Celtics prove they're still a defensive power

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Celtics prove they're still a defensive power

BOSTON Doc Rivers found himself doing something he hasn't been able to do in quite a while - praise his team's play defensively.

For all that went the Boston Celtics' way in their 96-78 win over Portland - and there were a lot of things working for them - it was the C's defense that stood out.

"Our defense was fantastic," Rivers said.

Boston's defensive success was due in part to some tweaking on Rivers' part in terms of their coverage schemes in addition to more trapping.

After Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn, the C's came into Friday's game looking to not just win but win on their terms.

And around here, that means putting teams away with strong play defensively.

The C's did just that, especially in the first half when they limited the Blazers to just 33 points on 23.3 percent shooting.

So much for the Celtics being "soft," huh?

That four-letter word - Rivers' description of his team after their loss to the Nets on Wednesday - resonated with the players in the hours leading up to Friday's victory.

"Me individually I took that personal," said Courtney Lee. "I feel that I'm far from being soft. And I think our team took it personal, too."

Especially on defense where the Blazers simply had no breathing room to speak off inside the paint or on the perimeter.

Portland coach Terry Stotts was well aware of how the C's were probably going to play with an extra bit of motivation following Rivers' comments.

"Boston came out really aggressive," Stotts said. "Doc called them a soft team and they came out aggressive."

In addition to limiting the Blazers shooting (they connected on just 34.8 percent of their shots for the game), the Celtics also forced 23 turnovers which led to 18 points.

"We did a couple things different, trapping, it was great," Rivers said.

But maybe most significant, the Celtics were playing Celtics basketball which starts with strong play defensively.

Rivers had a relatively hard practice on Thursday and the C's went pretty hard during Friday morning's shoot-around which is a bit unusual.

But when you look at the result, an impressive win at home, it's hard to argue with Rivers' method of motivation.

"We've got to get our culture right in that way," he said. "And we've got a long way to go, but we're getting better. You can see it, for sure."

Report: Celtics fail to make trade at deadline

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Report: Celtics fail to make trade at deadline

At first, hopes for a superstar coming to Boston were dashed . . . 

And then, hopes of anyone coming to Boston were dashed . . . 

Of course, is this is true, the breakdown of the George talks isn't such a bad thing:

More to come . . . 

Avery Bradley returns to practice, but injury status remains uncertain

Avery Bradley returns to practice, but injury status remains uncertain

Avery Bradley was back on the practice floor after missing the Celtics' past 16 games, but it's unclear if he'll travel to Toronto for Friday night's game.

Boston Celtics, Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Brad Stevens, Toronto Raptors, A. Sherrod Blakely 
 
WALTHAM, Mass. – Avery Bradley was back on the practice floor briefly at the first gathering of the Celtics since the All-Star break.
 
Now returning to the floor in an actual game? That remains a bit up in the air.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Bradley practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday, adding that his status for the Friday night game at Toronto remains unclear.
 
“Avery practiced about a third of the practice today which was about what our medical staff determined was the appropriate progression,” Stevens said. “He [Bradley] told me afterwards he felt really good.”
 
As far as his availability for Friday, Stevens said he did not have an update and was not told by the medical staff whether Bradley would be traveling with the team to Toronto when they leave later this afternoon.
 
Bradley is dealing with a right Achilles' injury that has kept him sidelined for the past 16 games and 20 of the past 21.
 
The news is much better when it comes to the health of Jaylen Brown.
 
Brown missed the past three games, but said he was feeling better and would be traveling with the team to Toronto.
 
“I’m looking to play in Toronto,” he said.
 
The return of Brown can only help a Celtics team that’s looking to pick up where they left off prior to the break.
 
Boston’s ascension to the No. 2 spot in the East has been fueled by wins in 11 of the past 13 games.
 
Despite that success, Stevens knows all too well that a roster change of some sort could go down at any minute prior to today’s 3 p.m . trade deadline.
 
“When you’re in position where you’re playing at a pretty good level, you don’t anticipate much change,” Stevens said. “But certainly there could be small things; there may not be. At the end of the day, my job is to try and focus on the 15 guys that are here.”