it out of the first round the past two seasons.

He acknowledged that while experience “certainly is a talking point” when comparing the rosters of the two teams, “there’s a lot of power in having some naiveté, too.”

His team’s production seems to be underlining that assessment.

Following his game-high 33-point effort on Sunday, Thomas now has three 30-point games this postseason after just one in his previous 10 playoff games.

What’s more, offseason acquisition Al Horford also is producing at the level the Celtics hoped he would after being slowed by injury in the regular season.

He’s coming off 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in Game 1, when he recorded his second double-double of the postseason. He has had at least 12 points, five rebounds and five assists in a career-high three straight playoff games.

“I would say probably the last couple weeks of the season is when I felt like I started to get in some sort of a rhythm,” Horford said. “Some guys can go right in and just do their thing, and others it takes a little more time before you’re fully comfortable with the system and what’s expected.”

Washington could have a tougher time containing Horford in Game 2. The status of forward Markieff Morris is up the air after he landed awkwardly on Horford’s foot and sprained his ankle early in Game 1.

Here are some things to know:


NEED TO KNOW: Thomas sat out practice Monday so he could visit the dentist and have the tooth he lost in Game 1 repaired. But Stevens said all indications were that Thomas would be ready for Game 2.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Celtics’ lineup. Stevens made an early move to his bench in Game 1, replacing Gerald Green — who had started four straight games — with regular-season starter Amir Johnson. He made another change in the second half, inserting Marcus Smart in the starting group. Smart played 31 minutes, registering six points, four assists, three steals and three blocks. The team was plus-12 with him on the floor.

INJURY UPDATE: Morris received treatment Sunday night and Monday, and sat out the team’s practice session. Coach Scott Brooks said his status was game to game at this point, though Morris reiterated his intention to be on the court for Game 2.

“I’m playing tomorrow. That’s final,” Morris said. “There’s nothing that doctors can say to me for me not to be able to play.”

PRESSURE IS ON: The Wizards. Washington hasn’t won a playoff series in which it was down 0-2 since winning four straight against Chicago in the first round of the 2004-05 playoffs.


More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

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