Celtics

Before heading to London, Celtics have business in Brooklyn

Before heading to London, Celtics have business in Brooklyn

BOSTON – For most of the season, the Celtics have played with a tunnel-like focus, not allowing anything to take their eyes off the ultimate nightly prize - victory.

Still, with a schedule that eases up considerably from here on out, that focus, that edge that they have managed to seemingly sharpen from one game to the next, is in jeopardy tonight when they play at Brooklyn.

MORE CELTICS:

Boston, the team that has been the NBA’s pacesetter in games played this season, will have two opponents the following nine days – Philadelphia on Jan. 11 in London is one, and boredom is the other.

But the big takeaway for Boston following tonight’s game is the extended period of rest that both players and coaches are eager to embrace.

However, it comes at a time when the Celtics seem to have gone back to being the team whose choked the life out of opponents on a nightly basis.

The 91-84 win over Minnesota on Friday was the second consecutive game the Celtics have held an opponent to less than 90 points.

And remember, the Timberwolves came into the game as a top 10 scoring team, led by a trio of dynamic scorers in All-Star Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

The defense not only shows what the Celtics can do, but also their ability to stick to a defensive game plan that has worked well all season.

“It’s a great feeling for this coaching staff,” said Marcus Smart. “They spend a lot of time on offense, but also on the defensive end trying to make sure we’re in places to succeed. So, if shots aren't falling, the coaching on the defensive end is big.”

On the Celtics defense of late, Kyrie Irving added that it’s about “staying locked in for the full shot clock, just being a more physical team, bringing the fight to teams, making it more difficult and understanding that there are some great players in this league that can make some unbelievable plays but if we stay disciplined we put ourselves in great position.”

We saw against Minnesota just how impactful a little rest and relaxation can be to the Celtics, who have also benefited from having a couple of practice days, which was a rare treat during the first half of the season.

Irving has made no secret the past couple of weeks about how eager he is to get to the London portion of the Celtics’ schedule.

And that makes an already tough-playing Brooklyn team a dangerous foe tonight.

Having edged them 108-105 at the TD Garden on New Year’s Eve only confirmed what we know about the Nets – they play hard, all the time.

And while Boston (32-10) and Brooklyn (15-23) may be miles apart record-wise, the Celtics know closing out the pre-London portion of their schedule won’t be easy.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Clearly, NBA 2K19 is a big fan of Jayson Tatum

Clearly, NBA 2K19 is a big fan of Jayson Tatum

Only two NBA players have had their NBA 2K19 ratings revealed so far: LeBron James and Jayson Tatum.

Despite having just one season under his belt, NBA 2K19 awarded the 20-year-old with an 87-overall.

While James, the cover athlete of the game’s 20th Anniversary Edition, earned a 98-overall, Tatum’s 87-overall is higher than many anticipated and a ten-point jump from his initial rating as a rookie.

Tatum responded to the rating by quote tweeting the eye emojis (on World Emoji Day no less).

Tatum fell short of Rookie of the Year honors, but averaging 18.5 points per game in the playoffs and helping lead the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals clearly made an impression on the game developers.

The forward's 87 is the same rating given to 2018 All-Stars such as Bradley Beal and Draymond Green at the end of last season, and higher than All-Stars like Al Horford and Kyle Lowry.

No other Celtics’ ratings have been revealed thus far, but Kyrie Irving, who finished last season at a 93, is likely to be the team’s highest-rated player.

Ratings are revealed periodically up until the game’s early-release date on September 7.

Celtics' process draws praise from Sixers' Brown

Celtics' process draws praise from Sixers' Brown

The Boston Celtics' transformation from contenders to pretenders and back again has drawn the praise of fans and rivals alike.

That praise continued to rain down on Sunday as Brett Brown, coach of the rival 76ers, lauded Boston’s team, Danny Ainge, and company.

“When you’re designing a team, when you’re thinking about the things you have to do from a coaching standpoint, when you’re forward-thinking about matchups, how can you not think about the Boston Celtics?” Brown told the Boston Herald. “I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again, the partnership that Brad (Stevens) and Danny (Ainge) have is fantastic.”

“And for all of my years in Philadelphia, you’re always looking over your shoulder at what Boston is doing. I think in many ways they are a benchmark type of program for me, and I’m always thinking about how ultimately do you beat them.”

While the 76ers exceeded expectations last season, the Celtics eliminated Philadelphia in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

With LeBron James moving west, many feel the race for Eastern Conference supremacy is shaping up to be a battle between the two long-time rivals, both of whom have young cores, for the foreseeable future.