Celtics

Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

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Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.

The All-Star point guard, acquired from the Celtics this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.

Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.

Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.

When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.

Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.

Copyright The Associated Press.
 

C's thriving on road, look to keep trend going vs lowly Bulls

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C's thriving on road, look to keep trend going vs lowly Bulls

The Boston Celtics have spent a good chunk of the season playing away from the TD Garden which as we’ve seen, hasn’t been a bad thing.

Boston has an 11-3 road record this season, and are just one of three teams (Houston and Golden State) with double-digit road wins this season.

And while there’s no such thing as a given, the Celtics have to feel pretty good about their chances of getting road win No. 12 tonight against the Chicago Bulls (5-20) who are at the opposite end of the success spectrum this season.

Indeed, the Bulls – owners of the worst record in the NBA now – are a radically different team from the one that jumped out to a 2-0 series lead in their first-round playoff series last spring before the Celtics bounced back to win the next four to close out the series and eventually advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

The key in that series for the Celtics was their ability to win on the road (it didn’t hurt their chances that Rajon Rondo, a key to Chicago winning Games 1 and 2 in Boston, was unable to play in the last four games of the series due to injury). 

But as good as that team was, this season’s Celtics team seems more equipped to find success on the road in part because they have so many interchangeable parts up and down the roster.

And just as important, there’s more of a matter-of-fact mindset to what they do rather than feeling the need to prove themselves in comparison to other elite teams in the NBA.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.

 

ROOKIE STANDOUTS

There has been a lot of talk about Jayson Tatum’s breakout rookie season, but the Bulls have a star on the rise as well from the 2017 NBA draft class in Lauri Markkanen. Tatum leads the NBA – not just rookies, but the entire league – in 3-point shooting (51.8 percent) and averages 14 points per game. Markkanen, draft with the seventh overall pick by Minnesota (but traded to Chicago as part of the Jimmy Butler deal), averages 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds which ranks fifth and second, respectively, among rookies. 

 

GOING BACK TO BACK 

This will be Boston’s fourth back-to-back this season. On the second night, the Celtics are 2-1 with the lone loss being Oct. 18 against Milwaukee which was the second game of the season along with the first game for Boston without Gordon Hayward following his season-ending left ankle injury. 

 

UP AND DOWN SHOOTING

There’s a certain ebb and flow all teams are looking for with their offense, but this is not what the Celtics had in mind when talking about shooting. After failing to shoot 50 percent or better in their first 20 games, the Celtics strung together five straight in which they reached the 50 percent or better mark. However, they are back to how they began the season, shooting less than 50 percent in each of their last three games.

 

TATUM CLIMBING THE CHARTS 

The 6-foot-8 rookie has scored in double figures 16 straight games. The last first-year player for Boston to have that many consecutive double-digit scoring games was Antoine Walker who reeled off 20 in a row in 1997.

 

SMART PASSES

There’s an obsession almost with fans when it comes to Marcus Smart and his shooting. But the stat that fans really need to keep an eye on is his assists total. Boston has a 13-1 record this season when Smart tallies five or more assists.

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Celtics-Pistons a reminder of where both teams stand in the East

Celtics-Pistons a reminder of where both teams stand in the East

The idea every game for the Boston Celtics is to play a little better than they did the previous game. It’s the clearest signal for growth which more than anything else, is what the Celtics are striving to do consistently.

But as much as that might have been a focus against Detroit on Sunday, there was a bigger agenda item at work.

According to Kyrie Irving, Boston’s 91-81 win wasn’t about payback.

He’s right. 

But make no mistake about it; that was an agenda-driven victory that wasn’t so much about sending a statement but more of a reminder as to where Boston is right in the pantheon of the NBA and where the Pistons hope to be someday.

Celtics players saw their first meeting on Nov. 27 as one of 82 games. If they win it, great. If not, oh well. Let’s keep it moving. But the Pistons saw it as so much more than that. They treated as a much bigger deal than Boston did, and the result was Boston suffering its worst loss of the season.

Their game on Sunday was a referendum on Boston still being the team to beat in the East not named Cleveland, and Detroit is still among a jumbled pack of playoff contenders.

And so both move on, Boston (23-5) maintaining the best record in the East while the Pistons (14-12) have now dropped six straight with no clear signs of snapping out of their doldrums anytime soon.

That would be the big picture takeaway from Sunday’s game.

But it’s not the only one. 

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 91-81 win at Detroit on Sunday. 

 

There has been some noticeable and statistical slippage by the Boston Celtics recently on defense. On Sunday? Not so much. In fact, Boston wound up rendering a season-low 81 points. A big part of that was Boston’s unwillingness to give Detroit open looks. Of the 84 shots taken by the Pistons, 63 – that’s 75 percent – were contested. Throw in the fact that the Celtics have tremendous length when they do contest shots, it’s no surprise that the Pistons had major problems generating points.

 

AL HORFORD

He scored more points (18) than any other Celtic, but that just scratches the surface as to what he meant to Boston on this night. He was a rugged force around the rim, finishing one rebound shy of a double-double. And the offense went through him a lot, which explains the six assists. 

 

KYRIE IRVING’S KRYPTONITE

There is no player in this league that does a better job of defending Kyrie Irving, than ex-Celtic Avery Bradley. Now don’t get it twisted. Bradley doesn’t shut Irving down. What he does is, he makes Irving work harder than he does against any player, to score. So the 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting while not great by Irving standards, is pretty good considering who he was being defended by.

 

ANDRE DRUMMOND

The knock on him has been and continues to be, that he’s not as engaged as consistently as he needs to be to help his team. Give a lot of credit to Boston’s Aron Baynes for making Drummond for the most part, a non-factor. But some of the blame for Drummond’s dismal performance offensively (he was 1-for-5 and the one basket was a tip-in that upon further review looked as though it should not have been allowed), is on him. He was the biggest, strongest force on the floor on Sunday and had a very Drummond-like game in terms of rebounds (15). But this Pistons team needs him to be a steady presence scoring the ball as well. When he does that, Detroit can beat any team. But when he plays like he did on Sunday, the result more often than not will be what we saw – a Detroit loss. 

 

ARON BAYNES

He was justifiably praised for the job he did defensively on Andre Drummond. But as important as that was, often Baynes’ contributions offensively go unnoticed. For example, he had six points which equaled Drummond’s scoring. But what got overlooked was the job Baynes did in screening for assists. Boston had 16 assists for the game, with Baynes screening for eight of them. To put that in perspective, that was four times the total of the rest of the Celtics. And the nearest player to him in that category was Detroit’s Eric Moreland who screened for four assists. 

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