Celtics

B's wunderkind Spooner off to good start in Providence

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B's wunderkind Spooner off to good start in Providence

Things have started out very promisingly for rookie forward and top Bruins prospect Ryan Spooner.
The 20-year-old is tied with Max Sauve for the P-Bruins team lead with four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in Providences first four games of the season, and has teamed with Sauve and Jamie Tardif for a consistently productive line. The trio has accounted for at least one goal in each of Providences four games thus far, and Spooner has been among the most active with eight shots on net.
The 2010 second round pick isnt taking anything for granted, of course, and wants to keep developing and pushing until he finds himself in the NHL. It might not be that far off with his ability to shift gears and speeds quickly on the ice, and his Krejci-like skill at slowing things down when the puck is on his stick.
It took until Providences first win against the Manchester Monarchs last weekend for Spooner to crack the goal column, but hes making plays in every single game.
Ive been working hard to get to this point over the last few years, and now you look forward to the challenge at this level, said Spooner. I want to prove that I can be a consistent, dependable player at both ends of the ice, and just keep getting bigger, faster, stronger and better.
The goal is to get to the NHL someday soon, but Im happy developing my game and continuing to improve until that opportunity arrives. This is a great league were playing in this year, and my complete focus is on where Im at right now.
It was thought that Chris Bourque would start the season riding shotgun with Spooner on the same line in Providence, but that hasnt happened through the first four games. It hasnt stopped Bourque from recognizing what Spooner is bringing to the table at such a precocious young age.
Hes definitely impressive. He has good speed and sees the ice really well, said Bourque. I didnt know much about him at all before I got here. Hes an impressive player. We expect big things from him and hes definitely going to be able to help the team out.
Im excited to teach him things about becoming a pro and guiding him in the right direction; the kind of things guys helped me out with when I was a young player.
Its not surprising given Spooners skating ability and playmaking sense, and the mere fact that he put up seven points in eight games during two quick AHL stints over the previous two seasons. So Spooner is already a point-per-game player early in his pro career, and just needs to show Bruins officials that he understands what it means to be a professional hockey player.
That includes all of the little things hell need to do to stick at the NHL level, and that goes doubly so for young players breaking into Claude Juliens two-way system in Boston. Interestingly enough, there are two prospects at opposite ends of the spectrum after four games: Spooner is a point-per-game player and Jared Knight is a minus-2 after two games while missing time with some groin issues.
Some guys get off to a great start and then tail off over a long year. Other guys it takes a little while to get going, said Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney. What we want to see is consistency. Its a big jump and its a tough league, and an even bigger jump is coming with the next one. So we want them to be prepared mentally and physically.
Maybe guys arent on the first unit like theyve been accustomed to all through junior. Maybe theyre on the second unit. But dont pout about it. Youve got to embrace it because its a unique league: youre competing against all of the guys on your own team as well trying to win collectively. The quicker a player realizes that component the better it is for their development. How quickly they get to the NHL depends on their work habits on and off the ice, their training ability and their skill.
It also doesnt hurt that young prospects like Spooner have the Full Monty of Bruins front office types with Sweeney, Peter Chiarelli, Jim Benning, Claude Julien and the rest of the Bs coaching staff front and center while the NHL lockout rages on. Thats allowed Spooner to put himself into the conversation for a training camp invite once the NHL season gets started, and remain there provided he keeps playing high high-flying game in Providence against some very good AHL competition.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's 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.”