Celtics re-discover defensive dominance

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Celtics re-discover defensive dominance

BOSTON At the end of the first quarter, the Boston Celtics had almost twice as many made field goals (11) as the Sixers (6).

That, combined with a slight rebounding advantage (10-9) at that point positioned them to do what Doc Rivers has been patiently waiting to see all season - a sustained night of good defense.

Rivers got his wish on Saturday as the Celtics defeated Philadelphia 92-79 in a game that they led from the beginning until the final horn sounded.

Focusing on the Celtics' 53.3 percent shooting as being the key to their win over the Sixers is easy.

But knocking down all those shots had little to do with one of the Celtics delivering one of their more dominant defensive performances this season.

"Our defense is why we won," Rivers said.

And it wasn't your typical, man-to-man garden variety, either.

There was a lot of that, but Rivers also used some zone defense along with an occasional double-team just to keep the Sixers off balance.

It worked.

Evan Turner, who lit the C's up for 26 points and 10 rebounds on Friday night, had just 13 points and three rebounds on Saturday.

And Jrue Holiday, a player Rivers has pointed out repeatedly as a likely all-star this season, had just 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting from the field.

"When you play defense like that, you usually win games," Rivers said.

And that is where the Celtics should be at right now.

There's no denying that they have made progress on several fronts in the past couple of weeks.

But that progress at some point has to result in victories which have been few and far between for Boston (11-9) this year.

"We see we're getting better day-in and day-out on tape," said Celtics wing Courtney Lee. "But when we see it when we lose, we kind of look back at it like, 'are these things working for us? But like I said, you can see us coming together. Our rotations (defensively) and everything is getting better so we just have to stick with it."

For veterans like Paul Pierce, the idea of committing to being a defensive-minded team is easy to do.

Under Doc Rivers, there's really no choice in the matter.

Players understanding this principle isn't the issue. It's how they go about applying that knowledge to their actual play.

Part of his job as a leader on this team is to remind some of the new guys and some of the returners too, that they are making progress towards becoming the type of team defensively they have to evolve into in order to be successful.

"We know when we commit to that end of the floor and we're all on the same page, that's what we are," Pierce said. "We saw glimpses of that (Friday night in Philadelphia) for most of the game and I told the guys after the game if we continue to play like that, then we're going to win a lot of games than we have. So we have to stick to our principles and stay consistent with that and continue to improve."

And win ... don't forget to win, Celtics.

McIntyre still building and earning trust of B's coaching staff

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McIntyre still building and earning trust of B's coaching staff

BRIGHTON, Mass -- It hasn’t been an easy road for Bruins rookie goaltender Zane McIntyre since getting called back up by Boston a few weeks ago.

The 24-year-old netminder is trying to give the B’s top-level goaltending while earning the trust of the Bruins coaching staff, and adjusting to the sporadic playing time that goes along with playing understudy to a No. 1 netminder like Tuukka Rask. The three goals allowed in the third period of Sunday afternoon’s 5-1 loss to the Penguins didn’t look good on paper, but really there wasn’t much McIntyre could do with the defense totally breaking down in front of him during a 12-shot barrage in the final 20 minutes.

The 3.95 goals against average and .860 save percentage certainly look like a little frightening for the first-year goalie, but the truth is there’s going to be some bumps as he adjusts to life as a backup for the first time.

“[The adjustment] is mostly between the ears, to be honest,” said McIntyre. “I have confidence in my physical abilities and I know what I can do, and what makes my game successful. So right now it’s just building confidence every day in practice and staying persistent, staying with it. I know good things are going to happen when you surround yourself with good people, and the biggest thing is battling every day and making sure I’m contributing to the team.”

McIntyre will certainly have to be sharp if he’s put back in the crease on Tuesday night against the Red Wings after Rask exited from Sunday’s loss in the second period with symptoms of a migraine. The Bruins top goalie missed practice on Monday while getting himself checked out medically, and there’s a chance he could be out if the symptoms are in any way related to the Roman Josi shot he took off his neck last week.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day to be honest. That’s what I’ve always done in the past, and I’m just trying to build up confidence every day,” said McIntyre, who had been lights out in Providence prior to getting the call to Boston. “We’ll just see what happens and roll with it.”

That’s a challenge McIntyre will certainly be up for in a different way than Sunday’s mop-up duty, but it remains to be seen just how steady-footed the Bruins will be about their goalie situation if Rask is expected to miss any time this week.