Celtics-Rockets preview: C's look to keep rolling

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Celtics-Rockets preview: C's look to keep rolling

BOSTON When the Boston Celtics step on the floor tonight, their biggest competition won't be the Houston Rockets.

It'll be complacency which can be an extremely difficult foe to beat when you're riding high like the Celtics are these days.

They come into tonight's game against Houston with a four-game winning streak, their longest stretch of success this season.

But helping keep their edge should be the fact that the Rockets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA as well, winning 10 of their last 13 games.

And on top of that, Boston wouldn't mind a little payback for the 101-89 loss they suffered in Houston earlier this year, a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score might indicate.

"We can't get too comfortable and think we finally arrived," said Paul Pierce. "We just have to be consistent with everything we do; understand why we are winning these games and continue to do that."

Just as they have done in past years, Boston's defense has fueled their success during this current winning streak.

This season, Boston is giving up 96.8 points per game which is the eighth-fewest points allowed. During their four-game winning streak, opponents are just barely cracking the 80-point plateau with the C's giving up 82.8 points per game.

"We have to continue to do that," Pierce added. "It starts in practice and that carries over into the game."

The C's certainly hope so with tip-off just a few hours away. Boston's defense will certainly be a key factor in tonight's game. Here are a few others to keep an eye on as Boston tries to keep on its winning ways against another team that's playing well of late.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Rockets will look to get out and run and run and ... did I mention they like to run? The NBA's youngest team is also its highest scoring club, with Houston averaging a league-high 106 points per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Chandler Parsons: This is a matchup that on paper you would think is lopsidedly in favor of the Celtics. But Pierce has to go at Parsons as if he's Quentin Richardson from a couple years back to avoid a repeat of Houston's win over Boston in November in which Parsons had a near triple-double of 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger is starting to make a name for himself, which means teams will start to pay a lot more attention to the 6-foot-9 rookie. He's been a significant part of the C's current winning streak, and he'll look to keep it going tonight as both a rebounder and scorer around the basket.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has been among the NBA's better teams at forcing turnovers, which has been a major weakness of the Rockets all season. They come into tonight's game averaging a league-high 16.6 turnovers per game while the C's are forcing teams to commit 15.7 turnovers which ranks fourth in the league.

Tiger Woods arrested for DUI in Jupiter, Florida

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Tiger Woods arrested for DUI in Jupiter, Florida

Tiger Woods, recovering from his fourth back surgery in the last three years, was arrested on DUI charges Monday morning in Jupiter, Fla.

Woods, 41, is the winner of 79 PGA tournaments in his career (including 14 majors). He was stopped this morning at around 3 a.m. and booked at 7:18 a.m. He was released on his own recognizance at 10:50 a.m.

Physical problems have plagued Woods in recent years, but he said last week "unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again." However, he will need months to recover from his most recent surgery.

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.