Celtics rally for impressive win over Hawks

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Celtics rally for impressive win over Hawks

ATLANTA Doc Rivers is a great talker, but he'll be the first to tell you that he's not cut from the Knute Rockne school of motivational speeches.

But there's no denying whatever he said inside the Boston Celtics locker room at halftime turned around Saturday's game against Atlanta - and potentially their season - as the C's put on one of the more improbable comebacks for them this season in rallying for a 89-81 win over the Hawks.

After trailing by as many as 19 points and 15 at the half, Boston came out in the third quarter with the kind of defensive focus we hadn't seen since Friday's blowout win over Indiana.

Friday's game was arguably the Celtics' most complete performance of the season, the kind of game you seldom see performed in duplicate.

Even Doc Rivers knew that.

But there are times when Rivers can be too prophetic for his own good.

Shortly before Saturday's tip-off, he talked about how Friday's win over the Pacers showed his players just how good they could be defensively.

"I don't know if you can play that well defensively every night," Rivers said.

Clearly the Celtics couldn't ... for a half at least.

The C's have had moments of dominant play all season, but stringing together such play for more than just a few minutes here and there has been challenging for them.

And while Saturday in many ways stayed true to that trend, the Celtics were able to put together longer stretches of stellar play than usual.

That, more than anything else, helped fuel one of the team's most impressive wins of the season.

And while many will look at the 33 points Boston scored in their 33-9 third quarter, it was limiting the Hawks to just nine points that quarter that fueled the team's impressive scoring binge.

Even in the fourth quarter as the Hawks tried to scramble back in the game, the Celtics defense was locked in at all positions.

And it wasn't just one player, either.

It was the entire group, on a string, helping one another out on switches and rotations - the kind of things that Rivers has been preaching to his troops to play all season.

Well it seems they may have finally figured it out, showing an ability to get it done for more than just one game after a forgettable first half.

Lou Williams practically outscored the entire Boston team in the first quarter with 16 points compared to the Celtics' total of 18.

Lay-ups. Jumpers. 3-balls.

Atlanta got everything and anything they wanted to offensively, and backed it up with some solid play defensively.

At the half, Boston trailed 53-38 and truth be told, the game felt as though the Hawks should have been up by a lot more points.

The Celtics used 11 players in the first half with each of them having a plus-minus ratio in the negative with the "best" of the lot being Courtney Lee who was minus-2.

As for the Hawks, it was their backcourt that totally dominated the game as Williams and Jeff Teague combined for 34 points in the first half on 14-of-20 shooting in the first half.

Monday, March 27: Hall call for Habs' Markov?

Monday, March 27: Hall call for Habs' Markov?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, with crunch time coming in the NHL.

*Jack Todd says that the Hall of Fame needs to reserve a spot for Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov. Is he Hall of Fame material, or Hall of Very Good material?

*The playoff streak is coming to an end for Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Red Wings finish out a lost season.

*Thanks to PHT writer James O’Brien for providing the kind of relaxing hockey moment that any dog lover could appreciate.

*Boston College standout Colin White has signed an amateur tryout deal with the Senators, but it remains to be seen if the entry level contract is coming.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick offers his hot takes about the Canadiens after a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

*The US men’s hockey team may join the women’s team in boycotting the world championships if there isn’t a resolution soon.

*A group of longtime Leafs writers share some of their best stories from the press box

*In the shameless interest of self-promotion, here’s my hit with Toucher and Rich this morning talking about riding the hot hand with Anton Khudobin.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Tracey Myers wonders if a lopsided loss will snap the Blackhawks out of their malaise.

*Sidney Crosby fires back at Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk after he called the NHL star a whiner recently.

*For something completely different: getting to know new CSNPhilly.com baseball analyst John Kruk, who we all should know pretty well at this point.

 

 

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line.