Celtics

Celtics won't take Billups-less Knicks lightly

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Celtics won't take Billups-less Knicks lightly

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM There's a very good chance that the Boston Celtics won't have to deal with New York Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups.

But is that really a good thing?

We have seen the Celtics face a Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City team . . . and lose.

We have seen them not have to contend with Luis Scola of Houston . . . and lose.

There are a number examples of Boston losing to teams missing a key player.

That's why the idea of facing a New York team that won't have Billups, doesn't exactly provide the C's with any added confidence.

"For us, we have to be even more focused if Billups doesn't play," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "We haven't really done a good job when star players sit. Throughout the course of the season, we saw that opportunity many times and we lost those games."

Pierce has a few different theories as to why the Celtics seem to have problems in such games.

"I don't know if we take them for granted or taking them too lightly because they're missing a player, thinking that team wouldn't play as hard even if Chauncey plays or doesn't, Toney Douglas is more than capable."

Douglas has averaged a career-high 10.6 points per game this season.

More important, he has shown the ability to knock down clutch shots, like a 3-pointer in Game 1 that gave the Knicks a one-point lead in the final minute of play.

Coach Doc Rivers knows as well as anybody about the struggles his team has had against teams this year that were without a key performer.

Having that happen in the regular season, that's one thing.

In the playoffs?

"If you take anyone lightly in the playoffs, shame on you," Rivers said. "Everybody is capable of playing. Douglas has had a terrific year. They went on their stretch or streak, winning streak when Douglas was playing and Chauncey was out. So, I don't think that will affect how we'll approach the game. We have to worry about us."

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

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

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“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

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