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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.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t believe in the NBA 2K cover curse

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Milwaukee Bucks superstar at Giannis Antetokounmpo will bless this year’s cover of NBA 2K19. It’s a big deal for the Greek Freak, who has come a long way since be a heralded prospect after being drafted in 2013.

Antetokounmpo is also apparently aware of the noted curse from the 2K franchise. That is, that former players who have been on the cover in years past have notoriously ended up in different jerseys shortly after getting selected for the honor.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, and Kevin Durant all left their respective teams shortly after being featured on the cover.

Antetokounmpo signed a contract extension in 2016 that runs through the 2020-2021 season. Unless something goes horribly wrong, there’s no reason to think that he will be gone anytime soon.

But is the cover curse real? People certainly seem to think the Madden one is.

Lakers fan paints another LeBron James mural in Los Angeles (PHOTO)

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There was already one LeBron James mural in Los Angeles. Several people decided to attack it with paint, ruining a nice gesture by a local artist in Venice and proving how annoying (presumed) Kobe Bryant fans can be.

Now, there is another mural in LA and this time it paid a little more attention to former Lakers legends. Hopefully this time around the subject matter will help stave off would-be vandals.

Via Twitter:

This LeBron piece was done by another Venice muralist, Gustavo Zermeño Jr., who posted photos of his work. In it, LeBron is seen looking up at Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

No doubt that should satisfy some Lakers purists around the area, at least enough to keep them from throwing white paint all over it and ruining and impressive piece of artwork that took the artist a long time to create.

Lakers fan should just be happy that LeBron is in their state.

Clippers sign free agent Luc Mbah a Moute for second stint

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LOS ANGELES — Luc Mbah a Moute is back with the Los Angeles Clippers, signing a free-agent deal.

The 31-year-old forward averaged 7.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.18 steals in 61 games for Houston last season.

Mbah a Moute played two seasons for the Clippers from 2015-17, averaging 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 155 games, including 137 starts.

He was selected 37th overall by Milwaukee in 2008 after three seasons at UCLA. Besides the Clippers and Rockets, Mbah a Moute has played 10 seasons with Milwaukee, Sacramento, Minnesota and Philadelphia.

Terms of the deal announced Thursday were not announced.

DeMarcus Cousins relishing fresh start in Golden State

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins spent his first eight seasons in the NBA chasing two things – peace and the playoffs.

After signing with Golden State as a free agent, the four-time All-Star center has no doubts he’ll finally find both, and that those will help dispel the notion that he’s a bad teammate.

“Just a chance to play for a winning culture,” Cousins said Thursday. “I also have a chance to play with some of the most talented players of this era. Those two things alone, that pretty much sums it up.”

Looking relaxed while sitting on a stage next to Warriors general manager Bob Myers, Cousins was at ease during a news conference at the team’s practice facility.

Golden State’s fiery big man seems content in his new surroundings and wants the hardware to show for it.

“Every guy said let’s go get another championship,” Cousins said. “They are a well-established team and they could have easily been like, `No, we don’t need him.’ But they were excited like a team that’s never accomplished anything.”

While his signing in Golden State drew mostly groans from around the NBA, Cousins didn’t need much persuading to join the two-time defending champions. He has never played in the postseason, is coming off Achilles surgery in January and didn’t attract much attention in free agency until signing a $5.3 million, one-year contract with Golden State.

From the Warriors’ side, it’s a case of the rich getting richer. They’ve won the championship three of the past four seasons with an attack heavy on perimeter shooting and defense. In the 6-foot-7-inch, 270-pound Cousins, they now have a dominant presence on the low block as well.

“It’s a different dimension,” Myers said. “It’s not something that we’ve ever had as far as a low-post threat since I’ve been here. I’m excited. I hope he’s excited.”

Cousins averaged 25.2 points and career highs in rebounds (12.9), assists (5.4) and minutes (36.2) with New Orleans before getting hurt. He has been frustrated by the tediousness of rehab but is being cautious in his approach.

“I’m progressing weekly, which is a positive,” Cousins said. “As far as a timetable . to be determined. I have to be smart about it. I’m in a unique situation as well where I’m not needed right away. Time is kind of on my side so I have a chance to get to 100 percent.

“Making it to the playoffs won’t be an issue for this team obviously. Once the basketball part comes, everything else will take care of itself.”

A throng of media attended the news conference, flanked by 150 young fans who were taking part in a basketball camp held by Warriors. Cousins answered questions from two of the youngsters who were eager to know who his favorite players were growing up.

The 27-year-old with a quick temper and a history of piling up technical fouls at a rapid rate showed a playful side when he joked about the possibility of fighting with new teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, two players with whom he’s had on-court issues in the past.

“Might as well,” Cousins said as the crowd laughed.

Cousins turned serious at one point when asked about reports that he had been offered a new contract by New Orleans before signing with Golden State.

“Only me and (Pelicans general manager) Dale Demps know what was said on the phone that night,” Cousins said. “We both know the truth and I’ll leave it at that.”

As for his new team, Cousins has assimilated quickly. He played with several members of the Warriors while winning a gold medal as part of Team USA during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“Me and Draymond clicked right away,” Cousins said. “We’re two goofballs that like to joke around a lot. Same with KD and same thing with Steph (Curry). It’s a great group. I think we’ll mesh well.”

Until he is medically cleared to play, Cousins will continue to rehab and learn coach Steve Kerr’s system. He’ll also reach out to the Oakland community, something he made a quiet habit of while in Sacramento playing for the Kings.

“I get out in the `hoods,” Cousins said. “I want to go to the worst, the grimiest places. That’s where I want to be. Those are usually the kids or the communities that kind of get left behind or forgotten about. I feel like I was in that situation at one point. That’s where my mindset is and that’s what I stand for.”