Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III tries to block a shot by Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets during the first half of Boston’s 149-115 win Wednesday night. Williams scored a career-high 18 points in just 19 minutes and also blocked three shots. Ashley Landis/Associated Press

By the time Javonte Green checked in for the Celtics in their 149-115 win Wednesday night against Brooklyn, the Nets seemed too exhausted to do anything but watch flyovers.

The Celtics rookie dunked twice off circus lobs before finishing the night off with a tomahawk dunk that capped the team’s most prolific night of the season. The Celtics, seemingly hamstrung a night earlier during a bad loss to Miami, rebounded with their most points since 1992, against a Brooklyn team that had just defeated Milwaukee.

This wasn’t even about the Celtics starters redeeming themselves, though Jaylen Brown (21 points) and Jayson Tatum (19) certainly had lots of room to flex. They started with probably their best defensive half since arriving in Orlando, and built on their billowing lead once the reserves checked in.

And that led to a showcase for the young guys. Robert Williams III, who didn’t even play in the first two bubble games, not only had a career scoring night with 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting (five of those lobs), he once again teased Celtics fans with what might be possible. He blocked three shots, altered numerous others, and looked like the young interior answer this team desperately needs.

Romeo Langford has grown so much in a short amount of time, and he was one of the Celtics’ most active defenders.

“Thought we came out and played the right way,” said Coach Brad Stevens, who prior to the game had lamented the fact his team hadn’t played that way in the defensive end.


“I thought the second unit, obviously, did a lot of good things. Romeo’s defense was excellent. Rob, obviously, gave us a lot once he got settled in, defensively, and then, offensively, he gave us a lot at the rim all day. On down the line.

“I think we’ve had moments of playing good basketball. Not enough throughout the course of games. So we talked about that in pretty good detail this morning. Wanted to play better on both ends. I thought we were stagnant and poor against the (Miami) zone on Tuesday night; when they went zone today, I thought we were purposeful and made the right reads and played with pace and all that other stuff. So I thought there was a lot of encouraging things, but you gotta keep going with it and build off of it, on both ends.”

Along the way, maybe they’ll discover that the youngsters have a role to play when it’s playoff time.

Against the Nets, Williams was often matched against smaller lineups, and he cleaned up at the offensive end.

“I just thought, defensively they went small, so it was a unique situation for him, with some of the matchups … that he had,” said Stevens. “But he adjusted to that well after a few possessions. And then he was, again, a threat at the rim the whole time, all night.”

For Langford, it was once again the defensive end where he turned in some of his best work, stripping the ball twice from Nets attackers.


“I thought he was giving us good minutes right before the hiatus,” said Stevens. “He’s a good worker, he’s one of our more solid defenders. That’s going to give him a chance to play, especially with the way we’ve played the first couple of weeks.”

• The Celtics, in another late-starting game, will play Friday night against a Toronto team that has been the class of the bubble so far. Kemba Walker, who rested his left knee Wednesday, will return and is expected to have his minutes restriction increased again, this time to somewhere around 30 minutes.

76ERS: Ben Simmons is sidelined with a subluxation of his left knee cap.

The 76ers forward suffered the injury in Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards and is considering treatment options. The team said further updates will be provided as appropriate.

An initial MRI showed that he suffered a subluxation of the left patella, which means the knee cap went out of the joint and came back into place by itself. Simmons had a follow-up examination Thursday before the Sixers practiced.

LAKERS: LeBron James did not play against the Houston Rockets on Thursday night because of a sore right groin, the team said.


The Lakers have already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference.


KINGS 140, PELICANS 125: Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 35 points to help Sacramento beat New Orleans.

De’Aaron Fox had 30 points and 10 assists, and Harrison Barnes added 22 points for the Kings, who got their first win in four tries since the restart.

Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram each scored 24 points for the Pelicans.

SUNS 114, PACERS 99: Deandre Ayton had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Phoenix continued its improbable run in the NBA bubble, beating Indiana for its fourth straight win.


Devin Booker added 20 points and 10 assists and Cameron Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Suns pulled away with a 21-0 run that bridged the end of the the third quarter and the start of the fourth.

BUCKS 130, HEAT 116: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 points each, and Milwaukee overcame a huge early deficit to win, clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat led by as many as 23 points in a first half. Miami cooled off after the break and the Bucks took the lead in the third quarter but were down by 6 to start the fourth.

CLIPPERS 126, MAVERICKS 111: Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points to help Los Angeles top Dallas.

Paul George scored 24 points and Ivica Zubac added 24 points on 10-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds for the Clippers, who strengthened their hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference standings.

TRAIL BLAZERS 125, NUGGETS 115: Damian Lillard tied his franchise record with 11 3-pointers and scored 45 points, and Portland  moved closer to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference by beating Denver.

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