Celtics to face red-hot Knicks in Round One


Celtics to face red-hot Knicks in Round One

By A.Sherrod Blakely

WASHINGTON Lately, the Boston Celtics have had this nasty habit of making things much harder on themselves than needed.

Keeping true to form, that goes for their playoff fortunes as well.

Boston's 95-94 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards, coupled with a win by Miami and a loss by Philadelphia -- all on Monday -- have the Celtics locked in as the No. 3 seed against the No. 6 seed New York Knicks, one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now.

While the two teams will face each other in the regular-season finale on Wednesday, there's no point in trying to glean too much information from that game.

"We're going to rest guys on Wednesday and get ready," said coach Doc Rivers, who held Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett out of action on Monday and will likely keep them out on Wednesday, along with Jermaine O'Neal. "I'm sure they'll do the same."

In other words, for those looking for a preview of the Pierce-Carmelo Anthony matchup, chances are very good that you won't see either on the floor on Wednesday.

While there may not be a lot to gain from Wednesday's matchup, there are benefits to knowing who they'll face in the first round right now.

"That's not a bad thing," Rivers said.

What has been bad in spurts lately, is the Celtics' play.

They come into their regular-season finale having lost three of their last four games, the kind of late-season slump no team that's seriously thinking about winning a title, should be riding as they gear up for the postseason.

Despite the struggles, players sound convinced that it won't be an issue once the playoffs arrive.

"The playoffs are a different level," said Celtics forward Jeff Green. "Every possession counts. We just have to continue to move forward. We can't look back to what we did in the past. We have to put that behind us and continue to get better."

Added Glen Davis: "Everyone is ready, so I'm not worried about losing three of the last four games," he said. "We still have one more game and then it's a new season. That's how we see the playoffs. We're ready to play at that level."

In New York, Boston faces one of the more explosive trios in the NBA.

Amar'e Stoudemire has been joined by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, forming their own Gotham version of the Big Three.

While New York has had its share of ups and downs this season, they seem to be figuring out how to get wins at just the right time.

The Knicks have won seven in a row, which is currently tied with top-seeded Chicago for the longest current winning streak in the NBA.

"They're going to be challenging," Green said.

Which is why many within Celtics Nation were hoping that the Celtics would avoid facing a red-hot New York Knicks team, and instead square off against a Philadelphia 76ers club that's high on athleticism but lacking playoff experience.

While the Celtics have a number of players with a decent postseason resume, the majority of this Celtics team wasn't around last season. So for many, this is their first go-around with a team like Boston where competing for a championship isn't something that's desired - it's an expectation.

"We are taking the same intensity and focus into these playoffs as we always do," said Ray Allen. "We don't have the same team and it is going to be great experience for our new additions to play at the playoff level. You can't expect anything going into the playoffs. You just have to go in full force and make it happen. It's not something to be comfortable about; you have to go in with an attitude and play your best."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Stevens says Hayward’s ‘spirits were pretty positive’ after surgery

Stevens says Hayward’s ‘spirits were pretty positive’ after surgery

PHILADELPHIA – Thursday was a travel day for the Celtics, but part of the day for Brad Stevens was spent visiting with Gordon Hayward, who underwent successful left ankle surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the rest of the season.
“He’s obviously post-surgery, having some of the post-surgery challenges of pain and everything else,” Stevens said. “The surgery went great. His spirits were pretty positive.”


He is, all things considered, in a very good place.
Stevens and the Celtics plan to do all they can to keep Hayward there as he now finds himself in the early stages of rehabilitation.
“We talked a little about how to approach the next five months, with maintaining that positivity in different ways to stay engaged, different ways to approach this, to attack this. He was ready to get started with his rehab the minute he got out of surgery.”
Eager to help, Stevens reached out to good friend Frank Vogel.
Vogel, who now coaches the Orlando Magic, was the coach of the Indiana Pacers when Paul George went down with a season-ending knee injury while playing for Team USA in 2014.

“It’s really important to just be active, to be as active as you can,” Stevens said. “I called Frank Vogel, the day we drove to the gym to play Milwaukee, just asked him what are some of the things Paul did in his year off that you would encourage? What are some of the things that we should look at?”
Among the tips he received was to work with Hayward on form shooting while sitting in a chair.
“Hey, he’s gonna be the best guy shooting out of a chair with his left hand, right hand, perfect his form,” Stevens said of Hayward. “Let’s have fun, let’s come up with creative ways to attack this.”

With injuries to both ankles, Smart unlikely to play tonight


With injuries to both ankles, Smart unlikely to play tonight

PHILADELPHIA – Things have only gotten worse for the Celtics on the injury front.
Marcus Smart, who replaced an injured Gordon Hayward (left ankle) in the Celtics’ starting lineup, is now unlikely to suit up for tonight’s game against Philadelphia.


Smart, whose left ankle was heavily wrapped prior to Boston’s shoot-around this morning, said he rolled both ankles in the 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not made a decision on who would replace Smart in the Celtics’ starting lineup tonight.
“We’ll do some work all day and pre-game and make a final determination,” Stevens said.
More to come …