Celtics hope toughness rubs off on new guys

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Celtics hope toughness rubs off on new guys

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Nobody said this journey to Banner 18 for the Boston Celtics was going to be easy.

It certainly hasn't been lately for the Celtics, winners of two in a row despite trailing by double digits in both games.

The C's mini-winning streak has been fueled by the team's core group, getting it done with a high degree of toughness and grit that has to be on display in order to win this time of year.

Boston's core players get it.

The new guys?

Not so much.

Because of that, Boston's last two victories not only have helped pad the team's win total, but also serve as a teaching moment for the team's new additions.

"It was great for the new guys to see that," coach Doc Rivers said following the team's 96-86 win at New York. "There's a sense of urgency that everyone has to play with. We're getting there with the new guys. We're clearly not there yet."

Aside from Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, the impact of Boston's post-trade deadline additions has been minimal the last two games.

Ray Allen is among the C's not worried about the newer Celtics finding their role and niche in the team's quest for another NBA title.

"If you've never been a part of a team like this, in contention to win a championship, you really don't know," Allen said. "It's the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life. We gotta make sure the new guys understand that. They're going to learn that real quick because the time is upon us."

To win a championship, there's a certain degree of toughness that the Celtics will need to display on a regular basis.

Boston's toughness can certainly be questioned now that their former enforcer, Kendrick Perkins, calls Oklahoma City home.

Rivers understands the void that now exists.

But a relatively healthy Shaquille O'Neal, whom we haven't seen much during the regular season, in the playoffs will certainly help the Celtics on that front.

In the meantime, the veterans will continue to show their newer teammates the Celtics way of doing things that players acknowledge involves being feisty at times.

We saw that in the Knicks game, in which Allen was bloodied after catching an elbow from Jarred Jeffries in his attempt at an offensive rebound, and Carmelo Anthony suffered an outpouring of blood as well when he was hit with an elbow by Rajon Rondo as both tried to corral a loose ball.

In addition to those incidents, Allen and Amar'e Stoudemire had a brief exchange at another point in the game that involved players from both teams being separated.

"We're a feisty team at the end of the day," Boston's Delonte West told CSNNE.com. "When we get away from that, we struggle. We shouldn't need a team to push us to get at what we're good at as a team."

From time to time, the Celtics do need a reminder as to what exactly is there identity.

Rivers did just that during halftime of Monday's win, telling his players that their play up to that point in the game was "soft."

It was the kind of stinging indictment that left the players with a choice: either man up and play better, or simply continue to get pushed around.

They chose the former, which led to their 50th victory of the season, equaling their win total from a year ago with 13 games remaining.

Kevin Garnett, whose intensity has at times gotten under the skin of opponents, said the team's toughness is a reflection of Rivers.

"Our coach teaches a certain style and we try to implement what he wants on the floor," Garnett said. "Doc, he preaches firm; he preaches owning your own space and those things. And when you're not around that or new to that, you just don't get that in one or two days, or one or two weeks or one or two months. It's something that he's going to drill in you. That's what training camp is for. That's what the time with each other is for, so that you understand that style and you adopt it."

Garnett added, "We are a firm basketball team. We're not out here trying to hurt nobody, but we play hard every night."

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

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”
 

 

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”