Celtics

Celtics stop Bucks in record-setting win, 87-56

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Celtics stop Bucks in record-setting win, 87-56

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics are not the same team defensively since the Feb. 24 trading deadline.

But for those who believe the C's defensive foundation was rubble-bound, take note of how the Celtics crushed the Milwaukee Bucks, 87-56, on Sunday.

It wasn't just another victory, which also snapped a two-game losing skid.

The Celtics delivered the defensive hammer with the kind of power and force we haven't seen from them all season.

"That's about as humiliating a defeat as you'll ever see," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles.

Rather than ease into the game, the Celtics starting five choose to put on the defensive clamps which made for an easy win.

"They got us on our heels and took our competitive fight away from us," Skiles said. "We pretty much gave into it."

It was a much-needed blowout for a team whose starting five has - lately at least - struggled to gain a firm grip at the outset of games.

Those problems of the past two games were nowhere to be found against the Bucks.

"It's nice," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to his first unit getting off to a good start. "When they do, we're a better team, obviously. That's what we're banking on right now until we get right. When they start out slow it puts us in a huge hole, because now you're dependent on a second unit that hasn't been together very long."

Boston did have a familiar face return to the lineup on Sunday.

Having missed the previous four games with a left knee injury, Davis came off the bench to score nine points along with grabbing seven rebounds.

But the story of the night was Boston's defense, which gave up a franchise record-low 56 points. The previous record was set against the Hawks -- who, ironically, were based in Milwaukee at the time, prior to moving to first St. Louis and then Atlanta -- in 1955.

Other records of note established by the Celtics on Sunday included:

franchise-low in points given up in a half (22);

franchise-low in points given up after three quarters (38)

franchise-low in fewest field goals allowed (22).

Also, the 56 points scored were a franchise record-low for the Bucks in the shot-clock era.

Even though the Celtics played a record-setting brand of defense, Rivers wasn't convinced his team deserves all the credit. The Bucks were in the second night of a back-to-back stretch, having played Saturday at home against Philadelphia.

"I really thought this was one of those scheduled losses for Milwaukee," Rivers said. "It was very similar to the game we had against Phoenix on Jan. 28. The Bucks played a game, and . . . then lost an hour going backwards from the Central time zone to the East. Then they lost another hour with the time change from Standard time to Daylight Savings Time. And then we started the game at 6 o'clock instead of the normal 7:30 starting time. I just thought . . . they were tired. We took advantage of that, and that was great. But a lot of it had to do with their schedule."

Schedule or not, the Celtics came out with the kind of focus and attention to detail on defense that we hadn't seen recently.

"It was definitely encouraging to just put together a four-quarter game of defense," said Paul Pierce. "I definitely thought we did that tonight."

Even more impressive was how very little changed for the Celtics defensively when they went to their bench.

Rivers elected to take Rajon Rondo out about midway through the first quarter, with the Celtics ahead, 10-4.

He had Carlos Arroyo finish out the quarter which ended with the Celtics going on a 10-5 run.

Boston continued to stifle the Bucks with a suffocating defense that took away everything the Bucks wanted to do.

And the struggles by Milwaukee started with point guard Brandon Jennings.

He had eight points and just one turnover, but there was never a point in the game where it seemed comfortable.

And his lack of comfort seemed to be contagious to the rest of the Bucks.

"We were so passive," Skiles said. "You could tell their plan was to jump on our point guard early, jump on our guard, get up into them, and see if we had any sort of response to it, and we didn't."

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

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

BOSTON -- These are tough, heart-tugging times for the Boston Celtics, who are less than 24 hours removed from the gruesome left-ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of their 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
 
Hayward is scheduled to have surgery today, and potentially could be out for the entire season.
 
As much as their hearts go out to Hayward and his family, the Celtics know they can’t spend too much time sulking. The nature of this business won’t allow them, evident by the fact the C's step back on the floor tonight to host the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
“You hurt for him,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of great work. I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well. It’s a tough, tough deal but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
 
But in the same breath, Stevens is a realist.
 
He's been in the league long enough to know that grieving for a lost player won’t help that player in the short-term. Or the team, for that matter.

MORE ON GORDON HAYWARD

 
The best way the Celtics can help Hayward is to continue to compete in his absence.
 
We saw that in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers.
 
When Hayward was carted off the floor, the Celtics were ahead, 12-9. The lead disappeared and was eventually replaced by an 18-point deficit, only for Boston to chip away and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter.
 
But down the stretch, too much LeBron James and Kevin Love would prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
 
While the loss was disappointing, it gave the team some insight into how to fight on now that one of its main guys will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
We saw Jaylen Brown emerge from being a second-year pro on the rise into a matchup problem who dropped a career-high 25 points on the Cavs.
 
And Jayson Tatum reminded us all that he’s a teenager in age only, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The last rookie to tally a double-double for the Celtics in his opening night debut was Larry Bird in 1979, who had an identical 14-point, 10-rebound line.


 
But Bird didn’t have to play most of that game with one of the then top-three Celtics out for all but the game’s first five minutes.
 
When it comes to adversity, NBA players don’t have the luxury to pick which ones to handle and which ones to pass on. They either step up to the challenge or be consumed by it.
 
Under Stevens, Door Number One is the only option under consideration.
 
And since Stevens has been in Boston, his players have risen to the challenge.
 
That doesn’t mean they'll win every game, but they've shown the ability to at least be competitive. And in defeat, they'll refuse to use injury as an excuse.
 
That means younger players like Brown and Tatum will assume a larger role at both ends of the floor if Boston is to make it through these tough times relatively unscathed.
 
Veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Smart will be leaned upon more heavily to be leaders, both on and off the floor.
 
And Stevens, considered by many to be one of the better coaches in the NBA, will once again be tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments with his lineup and rotations under less-than-ideal conditions.
 
Nobody hurts more than Stevens when it comes to Hayward’s injury. Remember, he's known him longer than anyone associated with the Celtics, having recruited Hayward to play for Butler. It was the platform that launched both of their NBA careers.
 
Which is why the way he approaches not having Hayward is the example for all his players to follow.
 
Shortly after the loss to the Cavs, Stevens was asked about moving on while handling the emotional dynamics of losing Hayward for an extended period of time.
 
“We’ll be ready to play [tonight],” Stevens said with a heightened level of seriousness in his voice that spoke to how important it was to him and his players that they came out and performed at their best on Tuesday against Cleveland.

And that's the blueprint required for them going forward if they hope to be successful in handling adversity as it comes their way.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.