Celtics

Celtics prepare for hungry opponents

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Celtics prepare for hungry opponents

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

Being the target of lesser teams is nothing new for the Boston Celtics. It has been that way ever since the establishment of the new Big Three, and Wednesdays loss to the sub-.500 Los Angeles Clippers showed that wasnt changing any time soon.

But this is the point in the season where the Celtics are targeted by a different kind of opponent - one that can gain more than just a boost of confidence by upsetting the Cs.

With the postseason only a month away, the Celtics face hungry teams desperately fighting for a playoff berth.

On Friday the Celtics lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, who improved to 8-2 over their last 10 games as they inch their way up the lower seedings in the Eastern Conference. Their win over the Celtics put them just half a game behind the New York Knicks for the sixth spot.

Up next is the Milwaukee Bucks (25-38) on Sunday at TD Garden. The Celtics are 2-0 against the Bucks this season, although both wins have been decided by single digits. The Cs won, 105-102 in overtime, on November 3 in Boston, and left Milwaukee with an 89-83 victory last Sunday.

After battling through a season plagued by injuries (Andrew Bogut is now back on the court), the Bucks are fighting for the eighth and final spot in the East. Wins over the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers have them closing in on the Charlotte Bobcats and the struggling Indiana Pacers.

"The team is picking up, but these are games we should win," said Brandon Jennings, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So we can't be parading around here like we've done something. We've still got a long way to go."

The Bucks are aware their chances are winding down and every win or loss could have an impact on whether or not they make the playoffs. The significance of each regular season game is magnified at this point in their season.

"The season hasn't gone the way we wanted, but we're in a position where we still can
accomplish our goal," Earl Boykins, who scored 18 points on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"And that's playing in the playoffs. It's definitely a second chance, especially with winning the last few games. They're games we had to win. And earlier in the year they could have been two losses. I think guys realize now is the chance. We don't have any more time."

The Celtics have plenty at stake in this game, too. After losing to the Clippers and 76ers, the Cs (46-17) have just a half-game lead over the streaking Chicago Bulls (46-18) for the top seed in the East.

We expect to win every game, Ray Allen said following the loss to the Clippers. But any team at any point in this league is capable of winning any game. Were not better than them because of our record. Were better than them because we play hard every night and we play together. Walking into a game, record doesnt get you the next win.

You have to take a team like that and youve got to show them why they dont belong on the same floor as us.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

BOSTON – While it’s too soon to hit the panic button on the Boston Celtics’ season, Sunday’s 103-95 loss to Orlando is disturbing on multiple fronts. 

For starters, the Magic (14-32) have been in the NBA basement most of the season, so for them to see the light towards victory, on the road nonetheless, against the Celtics is bothersome for the Green Team. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Magic

Boston came into Sunday’s game with an impressive 17-3 record against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Making matters even worst, it was Boston’s third straight loss – a first for the Celtics this season - with all three defeats coming at the TD Garden. 

Celtics big man Al Horford said the team needs a “Fight for our lives’” mentality heading into Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

While no one wants to lose game, having to overcome some hurdles along the journey isn’t always a bad thing.

“Gotta have some adversity,” said Kyrie Irving who led all scorers with 40 points - the second time he has reached the 40-point plateau this season (47 points, Nov. 20 at Dallas). “We need it as a team. There’s a lot more adversity down the road. You have to be able to weather the storm no matter what.”

Aside from Gordon Hayward’s dislocated ankle injury in the season-opener, dropping three straight is probably the biggest adversity the Celtics have had this season. 

And this latest setback came against an Orlando franchise that the Celtics have absolutely owned at home. 

Prior to Sunday’s loss, Boston had not lost to the Magic at home since Feb. 7, 2010 with 14 straight wins.

"We didn't underestimate them," said Boston's Jaylen Brown who had 17 points. "They've been playing a lot better than they've been playing all year."

Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“You can’t underestimate any team,” Horford said. “I don’t think we necessarily did, but we need to have that sense of urgency like we started the game and be able to hold that throughout the game. That’s important.”

So is making the most of transition scoring opportunities which was an area of play in which the Celtics struggled mightily all game. 

Boston wound up with six, fast-break points on just 3-for-9 shooting. 

“We had some transition opportunities that we didn’t covert,” acknowledged Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

Failing to capitalize on those easy scoring opportunities came back to hurt Boston and in hindsight, proved to be one of the key differences in the game’s outcome. 

“Whether you’re doing things at an optimum level as you would like, that’s part of the game of learning one another,” Irving said. “Being able to figure out how to respond from that. Us as a group, we’ve come together in the last four months, five months, it’s new. We need to hit something like this in order for us to grow. It’s part of the game; part of being on a team, part of being a professional. Any team, any environment, you have to have stuff like this where you have to figure it out.”

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Celtics' losing streak reaches a season-worst three games with loss to Magic

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Celtics' losing streak reaches a season-worst three games with loss to Magic

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics’ defense had its moments on Sunday. 

Ditto for the offense. 

But overall, the sense of urgency that we saw when they reeled off 16 straight wins and skyrocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, was nowhere to be found on Sunday against the Orlando Magic. 

And because of that, the Celtics now find themselves riding a season-worst losing streak that has reached three games. 

While it may not seem like that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, Boston understands all too well how momentum works. 

It is a catapulting force that can elevate teams for a stretch of games, or set them back which is exactly what’s happening now with the Celtics (34-13).

“In my eyes, I feel like we’re fighting for our lives,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “That has to be our mindset gong into Tuesday’s game (against the Los Angeles Lakers).

Horford added, “We have to understand that teams are coming for us. I felt that we’ve handled it okay this season. We have to do a good job of making sure we’re bringing the fire and them not bringing it to us.”

Lately, that has proven to be easier said than done. 

At the end of the day, Boston’s success comes down to one thing and one thing only – improving their play. 

“You know, you’ve got to play well,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We haven’t played well consistently on both ends for a while now.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 103-95 loss to the Orlando Magic which snapped the Celtics’ 13-game home winning streak against Orlando. 

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving: The Celtics came up short, but that doesn’t diminish a strong bounce-back game for Kyrie Irving. Irving, who did not play in Boston’s loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, returned to the floor and dropped 40 points on 14-for-23 shooting. He also had seven rebounds and five assists with just one turnover.

 

STUDS

Elfrid Payton: By no means did he shut Kyrie Irving down, but his scoring off the dribble certainly provided a much-needed boost for Orlando. He had a team-high 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting along with six rebounds.

Evan Fournier: He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (8-for-19), but made some clutch baskets for the Magic in pulling off the upset win. 

Aaron Gordon: He tallied his 10th double-double of the season and second straight on Sunday, finishing with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Marcus Morris: Getting the starting assignment, Morris gave the Celtics a nice lift with 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds.

Jaylen Brown: Early on, Brown and Kyrie Irving were the only sources of offense for the Celtics as they combined to score 23 of Boston’s first 25 points. For the game, Brown had 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics third quarter: There were other less-than-stellar stretches of play for Boston, but this game was truly decided by Boston’s horrific play at both ends of the floor in the third quarter. That is when the Magic outscored Boston 32-12.

Celtics transition offense: Easily one of the keys to Boston’s inability to get over the hump once after spending most of the second half on the comeback trail. Boston had six, fast-break points while shooting a woeful 3-for-9 in those opportunities. The Magic had almost twice as many fast-break points (11) while doing so on fewer fast-break field goal attempts (8).

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