Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

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Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

CHICAGO Bonding on the road during the preseason is one thing.

But in the regular season when the games actually count?

Even better.

That's what the Boston Celtics are taking away from their two-game road trek to the Midwest with wins in Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively.

The victories by themselves were impressive.

But more than that, they gave tangible evidence to each and every player that the effort they put into becoming a better team, a championship-caliber team, is starting to pay off in victories.

Making it even better is that both road wins involved the Celtics having to overcome some type of adversity, whether it was Rajon Rondo having to leave the game briefly in Milwaukee because of a leg injury or Brandon Bass suffering a dislocated right ring finger injury on the way to his most complete game of the season.

"I definitely think adversity on the the road is good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "This is a competitive group of guys and they want to find a way to win."

And they want to do it the Celtics way, which involves being a defensive team first.

It's still relatively early in the season, but Boston's defense has stood out - and not in a good way.

Boston is giving up 98.9 points per game which ranks 20th in the NBA. Teams have been able to break them down repeatedly with dribble-penetration that far too often resulted in easy baskets and easy assists which is evident by the Celtics opponents averaging 23.9 assists per game which ranks 28th (out of 30 NBA teams) in the league.

However, the Celtics and their problems defensively took the weekend off and were instead replaced by an improving brand of defensive-minded basketball that's not quite as good as past Celtics teams defensively - but definitely trending in that direction.

Indeed, Boston's defense played a pivotal role on the path towards victory in Saturday's victory over the Bucks as well as Monday's 101-95 win over the Bulls.

Boston's defense was especially impressive down the stretch in both games.

In Milwaukee, the Celtics limited the Bucks to just 36.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter while connecting on 54.5 percent of their shots during that same span. In addition, the C's didn't commit a single turnover in the fourth quarter.

On Monday, Boston led the Bulls the entire game but saw their comfortable lead become kind of cramped in the game's final minutes.

After Joakim Noah scored on a lay-up with 3:33 to play to cut Boston's lead to 91-88, the Bulls would only make one more field goal the rest of the game. During that final 3:33, Boston had three baskets - two lob dunks by Kevin Garnett and another dunk by Brandon Bass.

Strong play at both ends of the floor in the game's closing moments was just what the Celtics needed to rack up a couple of important road wins.

But even before the Celtics left town, Paul Pierce talked up the benefits for him and his teammates of hitting the road for multiple games for the first time this season.

"It gives guys a chance to get together and to talk about problems and other situations," Pierce said. "It can be the start of something special and begin to develop a chemistry between us all."

Cassidy: 'Trying to set a standard' of being one of the NHL's better teams

Cassidy: 'Trying to set a standard' of being one of the NHL's better teams

BOSTON – The Bruins have won seven of eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy and are fortifying their position as the third playoff team in the Atlantic Division with each passing victory.

The 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at TD Garden on Tuesday night probably shouldn’t be all impressive based on the Yotes standing as the second-worst team in the NHL, but it was a classic trap game coming off a long West Coast road trip. Instead of falling for the trap the Bruins exploded for three goals in the second period, energized by a shorthanded Riley Nash strike, and continue to extend the winning stretch they need in order to punch their playoff ticket.

The postseason clincher is still a long way away from reality, but Cassidy said the B’s are starting to achieve the elevated level of play they’re aiming for while finally getting the full potential out of their team.

“I just want the guys to make sure that they play confident, solid hockey and believe in themselves. And play to a [higher] standard,” said Cassidy. “We’re trying to set a standard where we’re one of the better teams in the National Hockey League. They’ve been there before, the leadership group here. That’s where we’re striving to get through in the end.”

They haven’t exactly shied away from the competition either, twice beating the first-place San Jose Sharks and shutting out the first place Montreal Canadiens in the final straw that saw Michel Therrien axed in favor of Claude Julien.

The B’s have now opened up a three-point cushion over the Maple Leafs for their playoff spot and they’ve averaged 4.13 goals per game (33 goals in eight games) while allowing just 2.13 goals per game (17 goals in eight games) in the eight games going from Julien to Cassidy. 

The challenge now is to maintain that level of play over the final 19 games of the regular season to drive home their playoff bid and finish strong at a point where in each of the past two seasons they’ve utterly imploded.


 

Wednesday, March 1: Bruins okay with not dealing

Wednesday, March 1: Bruins okay with not dealing

Here are all the links from around the hockey world as NHL trade deadline day is upon us with no promise of fireworks in Boston.

*As referenced above, there’s a good chance the Bruins won’t be doing much today and they’re perfectly okay with that.

*Craig Custance grades every move made ahead of the trade deadline with plenty of action out of the way early.

*The Vancouver Canucks will not be trading Ryan Miller, which is smart given the normal market for No. 1 goaltenders.

*The New York Rangers lost out on the Kevin Shattenkirk rental sweepstakes at the deadline, so they’ve opted for Brendan Smith instead.

*The Florida Panthers may make a move at the deadline (which they did in acquiring Thomas Vanek) but they will not make or break their team with deadline deals.

*Doug Armstrong says that Shattenkirk was frustrated by his role with the St. Louis Blues, and that played into his trade to the Capitals.

*For something completely different: It’s a national holiday in Canada as Jay and Dan will be returning to their natural habitat.