Rondo speaks for Pierce, Pavlovic


Rondo speaks for Pierce, Pavlovic

BOSTON -- In an unusual turn of events, Rajon Rondo volunteered to answer questions for his teammates following the Boston Celtics 104-86 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

First he started with Pavlovic, whom he told to go home while he addressed the media on his behalf. The one condition: Rondo was not answering questions about Rondo (he would do that later on).

Pavlovic scored 10 points (4-8 FG, 1-3 3PG) in 22 minutes and gave the Celtics a quick spark off the bench in the second quarter.

Sashas always ready to play, said Rondo. He doesnt get a lot of attention like a lot of his teammates, but hes always ready to play.

Rondo added, Hes professional. Hes not a rookie. Hes not a second or third-year player. Hes been in the league for a long time. He may not play in every game, but when his names called, hes going to be ready.

So who would win in a game of one-on-one between Rondo and Pavlovic?

It depends, said Rondo. Sasha has the size but Rondo has the speed, so you take your pick. It depends on how many dribbles you get.

Rondo later re-appeared during Pierces postgame interview and stepped into the media huddle in place of the Celtics captain.

Pierce tied Ray Allen and LaMarcus Aldridge for leading scorer with 22 points (7-13 FG, 2-5 3PG, 6-7 FT) in his 1,000th career game.

I think he was extra motivated (following Wednesdays loss to the Philadelphia 76ers), said Rondo. He came out and set the tone. I think the starters did a great job of setting the tone as well. So it was a great team effort. We pretty much did it throughout the entire game except for when they went zone in the fourth quarter, but other than that we bounced back pretty well I would say.

And the reason for Rondos sudden desire to play the role of spokesman tonight?

He doesnt (want to), Rondo said. He just wants to get his guys to get home and pack.

The Celtics leave Saturday morning for an eight-game road trip.

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace


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.”