Gordon Hayward

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Three Things to Know: Boston’s defense is legit, just ask Golden State

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Celtics defense is legit, holds Warriors to 88 and gets Boston huge win. Golden State brought the best offense in the NBA into Boston, scoring more than 115 points per 100 possessions — or 120 per game, if you like your stats old-school — which would rank them with the best offenses of all time.

They scored just 88 points Thursday night, with a net rating of 89.5 points per 100. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 5-of-20 from three, and Curry had a rough night all around (including a run of three fouls in three minutes in the third).

Credit the Celtics defense — they came into the game with the best defense in the NBA, but nobody expected this kind of performance against the Warriors. All season Boston has been fantastic contesting shots, taking away corner threes, and not letting teams get clean looks, and they did that so well against the Warriors you could see Golden State’s players thrown off their game and feeling uncomfortable. Golden State moved the ball and got good looks, but you tell they started to rush knowing the contest was coming — the Warriors shot 17-of-43, 39.5 percent, on uncontested shots in this game (according to NBA.com’s player tracking stats, which notoriously have issues but prove the point here). Boston’s defense does that to teams.

Boston then got just enough offense to win. Kyrie Irving struggled all night but made plays down the stretch to get buckets (and get to the line, where he put the Celtics ahead for good). An emotional Jaylen Brown, playing after the death of a friend, had a hustling and impressive 22 points to lead Boston.

This is more than just Boston’s 14th straight win (although it is that, too). This is validation — they belong at the adult table for Thanksgiving, the contender table. There’s a long season to go and the Celtics have to go through LeBron James to reach the Finals still, and in no way is a game before Thanksgiving proof of anything that could happen in June (both of these will be different teams in a lot of ways by then), but the Celtics are legitimately in the mix. This team can contend. They are not a year away and waiting for Gordon Hayward’s return, their time is now.

2) Rockets drop 90 on Suns in the first half, James Harden scores 48, Rockets cruise to win. What is there to say about this game? One of the best teams in the NBA beat up one of the worst, 142-116. The only real news was Chris Paul returned and had 11 points and 10 assists in 20 minutes — no need to send him down to the G-League for a rehab stint, just play the Suns.

Let’s make our point via videos. Here is the Rockets putting up 90 points in the first half.

And here is James Harden’s 48 points.

3) NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players’ union executive director Michelle Roberts having serious conversations about changing one-and-done rule. Nobody likes the one-and-done rule — not NBA teams, not universities, not players — but it’s the compromise that we’ve had to live with for years.

Now, there finally seems to be some real momentum toward changing it. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and players’ union executive director Michelle Roberts met with the Commission on College Basketball — which was put in place in the wake of the recruiting/money scandal from the FBI investigation into the sport — and they discussed the one-and-done rule and what alternatives are out there, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

There is some momentum toward a change, and pushing things toward more of a baseball-style rule — players could make the leap from high school to the NBA, but if a player goes to college they must stay there at least two years (for baseball it is three). How NBA owners would react to this remains to be seen — they are not fans of scouting high school players and trying to project them to the NBA. Yes, there are guys we know worked out — LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and on down the line — but there were misses, too, and that’s what bothers owners and GMs. They don’t want to blow a high draft pick, and predicting what an 18-year-old will be like as a player and person in four or five years is very difficult.

The “baseball rule” has its flaws, but it’s better than one-and-done. The NBA needs to make the G-League a viable alternative to develop those high school players, or for players who aren’t NBA ready but don’t want to go to college. Also, what needs to come with it is a change from the NCAA that allows players who agree to go with an agent then don’t get drafted — ones who get bad advice from family and hangers-on — are allowed to still go to college and retain that eligibility. Give them a chance.

We’ll see what comes of this, but there seems to be some momentum slowly building for a change. It’s the NBA and the player’s union that would need to negotiate this.

All eyes on Derrick Favors as Jazz begin life without Rudy Gobert

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The departures of Gordon Hayward and George Hill were supposed to set Derrick Favors up for more opportunities with the Utah Jazz. That wasn’t consistently so through the first 12 games of the season, but there’s no question the eighth-year big man will now have to shoulder more responsibility on both ends of the floor.

The Jazz will experience life without Rudy Gobert for the next month with the second-team All-NBA center out with a bone bruise in his right leg.

“I’m excited about it,” Favors said. “It’s a new challenge. I get to be a big part of the offense now. A big part of the defense, too. It’s a big responsibility, but I’m ready for it.”

Favors is now the starting center, sliding over from power forward. Thabo Sefolosha started against the Nets at power forward and Jonas Jerebko got the start against the Timberwolves.

Gobert was averaging 13.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Favors had 24 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks against the Nets, but nine points, 10 rebounds and one block against the Timberwolves.

The Jazz were already struggling with consistency as a roster and now they’re without their centerpiece – the defensive player of the year that’s the focal point of one of the league’s top defenses several years running. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman’s rim protection allowed defenders to be aggressive on the perimeter knowing Gobert had their back.

The Jazz will be smaller with the 6-10 Favors in the middle and a combination of Sefolosha, Jerebko, Joe Johnson, who’s currently out with a wrist injury, and Ekpe Udoh at power forward. Coach Quin Snyder can go even smaller with Joe Ingles at the four in certain lineups. That could result in more switching or other nuances defending the pick-and-roll.

“Our margin for error gets a little bit slimmer,” Snyder said. “Our team will adjust. That’s all you can do. Every substitution pattern changes the makeup of the team. Some more dramatically than others. Obviously, Derrick playing with Thabo or Joe Ingles at the four, there’s a different style of attack. It’s something that Derrick’s capable of doing and doing well.”

There will be adjustments offensively, also, as Gobert had improved as a finisher around the rim and is one of the best rollers to the basket in the pick-and-roll. The lob had become a staple of the offense.

Favors is averaging 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks this season – improvements from his injury-riddled 2016-17, but still a step back from the previous three seasons. He has improved his range and has some of his athleticism back after knee and back injuries, but he still hasn’t been as effective. Opinions range from Favors just not being the same player anymore to his numbers being affected by decreased playing time with fewer opportunities.

Offseason acquisition Ricky Rubio has struggled as the starting point guard and his 3.9 turnovers per game are the eighth-most in the league. He’ll have to develop chemistry with Favors.

Snyder said they have to sometimes wrestle with Favors to get him to roll.

“It’s something different because at the four I’m so used to popping out to the free throw line, or beyond 3-point line, while Rudy’s in the paint,” Favors said. “Now my main job is to roll to the basket, roll in the paint, try to draw a lot of attention so guys can get open on the corner three or perimeter. It’s definitely something new this season that I have to get used to, but I’m ready for it.”

The Jazz are dealing with a plethora of injuries again after Favors, Hill, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks all missed significant time last season. Dante Exum (shoulder surgery) is out for the season and Johnson (wrist) should be reevaluated soon.

Gobert said this won’t change any playoff expectations for the team.

“It’s frustrating for sure,” Gobert said. “We know that every game matters. At the same time, I think it’s just going to make us stronger. I’m confident the team can win without me. The only thing I can do is make sure I do everything right and when I come back, I’m stronger and I’m ready to help the team out.”

 

Rudy Gobert to Dion Waiters: “It’s not my feelings, it’s my knee”

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Rudy Gobert believes he has every right to be upset after sustaining a leg injury that’s expected to keep him out at least four weeks.

The Utah Jazz big man went down Friday when Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters crashed into his leg, causing Gobert’s knee to buckle. The 7-foot-1 center initially called it a dirty play.

Waiters was going after a loose ball, then dove awkwardly into Gobert’s leg. He later tweeted, “Dove for the ball right…” with video of the play.

Waiters told the Sun-Sentinel on Sunday that he’s never been a dirty player and, “Tell him to get out of his feelings and that’s what it is, just like that.”

“It’s not my feelings, it’s my knee,” Gobert said Monday. “That’s a little more important.

“I like to play basketball. Sometimes if someone takes that away from you, you’ve got to get in your feelings for a reason.”

Gobert woke up Saturday with unexpected stiffness and swelling in the leg. An MRI revealed a bruised right tibia. The 2016-17 second-team All-NBA center said it could have been worse and he’s happy to know he’ll fully recover with no ligament or structural damage. The rehab process is basically to get the swelling down and stay strong and in shape.

Playoff aspirations and individual goals remain intact, though they will be much more difficult for Utah to achieve. The Jazz have now lost Gobert for a month, Joe Johnson (wrist) has yet to return and was expected to miss a month, and Dante Exum is out for the season after shoulder surgery. All this after the team lost its top two scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, during offseason free agency.

“Just frustrating that I’ll miss some time,” Gobert said. “At the same time I’m feeling lucky because when I look at the video, if I don’t lift my foot up in the air at the same moment, it’d be way worse. Good and bad.”

The Frenchman is averaging 13.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Derrick Favors started at center Saturday and had 24 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

The Jazz plan to re-evaluate Gobert after four weeks and the general timeline for his return is four to six weeks. Utah’s top player is optimistic it will be sooner than that.

“Usually, I heal very fast,” Gobert said. “We’re not going to rush it or do anything stupid. But I’m pretty confident that I can be back before that.”

 

Three Things to Know: Kyrie who? Celtics win streak reaches dozen

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) No Kyrie, no problem — Celtics keep finding ways to win, streak up to 12. Brad Stevens has turned the Boston Celtics into the embodiment of every coaching cliché: one man goes down and it’s next man up, they are just taking it one game at a time, they just have to worry about themselves and play their game, they play a full 48 minutes, they are focusing on defense, and they are giving 110 percent effort.

Bottom line — it’s working, and the Celtics are winning. Twelve in a row now.

Kyrie Irving was out Sunday due to a facial fracture suffered at the elbow of teammate Aron Baynes (he is expected back Tuesday at Brooklyn wearing a mask, which could be bad news for the league, last time Irving had to wear a mask he tore it up for a couple of weeks).

Next man up. Marcus Smart started for Steven’s Celtics, Al Horford returned from missing games with a concussion and scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting, Jaylen Brown added 18, the Celtics again played strong defense, and they held on through a tight fourth quarter to knock off a good Raptors team 95-94. The Raptors had the chance to win with a couple late pull-up jumpers and an offensive foul call on Jayson Tatum that a kid hated and screamed about, apparently into a courtside mic. However, DeMar DeRozan missed both chances, the second one was the kind of shot he hits a lot of (he is shooting 42.9 percent from that area of the floor this season).

The Celtics have been the NBA’s most surprising and impressive story to start the season, losing Gordon Hayward but shifting the offense around, getting well-rounded games out of Irving, Horford playing like he’s 26 again (but with a three-point shot), and the team is defending like mad, all game long and especially in the fourth quarter. It works. They get a real measuring stick on Thursday against Golden State, but so far all the clichés sound good in Boston.

2) Rudy Gobert out 4-6 weeks with a bone bruise in his knee.
Utah Jazz fans breathed a huge sigh of relief Friday night when Rudy Gobert returned to the court after this injury where Dion Waiters went crashing into his knee.

They may have exhaled too quickly — Gobert is out four to six weeks with a bone bruise.

That’s not good. The Jazz defense, third in the NBA this season allowing just a point per possession (100.2 per 100), is focused around forcing penetration into Gobert, who is the best shot blocking/rim-protecting big in the game right now. Utah is going to struggle to get stops the same way, because Derrick Favors is not that same kind of athlete (nor the same kind of athlete Favors himself was before the injuries).

What might help Utah compensate for this is an improved offense — the two-big starting lineup with Favors and Gobert, and Ricky Rubio running the show, has an offensive rating of 94.7 points per 100 possessions this season in 108 minutes — they are still struggling with those starters despite the defense. They miss Gordon Hayward’s shot creation and shooting with those two bigs on the court. Forced to go to just one big, maybe they find better spacing and options. Maybe.

It still could be a rough time between now and Christmas for the Jazz.

3) Paul George drops 37, Thunder win second in a row… but let’s not say they have figured it out yet. Hey, Paul George, what did you get Russell Westbrook for his birthday.

PG13 dropped 37, Russell Westbrook had 16 of his 27 in the third quarter when the Thunder pulled away, and Oklahoma City beat Dallas 112-99 for a comfortable win on Sunday. The kind of win the Thunder need — that’s two wins in a row now.

You know why Oklahoma City has back-to-back wins? No, not the team meeting, good luck finding a player who actually thinks those things are useful other than to vent. No, I’m nowhere near convinced the Thunder have started to figure it out (they were without Carmelo Anthony on Sunday).

The Thunder have won two straight because they have played a Clipper team that’s falling apart (they are 1-7 in their last eight) and then a Dallas team that is last in the Western Conference. Maybe the Thunder needed a couple easy wins as slump busters, just any wins to turn the team around, and with Chicago up next the streak could well reach three wins. But talk to me after the games against the Spurs, Pelicans, and Warriors, then we will have a measuring stick.

Report: Kyrie Irving suffers facial facture, out Sunday then will play in mask

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Kyrie Irving has worn masks before. He wore a black one back in 2012 after suffering a facial fracture, then the next season wore one for a couple of weeks more as a precaution after another blow to the face.

Irving took another blow to the face on Friday night, this one from teammate Aron Baynes.

This one will cause him to miss Sunday’s game, the team announced.

Irving will wear a mask for a few weeks after, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will likely miss Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors because of a facial fracture but plans to get fitted for a mask and play through the injury, league sources told The Vertical.

He will have the mask for a couple of weeks, according to the report.

Irving has led the Celtics to the best record in the East averaging 22 points and 5.2 assists per game. He has developed fast chemistry with Al Horford, which has helped the Celtics rattle off 11 wins in a row despite the loss of Gordon Hayward for the season.