Celtics to face lots of desperate foes

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Celtics to face lots of desperate foes

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Ray Allen still had a bandage above his eye two days after catching an elbow against the New York Knicks. It wasnt the first blow hes taken this season, and with the playoffs just a month away, he doesnt expect it will be the last.

Its getting down to crunch time in the NBA. Teams around the league are amping up for the postseason - leaving it all on the court and playing each game like its their last, knowing if they dont get it done, they could be packing up in April.

As the Celtics (50-20) battle for home court in the Eastern Conference, they will face a lineup of competitors fighting to stay on top - or stay in it altogether.

What I dont want to do is just make a mistake and take that mindset, like that team is not as good as we are, Allen said. Never, because for any level of sport, for any sport, youve got to respect your opponent by doing your job every single night. And I think thats where you end up losing games because you dont measure up to the competition and play them the way they should be played.

Take Wednesdays loss to the Rudy Gay-less Memphis Grizzlies as an example. The Grizzlies needed a win to maintain a two-game lead over the Houston Rockets for the final spot in the West. They got the victory and moved within half a game of the New Orleans Hornets for the seventh seed.

The Celtics, on the other hand, fell one game behind the Chicago Bulls in conference standings.

Every game means a lot to us right now, Glen Davis said after the upset. Were trying to get as many wins as possible to finish out the year strong. We want to achieve one of our goals and thats winning the Eastern Conference and having home-court advantage. Right now, were losing games and were losing time. So weve got to get it together as soon as possible.

The Celtics have 12 games left in the regular season, and the majority of their remaining opponents will be fighting for playoff seeding just like the Cs.
March 25 vs. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats (28-42) have lost 8 of their last 10 games, dropping three games out of the eighth seed in the East. They will be desperate for a win in Boston on Friday.

March 27 at Indiana Pacers
The Pacers (32-40) are currently clinging to a three-game lead over the final spot in the Eastern Conference. Each contest could make a difference between the postseason and end of the season for this inconsistent team.

March 31 at San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs (57-14) sit atop the Western Conference, six games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers. Home-court advantage is critical for the Spurs, and this veteran club won't let up against a team like the Celtics.

April 1 at Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks (40-32) have been plummeting, dropping seven of their last 10 games. They are in risk of losing their fifth seed to the Philadelphia 76ers, who are gaining ground, making this April game critical for their postseason ranking.

April 5 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers (37-34) have been one of the hottest teams in the second half. They are inching their way up the Eastern Conference standings, and have already proven they can beat the Celtics this season.
April 7 at Chicago Bulls
The Bulls (51-19) currently have a one-game lead over the Celtics for first place in the East. After going 9-1 in their last 10 contests, they are challenging the Cs for the highly coveted home-court advantage.

April 10 at Miami Heat
The Heat (49-22) have won three straight to pull within 1 12 games of the Celtics. While they are currently ranked third in the East, expect LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to attempt a last-minute push to improve their position in the standings.

April 13 vs. New York Knicks
Theres no doubt the Knicks (35-36) will have Mondays collapse against the Celtics on their minds when they meet for the final game of the regular season. This is a potential first round match up, and neither team will go easy on the other.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”
 

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.