Trust equaling wins for Celtics

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Trust equaling wins for Celtics

BOSTON After spending part of the preseason overseas and gathering for pick-up games in California this past summer, the foundation was set for this Boston Celtics team to be a close-knit group.

It's one thing to hang out and get to know someone and learn to like them as a person.

It's a completely different matter transforming that bond into trust on the basketball court.

And for all that has gone the Celtics' way of late, the emergence of their trust in one another - at both ends of the floor - is quite apparent.

Even head coach Doc Rivers senses that the team's level of trust now is on a different level than what he saw earlier this season.

"The trust may not have been there throughout the team early on," Rivers said following Boston's 116-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

With more than half of the roster new this season, Rivers thought there were times when the ball would swing to one player and not another simply based on trust; or in some instances, a lack of trust.

"I thought guys at times would look and uh, 'I'm not going to throw it to him, I'm going to throw it over here,'" Rivers said. "Now they're just letting the ball go and it's finding the open shooter."

While some might try and point to Rondo's departure as being a factor in the team's increased trust, remember the Celtics' turn-around to their season began with their defense.

And that improved play defensively began in January when Rondo was still in the lineup.

If anything, his torn right ACL injury left the Celtics little choice but to trust one another more than ever.

Adversity has a trickle-down effect on a team, with increased trust at times being one of the byproducts.

"This is all we got right here, in this locker room," Celtics big man Chris Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "We're here for each other, fighting for each other, every game. That's the only way we can get to where we want to be."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Cavs

WATCH: Celtics vs. Cavs

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Hawks at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

BOSTON – Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion that the Boston Celtics’ record (38-22) is a bit better than their actual play.

While it may come across as exaggerated humility on Stevens’ part, the coach makes a very good point.

Despite Boston having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled mightily this season against the top-four teams in the East outside of themselves.

Boston will have a chance to rewrite at least one chapter in that narrative tonight when they host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Against the top-four teams in the East (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), the Celtics are just 3-8 which falls short of how those teams have fared against one another this season.

The Cavs are 7-1 against the East’s top-4 clubs with the lone loss at Atlanta in November. Toronto (5-5) and Atlanta (4-4) have a .500 records against the top-4 while Washington (4-5) is just a game below-.500.

That’s why tonight’s game against Cleveland is so important to Boston.

It’s not just about beating the best team in the East.

For them, it’s about beating a good team, the kind of team that they have to get past in the postseason if they are to make the kind of deep playoff run that so many of the players have their sights set on.

Coming off of a 114-98 home loss to Atlanta, the Celtics know they have to play better – a lot better – to avoid losing a second game in a row, and four of their last five.

“They’re a good team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “If we’re not locked in, they’ll beat us worse than the Hawks. So we have to come out, execute, play harder, feed off the crowd and do our job. We should be victorious.”

That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about a Cleveland team that’s truly built for the postseason.

That said, the Cavs are about as vulnerable to defeat now as they will be anytime this season.

All-Star forward Kevin Love is out until late March following “minor” surgery on his left knee.

“There’s definitely enough time to where I can get into a good rhythm,” Love told reporters earlier this week.

In addition to Love, the Cavs are also without J.R. Smith who underwent right thumb surgery in December that’s expected to keep him out until at least the middle of March.

Said Love, “I imagine between J.R. and myself, we’ll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for (the playoffs) in April.”

Even without Love and Smith, Cleveland has plenty of firepower to remain the team to beat in the East.

It all starts with LeBron James who is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving who continues to play at a level which puts him among the best guards in the NBA. He’s averaging a career-high 24.6 points while dishing out 6.0 assists to go with 3.3 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson. Iman Shumpert. New guys Derrick Williams and Deron Williams.

Go down the line and it’s clear that the Cavs have elite talent and depth to which beating them, regardless of who may be missing in action, will not be easy.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have to simply do what they do best … only better.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to make shots.”