Celtics

More bad news for NHL fans

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More bad news for NHL fans

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The next round of NHL cuts could be the deepest yet.With no deal in sight and no negotiations planned, the NHL chopped another two weeks off the schedule and moved closer to canceling the entire hockey season.No drop-dead date has been announced, but it is clear the sides are running out of time to reach a deal. The NHL said Thursday that all games through Jan. 14 have been canceled. More than 50 percent of the schedule has been lost, and the rest is now in danger, too."I don't want to characterize what today's cancellations mean or don't mean," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press in an email Thursday. "I will stand on the announcement that was made."The players' association didn't have any comment about the latest cancellations.So far, 625 regular-season games have been called off, including nearly 100 in the announcement made Thursday -- the 96th day of the NHL's lockout. The New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game also have been lost.The NHL had previously canceled games through Dec. 30.Daly said in a radio interview Wednesday that mid-January is likely the latest the sides could go to make a deal to save some of the season. When pressed, however, he said he expects the season will be played.The NHL is already the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout.Daly said the sides weren't in contact Thursday. The groups have remained apart since two days of meetings with a federal mediator last week produced no progress. There haven't been negotiations since Dec. 6 in New York, when talks broke down after a few days of bargaining.Since the sides split last week, there has been limited contact -- phone calls and a brief email exchange.The NHL believes negotiations should resume only when there is something new to say."I don't think either party is refusing a meeting," Daly said Wednesday. "But unless there is an indication one side or the other is prepared to move or has a new idea to move the process forward -- and so far neither side has indicated -- I am not sure what we would do at the meeting."What is the agenda? Who is directing the conversation? We don't have anything new to say right now."Union executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday he was glad to hear Daly's belief that there would be a season, and added he hopes Daly is right."Hopefully, we'll get back together and negotiate out the remaining issues as soon as possible," Fehr said. "(We aren't talking) because the owners have not indicated a desire to resume."We've indicated any number of times that we're willing to resume when they are (and) we're willing to resume without preconditions. So we're waiting to hear back from them."Last week, the NHL announced it filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court in New York, seeking to establish that its lockout is legal. In a filing posted Thursday, the court said the union had three weeks after receiving the suit to file an answer.

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.”