Celtics

Celtics take down Wizards, 104-88

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Celtics take down Wizards, 104-88

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When you go through the great games in Boston Celtics history, chances are good - OK, great - that Friday night's 104-88 win over the Washington Wizards will not qualify as time capsule-worthy.

But the victory was significant, nonetheless.

Sure, the Wizards (21-58) are one of the league's worst teams and the Celtics (55-24) should have had no problem defeating them at home.

But on the back end of a set of back-to-back games?

Facing a bad team?

For most of this season, it has been a recipe for disaster.

And when you look at the way Boston allowed the Wizards to come within four points with more than seven minutes to play, there was a definite, 'here-we-go-again' feel about the game.

But that's when the Celtics showed us something we haven't seen much of lately - the ability to close out an opponent.

After Jordan Crawford's lay-up cut Boston's lead to 87-83, the C's responded by finishing the game with a 17-5 run.

"It was nice," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to his team's ability to finish the game off strong.

However, he wasn't particularly pleased with the fact that a number of his players had to play extended minutes because the game became closer down the stretch than Rivers would have wanted.

"Too many minutes," Rivers said. "They (players) don't care about the minutes; I do."

One player whose minutes were not an issue on Friday was Jermaine O'Neal, who was held out by Rivers.

Rivers didn't like the way O'Neal was moving around in the second half of Boston's 16-point loss at Chicago, and made his mind at that time to not play O'Neal tonight.

"I just thought, 'let's not take any chances,'" Rivers said.

O'Neal, who has played in five games since returning to the lineup following left knee surgery on Feb. 5, is expected to play at Miami on Sunday and at Washington on Monday. If the Celtics can lock up the No. 2 seed after those two games, there's a chance that O'Neal will not play in the regular season finale against New York on Wednesday.

Even though all five Celtics started scored in double figures, once again they were being led by Rajon Rondo.

He finished with 20 points and 14 assists for his 31st double-double this season. Kevin Garnett also had a big game, tallying his 28th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul Pierce led all scorers with 22 points, although he shot just 5-for-14 from the field.

The bulk of Pierce's points came from the free throw line, a clear indicator of how aggressive he was in attacking a porous Wizards defense.

"I try and make a concentrated effort every night in getting to the rim," said Pierce who made 12 of his 13 free throw attempts. "That's part of my game, I slash to the basket, finish it, try and get some easy ones. That's why I am able to shoot a high percentage."

Pierce wasn't the only Celtics player in attack mode, which is evident by them outscoring the Wizards 25-12 in fast break points.

Even with the Celtics doing a better job of attacking the woeful Wizards, and contributions coming from so many players, by no means was this an easy win for the Celtics.

"Every time we pulled away, they stayed just close enough," Rivers said. "And so, it was a win."

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

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

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Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

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Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

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And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

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