Notes: Celtics back in first place in the East


Notes: Celtics back in first place in the East

By A.Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON Well, so much for the Boston Celtics having to look up in the Eastern Conference standings.

After falling behind the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the Eastern Conference by half a game, the Celtics are once again at the top following Wednesday's 92-80 win over Indiana.

Both Boston and Chicago have identical 48-18 records.

The C's currently have the tiebreaker because they won two of the three regular-season matchups.

If the Celtics lose to Chicago when the teams meet on April 7, that would result in the series being even and the tiebreaker would then go to the Bulls because they have the better division record.

That's why this upcoming road trip, which includes games at Houston, New Orleans and New York, is so vital to Boston's chances of getting back home-court advantage throughout the playoffs in the East.

"We need all these games," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "This is the time of the year, this is an exciting time of the year. You smell the end coming. We smell the playoffs coming, so guys are really starting to buckle down, trying to finish the season off on a good note."

While Rajon Rondo didn't exactly dominate on Wednesday, it was clear that he was making strides in the right direction. He didn't score against the Pacers, but he did have eight assists with just two turnovers. It was a good showing for Rondo, who has been in a bit of a slump lately.

"I thought he played terrific," coach Doc Rivers said. "He played with great energy and you that third quarter, that one stretch, and even when he came back in the second quarter, I thought he played with great speed, I thought he created a lot of problems. So I was happy."

Rondo is one of the fastest players in the NBA. Jeff Green is surprisingly faster than you would think for a 6-foot-9 forward.

When asked who would win a race between himself and Rondo, Green responded, "I would win. I would definitely win."

Green quipped about running 40 yards in 4.2 seconds. "I'm pretty fast. It would be a tight match."

Moments later, Green was told about Rondo challenging world class sprinter Usain Bolt to a race a couple years ago.

"He did?" Green said when told of Rondo's challenge. "I ain't gonna do that."

Troy Murphy is a work in progress.

So far, he's progressing quite well of late.

In about 18 minutes, Murphy had six points which included an unexpected reverse dunk.

When asked if he was surprised by Murphy's dunk, Rivers said, "Yeah, yeah. I think he Murphy was surprised. I was worried about him getting hurt coming down, because I don't think he's jumped quite that high in quite some time. It was a slow-motion-reverse dunk. It was terrific."

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

For Celtics, comebacks build confidence


For Celtics, comebacks build confidence

BOSTON -- There’s no team in the NBA that seems to like a good comeback as much as the Boston Celtics.
They come into tonight’s game against Philadelphia having rallied from a double-digit deficit to earn a victory nine times -- more than any other team this season.
It certainly provides them with a realistic boost of confidence that no deficit is too steep.  Repeatedly rallying to win after falling behind by large margins has created an unspoken confidence among the Celtics that how they start games doesn’t matter as long as they finish off playing the right way.

I asked Jayson Tatum about whether the Celtics have become too comfortable with digging themselves early deficits only to go on a tear and pull off a comeback win.
“Probably subconsciously we do,” Tatum said. “But we have to get away from that.”
Here are five other story lines to follow heading into tonight’s game between Boston and Philadelphia.


Boston’s inability to come back from a large deficit and beat New Orleans wasn’t the only oddity about Tuesday’s loss. It was one of the few games this season when Jayson Tatum didn’t really look to score when on the floor. He had 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with five rebounds, which isn’t a bad night. And while it’s always good to be an efficient scorer, him taking so few shot attempts has to be the exception rather than the rule most nights in order for Boston to be successful. This season the Celtics are 17-4 when he takes 10 or more shots, 17-7 when his shot attempt numbers are in the single digits.


The last time these two met, Boston’s Marcus Morris and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons had issues when Simmons set a really hard foul on Morris, a Philadelphia native, who immediately rose to his feet and pushed Simmons. Since then, Simmons had another on-court bruhaha with another Philly native, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors.  Simmons suspects guys are coming after him with a little extra something because he’s a rookie.

"I don't know if they're trying to test me or see how I am on the court, but I won't play around," Simmons said after the Sixers’ win over Toronto.

Morris called the foul Simmons committed against him last week in London a cheap shot.

 “But it’s all right,” Morris told reporters at the time. “I take a lot of cheap shots, too. It’s good to see Philly got some . . . tougher guys. I promise you that won’t happen again. It is what it is.”


Tatum has been among the league’s most consistent scorers among the rookie class. He leads all first-year players with 38 games of scoring in double digits. Simmons, arguably the front-runner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award, has 35 double-digit scoring games which trails Tatum and Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen (36).


The NBA recently released the top-selling NBA jerseys for the fourth quarter (Oct. 2017 – Dec. 2017) of 2017. Tonight’s game features a trio of players who ranked among the top 15. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid came in at No. 6, while fellow Sixer Ben Simmons had the eighth-highest selling jersey. For Boston, Kyrie Irving’s No. 11 jersey came in at No. 12.


With J.J. Redick (leg injury) out, look for Bayless’ role to increase significantly tonight. The former Celtic is averaging 8.5 points per game this season. But in three games against Boston, he has risen his scoring to 10.3 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from 3-point range.




WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers


WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the 76ers at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview:  Sweeping Sixers will depend on containing Joel Embiid

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]