ATLANTA And so the sprint to the finish begins . . . now.
If the Boston Celtics are going to position themselves to climb up the Eastern Conference standings, it has to begin this week.
All three of their opponents - Atlanta tonight, Milwaukee on Thursday and Philadelphia on Friday - are seeking the same upward mobility.
"This is a huge week for us," said Paul Pierce. "We understand the magnitude of all these games. Now it's that point, the weather's heating up. We have to start heating up. That sense of urgency has to kick in now."
Boston (23-21) has visions of winning a fifth straight Atlantic Division title, but currently trail Philadelphia by 1.5 games. If they fall short of that, the Celtics should be gunning for the No. 6 spot which would mean avoiding Miami and Chicago - the overwhelming favorites in the Eastern Conference - in the first round.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this week "should be fun."
"We have a chance to catch Atlanta, have a chance to (create) room with Milwaukee, catch Philly the next three games will be great," he said. "It'll be a lot of fun."
LOS ANGELES - Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak scored their 26th goals of the season, and the Boston Bruins improved to 5-1-0 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy with a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Anton Khudobin made 27 saves in his second start since Christmas for the Bruins, who nursed an early lead to their first win in Los Angeles since March 24, 2012.
Pastrnak punctuated a strong all-around game with his seventh power-play goal of the season early in the second period. Dominic Moore ended his 26-game goal drought with an empty-net score, and David Krejci added another empty-netter with 7.2 seconds left.
Kevin Gravel scored his first NHL goal and Peter Budaj stopped 21 shots for the Kings, who have lost six of eight.
After a lot of speculation ahead of the trade deadline, Paul George is still a member of the Indiana Pacers.
Meeting with the media at Thursday's practice, George addressed the rumors, but sounded a bit frustrated about not being “in the loop” in regards to trade talks.
“I was kind of on the ropes just like you guys were on what was about to happen,” George told reporters, per Clark Wade of the Indianapolis Star. “It’s kind of a dark moment, a lot of uncertainty. That was the frustrating part. You want me to be your guy here, thought I’d be in the loop a little more.”
The Celtics were one of the teams who were reportedly interested in George, but on the CSN Trade Deadline Special, Chris Mannix said the C's “weren’t really close” to landing the All-Star.
George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season.