Peverley could return 'sooner rather than later'

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Peverley could return 'sooner rather than later'

SAN JOSE, Calif. While Rich Peverley moved a lot closer to a return to the Bs lineup after taking some contact for the first time on Wednesday, the versatile winger wont be playing against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

Bruins coach Claude Julien ruled out Peverley for the first game of the three-game road trip through California, but said the winger is day-to-day while attempting to return from a sprained right knee. Julien also wouldnt rule out Peverley potentially returning at some point during the three games, and it does appear that the Sunday finale in Anaheim could become a chance to play the forward depending on what happens in the first two games of the trip.

Whether Peverley plays on the trip or not, it appears he should back in the lineup by the time the Bruins return to Boston next week and thats good news for a Black and Gold club looking to finish strong as they push for the playoffs.

Hes a day-to-day situation. We keep giving him more all the time-to-time. My prediction is that well be seeing him sooner rather than later, said Julien.

Thats not to say that well see him on this trip. If he plays then hell have progressed to that point. But we brought him on this trip to let him practice with the team, and see where he can get to.

Peverley skated with Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston as a part of the Bs red-hot third line at Wednesdays practice, and it would appear that would be his landing spot when he does jump back into the fray. It should be interesting to watch the urgency in Pouliots game in the next couple of games with the knowledge that Peverley could displace him in the postseason hes not firing on all cylinders.

More than anything else, Peverly's return will give Julien options with 10 games left in the regular season and the playoffs rapidly approaching. Peverley has missed 22 games with an assortment of lower body injuries and hasnt played a game since knocking knees with Habs defenseman Hal Gill on Feb. 15 at the Bell Centre.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”