Celtics find ways to win with new pieces

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Celtics find ways to win with new pieces

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MILWAUKEE Maybe the Boston Celtics have some of that tiger blood Charlie Sheen has been talking about in them, because all they seem to do these days is just keep on winning.

Boston (46-15) rallied for an 89-83 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night which extended its winning streak to five.

Beating the Bucks (23-38) is in itself nothing to be overly boastful about.

However, injuries limited the Celtics to having just nine players in uniform on Sunday.

And of those nine player, four -- Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic -- have been with the team less than two weeks.

While there's no need for players to sport, 'Hello, my name is . . . ' labels, it's clear this group has a long way to go before they truly know how to play well with another.

In the meantime, all they can do is keep learning how to find different ways to win games.

"It's been tough," admitted coach Doc Rivers.

Maybe so, but it certainly hasn't reflected in the Celtics maintaining the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"Like I told you before, it really starts with our core group," said Paul Pierce, who led all Celtics with 23 points. "Until we can find a way to get the other guys adjusted to the system, and how we do things . . . it's taking some time. You could see it in lulls in the offense."

Pierce added, "But at the end of the day, we're finding a way to win."

And because of the many changes, the Celtics are getting it done in ways that should make them an even more dangerous team in the playoffs.

Fans are so used to seeing Pierce or Ray Allen come up with a big shot down the stretch.

Well now you have to worry about guys like Jeff Green, who had 11 points off the bench . . . including a 3-pointer with 4:40 to play that gave the Celtics an 82-77 lead.

"Every time I see Jeff Green I'm just more impressed, more impressed," said Kevin Garnett, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for his 23rd double-double this season. "He's just helping so much right now. We need the fact that he can play multiple positions and he knows the 3, 4 and 5 positions. He picked it up so fast. Must be that Georgetown education. It's great for us now, because we are undermanned. He's just been big for us."

Prior to Green's big 3-pointer, Sasha Pavlovic saw his first action with the C's.

In addition to playing solid defense, Pavlovic also nailed a 3-pointer - his lone made basket of the game - that gave the Celtics a seven-point lead, their largest of the night.

Of course, Krstic continues to play well with the starting unit.

Krstic finished with 17 points, his highest point total since being traded to the Celtics on Feb. 24, and his highest scoring game since he had a season-high 18 in a 99-90 loss at Chicago on Dec. 6 when he played for the Thunder.

Boston's other newcomer, Troy Murphy, chipped in with four rebounds and two assists.

All involved understand that the Celtics are a work in progress.

But that's no excuse for anything less than success.

And like Sheen, the Celtics are all about . . . winning.

"We're definitely not where we want to be, but we're grinding it out," Pierce said. "Any way we can get the win, we'll take it. We're just finding ways to win."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.