Celtics looking to pick up the pace

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Celtics looking to pick up the pace

BOSTON The idea doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface.

The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA's grey-beards, a team with more big-names past their prime than any NBA team.

And yet Celtics coach Doc Rivers wants them to . . . run?

Again, it doesn't make a lot of sense until you look deeper into the numbers that validate Rivers' belief that running more is the best way for the Celtics to win.

Boston's 95-91 win over Chicago on Sunday was fueled in large part because of the C's 33-7 advantage in fast break points.

It continued a trend in which points in transition put the C's on the fast track to winning.

Although the Celtics are just 9-6 when they have more fast-break points than their opponents, most of those losses came early in the season when the Celtics for the most part, were still trying to establish an identity.

In the last eight games in which Boston had more fast-break points than their opponent, the C's came out victorious in all but one (the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 9).

Rivers isn't buying the argument that because he has older players - especially in the frontcourt - the Celtics can't run with teams.

"I think anybody can run," Rivers said. "I mean (Kareem Abdul) Jabbar was running at 37, 38, and 40. So it's not that - whatever your speed is, you've just got to do it every time. And I think it's the consistency of doing it every single time."

Still, it's a lot easier to be effective in the transition game with younger players who tend to play at a faster pace, anyway.

Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson had a career-high 12 points against the Bulls, and was among the Boston players to benefit from a faster, more uptempo style of play.

"It's one of the things I'm best at; running the floor," Johnson told CSNNE.com. "Having the opportunity to do something I'm really good at. When we did that, it simplified the offense. It definitely benefits me when we run."

However, running effectively begins with solid defense and rebounding.

Boston has the strong 'D' down.

Teams are scoring just 86.2 points per game, the second-fewest points allowed per game in the NBA.

Now rebounding, that's another story.

The Celtics are dead-last in rebounds per game (47).

However, that's not the number Boston needs to be concerned about as much when it comes to rebounding.

It's the percentage of defensive rebounds that the C's have to improve upon in order to get out in transition and create fast-break scoring opportunities. The C's are grabbing 72.8 percent of their defensive rebounds, which ranks 21st in the NBA.

Increasing the percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed not only creates a better chance of scoring fast-break points, but at the very least it gives the Celtics more time in the half-court set to operate.

"Enough getting into our offense with 10 seconds on the clock," Rivers said. "We gotta push the pace for our team."

But to do so takes execution, which generally improves with time and practice.

The C's won't have much of the latter this season, which is why players aren't overly concerned about some things not clicking as quickly as they would like.

"If you want quality product, you have to give time you have to have time for that," said Kevin Garnett. "It's not just because you have four guys who been together. You got a whole group of guys in here. And chemistry is everything."

For the Celtics, that chemistry is definitely improving.

Not only in their overall play, but in terms of wins as well.

With Sunday's victory over the Bulls, Boston has now won 10 of its last 13 games. And of the three losses, two of them (Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers) were each by a single point.

"They are playing at a high level," said Chicago Bulls head coach and former Celtic assistant, Tom Thibodeau. "When you have (Paul) Pierce, Ray Alle and Kevin (Garnett) and Rondo running the team, you know and their bench, I think, is playing very well and they are getting contributions from a number of different people so they're gong to be a dangerous team."

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