Celtics

C's motivation won't be an issue against Heat

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C's motivation won't be an issue against Heat

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI The Boston Celtics' Big Four share an NBA title from 2008, and came within a few minutes of a second championship last year.

The Celtics have won nearly 75 percent of the regular season games (233-92) played since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined forces with Paul Pierce and an up-and-coming point guard, some guy named Rajon Rondo.

You don't have that kind of success without understanding how to perform in big games.

And Sunday's game against the Miami Heat?

They don't get much bigger than that for the Celtics before the playoffs.

Both teams share the No. 2 spot in the East with identical 55-24 records.

But the Celtics hold the tie-breaker because they swept the first three games of the regular season series. Because of that, the C's would get the higher seed if they finished in a tie.

Which brings us back to Sunday's game.

Knowing what's at stake, it's a given the Celtics would come out with great energy and focus.

But as we've come to find with this team, nothing should be taken for granted.

That's why Celtics head coach Doc Rivers isn't too keen on proclaiming that his team will be ready to play at a high enough level to win on Sunday.

"It does bother me because if we would have done our job, this would have been decided," Rivers said. "And that's what bothers me. Now, we've put ourselves in this position."

And only they can get themselves out of it.

To do so, Boston will have to continue its dominance of the Heat. Boston has won its last three road games against Miami, and seven of the last eight at America Airlines Arena.

But those games featured a different team.

And the stakes back then weren't nearly as high as they are now.

The Celtics players know that there have been times lately when their sense of urgency deserves to be questioned.

But they don't see that as an issue on Sunday.

"I expect everybody to be ready," said Boston's Allen. "A game like that I don't look over my shoulder, wondering if guys are going to be ready to play."

Pierce had similar thoughts on the C's approach to Sunday's nationally televised matchup.

"This is a big game for us," Pierce said. "That's what we are playing for, for the home court advantage. Not only for the first round, but hopefully we will see them in the second round. This is a big game for us when you are talking about seeds and trying to advance in the playoffs. It's huge."

And while the Celtics have shown a certain dominance over the Heat, even with all their highly regarded additions, there's no mistaking that the Miami Heat team they see on Sunday will come in with a playoff-like mentality.

"You are going to get an extremely hungry team in Miami for a lot of reasons," Rivers said. "We're going into a hornet's nest and we're going to have to deal with it."

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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