Celtics

U.S. soccer star deals with racial taunting

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U.S. soccer star deals with racial taunting

From Comcast SportsNetTHE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- American forward Jozy Altidore was the target of racist chants Tuesday during AZ Alkmaar's 5-0 win over second-tier Den Boscha in the quarterfinals of the Dutch Cup.Altidore, who is black, said he had never faced such serious abuse from the stands."There's nothing I can do about it," he told Dutch television's Eredivisie Live. "All I can do is pray for them and hope they can become better people."Referee Reinold Wiedemeijer wanted to stop the match in the first half because of "jungle sounds chanted at Altidore," according to AZ's official Twitter feed. But AZ players, including Altidore, who is black, persuaded him not to.Wiedemeijer halted play briefly in the second half because of fans throwing balls of ice at his linesmen, according to the Dutch Eredivisie official Twitter feed and Dutch news website Nu.nl."It is terribly sad that this can happen for those involved and for lovers of football in the Netherlands," AZ soccer director Earnie Stewart, a former U.S. national team midfielder, told Dutch television's Eredivisie Live at halftime. "You hear that and wonder what on earth is going on."Stewart said Den Bosch officials are "ashamed" of the fans involved. The club repeatedly urged its fans to halt the chants, to no avail.Altidore scored one goal in AZ's 5-0 victory, increasing his total this season to a career-best 20, one more than in 2011-12. Den Bosch finished with nine men after two players were ejected."Obviously, we hear about those things and (we're) not pleased with it at all," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "When that type of stuff happens, no matter where in the world you go, you don't want to see it. He told me about it."After a match between youth teams near Amsterdam in December, had players attacked and fatally injured a linesman."It's a bit disappointing that these things still happen in this time that we're in," Altidore said. "But what you going to do? You just hope these people can find a way to improve themselves. You can only pray for them."The 23-year-old Altidore focused on the need for education."At the end of the day it's still alive, racism. All we can do now is try to educate ourselves, the young kids coming up, to be better than that," he said.Den Bosch repeatedly urged its fans to halt the monkey chants, to no avail.The club's director, Peter Bijvelds, blamed "malicious supporters making a scandalous mess" of the evening. He said Den Bosch, AZ and the referee considered abandoning the match, but decided against it."We can't deny that, certainly when we play top matches ... we have a structural problem with a group of people who ruin things," Bijvelds told Dutch radio. "We have to crack down on it."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“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.”

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