Celtics

Celtics head into Philly full on confidence

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Celtics head into Philly full on confidence

PHILADELPHIA After two games, it's not that big of a stretch to say that the Boston Celtics could easily be down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with Philadelphia.

For some teams, that reality could rattle a team's confidence.

And then there's the Celtics who'll come into the Sixers den, the series tied at 1-1, with the kind of confidence and swagger of James Bond 007.

But unlike Bond's drink of choice, the C's confidence is not shaken or stirred.

"I don't really worry about where we play," said Boston guard Ray Allen, who led the C's with 17 points in their 82-81 Game 2 loss. "It's just how we play and when we play them. Being in their building isn't going to affect us. It's all about how we play them when we get out there, how we take care (of the ball) and work together better than we did (in Game 2)."

The Celtics' confidence is an across-the-board thing, starting with the captain Paul Pierce.

When asked if he thought the C's could pull out a victory in Philadelphia, Pierce said, I never have doubts; you always think youre gonna win, but unfortunately we didnt (in Game 2).

Sixers coach Doug Collins has had many battles both as a player and as a coach against the Celtics.

Philadelphia took a game on the C's home floor and with it, home court advantage.

But taking the Celtics' confidence? Collins knows better.

"I don't see us denting their confidence," he said.

While being so sure of themselves has served them well in the past, there is a concern -- a legit one -- that the Celtics aren't taking this series as seriously as they should.

Even though the Sixers beat them two out of three games during the regular season, the necessary focus and attention to detail needed throughout the first two games hasn't been there.

In Boston's 92-91 Game 1 victory, the C's lethargic start forced them to rally from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to get the win. And in Game 2, it was almost a carbon copy of Game 1 minus the outcome.

So as the Celtics continue to straddle that thin line they've walked for years between being extremely confident and cocky, the Sixers' swagger is starting to grow as well.

And now that they have home court advantage, getting it back will be all the more tougher for Boston.

Monday's loss certainly provided a boost of confidence to the Sixers, but C's coach Doc Rivers believes the Celtics actually gave Philadelphia that in Game 1.

"I mean, we played a home game in Game One where we stole the game," Rivers said. "And, so, if you're the other team you have to have a little confidence coming in (to Game Two). That's what I was so happy with the start of Game Two, and then we let it go."

The C's opened the game with a 9-0 run, but soon saw its lead disappear and ultimately with it, a chance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

"Again I have to tell you all season long we couldn't win these games," Collins said following the Sixers win. "And now our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch."

Added Kevin Garnett: "They play with a lot of energy, they play together. They know who they are. Doug has those guys believing. They're a young team, and they're playing with a lot of confidence."

And only time will tell if that confidence is anything like the Celtics' -- not shaken or stirred.

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.

There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.

But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.

His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.

Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.

In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.

Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.

More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”

Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.

But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.

Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.

But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.

In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.

Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.

“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”

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Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

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File Photo

Kyrie is not happy with Zaza Pachulia

The Celtics defeated the Knicks in a game that had a little bit of everything Saturday night.

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics to victory and dominated in all of the important situations.

But he came out of the night a little pissed off.

During the Warriors-Thunders game tonight, Russell Westbrook drove to the paint and fell to the ground.

After Westbrook fell to the ground Zaza Pachulia appears to intentionally fall on to the back of his legs.

The play irritated Irving enough for him to air out his thoughts publicly on Instagram.