Bradley: 'We're on our way there'

713578.jpg

Bradley: 'We're on our way there'

BOSTON Through a season filled with injuries, illnesses and failed trades before and during the season, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a familiar place now - on top of the Atlantic Division standings.

Monday's win at Charlotte improved the Celtics' record to 27-22, identical with Philadelphia which has been alone atop the Atlantic for much of this season.

The C's record isn't nearly as good as they would want it to be, nor what they expect.

But when you look at all that has not gone their way, being able to see the Atlantic from the top for the change is pretty cool.

"That's one of our goals, to be first place in our division," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. "We're on our way there. We just have to keep working hard every single game."

Boston's success of late has been fueled by their ability, more than anything else, to simply out-work teams.

They've had little choice when you consider the cut-and-paste lineups and rotations that head coach Doc Rivers has had to implement.

Consider this.

The Celtics went into Philadelphia last week without Ray Allen who was out because of an ankle injury. By halftime, his replacement Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely. Boston didn't win that game, but their absence since then has afforded second-year guard Avery Bradley a chance to play with the starters.

In his first start filling in for Allen (his 10 previous starts were in place of Rajon Rondo), he responded with a career-high 23 points against Washington. Two of Boston's biggest road wins were at Atlanta and Milwaukee, games in which the Celtics identified the need to have a better effort on the boards.

Brandon Bass did just that, giving the C's a much-needed boost on the boards with 10 rebounds in each game - the first time this season he had back-to-back double digit rebounding nights.

"We're just hanging in there," C's coach Doc Rivers said. "I think since the all-star break, we haven't played well every night but we're winning some of the games that we don't play well in. We're grinding games out."

Bass knows the Celtics have been playing some of their best basketball of the season lately.

But he had no idea that Monday's win put them in a tie with Philadelphia for the best record in the Atlantic.

"I haven't been keeping up with the standings, to be honest with you," Bass toldCSNNE.com. "I don't care who we play. It's going to be a tough series, either way. It's going to be eight good teams, and we're just gonna have to grind."

Rivers knew what the ramifications of a Celtics victory on Monday, but said he didn't bother to mention it to his players.

"For us, we just gotta keep plugging along. I really don't focus on it right now," Rivers said. "It is important (to win the Atlantic). What do we have, 17, 16 games? So it would be nice to get."

Bruce Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity' in times of adversity

Bruce Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity' in times of adversity

BOSTON – While there were some warning signs over the last few weeks that the Bruins might be getting away from their game, it didn’t really hit home until Thursday night’s frustrating loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Bruins blew through three different one-goal leads in the second period in the 6-3 loss to the Bolts at TD Garden, and each time surrendered a tying goal to Tampa in less than two minutes after initially scoring. It was a clear indicator that the Bruins weren’t fully focused on the task at hand despite having already lost three games in a row, and that their ability to bounce back from adversity is going away from them again. 

That much was obvious when the bottom dropped out in the third period, and Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov turned into a two-man Lightning wrecking crew outscoring the Bruins by a 3-0 margin in the final 20 minutes. 

“I think the frustration is more in-game, where we’ve got to have a stronger mental capacity to handle those [challenging] situations in-game. Let’s face it, when you get on a bit of a losing streak, all those things creep in, whether it’s in October or whether it’s in March,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You have doubts, you start pressing, and again, it’s my job to alleviate the kind of attention in those situations.

“But, as I told you, we all have to be accountable and be responsible for ourselves, and that’s where we just need to have better focus and better discipline in those areas. It was there when it was 3-3 [on the scoreboard]. We’ve got to push back after they score, and that’s where I thought we started to come apart a little bit where we should’ve stuck together and stuck with the program. [We needed to] get ourselves slowly back into the game. We had 10 minutes to even the score, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Clearly this wasn’t just the coach alone in his pointed observations, however, as the lack of focus showed unfortunately in a rudderless second period for the Black and Gold where they couldn’t gain any separation from Tampa Bay despite scoring three goals. 

“[It’s] not being focused, not being sharp, and obviously at this time of the year it’s unacceptable, and it’s up on us to be better,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “Those kinds of situations shouldn’t happen. So, for sure, we need to address those things and hold each other accountable.”

One thing is clear: The Bruins have a lot of work to do if they hope to avoid the same kind of late season tailspin that doomed them each of the last two seasons, and already seems to be happening over their last four losses to varying levels of hockey talent. 

Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

ap_17083100627774.jpg

Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

Here are the talking points from the Boston Bruins' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.