Celtics

Pierce's MRI negative, will play Wednesday

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Pierce's MRI negative, will play Wednesday

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM The MRI on Paul Pierce's sore left foot came back negative, which was about as positive a result as the Boston Celtics could have hoped for.

"He's good. It's OK. Everything is good," said coach Doc Rivers. "I think there's some bruising, swelling, but everything . . . he can play with. That was very good."

Rivers said Pierce will play against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday in Boston's last game prior to the All-Star break.

Despite being so close to the All-Star break, Rivers said there was no temptation to keep Pierce out.

"If we needed to rest him, we would," Rivers said.

The exact time of Pierce's injury is a bit sketchy, but Rivers believes it occurred against the Charlotte Bobcats last week.

And as far as making the injury worse by playing, that doesn't appear a factor.

"It's one of those things, where if someone hit you with a baseball bat on your arm, it's going to take time to heal," Rivers said. "That's what happened a couple games ago. He got kicked on the foot and then he got hit on the hand."

According to Pierce, the right hand injury occurred during the C's practice last Saturday.

"That's the one to me, that might take longer," Rivers said. "When you play basketball, the chance of you not getting hit on the hand is pretty bleak. I've had those . . . you just hope you can get through a four-game stretch without anybody hitting it."

After Wednesday's game, Pierce won't play again until Sunday's All-Star game, where he will be joined by teammates Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.

Rivers, who will be the Eastern Conference's coach, isn't worried about Pierce getting hurt in that game.

"I know the coach," quipped Rivers. "So he probably will not play a lot in that game."

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

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.”