Celtics

Hollins' athletic past helps his basketball game

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Hollins' athletic past helps his basketball game

BOSTON -- In just his second game at the TD Garden, newly acquired center Ryan Hollins wowed the home crowd with two alley oop dunks from Rajon Rondo that sent him flying above the rim.

The elevations are part of Hollins athleticism. The 7-foot, 230-pound big man is the son of a former track star. Hollins grew up attending track meets and joined the team at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif. during his senior year.

I did the triple jump and long jump, he said. Basketball season was over, theres nothing more you can do, and I ended up getting third in the state in triple jump. I was like, wow, I might be pretty good at this.

Hollins attended UCLA as a member of the mens basketball team and competed on the track team as well his freshman year.

I had so much fun doing it, he recalled. It was funny, a couple of people were like, Hes a track guy playing basketball. No, I was a basketball player who just went out (for track). Its just genetics.

Now in his sixth NBA season, Hollins has used his track skills on the court.

When I came back to basketball from that, it just helped out my jumping tremendously, he explained. For a big guy, it helped my coordination because triple jump and long jump, those are little guy-type things or there is coordination to run in those kinds of steps, things like that. As far as jumping, it really does help my vertical. How to run, how to move, thats important for a big guy.

Hollins incorporates high-knee stretches into his pregame warmups to help get his muscles ready.

The biggest thing is, it teaches you how to jump, he said. As basketball players, we just jump high enough to dunk. You jump for track, you drive through your jump. So thats the biggest thing that helped me, muscles and things that you havent used.

As a member of the Celtics, those muscles could be put to use with any split-second lobs Rondo throws his way.

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.”