No stopping Nash


No stopping Nash

BOSTON When it comes to game-planning, it doesn't take long for Doc Rivers and his staff to come to a consensus on the best way to approach a player.

And then there's the seemingly ageless one, Steve Nash.

Do you want him to score or pass more?

"It was split right in half," Rivers said. "You don't know which one you'd rather have him do."

When you throw Rajon Rondo (wrist) being doubtful for tonight's game against Nash and the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics will have their hands full building off of Wednesday night's win over Toronto.

Like the Celtics (5-8), the Suns (5-9) recently snapped a five-game losing skid with a win over the New York Knicks.

"He's just destroying people," Rivers said. "He put a clinic on in New York. It was an absolute clinic. When you factor in his age and the speed that he's doing it at now, it's laughable. The man is hard to guard because he's so crafty."

Nash, who will be 38 next month, is still one of the toughest point guards to match up with despite being the oldest playmaker in the NBA.

"He's one of a kind," said Rondo. "He's a great point guard. He's been doing it for a long time and he knows the game."

Rondo added, "It's going to be probably over 100 pick and rolls. We're not the best at it. He's good at exposing people as well."

Nash is the type of player that will challenge your mental toughness in ways few point guards in the NBA do now.

"You have to have a defiant attitude," Rivers said. "He's going to make some shots. He's going to do some things you just have to be defiant about. That's what he's supposed to do, and I'm supposed to stop him."

If Rondo doesn't play, Rivers will likely have Avery Bradley or E'Twaun Moore start at point guard. Although Moore is the better playmaker, Rivers might go with Bradley instead because he's the better defender.

"I've been watching him since I was in middle school," Bradley said. "It's going to be a challenge (tonight)."

Said Rivers: "He's like (Muhammad) Ali. Every fight, is he going to do the rope-a-dope, is he dancing? You don't know what he's doing. George Foreman said it, mentally the guy bet me before the game started. That's what Nash is."

And while Nash doesn't necessarily come up in talks about the top five or so point guards in the NBA, his ability to throw you off with his passing and shot-making ability creates a major challenge.

"Chris Paul and them are probably better at this point because of age," Rivers said. "But they don't present that problem. They pretty much score, and then they'll pass too. Nash, he's just he's spectacular. He should be studied. There should be a class about him, Nash 101."

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation


Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.