Celtics rally for impressive win over Hawks

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Celtics rally for impressive win over Hawks

ATLANTA Doc Rivers is a great talker, but he'll be the first to tell you that he's not cut from the Knute Rockne school of motivational speeches.

But there's no denying whatever he said inside the Boston Celtics locker room at halftime turned around Saturday's game against Atlanta - and potentially their season - as the C's put on one of the more improbable comebacks for them this season in rallying for a 89-81 win over the Hawks.

After trailing by as many as 19 points and 15 at the half, Boston came out in the third quarter with the kind of defensive focus we hadn't seen since Friday's blowout win over Indiana.

Friday's game was arguably the Celtics' most complete performance of the season, the kind of game you seldom see performed in duplicate.

Even Doc Rivers knew that.

But there are times when Rivers can be too prophetic for his own good.

Shortly before Saturday's tip-off, he talked about how Friday's win over the Pacers showed his players just how good they could be defensively.

"I don't know if you can play that well defensively every night," Rivers said.

Clearly the Celtics couldn't ... for a half at least.

The C's have had moments of dominant play all season, but stringing together such play for more than just a few minutes here and there has been challenging for them.

And while Saturday in many ways stayed true to that trend, the Celtics were able to put together longer stretches of stellar play than usual.

That, more than anything else, helped fuel one of the team's most impressive wins of the season.

And while many will look at the 33 points Boston scored in their 33-9 third quarter, it was limiting the Hawks to just nine points that quarter that fueled the team's impressive scoring binge.

Even in the fourth quarter as the Hawks tried to scramble back in the game, the Celtics defense was locked in at all positions.

And it wasn't just one player, either.

It was the entire group, on a string, helping one another out on switches and rotations - the kind of things that Rivers has been preaching to his troops to play all season.

Well it seems they may have finally figured it out, showing an ability to get it done for more than just one game after a forgettable first half.

Lou Williams practically outscored the entire Boston team in the first quarter with 16 points compared to the Celtics' total of 18.

Lay-ups. Jumpers. 3-balls.

Atlanta got everything and anything they wanted to offensively, and backed it up with some solid play defensively.

At the half, Boston trailed 53-38 and truth be told, the game felt as though the Hawks should have been up by a lot more points.

The Celtics used 11 players in the first half with each of them having a plus-minus ratio in the negative with the "best" of the lot being Courtney Lee who was minus-2.

As for the Hawks, it was their backcourt that totally dominated the game as Williams and Jeff Teague combined for 34 points in the first half on 14-of-20 shooting in the first half.

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Blidh/Beleskey-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

McIntyre

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
 
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
 
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
 
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
 
They’re 11-5.
 
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
 
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
 
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
 
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
 
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
 
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
 
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
 
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
 
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.