Celtics

Horford and Baynes spearhead Celtics' league-leading defensive effort

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Horford and Baynes spearhead Celtics' league-leading defensive effort

BOSTON -- The Celtics -- on a five-game winning streak after losing their first two -- are riding high these days, stringing together the kind of run that stands out for all the right reasons.

But tonight’s game against Sacramento presents a different kind of challenge.

The Celtics are doing more than just facing another competitor tonight. They must also contend with complacency -- something they haven’t had to worry about this season due to the quality of their opponents.

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The Kings (1-6) are playing some of the worst basketball in the NBA right now, as evidenced by their record. Scoring, points allowed, field-goal percentage . . . you name it, and there’s a good chance the Kings rank among the league’s bottom 10 in it.

And as much as Boston has shown a knack for playing well against all opponents, nobody they've faced so far has struggled like Sacramento. They Celtics will say they respect all opponents, but they're no different than most elite teams in the struggle to treat terrible teams and tremendously talented ones with the same edge.

Because as bad as the Kings’ record may be, they still have enough quality players to knock off the Celtics if Boston isn’t careful. Willie Cauley-Stein and De'Aaron Fox are both solid young players with clear upside, though they’re still going through the lumps most youngsters endure in the early stages of their careers. Veterans like George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter may all be past their prime -- and certainly haven't done much this year -- but, on paper, they're solid contributors.

So for Boston to survive this trap game, it must remain mindful of what's been the foundation of the winning streak: Defense.

The Celtics come into tonight’s game with a league-best defensive rating of 95.6. It's been a collective team effort, but the two pillars of their defensive success have been Al Horford and Aron Baynes.

They have been a dynamic defensive duo for the Celtics. They've paired up for a defensive rating of 77.9, which is the second-best mark among tandems to play in at least seven games this season according to nba.com/stats.

Besides having tremendous length across the board defensively, coach Brad Stevens also attributes Boston’s quicker-than-expected defensive success to the Horford-Baynes pairing.

“Our communication with Al and Aron is excellent,” Stevens said. “You know, if you go through something and walk through one time with Al and Aron, they can direct the whole thing. So that’s pretty . . . pretty unique, I think.”

Said Horford: “We’re just really buying into what Coach wants us to do and our young guys, they’re all ears. They’re really listening, trying to be better. We’re just trying to get better game by game.”

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Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

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Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.

Ubuntu.

Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.