Celtics

Celtics looking to pick up the pace

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Celtics looking to pick up the pace

BOSTON The idea doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface.

The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA's grey-beards, a team with more big-names past their prime than any NBA team.

And yet Celtics coach Doc Rivers wants them to . . . run?

Again, it doesn't make a lot of sense until you look deeper into the numbers that validate Rivers' belief that running more is the best way for the Celtics to win.

Boston's 95-91 win over Chicago on Sunday was fueled in large part because of the C's 33-7 advantage in fast break points.

It continued a trend in which points in transition put the C's on the fast track to winning.

Although the Celtics are just 9-6 when they have more fast-break points than their opponents, most of those losses came early in the season when the Celtics for the most part, were still trying to establish an identity.

In the last eight games in which Boston had more fast-break points than their opponent, the C's came out victorious in all but one (the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 9).

Rivers isn't buying the argument that because he has older players - especially in the frontcourt - the Celtics can't run with teams.

"I think anybody can run," Rivers said. "I mean (Kareem Abdul) Jabbar was running at 37, 38, and 40. So it's not that - whatever your speed is, you've just got to do it every time. And I think it's the consistency of doing it every single time."

Still, it's a lot easier to be effective in the transition game with younger players who tend to play at a faster pace, anyway.

Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson had a career-high 12 points against the Bulls, and was among the Boston players to benefit from a faster, more uptempo style of play.

"It's one of the things I'm best at; running the floor," Johnson told CSNNE.com. "Having the opportunity to do something I'm really good at. When we did that, it simplified the offense. It definitely benefits me when we run."

However, running effectively begins with solid defense and rebounding.

Boston has the strong 'D' down.

Teams are scoring just 86.2 points per game, the second-fewest points allowed per game in the NBA.

Now rebounding, that's another story.

The Celtics are dead-last in rebounds per game (47).

However, that's not the number Boston needs to be concerned about as much when it comes to rebounding.

It's the percentage of defensive rebounds that the C's have to improve upon in order to get out in transition and create fast-break scoring opportunities. The C's are grabbing 72.8 percent of their defensive rebounds, which ranks 21st in the NBA.

Increasing the percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed not only creates a better chance of scoring fast-break points, but at the very least it gives the Celtics more time in the half-court set to operate.

"Enough getting into our offense with 10 seconds on the clock," Rivers said. "We gotta push the pace for our team."

But to do so takes execution, which generally improves with time and practice.

The C's won't have much of the latter this season, which is why players aren't overly concerned about some things not clicking as quickly as they would like.

"If you want quality product, you have to give time you have to have time for that," said Kevin Garnett. "It's not just because you have four guys who been together. You got a whole group of guys in here. And chemistry is everything."

For the Celtics, that chemistry is definitely improving.

Not only in their overall play, but in terms of wins as well.

With Sunday's victory over the Bulls, Boston has now won 10 of its last 13 games. And of the three losses, two of them (Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers) were each by a single point.

"They are playing at a high level," said Chicago Bulls head coach and former Celtic assistant, Tom Thibodeau. "When you have (Paul) Pierce, Ray Alle and Kevin (Garnett) and Rondo running the team, you know and their bench, I think, is playing very well and they are getting contributions from a number of different people so they're gong to be a dangerous team."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.

6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.

10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.

15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary

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Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary

PHILADELPHIA - Chris Long is donating the rest of his year's salary to increase educational equality.

The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end already gave up his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, he's using the next 10 to launch the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign.

"My wife and I have been passionate about education being a gateway for upward mobility and equality," Long told The Associated Press. "I think we can all agree that equity in education can help affect change that we all want to see in this country."

Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.5 million guaranteed. His base salary in 2017 is $1 million.

The charitable initiative encourages people to make donations to improve equal education opportunities. Long began his career in St. Louis in 2008 and played for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last season. Long's foundation has selected four organizations whose missions focus on making education easily accessible to underserved youth while also providing students the support they need to develop strong social and emotional character.

The four organizations are based in the three communities in which Long has played during his NFL career. The city that raises the most money during the season will receive an additional $50,000 donation.

"There's a lot of opportunities to help out and they're wonderful organizations," Long said. "We have such a great platform as football players and hopefully fans get behind it."

Long grew up in Charlottesville and starred in high school at St. Anne's-Belfield before going to the University of Virginia. He was moved to start the scholarship program following the violent protests in Charlottesville in August.

"Our hometown is a wonderful place and I feel like people got the wrong idea about what the residents of Charlottesville are all about," he said.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE