Celtics

McQuaid cleared for B's home opener

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McQuaid cleared for B's home opener

There hadnt been much question after he was a full participant in the week-long training camp and Tuesday nights scrimmage against the Providence Bruins, but Claude Julien confirmed that defenseman Adam McQuaid has been cleared to play.

Hes cleared to go, said Claude Julien. I think its easy to say that he looked a little rusty in the scrimmage. But I dont think he was that rusty. I think frustration crept in and that made it worse.

Ive been watching him in practice, and hes been getting better and improving with each day. Hes on the right track. For him its a matter of keeping the game simple. Hes a big body, hes a mean individual and hes a guy that other guys dont want to play against when hes on his game. Hes really an unsung hero in that sense.

The 26-year-old defenseman had his season cut short by a concussion last year that kept him out of the playoffs, and underwent months of rehab during the NHL lockout after October surgery for a blood clot condition. But McQuaid has worked his way back while missing zero time from the lineup, and will be suiting up for the Bruins for a season-opener for the first time in his NHL career.

Last year McQuaid was felled by a virus for the first few games of the regular season, and two years ago he was a healthy scratch while Mark Stuart was still a member of the Bruins. But this time around he shouldnt have anything holding him back after playing a full role in Tuesday nights scrimmage, and even getting into a fight with Providence enforcer Bobby Robins.

For a player that was thought to have long odds of starting the season on time after undergoing major surgery, McQuaid will be back playing his customary role as the strong, stay-at-home defensemen type.

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.”