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Irving says team meeting helped Celtics clear air, find rhythm – WSAIGO Sports
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Irving says team meeting helped Celtics clear air, find rhythm

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The Boston Celtics are perhaps starting to show the kind of teamwork they’ve been looking for all season.

Star guard Kyrie Irving said Wednesday that a team meeting held after a Dec. 21 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks helped players to clear the air about several topics.

“We could pinpoint a lot of turning points,” Irving told reporters after last night’s win vs. Indiana, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “We just want to build that chemistry first. Just getting with one another, really put everything out there and then move on from that point.

“At that point, playing against Milwaukee, we weren’t at rock bottom, but we needed to address some [expletive] in this locker room. It’s just good to get stuff out in the air. As grown men and guys that have expectations for themselves, it was good to hear guys talk about what they wanted for themselves and what they wanted for this team.”

 

The Celtics used a pass-happy offense to dismantle the Pacers on Wednesday.

The Celtics dismantled the Indiana Pacers 135-108 to notch their fourth straight win, with the victory coming largely because of Boston’s willingness to share the ball. The victory marked their fifth straight game with at least 30 assists (after failing to reach that mark in nine of their previous 10 games). Since Dec. 23, the Celtics rank No. 2 in assist percentage (70.2) and are among the league leaders in offensive rating, net rating, true shooting percentage and more during that span.

The Celtics had 32 assists last night and put together their highest scoring game this season. Boston (25-15) also ended a three-game skid against the Pacers, who entered the night third in the Eastern Conference having won seven of eight. Additionally, Boston led 68-53 at halftime after shooting 56.5 percent (26 for 46) in the first half.

That Dec. 23 date is an important one, since it was Boston’s next game after the Bucks loss that capped off a three-game losing streak. After that loss to the Bucks, the Celtics were mired in the lower-half of the Eastern Conference standings and had their team meeting.

The Celtics have seen a slight uptick in pace (they rank 18th in that category overall) since Dec. 1, and are getting more comfortable in terms of team chemistry. Overall, Boston has won seven of its last nine games to stay within striking distance of the upper crust in the East.

”We’re all understanding that we’re trying to play faster and the ball movement has been working for us,” said Al Horford, who led Boston last night with eight assists. ”It keeps the defense on their toes, really makes the other team work. It’s kind of contagious.”

 

The Starters think the Celtics may be undervalued as 2019 wears on.

“Well, you see the type of connection that we have out there in terms of our pick-and-roll and what we do and how we talk is pretty seamless,” Irving said, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “We came in the same time and have this understanding of where our journeys have started and where it is now and an appreciation of where we are. So we just want to take full advantage of it for this year.”

Since Thanksgiving, the Celtics are No. 1 in offensive rating, have a net rating of 11.2 (tops in the NBA) and are 16-6 (the best record in the league). In short, Boston is finding its way — at least over the last few weeks — and developing chemistry with a roster filled with talent.

“It was hard to find good clips at the start of the year,” coach Brad Stevens said, per the Boston Herald. “And I think some of that was because we were pressing; some of that was because we missed shots when the ball was moving.  All looks a little bit better when it finishes with a make, but that’s who we have to be.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Thunder’s Noel available to play tonight vs. Lakers

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* Tonight on TNT:  Lakers vs. Thunder, 10:30 ET

Oklahoma City Thunder center Nerlens Noel, who suffered a concussion roughly a week ago, has cleared the NBA’s concussion protocol and is available to play tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Noel suffered his injury last Tuesday in the Thunder’s 119-117 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Tests last Wednesday showed Noel avoided any fractures from the spill and he was released from the hospital after an overnight stay. Noel then entered the NBA’s concussion protocol, which he was under for the past nine days.

Noel is in his first season with the Thunder and is averaging 5.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a key reserve for OKC.

He was taken off the court on a stretcher in the third quarter of last Tuesday’s game against Minnesota after the Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins made contact with him on a dunk attempt.

 

Nerlens Noel took a scary fall in a game last week against Minnesota.

Noel took an elbow in the face as Wiggins went up, and Noel’s head hit the ground hard. A defensive foul was called on Noel. The play was reviewed, and no additional fouls were called. Noel was down for several minutes before being taken from the court. Players from both teams jawed at each other while Noel was on the ground.

Wiggins said he didn’t mean to hurt Noel.

“I just tried to make an aggressive move and dunk,” Wiggins said. “He tried to contest it. I think he fell wrong. I didn’t really see it until I saw him on the ground. Hopefully, he’s good. I hope nothing but the best for him. I hope he gets healthy soon and comes back stronger.”

The Thunder have lost two of their last three games since that defeat in Minnesota, including a 142-126 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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Cousins calls Warriors ‘most hated team in sports’

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As his season debut with the Golden State Warriors looms, former All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins said in a recent interview his new team probably isn’t loved by everyone. To Cousins, it seems, no team is more disliked than the Warriors.

Cousins was recently interviewed by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and says he has not focused on the reaction from fans since he decided to sign with the Warriors last summer in free agency. 

“I don’t really pay attention to storylines,” Cousins told ESPN. “I mean, they’re gonna say what they have to say. They’re gonna add their opinions. We’re the most hated team in sports.”

Cousins has not played since late January of 2018 after being sidelined by an Achilles injury while playing for the New Orleans Pelicans. He was named an All-Star last season, but did not play in the game due to injury, and chose to sign with the Warriors last summer. He is set to debut tomorrow night against the LA Clippers (10:30 ET, ESPN) at Staples Center.

When Nichols countered Cousins’ point by saying perhaps the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are among the most hated teams, Cousins laughed and said: “Well, put us up there. I would say the Warriors are for sure. You know they hate Kevin [Durant]. They hate me. I think the only guy they really like is Stephen [Curry]. Actually, they may hate him, as well. They hate Draymond Green. But I mean, it is what it is. I can’t worry about that.”

Cousins has made it clear on other occasions he’s not too concerned with fan reaction to his joining Golden State. Days after signing with the Warriors last summer, a teaser for a Showtime documentary about Cousins’ rehab road hit social media. In it, he addressed his return from injury and free agency choice while also not mincing words about his move to California.

* Blogtable:  Expectations for Cousins’ return?

“I knew how it would be perceived by some … I don’t give a [expletive],” Cousins said in the video, released on Twitter last July.

“There’s some [expletives] out there that’s ripping their hair out, and I love it. It’s just another test for me to overcome. … I’m a fighter, I never give up and I’m taking this challenge head on.”

 

How will the Warriors benefit from DeMarcus Cousins’ return?

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said last week that Cousins will start immediately when he makes his long-awaited Warriors debut.

Golden State’s coaching staff has spent the past couple of weeks more intensely planning for Cousins’ return and how he will be incorporated into different rotations throughout games, while also holding regular discussions with Cousins about the plan.

Before suffering his injury last season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 48 games.

The 28-year-old Cousins doesn’t expect to dominate from Day 1, especially playing in a lineup that will feature four other All-Stars — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Kerr said he hasn’t thought about the star-studded lineup yet, knowing there’s still half the season to go for Cousins to get comfortable and acclimated.

In the interview with ESPN, Cousins said Atlanta Hawks legend and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins was someone he leaned on during his rehab process. Wilkins tore his right Achilles in 1992, but came back in 1992-93 to average 29.9 ppg, which ranked No. 2 in the NBA that season.

“He just basically tells me to attack it,” Cousins said of Wilkins’ advice. “Once you realize you are healed, like, don’t think about it. Just go forward.

“One thing that Dominique also spoke on is — they don’t know your heart, and they don’t know your drive. So, you know, the people that do know me, they know I can be very stubborn. I don’t like to be proved wrong.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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Kyrie Irving says he called LeBron to apologize, discuss roles as leaders

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Kyrie Irving said Wednesday night he called LeBron James after last Saturday’s frustrating loss in Orlando to apologize for how he acted as a young player in Cleveland.

Irving said he had to apologize for “being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips” and admitted he “should have kept it in house” when criticizing his younger teammates.

 

Irving was in a better mood after scoring 27 points to lead Boston past the Toronto Raptors, 117-108, on Wednesday night.

Returning after missing the last game with a bruised right leg, Irving scored 10 points and dished six of his career-high 18 assists in the fourth quarter – including passes to set up Boston’s last three baskets in a 17-4 closing run.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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