Celtics

Isaiah Thomas plays 4-on-4, nearing Cavs debut

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Isaiah Thomas plays 4-on-4, nearing Cavs debut

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - Cavaliers All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas played 4-on-4 on Wednesday, a significant step in his recovery from a hip injury.

Thomas, who has yet to make his debut with Cleveland, scrimmaged along with injured forward Tristan Thompson, rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, and members of the coaching staff.

With coach Tyronn Lue and members of the team's front office watching intently from behind the basket, Thomas moved freely and didn't appear to have any restrictions during the half-court workout that took place following the team's morning shootaround.

Lue reported that Thomas "looked good" and absorbed some contact. It was the second straight day Thomas scrimmaged.

However, Lue did not provide any update on when Thomas might play in a game. Lue planned to check with the team's medical staff to find out the next step in Thomas' recovery program, which the 28-year-old has described as his "slow grind."

Because of Cleveland's schedule, there aren't many practice days for Thomas to get in work with his teammates. Lue said it's possible he'll practice with members of the Canton Charge, the Cavs' D-League affiliate.

Thomas has been making steady progress and nearing his return to action and helping the Cavs, who acquired him during the summer in the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. Since training camp opened, the Cavs have said they expect Thomas to play in games by the end of 2017, and that projection could be moved up.

Thomas has been building up his workouts steadily as he recovers from a torn labrum in his right hip. It's possible Thomas could play in one of Cleveland's four home games this month before the team finishes December with three road games, including a Christmas Day matchup with the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

The Cavs would need to how Thomas recovers after taking contact during practice before he would be cleared to play.

"At the end of the day it's all about the next day," LeBron James said as he kept an eye on his teammates from the opposite corner of Cleveland Clinics Courts. "When they say they feel good the next day after a workout session, that's great to know."

Thompson has been sidelined since Nov. 1 with a strained left calf, but could return this week.

"Hopefully, yeah," Lue said. "Not sure how he's going to feel after today when he got done working out, so just trying to get a gauge on how he feels today, if there's any soreness or pain or anything and go from there."

Thompson said his return is completely up to the team's medical staff.

"I'm always ready to play, even when I first got hurt I was always ready to play," he said. "You've gotta listen to the medical team and that's their job, that's what they're here to do, to protect us and make sure when we come out to play we don't have nothing lingering or having a setback. When they say I'm ready to play and I'm ready to go, then, put back on the wine and gold."

James said the Cavaliers' 12-game winning streak has no bearing on when would be a good time for Thomas and Thompson to come back.

"That's not how we do it around here," he said. "When guys are healthy and are ready to get back in the lineup, then they'll be there, but there's never been no urgency for anyone."

The return of two rotational players will be a major challenge for Lue, who has spent much of the season juggling lineups because of injuries and trying to find the right combinations.

The Cavs have never played with Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points per game with Boston last year, but James said he has already visualized the impact the playmaker will have with Cleveland.

"I play a lot of NBA 2K," James said, referring to the video game. "It's the most realistic basketball game you could ever play. I mix and match a lot of lineup changes and things of that nature to see how we can be really good. I've done that."

And how do the Cavs look with Thomas?

"Looks pretty good," he said. "Looks pretty good."

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Can Celtics plug recent defensive leaks vs. Pacers?

Can Celtics plug recent defensive leaks vs. Pacers?

While the Boston Celtics remain tops in the NBA in defensive efficiency with a rating of 100.7, there’s no escaping the reality that they have had some slippage lately which is why the Celtics are 3-3 in their last six games.

Plugging the team’s defensive leaks won’t get any easier tonight against an Indiana Pacers team that has been among the better offensive clubs in the league this season.

The Pacers come into tonight’s game averaging 108.2 points which ranks seventh in the NBA.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens attributes some of the Celtics’ struggles recently to a lack of consistent effort, a sentiment that’s shared among his players.

“We definitely need to play with better effort more consistently,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “There’s really no excuse for it. We know we have to better, going forward.”

Especially against a Pacers team that’s playing with a chip on its shoulder this season.

Predicted by many to be among the worst teams in the East after trading away Paul George in July for Victor Oladipo and Domantis Sabonis, Indiana (17-13) comes into tonight’s game in a tie for the fourth-best record in the East.

Boston beat the Pacers 108-98 earlier this season, but Indiana was without Oladipo who was out with a bruised right knee.

His availability tonight and his team-leading 24.4 points per game, will certainly have an impact on tonight’s outcome.

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Indiana.

INDY POINTS OFF TURNOVERS

Boston’s transition defense which has been up and down lately, will be challenged early and often by an Indiana team that likes to get out and run especially off of turnovers. They come into tonight’s game averaging 19.0 points off turnovers which ranks fourth in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston is giving up 14.3 points off turnovers this season which is second in the league. Boston has given up 13.3 points off turnovers in the last six games, but it ranks just ninth in the league in that span.

SABONIS’ LOVE FOR THE CELTICS

Domantas Sabonis’ father Arvydas, spent his entire NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers. But according to Domantas, his father was a huge fan of the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird.

Oh, there’s more.

“His favorite color is green, so he loves it even more,” Domantis said shortly after his workout for the Celtics in 2016. “Just everything about the team, the tradition, the winning … everything.”

ARON BAYNES

Teams with physical, smack-first, ask-questions-later-type centers, have given the Pacers problems this season; specifically, Andre Drummond of Detroit and Steven Adams of Oklahoma City, both of whom gave the Pacers major fits while each finishing with a double-double of 23 points and 13 rebounds. Baynes has provided a much-needed presence around the rim for the Celtics, and has a defensive rating of 94.9 which is tops among all NBA players averaging 15 or more minutes played per game.

INDY’S PULL-UP GAME

There really isn’t any time when the Celtics can relax defensively against a Pacers team that has shown itself to have a diverse set of skills when it comes to scoring. For example, when it comes to pull-up shooting, they rank among the league’s best in several categories. According to NBA.com/stats, they are shooting a league-best 42.8 percent on pull-up shots which generates 21.9 points per game which ranks fourth in the league.

JAYSON TATUM

The Celtics have won three of their last five games, with each win followed by a loss in that span. There are lots of factors, but one that jumps out is the scoring of Jayson Tatum. In the two losses, he scored four and seven points, respectively. But in the three wins, the 19-year-old reached double figures in each game, scoring at least 11 points. For the season, he’s averaging 14.4 points while shooting 53.9 percent on 3’s and 53 percent from the field when the Celtics win. In losses, his scoring drops to 11.6 points per game while shooting 39.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent on 3’s.

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pacers in Indiana. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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