Celtics-Bucks preview: Keep the defense going

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Celtics-Bucks preview: Keep the defense going

MILWAUKEE The Boston Celtics are just hours removed from their best defensive showing of the season in easily defeating Portland, 96-78 on Friday night.

The C's did it with a suffocating defense, lots of turnovers forced (23) and a solid job on the boards.

Another strong performance by the Celtics defense might be on the horizon tonight against a Milwaukee team that is in a bit of a funk lately.

After emerging as one of the Eastern Conference's feel-good stories the first couple weeks of the season, they have come upon hard times lately.

The Bucks have been a decent offensive team this season with a 97.4 points scored per game average that ranks 15th in the NBA.

That total has dipped to 92.7 points over the course of their last six games, five of which have ended in defeat.

Meanwhile, the Celtics defense is trending towards being the Celtics defense of the past.

Despite giving up 98.4 points per game which ranks 18th in the NBA, the Celtics have given up an average of 95.8 points in their last four games - three of which have ended with victories.

It is yet another sign that despite a slower-than-expected start, the Celtics are slowly but surely coming around to playing the kind of basketball that both the players and fans expect.

"Weve got to get our culture right in that way," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "And weve got a long way to go, but were getting better. You can see it, for sure.

They'll look to continue their strong play defensively tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. Here are some other keys to tonight's game to keep an eye on as the Celtics look to take a 2-1 series lead in their head-to-head series with the Bucks.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Because of the blowout nature of Friday's win, the C's are in position to play their core players - Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, specifically - extended minutes tonight if necessary.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Courtney LeeJason Terry vs Monta EllisBrandon Jennings: The Celtics backcourt of Lee and Terry will spend time alternating defensively against one of the most high-powered backcourts in the NBA. Holding their own against Ellis and Jennings will be critical to the C's hopes of winning.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green is coming off a season-high 19 points, delivering the kind of high impact performance that the Celtics have been longing for all season. What's next? Doing it again.

STAT TO TRACK: The magic number for the Boston Celtics is 95; as in 95 points allowed. This season, the C's are 7-1 when they hold opponents to 95 points or less. That'll be important against the Bucks who are 6-2 this season when scoring 95 or more points.

Bruins admit they 'just weren't ready' to play Isles in shutout loss

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Bruins admit they 'just weren't ready' to play Isles in shutout loss

BOSTON – The Bruins are starting to run out of adjectives and descriptors for these “no-show” performances on home ice.

The Bruins made it twice in two months that they’ve dropped a disappointing dud to one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams when they came out flat, and never showed any signs of life in a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders. The lack of effort and pitiful results were particularly disappointing coming off a solid five game stretch where they’d engineered high effort wins over Florida, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Patrice Bergeron finished a minus-3 on the afternoon, and said in quasi-disgust that he knew five minutes into the game that his team didn’t have “it” on Monday.

“Something that we talked [headed into Monday was] about building from the last few weeks, and how good it felt around the room, I guess, with winning games basically,” said Bergeron. “[The shutout loss] just shows that you have to show up every night and not take things for granted. I think we did [take things for granted] this afternoon.

“It was about finding someone to get us a shift to get us going basically. We had a few good shifts there, and we sustained a little bit of pressure there. But then we just couldn’t keep that for the next lines after going, we couldn’t sustain that or build from that. It was really the whole team throughout the lineup that didn’t show up and, you know, it’s obviously inexcusable, unacceptable.”

Claude Julien mentioned the compacted schedule and potential fatigue playing into the Bruins looking “flat” on Monday against the Islanders, and perhaps that is partially to blame for an uncharacteristically lifeless performance from the Black and Gold. But the B’s essentially did nothing for 60 minutes after not having played for 48 hours dating back to a Saturday afternoon matinee win over the Flyers, so the fatigue excuse is difficult to swallow.

Instead it looked like a Bruins team that thought they were going to roll out the pucks and beat the worst team in the Metro Division that had lost four-of-five games. Instead a defensive zone breakdown led to a Nikolay Kulemin goal midway through the second period, and the Bruins collapsed after that. Josh Bailey tucked a short side goal past a late-reacting Tuukka Rask for a soft serve special allowed by Boston’s ace goaltender, and Kulemin scored again in the second period once the Bruins began cheating at the offensive end of the ice.

To make matters worse, the Bruins showed zero fight or willingness to scratch and claw their way back into the game in the third period. Instead it looked like they quit on two points that could end up being extremely important at the end of the season.

It also looked like the Bruins weren’t ready to play, and that they overlooked the downtrodden Islanders for the second time in as many months.

“Maybe we took them a little lightly, but we just weren’t ready [to play],” said Brad Marchand. “We have to look ourselves in the mirror and all be a little bit better. We all have to be prepared for every game. You can’t look at the guy besides us and think he’s going to do the job. We have to take a little onus on ourselves and all be a little bit better. As a team, again, we have to play the system together and we have to back each other up. We have to play as one unit and we didn’t do that.”

It’s long past the point where the words even matter that the Bruins are uttering after games like Monday afternoon. Instead it’s about results and nothing else, and the B’s were nothing short of putrid in that category against the Islanders with points at a premium this time of year.