Celtics

Rivers: The regular season is overplayed

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Rivers: The regular season is overplayed

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM The Celtics had a 3-1 advantage in their regular season sereis with the Heat, but heading into the Eastern Conference semifinals, that means nothing.

At least according to Doc Rivers.

During the regular season, you dont know how your teams playing, Rivers said before Thursdays practice in Waltham. You dont know if theyre injured. You dont know if theyre tired form travel the regular season is so overplayed. It really is.

But not entirely. Rivers admits that while the Celtics record against Miami wont give them any false confidence, there are certain aspects of those four games that will help Boston in its search for four more wins. In the end, its not the fact that they won three out of four games, but that over those games, they were able to gain a feel for how Miami plays, how they specifically match-up with the Celtics, and what approach and strategy will best equip the Cs to come out on top.

There are things you can get out of it, Rivers said, but for the most part, what you get out of the regular season is that you see a style of play. How they play you, how you play them, and then you put it on the floor.

One issue, of course and as always, is how the Heat will defend Rajon Rondo. In the past, Miami implemented the same defense as many of Bostons other rivals, essentially using either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to play off Rondo (giving him the jump shot) while using the extra space to wreak havoc elsewhere.

I anticipate that theyre going to go big with the Lebron, Wade and James Jones lineup, Rivers said. Well see one of those guys guarding Rondo, so that means one of them wont be guarding Ray or Paul. So were good with that.

Another is the bench play. Over the course of the season, both Miami and Boston have had issues with the bench. The Celtics criticism didnt come until injuries started to hit; Miamis dealt with it since day one. But regardless of whose bench is most ready when the ball goes up on Sunday, Doc doesnt anticipate it being a difference maker.

They have three pretty good guys, Rivers said, and theyre going to play 40 minutes so I dont think anybody has that big of a bench problem in the playoffs. They have enough guys.

Hes says the same is true for the Celtics. Sure, they need more from Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West, but it will still come down to the starters. And when it comes down to that, Rivers always feels confident in his team and all theyve built and accomplished over the last four seasons.

The one advantage is that weve been together, he said. When you have a great player passing up an average shot to give it to another great player with a great shot. It shows that your guys trust each other.

That trust is something that was lost a little on the Celtics down the stretch in the regular season, and something that the Heat struggled to grasp for the better part of the last six months. But as this next round of the playoffs kicks off, Rivers believes that both teams are in a better position, and ready to roll in the second round.

They (got better), and we are getting better, he said. We changed so we had to take a step backwards and now were building back up. I think were both better.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.

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But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie Irving stands tall

As NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper talked with Kyrie Irving following his best performance as a Boston Celtic, you could hear the chants “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” from the crowd behind him.
 
Considering the way Irving played on Monday night, that’s not just a case of fandemonium people!
 
Irving delivered a performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, tallying 47 points in leading Boston to a 110-102 overtime win at Dallas.
 
With the win, Boston has extended its winning streak to 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
While there were lots of Celtics who contributed to the victory, no one stood as tall as Irving who tallied 10 of Boston’s 16 points in overtime.
 
“We had to claw, fight our way back for this one,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston’s Kyle Draper. “But we had to earn it. These guys, the Dallas Mavericks, they gave us their best shot.”
 
And the Celtics countered with their best shot – Irving.
 
Even before the edge-of-the-cliff finish, Irving was in a rhythm that made it absolutely clear that he was going to have a big night scoring the ball.
 
“We just have to continue to get better from this point,” Irving said.
 
And as far as those “M-V-P” chants?
 
“It’s pretty awesome,” Irving said of the chants. “But we got a long way to go.”
 
Here’s a look at Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-102 overtime win over Dallas which extends Boston’s winning streak to 16 in a row which is the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
 
STAR

Kyrie Irving

This wasn’t even close, folks. Irving kept the Celtics afloat for most of the game, then guided them to victory with a dominant performance. He finished with 47 points, the most he has scored as a Boston Celtic. And on a night when most of the team struggled to make shots, they needed everything he had to offer.
 
 
 
STUDS
 
Harrison Barnes

He had a chance to win it in regulation, but failed to knock down the game-winning shot. Still, Barnes had a strong game for the Mavericks while finishing with 31 points and six rebounds.
 
Jaylen Brown

Kyrie Irving’s backcourt mate had yet another strong performance for the Celtics. He had a near double-double of 22 points and nine rebounds.
 
Jayson Tatum

Don’t let the 15-point total fool you. Tatum was a major factor in Boston’s comebacks with his ability to finish in transition and his defense down the stretch on Barnes gave the Celtics a shot as the game went into overtime.
 
J.J. Barea

The former Northeastern star was a huge spark off the bench for Dallas, tallying 16 points.
 
Marcus Smart

You can count me among those who cringed at a lot of those shots Marcus Smart took – and missed. Despite going 3-for-15 from the field, Boston doesn’t win this game without Marcus Smart. He made hustle plays defensively. He set teammates up for easy scores. And as bad as Smart shot the ball, he did make one of the biggest shots of the night, a 3-pointer that cut Dallas’ lead to 96-94 with 1:23 to play.
 
 

DUDS
 
Al Horford

He poked the ball free from Harrison Barnes late in the game which was a huge play, but for the most part Horford’s imprint on the game was non-existent. He missed four of his five shots from the field, tallying 3 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.
 
Dennis Smith Jr.

He is an explosive guard and scored six points in the first couple of minutes. From there, he was a non-factor, finishing with eight points on 4-for-16 shooting and maybe most significant, being nothing more than a cool breeze defensively as Kyrie Irving blew by him time and time again.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE