Celtics

Five Years of Division Domination

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Five Years of Division Domination

"I'm not about to go pop some champagne bottles or anything like that, like I know they do in baseball. It's a good accomplishment, I guess. But all we care about around here is a championship banner."

That was Paul Pierce after last night's Atlantic Division-clinching victory, and you understand where he's coming from.

Can you imagine how awkward it would have been if the Celtics really celebrated last night's win? If the final buzzer sounded, and everyone stormed the court. If Pierce hopped up on the scorer's table, five fingers in the air. If KG ran out, kissed the floor, and then broke down in tears during his post game interview: "This one's for you, Ray! This one's for Jermaine, and Jeff and Chris. This one's for everyone, man! Now go to sleep, Boo Boo!"

No, you can't imagine it. Because it would never happen.

It doesn't matter that this was far and away the most difficult division title of the Big 3 era. It doesn't matter that it was more than likely the last (with everyone still intact). It doesn't matter how many times they were counted out along the way. These Celtics don't celebrate division titles. At least not in public. Pierce saying, "it's a good accomplishment, I guess" is about as celebratory as we're going to get.

BUT because winning even one division title, never mind five straight, is still a more than impressive feat. And since, like I said, this is more than likely the final time the Big 3 will win one together, I spent some time putting together this list:

Fun Facts About the Atlantic Division Five-Peat.

Enjoy.

Their first division game together was November 4, 2007, with the Celtics beating the Raptors, 98-95 in OT. Ray Allen had 33 point in 49 minutes. KG had 23 and 13. TJ Ford scored 32 points for Toronto, followed by Rajon Rondo spending the night tied to a pipe in Tom Thibodeau's basement. (Note: I'll always remember this game because it was on at the same time as the PatriotsColts. I have nothing more to add on that)

The most points they've scored in a division game is 124, in a win against the Knicks on December 21, 2008. Rondo led the way with 26, Ray Allen had 18 and Brian Scalabrine fouled out in 14 minutes. The win was Boston's 18th in a row, and improved them to 26-2, which tied the best start in NBA history for a team with two losses.

The fewest points they've scored: 71. That happened all the way back on March 7, 2012, in a 32 point loss to Philadelphia. Remember that? OK, good. No need for details.

Since the Atlantic Division was created in 1970, no team has ever won more than five titles in a row. But this is the third time the Celtics have won exactly five (72-76 and 84-88). Also, the Celtics have now won a total of 21 Atlantic Division titles. The next closest team is Philadelphia, with 5.

If this is the end for the Big Three, they'll finish their five year run with a combined 63-15 record in the Atlantic. Over that time, they lost only four division home games Toronto, New Jersey and Philly x2.

Not that this is remotely important, but how about the fact that the Celtics lost consecutive division games only twice in five years? The most recent stretch came last month with two losses to Sixers (with no division games in between). Before that, the only other time was last March, when the C's followed up a loss to the Sixers with a disgusting loss in New Jersey. Judging by the box score, this was right in the middle of the "Rondo misses Perk and got burned by Obama" era. Good times.

The list is now over.

So, congrats to the Celtics on a fifth straight Atlantic Division title. It's been an unbelievable run, and regardless of what happens next, it's one that we'll always remember and respect, and at some point maybe even celebrate.

But for now there are more important things on everyone's mind.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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.”