Celtics

Celtics continue to make it hard on themselves

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Celtics continue to make it hard on themselves

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics haven't made anything easy for themselves this season.

Why would they start in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals?

After winning a critical Game 5 on the road in Miami, the Celtics were positioned to close out the series and send the Heat back to South Beach with the Oklahoma City Thunder already waiting in the wings in the NBA Finals.

Instead, they surrendered their home court advantage early on, leading by just two points the entire game. LeBron James single-handedly forced a deciding Game 7 with 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Heats 98-79 victory.

The Celtics have been in this situation before. They went to seven games in the previous round against the Philadelphia 76ers and have played numerous seven-game series in the New Big Three Era.

But this time they are on the road, away from the cheers of their home crowd that lasted until the final buzzer on Thursday night, and forced to fend off injuries, fatigue, and the looming shadow of James.

This team has been about adversity all year long, said Paul Pierce. This isnt going to be anything new. Its been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldnt it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the Finals is hard, and this is as hard as it gets. And I think we are prepared for it.

The Cs will make adjustments and try to right their wrongs from Game 6. They already know how to beat the Heat -- they did it in three straight games -- and now it is a matter of executing the game plan.

It goes beyond stopping James. Paul Pierce talked about recovering during the game. Rajon Rondo discussed taking care of the ball and getting into his sets. Keyon Dooling talked about playing team defense.

For the Celtics, the key is putting all of the pieces together on Saturday night.

Nothing has been easy up until this point, said Kevin Garnett. Cant expect it now. It is what it is. Were going to take these cards and play them. Lot of confident guys in here. Lot of guys whove been through Game 7s. Lot of experienced guys. Were going to lean on that and were going to fight. A bunch of fighters in this locker room.

As the Cs look ahead to Game 7, they see it as just another obstacle they will have to overcome. It will be the biggest challenge they have faced all season, but one they feel they have been battle tested to survive.

Honestly, that was a great opportunity, but we have another opportunity, said Doc Rivers. We get to play another game, Game 7. I would say most of the people in this room would have said, Wow, theyre going to get to Game 7. Well take it. Thats the way we have to view it. We won a game at theirs, they won here. Now we get to play for all the marbles. This team has not done it the easy way this year. Maybe this is justified for us -- go in there and do it.

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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