Celtics

Injuries limit Pierce, Bass against Nets

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Injuries limit Pierce, Bass against Nets

BROOKLYN, NY Even before Thursday's 115-85 win over the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers was planning to sit some of his core players in the C's final two preseason games.
He may not have a choice after injuries limited the playing time of Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass.
Pierce left in the second quarter with a left ankle injury after he nailed a 3-pointer and landed on the foot of Brooklyn's Gerald Wallace.
After going to the locker room with trainer Ed Lacerte shortly before the half ended, Pierce returned in the third and went on to score seven of his 18 points which tied teammate Courtney Lee for game-high scoring honors.
Although Pierce still had a noticeable limp as he left the C's locker room following the win, Rivers isn't sure how serious his injury is.
"He tweaked his ankle, or he thought we were going to practice tomorrow," quipped Rivers. "It's one of the two, I'm not sure yet. But I think he tweaked his ankle. But I am suspicious."
As for Bass, Rivers said, "I don't know if it's bad. We just couldn't take any chances."
Bass missed the final six games prior to last season's all-star game due to swelling in his right knee -- the same knee he aggravated on Thursday. During those six games without Bass, the Celtics' lone victory came against the Chicago Bulls who were without Derrick Rose.
His injury occurred in the second quarter. But unlike Pierce, the C's elected to keep him on the bench for the remainder of the game -- a place that he and Pierce may have been in these final two games even if they didn't get hurt.
"This is the hardest game they'll play. I can tell you that," Rivers said. "And maybe the last game (for them in the preseason). They may play one good half. The New York game we gotta play somebody. But a lot of them are not playing in that game. They already know that. They knew that before this game. And then we get seven days or whatever, to work and get prepared for the start of the season."

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”