Five reasons the Celtics will win


Five reasons the Celtics will win

For the third straight season, the Celtics have drawn themselves a favorable first round match-up.

Two years ago, they opened with the Heat (starring Dwyane Wade and a mannequin wearing a Jermaine ONeal jersey) and disposed of them in five games. Last year, they took on an injured and dysfunctional Knicks team, and swept them in four. This year, its Atlanta. And while I dont imagine the series will be quite as easy as some have predicted, the Celtics should once again come out on top.

Here are five reasons why:

1. Atlanta's front court
With Al Horford very likely out, and Zaza Pachulia still questionable, the Hawks are left with only three players taller than 6-9: 36-year-old Erick Dampier (whos literally scored only two points all season), Vladimir VladRad Radmanovic (whos 6-10, but takes 69 percent of his shots from three-point land and is also Vladimir Radmanovic) and seven-footer Jason Collins (whose greatest achievement is that hes had a better career than his brother Jarron.)

Aside from that three-headed monster, the Hawks have a pair of 6-9 athletes in Josh Smith and Marvin Williams, but both are addicted to the perimeter. Lastly, theres 6-8 Ivan Johnson, a bit of a wild card who makes up for his lack of size with pure, unbridled insanity but hes more of an enforcer than he is a guy with any semblance of low post talent.

Does this mean the Celtics are going to dominate Atlanta on the boards and in the post? Probably not. But we can feel pretty confident that the Celtics will not BE DOMINATED on the boards or in the post, and thats just as essential.

2. The Hawks cant guard Paul Pierce.

The two most natural match-ups are Williams and Joe Johnson, and while both guys (especially Williams) are capable defenders, neither is what you'd call a "stopper" and neither can consistently hang with The Truth.

In fact, the biggest obstacle standing between Pierce and a huge offensive series might be his toe. I know. I know. No ones 100 percent at this time of year. But its also been two weeks since the original injury, and less than 24 hours since he re-aggravated it.

Either way, I'm expecting a big series from Paul especially when it comes to winning time.

3. Avery Bradley can guard every one

The Hawks will likely play Joe Johnson at shooting guard and try to exploit his height advantage over Bradley.

I don't think it will work.

Sure, Johnson will still score, and maybe even put up a few big numbers. That's what he does he's Joe Johnson! But with Bradley shadowng his every move, Johnson's life on the court will be a living hell. Nothing will come easy, and I'd be shocked if he's able to find any kind of consistent rhythm. (If he does, it's not pretty. Johnson scored 25 points on 14 occasions this season, in those games, the Hawks were 12-2.

And don't be surprised if you see Bradley check Jeff Teague from time-to-time. In fact, I'd love to see Doc strategically mix this into the game plan. For one, it will be nice to give Rondo a break on the defensive end; have him spend a few possessions standing in the corner with Kirk Hinrich instead of chasing around a 23-year-old speedster. Plus, you know it will drive the Hawks crazy. Why not let Teague get comfortable bringing the ball up, and then sporadically unleash the beast on him? Have him catch the ball and have to think to himself: "Hey, wait a second, why is there suddenly another player inside my uniform?"

If Bradley can wreak havoc on the perimeter, with KG dominating the middle, and Rondo available to freelance and take some chances, the Hawks offense will fall apart.

4. Rajon Rondo in the first round of the playoffs.

Not counting that first year against Atlanta (when he was still coming into his own and was for some awful reason still being benched in favor Sam Cassell), Rondos averaged 17.9 points, 11.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds in the first round of the playoffs. It's the annual highlight of his season. And assuming that both teams will be leaning on small ball, creating a ton of open lanes and getting out in transition, there's no reason to believe that Rondo won't pick up right where he left on last year in New York.

After all, all the playoff games are on National TV, right? RIGHT?!

5. Nothing has changed with the Hawks
We're four years removed from that ridiculous first round series, but we're still waiting for the young, up-and-coming Hawks to put it all together. At this point, it's fair to assume that they never will. Josh Smith has improved, but barely matured and now he wants out. Johnson still has the fire and on-court demeanor of a librarian. Marvin Williams is in year seven, and still hasn't figured it out. Mike Bibby's veteran presence has been replaced by Teague's fiery inexperience. Horford's great, but he's gone. Atlanta's no better than they were in 2008.

And neither are the Celtics. But while they may not be the same team that raised Banner 17, they're still more of a team than Atlanta is. And for the second time in the last five years, they'll face off with the Hawks, and come out on top.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117


Celtics nearly blow fourth quarter lead, hold on to beat Nets, 122-117

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.

That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.

But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.

For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.

Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.

Not so fast, says the Nets.

Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.

It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.

With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.

Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.

Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.

And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.

He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.

Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.

The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.

“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.

Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.

But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.

But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.

That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.

Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance


Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics in control, but Nets within striking distance

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in control most of the first half, but the Brooklyn Nets managed to stay within striking distance most of the first half which ended with the Celtics ahead, 64-58.

It was a high-scoring first half, the kind that one of the league’s top defenses shouldn’t experience.

But it is the first game of the season and the Celtics clearly have some kinks defensively to work out.

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the first half with contributions coming from several players in the starting unit as well as off the bench.

Boston has spent a good chunk of the preseason preaching the importance of good ball movement.

It was indeed on full display as Boston had 19 assists in the first half on 23 made baskets.

As for the Nets, Bogan Bogdanovic kept Brooklyn within striking distance most of the first half as he tallied 10 points through the first two quarters of play. Brooklyn also got a nice lift from Justin Hamilton who had 14 first-half points off the Brooklyn bench.

Here are our halftime Stars, Studs and Duds



Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was a more assertive player in the second quarter and it paid off for the him and the Celtics. He finished the half with a team-high 11 points in addition to doling out a game-high seven assists.

Jae Crowder

Boston displayed some crisp ball movement in the first half, and Crowder seemed to benefit from this more than any other Celtic. Through two quarters of play, Crowder has a team-high 10 points which included him making his first four shots from the floor.



Sean Kilpatrick

The Nets only have five players on their roster from last season’s disastrous 21-win club, and Kilpatrick showed why he’s one of the few holdovers. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with three rebounds.



Brook Lopez

He’s supposed to be the Nets’ best player, but you would not have known this by his play in the first half, The 7-foot Lopez was a non-factor through the first two quarters of lay, missing four of his five field goal attempts to go into the half with just three points.