Celtics

Bradley Beal 'wouldn't call it a rivalry' between Celtics and Wizards

Bradley Beal 'wouldn't call it a rivalry' between Celtics and Wizards

BOSTON –  In what will be the fourth and final matchup between Boston and Washington tonight, the narrative for most of this season has been about how much these two teams don’t like each other.

It sounds like a rivalry in the making, although at least one member of the Wizards’ core doesn’t see it that way.

When asked if this was a good rivalry, Wizards guard Bradley Beal said, “I don't know. I wouldn't call it a rivalry. It's two teams competing their butts off. We're neck and neck right now. It's a matter of who wants it the most.”

The Celtics (44-26) have the second-best record in the East, with the Wizards (42-27) just 1.5 games behind them.

Washington leads the head-to-head series two games to one, so the significance of tonight’s game can not be stated enough.

Because of that, it’s likely to be a hard-fought, feisty battle with tempers at times getting the best of players on both sidelines.

“It’s always gonna get chippy,” Beal told reporters. “It's always gonna be physical but that's not the type of game we're trying to make it. That's not the type of team that we are. We're clean. We try to play hard, keep it clean and try to come out with a win at the end of the day and they try to do the same so I don't call it a rivalry. It is what it is. People gonna hype it up but we just come out and try to get a win.”

That may be true, but there’s no mistaking that what we’ve seen between these two teams this season isn’t your run-of-the-mill matchups, with the competitive juices flowing more heavily than normal.

In Boston’s 117-108 win over Washington on Jan. 11, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated verbal exchange after the game that ultimately had Crowder putting his index finger on Wall’s nose which prompted a response from Wall as both players were soon separated before any punches were thrown.

Both players received league fines for their roles in the incident.

When the two met 13 days later in Washington, all of the Wizards players came to the game donning all-black clothing, a symbol of what they talked candidly about what was going to be a funeral-like night for the Celtics.

They backed up the talk by burying the Celtics 123-108 in a game that wasn’t that close.

“We both want to win,” Beal said. “We're both competitors. We're both tough teams. We don't take nothing from nobody so we stand on what we believe in and if you're not on our team, you're definitely against us and they feel the same way.”

But more than anything, this game is about potential playoff positioning.

Boston and Washington have separated themselves as the second and third-best teams in the East. So whichever squad comes out as the No. 2 seed, would have home court advantage in case they met in the second round of the playoffs.

And as we’ve seen thus far, the home team has won every game this season.

“I just think it’s a very important game,” Wall told reporters. “They're a whole game and a half ahead of us. Their team is trying to find a rhythm the same way we are since All-Star break. We've kinda both been up and down. We know what type of game it could be. A physical game, a very important game. We know we already beat them twice at home and they came here and beat us here so just try to find a way to try to win the season's series so you never know if you're gonna meet up with this team in the playoffs. They got a great team, a great coaching staff, some great players and a superstar in Isaiah (Thomas) and the guys, everybody else they know their role and it'll be a tough match up. I just feel like we got to come out and play defense and we'll be fine.”

And as far as doing anything special prior to the game like they did with the all-black attire in January … “Nah,” Wall said. “Just going out here and trying to play a basketball game and try to come away with a road win against a tough team.”

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

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Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

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Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

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And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

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