Celtics

Kyrie understands road Booker is on as young star on struggling team

Kyrie understands road Booker is on as young star on struggling team

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving is on the opposite coast from Phoenix’s Devin Booker. They play for two franchises that are trending heavily in two completely opposite directions.

And yet as you listen to Irving talk about Booker following Boston’s 116-111 win, it is clear he feels a certain kinship with Booker.

For starters, both came into the NBA as teenagers and didn’t take much time to show that they not only belonged, but could dominate for long stretches.

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They also share the same face-of-the-franchise struggles to win games that come about for teenagers upon entering the league who are high draft picks.

On Saturday, Booker scored 38 points on an efficient 16-for-29 shooting night, with four rebounds and five assists.

His team lost.

Last season, Booker dropped 70 points on the Celtics and they lost, too, by double-digits even.

There is madness, anger and a wide range of emotions that Booker is dealing with as the losses mount, and Irving knows all too well how difficult that pill can be to swallow for a player who has shown other-worldly talent at an early stage of their career. .

He spent six seasons in Cleveland before being traded to Boston, but the first three years with the Cavs each ended with a losing season and no playoff berths. The fortunes of the Cavs did not turn around until LeBron James returned.

Still, that doesn’t diminish the tough times when losses steadily pile up regardless of how well the best player performs.

It creates an expectation and burden of sorts, whereby Booker is seen as the solution when the team wins, and the person to blame when they lose when in fact neither one of those outcomes occurs solely based upon an individual's play.

“Everyone is going to pinpoint whether it be your defense, whether it be the shots that you’re taking, whether it’s the pass that you’re not making, they’ll find something,” Irving said. “I feel like he’s doing an incredible job of staying the course.

Irving added, “He already has that mentality of being a killer. He already … is a great player in this league. Now it’s just getting pieces around him in order to be at a high level to showcase that. He can not only score, he can rebound, he can pass. You can see him; when he goes against the high-level teams, you can see that he raises his game to another level. That’s a telltale sign of a great player who can have that consistency for years. Obviously, you guys can see I’m a fan. I’ve been watching him for a while.”

So has Boston’s Jaylen Brown who spent time on Saturday defending Booker.

“He doesn’t have a conscious. He can shoot it with no remorse,” Brown said. “He can let it fly whenever he wants and he’s really good.  He has a green light and that’s what makes it tough. He can shoot it whenever at whatever time and he’s actually really good. He’s a really talented scorer.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had similar comments about Booker.

“He’s a good player and the other thing is, I think he’s got a great opportunity as a young guy to be their go-to guy every single night,” Stevens said. “And he takes advantage of it; he’s a heck of a player.”

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Hayward gives his walking boot the boot as recovery progresses

Hayward gives his walking boot the boot as recovery progresses

Look who's out of his walking boot?

Gordon Hayward visited the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston on Wednesday and looked to be moving around pretty well without the walking boot he's had on following surgery for the gruesome injury he suffered five minutes into his Celtics debut.

The Celtics have been saying the timetable for Hayward's return hasn't changed. They haven't been expecting him to return this season but he sure seems to be progressing in his recovery. 


 

Celtics may get big surprise tonight when they host Nuggets

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Celtics may get big surprise tonight when they host Nuggets

BOSTON -- If the Celtics' preparation for tonight's game against Denver focused on the Nuggets' last handful of games, they might be in for a big surprise tonight.
 
Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets' 6-foot-10 big man, suffered a left ankle injury on Nov. 30 against Chicago, and has not played in the six games since then. But coach Mike Malone has indicated that there's a chance that he may be on the floor tonight.

In addition to averaging 15.5 points per game, the third-year big man leads the team in rebounds (10.6) and assists (4.6) per game.
 
"He's getting closer," Malone told reporters in Detroit on Tuesday. "He's moving better. I think he's managing the pain."
 
As far as whether Jokic will play tonight?

"We'll wait and see," Malone said.
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight's game between Boston and Denver. 
 
DENVER DEFENSE? 
When it comes to scoring, the Nuggets can hold their own with the best of them. But defense? Definitely not their forte. Denver comes into tonight's game giving up 106.8 points per game, which ranks 20th in scoring defense. Boston hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard this season (103.2 points per game, ranking 21st in the NBA), but you gotta believe being at home against a team that has struggled all season defensively will be just what the Celtics need to have a solid night offensively.  
 
SECOND-CHANCE POINTS
The Celtics' improved rebounding has been critical to their ability to not only keep teams off the glass, but also limit opponents second-chance points. Boston allows a league-low 10.1 second-chance points but will be put to the ultimate test against Denver. The Nuggets come into tonight's matchup averaging a league-best 15.6 second-chance points per game. 
 
BENCH SCORING
Second-unit play will be critical tonight, especially considering how, according to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics are eighth in the NBA in fewest points allowed off the bench (32.6) while Denver ranks seventh in bench scoring (39.8).
 
CORNER 3
Boston is going to have to pick up its defense when it comes to the corner 3-ball, which has been a Nuggets' strength all season. According to nba.com/stats, Denver is shooting 45.0 percent on corner 3's this season, which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Celtics, while having the league's top-ranked defense, have not defended the corner 3 so well. They come into tonight's game allowing opponents to shoot 43.4 percent on corner 3's, which ranks 24th in the league. 

CLUTCH PLAY
If tonight's game involves clutch plays needing to be made down the stretch, you have to give the edge to Boston. The Celtics have had 19 games this season that fall under "clutch" parameters (ahead or behind by five points or less in the last five minutes of play) while the Nuggets have had eight. In those 19 games, Boston has a 14-5 record and its .737 winning percentage is fourth-highest win the NBA. The Nuggets aren't too far behind at .625 (5-3), which is the seventh-highest winning percentage in "clutch" situations.

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