Notes: Celtics back in first place in the East

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Notes: Celtics back in first place in the East

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Well, so much for the Boston Celtics having to look up in the Eastern Conference standings.

After falling behind the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the Eastern Conference by half a game, the Celtics are once again at the top following Wednesday's 92-80 win over Indiana.

Both Boston and Chicago have identical 48-18 records.

The C's currently have the tiebreaker because they won two of the three regular-season matchups.

If the Celtics lose to Chicago when the teams meet on April 7, that would result in the series being even and the tiebreaker would then go to the Bulls because they have the better division record.

That's why this upcoming road trip, which includes games at Houston, New Orleans and New York, is so vital to Boston's chances of getting back home-court advantage throughout the playoffs in the East.

"We need all these games," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "This is the time of the year, this is an exciting time of the year. You smell the end coming. We smell the playoffs coming, so guys are really starting to buckle down, trying to finish the season off on a good note."

While Rajon Rondo didn't exactly dominate on Wednesday, it was clear that he was making strides in the right direction. He didn't score against the Pacers, but he did have eight assists with just two turnovers. It was a good showing for Rondo, who has been in a bit of a slump lately.

"I thought he played terrific," coach Doc Rivers said. "He played with great energy and you that third quarter, that one stretch, and even when he came back in the second quarter, I thought he played with great speed, I thought he created a lot of problems. So I was happy."

Rondo is one of the fastest players in the NBA. Jeff Green is surprisingly faster than you would think for a 6-foot-9 forward.

When asked who would win a race between himself and Rondo, Green responded, "I would win. I would definitely win."

Green quipped about running 40 yards in 4.2 seconds. "I'm pretty fast. It would be a tight match."

Moments later, Green was told about Rondo challenging world class sprinter Usain Bolt to a race a couple years ago.

"He did?" Green said when told of Rondo's challenge. "I ain't gonna do that."

Troy Murphy is a work in progress.

So far, he's progressing quite well of late.

In about 18 minutes, Murphy had six points which included an unexpected reverse dunk.

When asked if he was surprised by Murphy's dunk, Rivers said, "Yeah, yeah. I think he Murphy was surprised. I was worried about him getting hurt coming down, because I don't think he's jumped quite that high in quite some time. It was a slow-motion-reverse dunk. It was terrific."

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

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.