Celtics

Broncos acknowledge they were overmatched

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Broncos acknowledge they were overmatched

FOXBORO -- The pomp, circumstance and fantasy that proliferated in the past week didn't seem to infect Broncos coach John Fox.

Football coaches, as a rule, tend to be realists. And the reality Fox inhabited was that of head coach of an overachieving football team.

After Denver got its collective head caved in, Fox said simply, "We played them twice in a month, and were a work in progress and were obviously not up to par to compete with them at this point."

What else do you really need to know?

Despite Tim Tebow's pregame effort to frame this game in biblical terms, the more appropriate analogy would have included Christians and lions.

What can you say hes Tom Brady," said Denver's legendary corner Champ Bailey. "Hes been around the block a few times and if youre not ready to punch him in the mouth, hes going to eat you up all night.

Forget the mouth punching. There was barely even shoulder tapping with an index finger.

"They just execute," said Broncos defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. "They find the mistakes that we made and they capitalized on it. I know me personally, I didnt get a good enough rush, a good enough push up the middle, and Brady had time to do what he do, and do what he do best. Hes a great quarterback and its a great team, and they just capitalized on any mistake that we made. Its something to build on in the off-season, and just get right and thats basically what it comes down to.

Said safety Rahim Moore, Its not like we lost to some bums, we lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots. We lost to a great team and a three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, so we definitely have something to build on next year."

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.”