Celtics need to race through easy stretch of road

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Celtics need to race through easy stretch of road

BOSTON When you're playing below-.500 basketball like the Boston Celtics (9-10) are, there's no such thing as an easy stretch of games.

But if there was, this would be it.

The C's play 7 games in the next 12 nights, with only two against teams with a winning record.

And those two, against Memphis and the Los Angeles Lakers, are both at the TD Garden. Boston's other five games are against Cleveland (8-11), Toronto (7-14) twice, New York (7-13) and Charlotte (3-18).

For the C's, looking ahead can be fatal if they're not careful.

"Those other games, we can't worry about them," Mickael Pietrus told CSNNE.com. "We have to worry about our next opponent; that's it."

He attributes the Celtics' winning four of their last five games as a testament how the team's one-game-at-a-time mantra works.

"We're not looking ahead of any teams," Pietrus said. "The only team we think about, is the team we're playing. That's all."

In addition to trying to avoid looking past opponents, the Celtics must also recognize the need to put teams away when they have the opportunity.

Boston's 88-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday was one of the few games in which the Celtics controlled the action most of the game but were unable to seal the deal down the stretch.

"We let our guard down," said coach Doc Rivers. "I told our guys, 'Think about down the stretch, the last five minutes, how many 'cute' plays we made.' You know? No-look passes, behind-the-back passes. And they got deflected and we didn't score on them. You lose games that way."

Which is exactly what they did, as Kyrie Irving scored the game-winning basket with 2.6 seconds to play.

Although the table is set for the C's to exact some revenge against the Cavs on Tuesday, payback is the last thing Kevin Garnett is thinking about now.

"You don't get a consolation of anything; any loss is bad," Garnett said.

Especially when it's against teams that on paper at least, are beatable.

"We can beat anybody in the league when we play the way we know how to play," said Chris Wilcox. "When we don't, anybody can beat us. We can't take any team for granted."

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

If it was based solely on his 42 years as owner of the Boston Bruins, it might be debatable as to whether Jeremy Jacobs would have been selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Bruins have won one championship and been to a handful of Stanley Cup Finals during Jacobs' long stewardship, of course. They also enjoyed the longest running playoff streak (29 years) in NHL history, though it began before he purchased the franchise. Altogether, the B's have won one Cup, four conference championships, two Presidents' trophies, 15 division championships, and 35 Stanley Cup playoff berths during the Jacobs Era.

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But Jacobs didn't make the Hall of Fame solely on his accomplishments with the Bruins organization. He's being inducted in the "builder” category, which is defined as "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”  In addition to overseeing the Bruins over the last four-plus decades, he has been a power broker at the league level for just as long.

"I am flattered to be included in with this great group of 2017 inductees, and I am humbled to be included with the legends of hockey that went before me,” said Jacobs. "Owning the Boston Bruins for 42 years has been one of the most rewarding honors of my life. I am indebted to our team's leaders and players, but most of all, to our fans, for giving me a broad and deeply appreciative perspective of the game."

The 2011 Stanley Cup victory was the overriding on-ice moment in his stewardship of the team, and the Jacobs family has had a major, altruistic impact in Boston. No one should overlook the Boston Bruins Foundation, which has touched so many lives with the $28 million that's been awarded to those in need since its inception in 1993.

Unfortunately, Jacobs will always have a reputation with a large portion of the Bruins fan base that his ownership wasn't willing to spend enough for truly competitive teams. At times he was viewed as an absentee owner living in Buffalo, overseeing the team from afar while Harry Sinden ran the operation. Those fans hold that grudge even today, despite the Bruins consistently spending to the salary cap ceiling while fielding competitive teams. They view Monday's Hall of Fame announcement as something akin to Montgomery Burns being inducted into the Springfield Hall of Fame.

Cam Neely disagrees.

"As a player, I knew of Mr. Jacobs' passion for the Bruins,” said Neely, who has served as Bruins president for nearly a decade after a Hall of Fame playing career highlighted by his years in Boston. "Over the past decade while in the front office, I have seen firsthand his dedication to winning, by consistently providing the Bruins the resources that we need to compete for Stanley Cup Championships and also his unmatched commitment to growing the game of hockey."

That commitment to hockey is a key factor in Jacobs' Hall of Fame selection.

Jacobs was unanimously voted in as chairman of the NHL Board of Governors in 2007, and he's been a major driving force in each of the last couple of oft-contentious CBA negotiations. While Jacobs clearly had a hand in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season due to a labor dispute, and in the lockout-shortened season of 2013, those CBA negotiations ultimately led to the imposition of a salary cap and a pathway for small-market NHL teams to survive as the cost of doing hockey business continues to go up.

Without Jacobs as an often hawkish, hard-line owner, there's a chance that a team like the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators might not have been able to survive in the NHL, and it's highly doubtful they'd be able to be as competitive as they are now if teams like Toronto, New York and Chicago could outspend everybody else. So there's no denying the seismic impact that Jacobs made at the league-wide level with his leadership and commitment to growing the game, and that the NHL is better off for the battles waged in collective bargaining while he's been in a position of power.

If you polled every single Bruins fan on the street, it's unlikely he'd be a populist choice for the Hall of Fame. The lean budgetary years durinhg the playing days of Neely, Ray Bourque and others will always be part of the Spoked B history. Some will hold those grudges forever, which is part of makes us who we are as a fan base.

But faithful, rabid fans continue to stream into TD Garden, continue to spend money to support their favorite hockey team, and continue to provide the kind of support that's led to a 338-game home sellout streak. It's a sign Jacobs and Bruins ownership continue to do things very right, even if we shouldn't be scheduling any popularity contests anytime soon.

O'Connor: If C's get George, would Griffin be a better fit than Hayward?

O'Connor: If C's get George, would Griffin be a better fit than Hayward?

The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor discusses the potential decision the Celtics could have in free agency between Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. If the Celtics are able to sign Paul George, is Griffin a much better fit?