Celtics

Turco in vs. Penguins; Krug in line to debut

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Turco in vs. Penguins; Krug in line to debut

BOSTON -- It looks like the Bruins are going into rest mode, Penguins or no Penguins. Tim Thomas, Marty Turco and Anton Khudobin were all on the TD Garden ice together for morning skate, and Turco was the first off indicating he'll get the start against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Turco is riding a two-game winning streak after beating the Ducks and Islanders, but it was thought the B's would be calling Khudobin's number at this point in the season. With Rask's playoff availability still in question, the thinking was the B's would get Khudobin as much game action as possible before the postseason begins.

Rest makes sense for many of the Bruins with both the No. 2 spot in the East and the Northeast Division now wrapped up.

Meanwhile rookie defenseman Torey Krug was leading the stretch at the end of skate, which indicates that the Michigan State product will be making his NHL debut.

Jordan Caron wasn't present for the morning skate after taking a Zdeno Chara slap shot off the leg in the first period Sunday night, but Julien indicated he was suffering from flu-like symptoms on Tuesday. Both Adam McQuaid and Gregory Campbell returned to the ice on Tuesday, but McQuaid won't be making his return. Here are the projected forward lines with Turco between the pipes:

Lucic-Krejci-Peverley
Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin
Rolston-Kelly-Pouliot
Paille-Campbell-Thornton

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.”