Celtics

Celtics need to get gritty to survive the Knicks

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Celtics need to get gritty to survive the Knicks

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The last time Boston played New York, Celtics coach Doc Rivers found himself uttering the seemingly unspeakable to his team at the half.

"I haven't used the word 'soft' in, maybe four years, but at halftime, that word came out a lot," Rivers said that night.

The Celtics rallied in the second half for a win, but the C's haven't totally freed themselves of such criticism.

Boston has shown the ability to lock into opponents and be the physical, grind-it-out kind of team we've seen make deep playoff runs an annual tradition.

Far too many times lately, though, that team is nowhere to be found when its presence is desperately needed.

That has to change if the Celtics are to have any shot at bringing home Banner 18.

But first things first.

They must deal with a red-hot New York Knicks team in the first round of the playoffs, which will begin at the TD Garden this weekend.

New York presents tremendous challenge to any team's defense.

Amar'e Stoudemire averages 25.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and spent a good chunk of the season being talked about as an MVP candidate. Carmelo Anthony is essentially a younger, bigger and stronger version of Paul Pierce.

And don't forget point guard Chauncey Billups, a five-time All-Star who was NBA Finals MVP in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.

Beyond those three, the Knicks have little firepower.

And we're not even going to talk about the Knicks and defense because, well, the Knicks don't really play defense.

That's why it's vital the Celtics counter New York's explosive trio of scorers with a physical brand of basketball.

It will have to be a team thing, obviously.

But it starts with the Big Four and Glen Davis, the only players on the roster who truly understand what it's like to go deep into the playoffs with the Green team.

"We have a core group of guys who have been there, who won it," Davis said. "At the end of the day, Doc's going to shorten the rotation. The guys out there are guys that got the grit, the guys who are going to grind and make it happen."

One of the more physical plays made by the Celtics recently was a flagrant foul by Jermaine O'Neal against Miami's LeBron James on Sunday.

The play led to the usual theatrical stare-downs between players from both teams, with the end result being a handful of technical fouls being handed out.

"Sometimes you have to have hard fouls, you have to have hard plays," O'Neal said. "Here's the issue. If you don't commit them, somebody is going to commit them to you. Sometimes the first team that hits first, is the team left standing."

O'Neal recalled the many battles he had with the Detroit Pistons when he was a member of the Indiana Pacers.

"It was like fisticuffs every game," O'Neal said. "That's just how it is."

And that's how it has to be if the Celtics are to finish the season off achieving the only goal they set for themselves this season -- bringing home Banner 18.

"It's no ill will to intentionally cripple somebody," O'Neal said. "But you have to make sure, they don't need to be coming into that lane on every possession. That's what it is. We have guys who have grit. Everybody is built differently. But we have a handful of guys who can bring some force and bring some toughness to that lane."

But the issue remains, can they do it with any kind of consistency?

If they plan to be the last team standing, they have no choice.

"We understand exactly what we need to do and where we need to go if we want to be champions," O'Neal said. "That's what it really boils down to."

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

Isaiah Thomas likes video of Jalen Rose calling Paul Pierce 'petty'

Isaiah Thomas likes video of Jalen Rose calling Paul Pierce 'petty'

Just when all the video tribute controversy between Isaiah Thomas and Paul Pierce seemed to be dying down, Jalen Rose heated it right back up.

Live on ESPN's "NBA Countdown," Rose called Pierce "petty" for his comments on the Celtics potentially holding a video tribute for Isaiah on Feb. 11 when Pierce gets his jersey retired.

Jalen Rose called Paul Pierce petty right to his face... 😳

A post shared by DIME on UPROXX (@dimemagazine) on

Thomas tweeted on Tuesday that he (again) declined the Celtics' offer to hold the tribute for him so it wouldn't interfere with Pierce's night. But if you look at the likes on the Instagram video above, posted by dimemagazine, you'll see Thomas appears to agree with Rose on the matter.

It doesn't look like the video tribute drama is going to end until the Feb. 11 matchup between the Celtics and Cavaliers is over with.

Horford: Fighting in NBA 'needs to stop'

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Horford: Fighting in NBA 'needs to stop'

WALTHAM, Mass. – Three Houston Rockets players entered the Los Angeles Clippers’ training room before being stopped by security but not before a profanity-laced exchange that’s sure to result in fines and possibly some suspensions.

Orlando’s Arron Afflalo threw a punch – and barely missed – hitting Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica which led to both players being ejected and for Afflalo will likely result in a suspension of some kind.

Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons got into it with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, resulting in both players being tossed and apparently leading to Simmons signaling to Lowry that they could continue having their “discussion” in the hallway.

That hallway encounter never happened (Lowry said he was there, Simmons said he didn’t see Lowry so you believe who you want to), but the fact that it was even a possibility speaks to this being one of the more bizarre weeks in recent memory when it comes to potential fighting in the league. 

And remember … it’s only freakin’ Wednesday!

I asked Boston’s Al Horford about this.

“It’s very, very bizarre,” said Horford, now in his 11th NBA season. “I don’t think I remember any period of time, (with) all this chippiness going on. You want to compete, you want to play hard; that’s fine. But all the extra stuff, I think needs to stop. At the end of the day you need to focus on basketball. We’re here to play.”

Horford added, “I’m sure the NBA will address those things and fix them.”

No one was shocked that things got a little testy in the Houston-Los Angeles Clippers game which was played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was the first time Chris Paul, now with the Rockets, returned to Los Angeles to face his former team. 

The Clippers won 113-102, a game filled with trash talk from both sides. But apparently the chatter soon turned to chippy play with hard fouls delivered and taken in the latter stages of play with a total of five technical fouls called, two of which were on Blake Griffin which is an automatic ejection. 

Talking trash gone bad was a factor in the Simmons-Lowry bruhaha with the Sixers emerging with the victory. 

And on Tuesday, Afflalo and Bjelica had already been assessed a technical for an earlier run-in. Soon after, there was a collision between the two which pissed off Afflalo who swung with great force at Bjelica’s face. 

“We’re professionals,” Horford said. “We can’t get caught up in that stuff.”

Horford plays around the basket and is no stranger to banging around with the big, bad angry bodies. 

But as much as there will be times when he’ll want to snap, Horford has consistently resisted the urge. 

“It’s hard; it’s hard,” he said. “But we have to remember what we play the game for; I play to win. I’m playing for my teammates and sometimes you need to take a step back before you do something you regret. That’s the way I look at it.”

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