Celtics

Morning Skate 1230: Do the Stojko!

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Morning Skate 1230: Do the Stojko!

It's been a busy day in the NHL. Here's the latest news you need to know.

Yahoo! Sports hockey blogger and FOH, Sean Leahy, says Tim Thomas has taken a comfortable lead over James Reimer in NHL All-Star game voting. Appropriate since hes the best goaltender in the world and all.

The Days of YOrr boys recap the year that was 2011 and say it was clearly the Year of the Bear. Hard to disagree.

Nick Cotsonika has a nice piece detailing how the Bruins are better than last years Cup edition, and perhaps the best theyve ever been.

Sarah Baicker has the CSNPhilly.com recap of HBOs 247 episode and its just as groovy as the first two editions.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the story of Jaromir Jagrs return to Pittsburgh as an enemy member of Flyers Nation.

Do the Stojko? I have no idea what this is, but it made me think of former Celtics great Stojko Vrankovic, so I had to include it.

The Toronto Sun says it was a very good year for James Reimer, and its hard to disagree. A lot of good things happened to the young Toronto goaltender en route to becoming the Man for the Leafs.

Bruins prospect Ryan Spooner missed out on the World Junior Championships with a case of mononucleosis, but he hopes to return to his Frontenacs junior team sooner rather than later.

A good look at Henrik Lundqvist by Jesse Spector, who managed not to get lost in his dreamy blue eyes or stories from his jam sessions with John McEnroe.

The top 20 Boston athletes under the age of 25, brought to you by CSNNE.com and featuring quite a few members of the Boston Bruins.

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.”