Celtics

Celtics work on timing in abbreviated training camp

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Celtics work on timing in abbreviated training camp

WALTHAM -- The no-look pass. The inbounds lob. The quick bucket in transition.

It is said that timing is everything, and in basketball, it can be the difference between the game-winning basket and a missed shot.

With just days before the regular season begins, the Boston Celtics are working on their timing -- even if time isnt on their side in this abbreviated training camp.

Most of the plays, weve got great position players but the timing is so important, Ray Allen said prior to Wednesdays win against the Toronto Raptors. Its executing out of timeouts. Its out-of-bounds plays. Its everything that you have opportunities to put those things in (during a regular training camp). You have preseason games spread throughout a two-week period, and then you have scrimmaging amongst the teams, even times when we have two a days, we just dont have that (time). Nobody has it, so it just requires an intense amount of focus for everybody when theyre out there.

With limited days for practice in a condensed regular season schedule, Allen expects shootarounds to be longer to work on the timing of plays. Wednesday morning was an example of that.

Its always a process, he said. Even this mornings shootaround, were putting in new stuff, and its stuff when Doc (Rivers) calls a play and hell put something new in, I go right to my spot. I know exactly what were running. But the other guys dont know it.

You just fall into that rhythm from playing," he added. "I always say when you play games and then you dont play games, you almost lose a little bit of your timing. Around here I think its easier when you play games, youre working on it as you play games and youre getting that timing in real life, real game situations.

For Rajon Rondo, the teams playmaker, timing is critical to the execution of plays. Even though the Celtics have less time to work on it in training camp, he echoed Allens belief that it will get better as the season goes on.

Timing is very important, Rondo said after practice on Thursday. We prepare for the playoffs each year, execution down the stretch, and timings a big part of it. Guys are going to get into us, defend us, try to throw us off a rhythm, but we still have to find a way to get our timing down and execute. Its okay. Cant give it a number right now but the more games we play, the better our timing will be.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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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.”