Celtics

Grueling stretch awaits Celtics

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Grueling stretch awaits Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA Five games. Seven days.

Not exactly the schedule you want to see if you're the injury-riddled Boston Celtics, who are riding a two-game losing streak and holding on to the top seed in the East over Chicago by the slimmest of margins.

But if history - you know, like games played last month - is an indicator of future results, the C's are on the verge of a breakthrough.

This is the fourth time the C's have lost back-to-back games this season.

In the previous three instances, the C's reeled off winning streaks of 14, 4 and 3 games.

But there's one big difference between those hot stretches and where the Celtics are currently.

All that success came about prior to the Feb. 24 trading deadline, which is when the C's traded a third of their team while taking back just two players, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Shortly after that, the C's added Troy Murphy (he was bought out and later waived by Golden State), Sasha Pavlovic and Carlos Arroyo, who was waived by the Miami Heat.

With all the new faces, there's a lot of feeling-out, getting-to-know-each stuff happening on the court.

Because of that, no one - including the players - knows how they will handle the team's current struggles.

While the level of uncertainty is certainly high, the same can be said for this team's confidence despite their recent struggles.

And it's not just the core guys who feel strongly about the team's chances of turning things around quickly, either.

"You're going to lose some games over the course of the season that you probably shouldn't," Arroyo told CSNNE.com. "But this is a veteran team. A loss or two every now and then isn't going to make us panic. We know the big picture, and that's to win it all."

How they handle their current two-game losing skid will go a long way towards establishing whether they are in fact as good or better than the pre-trading deadline Celtics squad that had a relatively firm grip on the top spot in the East.

History is certainly on the Celtics' side, but they'll need more than that in order to reverse their losing ways.

At the top of the C's must-improve list certainly has to be their defense.

Boston still ranks among the league's leaders in just about every statistical category, there's no doubt that the defense hasn't been nearly as good since the Feb. 24 trade.

That's not a shock when you consider Kendrick Perkins, one of the league's best interior defenders, was part of the trade with Oklahoma City that sent Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Green and Krstic.

"I'm not the one to make excuses, but we're in transformation here," said Kevin Garnett. "It's not an easy thing. Whatever we gotta do, we gotta fix it. I'm sure we will."

Garnett added, "Right now, we're in spurts. Me myself, I have to be more consisten with what I'm doing. We're all figuring it out on the go. But nonetheless, we still gotta get it done."

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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