Celtics re-discover defensive dominance

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Celtics re-discover defensive dominance

BOSTON At the end of the first quarter, the Boston Celtics had almost twice as many made field goals (11) as the Sixers (6).

That, combined with a slight rebounding advantage (10-9) at that point positioned them to do what Doc Rivers has been patiently waiting to see all season - a sustained night of good defense.

Rivers got his wish on Saturday as the Celtics defeated Philadelphia 92-79 in a game that they led from the beginning until the final horn sounded.

Focusing on the Celtics' 53.3 percent shooting as being the key to their win over the Sixers is easy.

But knocking down all those shots had little to do with one of the Celtics delivering one of their more dominant defensive performances this season.

"Our defense is why we won," Rivers said.

And it wasn't your typical, man-to-man garden variety, either.

There was a lot of that, but Rivers also used some zone defense along with an occasional double-team just to keep the Sixers off balance.

It worked.

Evan Turner, who lit the C's up for 26 points and 10 rebounds on Friday night, had just 13 points and three rebounds on Saturday.

And Jrue Holiday, a player Rivers has pointed out repeatedly as a likely all-star this season, had just 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting from the field.

"When you play defense like that, you usually win games," Rivers said.

And that is where the Celtics should be at right now.

There's no denying that they have made progress on several fronts in the past couple of weeks.

But that progress at some point has to result in victories which have been few and far between for Boston (11-9) this year.

"We see we're getting better day-in and day-out on tape," said Celtics wing Courtney Lee. "But when we see it when we lose, we kind of look back at it like, 'are these things working for us? But like I said, you can see us coming together. Our rotations (defensively) and everything is getting better so we just have to stick with it."

For veterans like Paul Pierce, the idea of committing to being a defensive-minded team is easy to do.

Under Doc Rivers, there's really no choice in the matter.

Players understanding this principle isn't the issue. It's how they go about applying that knowledge to their actual play.

Part of his job as a leader on this team is to remind some of the new guys and some of the returners too, that they are making progress towards becoming the type of team defensively they have to evolve into in order to be successful.

"We know when we commit to that end of the floor and we're all on the same page, that's what we are," Pierce said. "We saw glimpses of that (Friday night in Philadelphia) for most of the game and I told the guys after the game if we continue to play like that, then we're going to win a lot of games than we have. So we have to stick to our principles and stay consistent with that and continue to improve."

And win ... don't forget to win, Celtics.

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.