Celtics

Light, Faulk as honorary captains: Nobody more fired up

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Light, Faulk as honorary captains: Nobody more fired up

FOXBORO -- The Patriots announced Thursday that former running back Kevin Faulk and left tackle Matt Light would serve as honorary captains for Sunday's AFC Championship game against the Ravens. Media availability for both was held the following day.
The pair stepped before the podium after a brief introduction by Robert Kraft.
Big as he is, Light could hardly contain his good humor.
"As a fan I've never seen anything but a win at Gillette Stadium. Besides what some of you know is a guy who isn't the biggest sports fan off the field, there's nobody that's going to be in this stadium that's going to be more fired up for this one than this guy right here," he boomed. "And, secondly, the guy that's getting the honor alongside me right here, Kevin Faulk if there's one guy I'd want to walk out on the field one more time with, it'd be the guy who did it on third down, and every time he touched the field I felt better at my position.
"It's just an awesome thing to be back here, to be alongside Kevin Faulk, to have the Kraft family honor us in this way, to share in this special moment at this time of the year when everybody is amped up, is just truly a blessing."
Faulk was asked if the Patriots postseason run, happening just three months after he officially retired, is a mixed blessing. Of course he's thrilled for the team's success, but is it bittersweet to watch from the outside?
"I don't know if it's a blessing or what," Faulk laughed ruefully. "It's a good thing in a way, but as a competitor, you want to be out there because you just left the locker room, you've just been with all these guys. Like last week, to see the excitement on Shane Vereen's face after the game that he had that's what I miss. And I know that's what Matt misses, too. I miss going in the locker room after a game like that when a guy I spent the whole year in the meeting room with has a game that really boosts his confidence for, probably, the rest of his career."
Light agreed, noting how much he respected the commitment and drive of his former teammates.
"Everybody talks about the system and everything else, but you have to have individuals that are really better than anybody else to make that work. You have to have the top. And I'm not saying they're better than everyone in the league, but you have to have people that really understand what it means to be selfless, and spend a lot of time working and never be satisfied. And that's one of the things I miss the most from my playing days because that's hard to find in the real world."
But though both admitted feeling nostalgic, Light made it clear he's not itching to suit up on Sunday. He's perfectly content to support New England from his seat in the stands.
"I'd probably make it through the warmup. About that time I'd probably fall out," Light joked before sharing his answer. "I'd just be crazy to think that any former Patriot, any guy that's spent any time in this organization knows what it's like to be here, to not just be overly excited for this opportunity, and what these guys are going through, and all the work that that they've put into it."

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.”