Celtics

Rivers doesn't expect same Magic in next matchup

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Rivers doesn't expect same Magic in next matchup

ORLANDO, Fla. Doc Rivers doesn't have a crystal ball or a direct line to Miss Cleo, but he knows Thursday's game against Orlando will be significantly different than the C's 87-56 beatdown of the Magic on Monday.

"They came out and just absolutely dominated us with their energy and their defensive intensity," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said following the loss. "That's the most dominating defensive performance I have ever had against me.

Van Gundy added, "It's the first game in my career I've been through where not one guy played well. We didn't have one guy. That was an absolute beat-down, and in most senses it was much worse than the score indicated."

Orlando took the first step in getting back on track on Tuesday by beating Indiana by 19 points, on the Pacers' home floor.

Regardless of when the C's would face the Magic again after Monday's record-setting performance, Rivers would expect nothing less than a tougher battle the second go-around.

"It's human nature," Rivers said. "They're going to come in and they're going to want to show us, I guess."

And Rivers couldn't be any more pleased about that.

To play a game where both teams come in with something to prove - the C's want to show Monday wasn't a fluke while the Magic are determined to show they're a better team than the one that scored a franchise-low 56 points - at this point in the season is embraced fully by Rivers.

"I love that," Rivers said. "I think that's great. I wish every game had that feeling. I think that's how each team should play. They're going to come at us. That's fine by us. We're going to do the same. It's a great challenge."

One of the keys to Boston's win on Monday was the play of Paul Pierce.

He had 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the win.

And like Rivers, he too expects to see a Magic team that will play better.

"You have to expect they'll have some counters to some of the things that they didn't do well," Pierce said. "We have to be prepared for that."

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.”