From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jamal Crawford led a dominant performance by the Los Angeles reserves with 22 points, and the Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 112-100 on Tuesday night, extending their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games.Matt Barnes added 20 points -- one off his season high -- as the bench outscored the Clippers starters 64-48 in claiming the NBA's best record at 22-6, one win better than Oklahoma City which lost to Miami earlier Tuesday.Kosta Koufos and Jordan Hamilton scored 16 points each for Denver in the finale of a Christmas Day doubleheader at Staples Center. The Lakers, who will play the Nuggets on Wednesday night in Denver, beat the Knicks 100-94 in the first game.Ty Lawson added 15 points for the Nuggets, who fell to 7-13 on the road, where 22 of their first 32 games are being played.Crawford's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter pushed the Clippers' lead to 20 points and kept the starters on the bench for the final 12 minutes. Crawford scored eight points in the quarter.Chris Paul led Los Angeles starters with 14 points; Blake Griffin had 13; and Willie Green 11.Heat 103, Thunder 97MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21, and Miami survived a frantic finish to beat Oklahoma City in an NBA Finals rematch.Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for the Heat, who matched the franchise's best 25-game start at 19-6. Chris Bosh added 16 for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times going back to last June's title series.Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potentially game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each added 15 for the Thunder, who have dropped two straight for the first time this season.The Heat went 19 for 19 from the foul line, the second-best effort in franchise history.Lakers 100, Knicks 94LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, helping Los Angeles beat New York and extend its winning streak to five.Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game, and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Bryant, the league's leading scorer, has topped 30 in nine straight games.The Lakers improved to 14-14 -- 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni -- and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home.The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points, and Smith had five.Smith's 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game with 32 seconds left.Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game in nearly two months. He missed 24 games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Dwight Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds.Celtics 93, Nets 76NEW YORK (AP) -- Rajon Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against Brooklyn this season, and Boston beat the Nets in another game with heated moments between the division rivals.Rondo, sidelined in the first meeting and thrown out of the second after shoving Nets forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats, outplayed counterpart Deron Williams and helped the Celtics take control early.Rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points, and Jeff Green had 15 for the Celtics (14-13), who avoided falling under .500 with their second victory in six games.Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez each scored 15 for the Nets, who have lost four of five.The Celtics took control with a 23-5 run in the second quarter. They had 11 assists on 13 baskets and outscored the Nets 34-18 in the period.A month after the teams scuffled in Boston, there was another skirmish in the fourth quarter that resulted in four technical fouls.Williams had only 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting, and Joe Johnson, his partner in a high-priced backcourt, shot 4 of 14 for his 12 points.Boston's Kevin Garnett had eight points and 10 rebounds on the day he tied Charles Oakley for 15th place on the NBA's career list with his 1,282nd game.Rockets 120, Bulls 97CHICAGO (AP) -- James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists to lead Houston over Chicago. Omer Asik had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his first trip back to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the offseason.Every Rockets starter scored in double figures. Chandler Parsons added 23 points and Marcus Morris had 10 for Houston, which has won six of seven.The Rockets had been 3-7 on the road, but a strong second quarter turned the holiday matchup into a blowout. The Rockets outscored the Bulls 31-19 in the period to break the game open.Lin capped a 14-2 run midway through the quarter with a drive and a layup to make it 55-34. He scored 12 in the second quarter and Harden had 13.Houston led 58-41 at halftime.Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 27 points, and Marco Belinelli scored 15. The points allowed and margin of defeat were season-worsts for Chicago.
0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.
11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.
15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.
19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.
BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.
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- Tatum may find himself in Celtics' starting lineup on Opening Night
- New-look Celtics know they have still have to 'bring their game'
But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road.
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
And even that might not be enough.
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”