Krstic plays freely in return from injury

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Krstic plays freely in return from injury

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When players are hurt, the time off the court tends to give them a perspective that they didn't necessarily have earlier.

Need proof?

Look no further than Boston's Nenad Krstic, whose play off the bench was among the many reasons Boston was able to pull away for a 99-82 win over Philadelphia.

The Celtics (54-23) got eight points and six rebounds from Krstic, who came off the bench for the first time since being traded to Boston on Feb. 24.

More significant than the games played, was the two games he did not play in after suffering a bone bruise in his right knee against San Antonio last week.

Prior to the injury, Krstic was playing some of his worst basketball since becoming a Celtic.

Too often he would be out of position defensively.

And on offense, he would wait too long around the basket to make a move rather than take it up strong quickly.

"Maybe this is a good thing, missing two games," Krstic said. "Everything settled down in my head a little bit. Just sitting outside, watching the other guys playing. I think it helps."

When Krstic first arrived, he played with little thought on the court.

And the results were surprisingly positive.

But the more he tried to learn the various sets and the way the Celtics go about doing things, the more mistakes crept into his game.

On more than one occasion in recent weeks, Rivers has lit into Krstic for allowing his mistakes on offense to distract him from his job defensively.

But on Tuesday, it was clear that Krstic got back to just playing, and not thinking so much.

"You know what I say: thinking hurts the team," Rivers said. "I just thought he played with instincts. And he's starting to get our stuff a little bit better, too."

That combination gives the Celtics a player that help them in multiple ways.

For Krstic, he admits that the time off has helped him become even more comfortable with his new teammates.

"I got here first couple weeks. I realize I was thinking about making the right play, every play," Krstic said. "It's not going to help; just play basketball. Even if I make a mistake, Rivers is going to yell at me for five seconds. Just next play."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights as the Boston Celtics are able to hold off the Miami Heat and get the win 112-108 at the TD Garden.

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

BOSTON – Location, location, location.

The Boston Celtics are seemingly where they want to be following their 112-108 win Sunday night over Miami, a victory that put the Celtics (48-26, .649 winning percentage) in a virtual tie with defending NBA champ Cleveland (47-25, .652).

But position means very little without purposeful play, something the Celtics are gradually doing more of than not.

And because of that, they find themselves one strong finish to the season away from going into the playoffs with the top overall record in the East for the first time since 2008 – the year they brought home Banner 17.

While few anticipate the Celtics will advance to the NBA Finals, they have at least positioned themselves to have a shot at making a good run during the postseason if they can secure home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The last time the top overall top seed in the East failed to make it past the first round was in 2012 when the Chicago Bulls were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, a series that was marred by injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah that created a much smoother pathway for the upstart Sixers to move on to the second round where they were defeated by Boston in seven games.

And while the players have tried to downplay the significance of landing the top seed in the East, there’s no question it’s something that they know all too well is within their reach.

Cleveland has a much tougher schedule to close out the season, one that includes a matchup at San Antonio on Monday night, a Spurs team that’s fighting for the top spot out West as well with Golden State.

The Celtics players have talked often about wanting to be in the best position possible going into the playoffs.

Having the top seed?

Yup.

That’ll do it.

And while Celtics players were aware of where the team was in relation to Cleveland, being tied for the top spot with the Cavs isn’t something that Boston is getting too giddy about right now.

“We hear it, but that wasn’t our focus (against Miami),” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “Our focus was to come in, get another game, keep that momentum going before we start the playoffs.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said not a word was spoken in the locker room after Sunday’s win about the team now being in a virtual tie with the Cavs.

“I think – I talked about this earlier – obviously the guys, because they get … most of them to be honest, because they’re asked so much, some of them obviously have already said they watch it pretty closely,” Stevens said. “But I’ve tried to say, ‘Hey, it’s about playing as well as we can …”

That and location, location, location.