Celtics

The point is Kyrie can dish it out, too

The point is Kyrie can dish it out, too

BOSTON – Since coming to Boston, the Celtics have leaned on Kyrie Irving to deliver offensively. And more nights than not, the four-time All-Star does just that with his ability to generate points.

But the 25-year-old has made a point of making sure his teammates score as well, as was the case in the 124-118 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

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In addition to his team-high 33 points against the Nuggets, Irving also managed to dish out seven assists, which served as yet another reminder that while he is among the best in the game at scoring, he also understands the value in being a facilitator and its importance in helping Boston remain among the best teams in the NBA.  

“We need all of it,” Irving said. “It’s the same trust I have in them, they have to have in me to be able to deliver those passes. When we’re on that same mindset, it works out pretty well for us. And even if the shots weren’t falling how we wanted them to, when you give the right energy to the game, it’ll come right back. It’ll all even out so I felt it did that for us tonight.”

Here are five other takeaways from the shootout victory over Denver:  

LOSS? WHAT LOSS?
When it comes to regrouping after a loss, no one does it quite like the Celtics. Since losing the first two games of the season, Boston has four additional losses. The outcome after each defeat has been a Celtics victory. And the win over Denver on Wednesday was the first bounce-back win in which Boston didn’t win by double figures. “It’s so many games in this league, we learn from our mistakes,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum. “We re-focus and just … forgot about last game whether we play good or play bad.”

STEVENS’ SENSE OF HUMOR
Following the win, Brad Stevens was asked about Jaylen Brown who reverted back to wearing contacts after playing the last couple games with goggles following some right eye irritation due to him sleeping with his contacts. Stevens said the team has had a few laughs in “retro-spec” about Brown’s eye issues. “That’s pretty good. Been thinking about that (retro-spec joke) all week.”

PATH TO VICTORY VARIES
We have seen Boston’s success often come down to its defense which is considered the best in the NBA in terms of defensive efficiency. And they have had stretches in which their offense got them over the hump. But the Nuggets game was the first we’ve seen this season in which their offense had to carry them pretty much the entire night, evident by Boston scoring a season-high 124 points while shooting a shade under 60 percent, which was also a season high.

NO HORFORD HURTS DEFENSE
You figured no Al Horford would not be a good thing for the Celtics defense. His absence on the night the Celtics played one of the league’s more prolific shooting teams resulted in something like what we saw. Boston struggled to defend the Nuggets most of the night, giving up the most points (118) this season in a victory. And while Denver’s play had a lot to do with that, Horford’s absence was just as important.

TOUGH SCHEDULE
The Celtics were the first team to play 30 games this season, which says a lot about how challenging their schedule has been from a wear-and-tear standpoint. It won’t get any easier anytime soon. The Celtics hit the unofficial halfway point of the season – 41 games played – on Jan. 3.

 


 

A weeks-late realization that the Celtics kind of did chase LeBron out of the East

A weeks-late realization that the Celtics kind of did chase LeBron out of the East

Jayson Tatum's Game 7 dunk did not influence LeBron James' decision to leave the Eastern Conference, no matter how much I will continue to say it daily. 

The truth, as we've all realized, is that LeBron's mind was made up long before Tatum boomed him right in the face. 

But while it wasn't about that specific play, it kind of was about Tatum dunks. And Jaylen Brown dunks. And Al Horford dunks. And these heartbreakers. 

For as much as we talk about the Celtics having a wide-open path to the NBA Finals now, the truth is they had that anyway if LeBron stayed with Cleveland. The ever-careful superstar had to know his options were to either stay in the East and get smoked by the Celtics or go out West and get smoked by the Warriors. If the results are the same, he might as well experience them in a nicer city. 

James' decision to go to the Lakers clearly wasn't about winning. If it were, he would have explored options like the Celtics, Rockets or taken the 76ers seriously.

His decision to leave the Cavaliers, however, had to at least be partially about winning. Just being home for Cleveland isn't enough; it was the fact that it could be a winner that got LeBron to return in the first place. With it no longer a title contender because of the Celtics' roster, staying in Cleveland was probably no longer worth it for James. 

What's interesting is that the Celtics knew it, too. Jaylen Brown's comments last week about wishing LeBron stayed in Cleveland were bang-on. Now that LeBron's gone, the Celtics' waltz to a Warriors matchup will be accompanied by talk from dumb people that they weren't able to do it when LeBron was in the conference. 

Here's why it's a smart move PR-wise on James' part: If LeBron stayed in the East and got beaten by the Celtics every year, people -- dumb people, but people nonetheless -- would talk about a torch being passed and how James was no longer dominant because he wasn't winning. 

The West presents a different narrative. Do you know what you're considered to be if you lose to the Warriors in the West? A victim. A victim of a super team and a victim of Kevin Durant's cowardice (the dumb people's words, not mine). 

So LeBron made an easy choice to leave Cleveland and the Celtics had to factor into it at least a little. If Kawhi Leonard eventually joins him, perhaps he can see the Celtics in the NBA Finals one of these years. That's a big "if" considering what we just saw Paul George do, but the fact of the matter is that LeBron's road to the finals was blocked whether he was in Cleveland or Los Angeles. 

Did LeBron run away from the Celtics? Not necessarily, but he clearly saw the effect the Celtics would have had on him if he stayed in Cleveland. It wasn't as pretty as L.A. 

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Get to know the newest Celtic, Walt Lemon Jr.

Get to know the newest Celtic, Walt Lemon Jr.

BOSTON – Walter Lemon Jr. has agreed to a two-way contract with the Boston Celtics, becoming the third player ever with such a designation for the Celtics.

He played four years at Bradley before taking his game overseas to play in Hungary, Istanbul, Greece, Germany and later returning to the United States to play for the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants of the Gatorade League.

But what do we really know about the newest member of the Celtics family?

Here’s a look at five facts about Lemon who, as a player with a two-way contract, will spend up to 45 days with the Celtics while the rest of his time will be spent with Boston’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws:

*Despite being 6-foot-3, Lemon Jr. is comfortable playing above the rim. That’s evident by him competing in Slam Dunk contests both in college (2014 and 2015) and in the G-League (2016).

*Finished his career at Bradley ranked among the school’s top-10 in scoring, assists, and steals.

*Best scoring game in the G-League last season was a 40-point outburst against the Maine Red Claws, the team he will be playing with most of this upcoming season.

*Became the first player in school history to be named the Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2014.

*On July 26 he will turn 26 years old.

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