Atlantic Notes: Flynn, Sixers, Tatum, Celtics

Raptors backup point guard Malachi Flynn has stepped up in the absence of All-Star Fred VanVleet, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Flynn had an outstanding game on Monday against the Nets, putting up 18 points on 11 shots with four rebounds, five assists, two steals and zero turnovers in 34 minutes. He finished a game-high plus-42.

He played great,” said head coach Nick Nurse.Malachi kept his head up, kept his head in it and when he’s had any opportunities, whether it’s first half, second half, garbage, whatever, he’s played with what I consider some IQ, some toughness, some organization and that’s what led us to that decision [to start Flynn] tonight.”

The second-year guard has struggled to crack the team’s rotation this season, but he’s finally getting the chance to show what he can do with VanVleet sidelined with a knee contusion that’s been bothering him since before the All-Star break.

I think my main thing is just trying to be aggressive — not necessarily to score or to pass, just being aggressive and seeing what the defense gives you and just kind of reading them and then going off of that,” Flynn said, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

Flynn had another strong performance during Friday’s 103-97 loss to Orlando, notching 20 points, three rebounds, eight assists and zero turnovers in 39 minutes.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers dared to dream big and it’s paying off, according to Dan Devine of The Ringer. James Harden has created easier shots for the entire team, including MVP candidate Joel Embiid, and second-year guard Tyrese Maxey has been outstanding. The Sixers have won five straight (four with Harden) and hold a 39-23 record after defeating the Cavs 125-119 on Friday. Philadelphia has jumped up to the No. 2 seed in the East.
  • Star Jayson Tatum has stepped up and become a vocal leader for the Celtics, per Taylor Snow of “He has taken a step forward in that regard,” said Al Horford. “He is being more vocal. He’s letting us know what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling. For me, it gives me a lot of confidence, and it’s encouraging to know that he has my back. He’s obviously really trying to win, he’s trying to do things the right way … Seeing him that excited, that engaged, it’s a good sign for our group.”
  • The Celtics remained patient with head coach Ime Udoka and now they’re reaping the rewards, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. Udoka was recently named the Eastern Conference’s coach of the month for February after leading Boston to an 9-2 record. It’s taken time for the players to adjust to Udoka’s hard-line coaching style. “That’s what really matters, that they’re letting us coach them,” Udoka said, per Washburn. “They’re letting us push them and learning and growing throughout the season and kind of what we thought we’d have when we got healthy. Credit to them for allowing us to coach them hard. That’s what they asked for and they’ve been great with it.”
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