Celtics

Pierce still waiting for breakout game

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Pierce still waiting for breakout game

BOSTON Rajon Rondo has had multiple big-game performances for the Celtics in this still-young NBA season.

Ray Allen has come up big. So has Jermaine O'Neal at different moments. Most recently, it was Kevin Garnett who shined.

Don't think for a minute that Paul Pierce doesn't recognize this, well aware that at some point he too will be needed to carry the C's to victory.

That time could be tonight when the Celtics cap off a back-to-back set of games against the Washington Wizards, the same Wizards team they beat 94-86 on Sunday.

"I'm going to be one of the last guys to have a breakout game, but that's all right," Pierce said. "I'm going to get into the flow as time goes along."

Pierce missed all of training camp minus one day of practice, and sat out the first three games with a bone bruise in his right heel.

In the two games since he returned, the captain has averaged 10.5 points, five rebounds and four assists. But the most important number of all is two, as in two wins in Pierce's two games.

Pierce expects his breakout game to come sometime this month.

"I'd say about eight games," Pierce said. "I use the eight games like a preseason; the eight game preseason we didn't have."

While he's in no rush, the schedule might speed up that timetable as early as tonight as the Celtics host one of the worst teams in the NBA.

Washington (0-4) is the only team in the NBA yet to win a game. This would mark the fourth time in franchise history that the Wizards (and formerly the Bullets) were the last team to win a game with the most recent occurrence being in 2008.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Wizards guard Roger Mason Jr. "I see a lot of things that we are doing that are encouraging for the future of this season, but we still need to get that first win."

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

When you’re an NBA rookie or early on in your career, there’s so much to learn, especially when it comes to playing defense.
 
Despite having at least two players with a year or less experience in the starting lineup and at least three or four other rookies who see regular action, Boston’s top-ranked defense has been able to do the seemingly impossible – defend without fouling a lot.
 
Boston comes into tonight’s game against Atlanta averaging 19.8 fouls committed per game which is the ninth-lowest total in the league.

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Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has some ideas as to how the team has been able to defend without fouling a ton.

“Our length, being able to communicate on the fly, having a system that’s predicated on shrinking the floor, just being very active,” Irving said. “Obviously, we’re going to foul. But the times we don’t foul, we limit teams to some tough shots, some tough two’s or some tough contested threes; I feel we put ourselves in great position. And then when you have guards down there rebounding as well as bigs down there boxing out and staying active it makes all our jobs easier, all five connected out there. We understand the importance of valuing each possession.”
 
The qualities that Irving talks about make sense when you’re talking about the qualities of an elite team defensively.
 
But for the Celtics to have so much youth tossed into such prominent roles, it is unusual to see everything seemingly come together so quickly.
 
“They utilize their length appropriately,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’re both long for their positions; that helps. So, you’re not playing Jaylen at the 3 (small forward) as much, and Jayson (Tatum) at the four (power forward) as much. You’re playing them at the two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) a lot. So, they can use that length rather than try and have to battle.”

Irving points out there’s added incentive to play at a high level defensively without fouling.

“If you don’t, you’ll be on the bench,” Irving said. “Brad has made that very clear. If the effort isn’t being put out there, and you’re not paying attention and you’re not preparing the way all of us should be preparing, that goes from the head coach all the way down to the 15th guy, if you’re not preparing the way you should and not perfecting your craft outside the game and that’s being very diligent, understanding what we’re trying to do in strategy, understanding our system, why it works, and why we’re doing it, then why the hell would you expect to play? So, he made it very simple. All the guys understand that. We’re a young team, but what we’re trying to accomplish will take a lot of energy and effort and focus. They understand that at a very young point in the season.”

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

You know who else - besides Charles Barkley - isn't impressed by the Celtics' 14-game winning streak?

Their coach. 

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At the shootaround in Atlanta before the Celtics attempt to make it 15 in a row tonight against the Hawks, Brad Stevens told reporters, including ESPN's Chris Forsberg, that his team hasn't played well enough to make the streak "valid." 

“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion,” Stevens said."We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”

The Celtics have come back from double-digit deficits a number of times in the streak. Stevens said they're fortunate those rallies have kept the streak going.  

"We've got to be better, and we know that," Stevens said. "We can't get so caught up in the results of all these games and ride that emotion. We've been fortunate to win a lot of the games in this streak, including Thursday night [92-88 over the defending champion Golden State Warriors]. If we dig ourselves a 17-point hole every other game, it's not going to be as much fun as we've had recently."