Bradley: 'We're on our way there'


Bradley: 'We're on our way there'

BOSTON Through a season filled with injuries, illnesses and failed trades before and during the season, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a familiar place now - on top of the Atlantic Division standings.

Monday's win at Charlotte improved the Celtics' record to 27-22, identical with Philadelphia which has been alone atop the Atlantic for much of this season.

The C's record isn't nearly as good as they would want it to be, nor what they expect.

But when you look at all that has not gone their way, being able to see the Atlantic from the top for the change is pretty cool.

"That's one of our goals, to be first place in our division," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. "We're on our way there. We just have to keep working hard every single game."

Boston's success of late has been fueled by their ability, more than anything else, to simply out-work teams.

They've had little choice when you consider the cut-and-paste lineups and rotations that head coach Doc Rivers has had to implement.

Consider this.

The Celtics went into Philadelphia last week without Ray Allen who was out because of an ankle injury. By halftime, his replacement Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely. Boston didn't win that game, but their absence since then has afforded second-year guard Avery Bradley a chance to play with the starters.

In his first start filling in for Allen (his 10 previous starts were in place of Rajon Rondo), he responded with a career-high 23 points against Washington. Two of Boston's biggest road wins were at Atlanta and Milwaukee, games in which the Celtics identified the need to have a better effort on the boards.

Brandon Bass did just that, giving the C's a much-needed boost on the boards with 10 rebounds in each game - the first time this season he had back-to-back double digit rebounding nights.

"We're just hanging in there," C's coach Doc Rivers said. "I think since the all-star break, we haven't played well every night but we're winning some of the games that we don't play well in. We're grinding games out."

Bass knows the Celtics have been playing some of their best basketball of the season lately.

But he had no idea that Monday's win put them in a tie with Philadelphia for the best record in the Atlantic.

"I haven't been keeping up with the standings, to be honest with you," Bass "I don't care who we play. It's going to be a tough series, either way. It's going to be eight good teams, and we're just gonna have to grind."

Rivers knew what the ramifications of a Celtics victory on Monday, but said he didn't bother to mention it to his players.

"For us, we just gotta keep plugging along. I really don't focus on it right now," Rivers said. "It is important (to win the Atlantic). What do we have, 17, 16 games? So it would be nice to get."

Morning Skate: Golden Knights happy to get Malcolm Subban back


Morning Skate: Golden Knights happy to get Malcolm Subban back

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while watching old Super Friends episodes with my 4-year-old on a Saturday morning.

*Has anybody ever been as excited to get a healthy Malcolm Subban back in the lineup as the Vegas Golden Knights are this weekend? Pro Hockey Talk is asking the question, and I think I can honestly answer with a resounding “No.” We’ll see if he’s actually worth all the excitement, but obviously, he’s better than what the injury-plagued Golden Knights had in the interim.

*The Buffalo Sabres continue to get very little return for any of the investments they’ve made in the team over the last couple of years.

*Ryan Suter knows what it takes to remain among the NHL defenseman workhorses in the NHL, and he is consistently there year in and year out.

*Dustin Brown has been a resurgent performer for the Los Angeles Kings this season and is one of the big storylines behind their turnaround.

*The Detroit Red Wings are beginning to more openly adopt Jeff Blashill’s speed game, but the question is how much that will pay dividends for them.

*For something completely different: Good piece in the Boston Globe about Danny Ainge’s relationship with recently passed Red Sox great Bobby Doerr.


Kyrie goes back to the mask tonight

Kyrie goes back to the mask tonight

The mask will be back tonight in Atlanta for Kyrie Irving.

The Celtics guard told reporters at the team's shootaround Saturday in preparation for Saturday night's game against the Hawks - where Boston will try and win its 15th in a row - that he'll grudgingly go back to wearing the clear plastic facemask he had been using to protect a facial fracture he suffered last week. 

Irving wore the mask against Brooklyn for a full game earlier in the week then ditched it in the second half of the victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday. He shot just 4-for-16 from the field (1-for-5 on 3's) against the Warriors and has made no secret of his disdain for wearing it.