Celtics prepare for hungry opponents

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Celtics prepare for hungry opponents

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

Being the target of lesser teams is nothing new for the Boston Celtics. It has been that way ever since the establishment of the new Big Three, and Wednesdays loss to the sub-.500 Los Angeles Clippers showed that wasnt changing any time soon.

But this is the point in the season where the Celtics are targeted by a different kind of opponent - one that can gain more than just a boost of confidence by upsetting the Cs.

With the postseason only a month away, the Celtics face hungry teams desperately fighting for a playoff berth.

On Friday the Celtics lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, who improved to 8-2 over their last 10 games as they inch their way up the lower seedings in the Eastern Conference. Their win over the Celtics put them just half a game behind the New York Knicks for the sixth spot.

Up next is the Milwaukee Bucks (25-38) on Sunday at TD Garden. The Celtics are 2-0 against the Bucks this season, although both wins have been decided by single digits. The Cs won, 105-102 in overtime, on November 3 in Boston, and left Milwaukee with an 89-83 victory last Sunday.

After battling through a season plagued by injuries (Andrew Bogut is now back on the court), the Bucks are fighting for the eighth and final spot in the East. Wins over the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers have them closing in on the Charlotte Bobcats and the struggling Indiana Pacers.

"The team is picking up, but these are games we should win," said Brandon Jennings, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So we can't be parading around here like we've done something. We've still got a long way to go."

The Bucks are aware their chances are winding down and every win or loss could have an impact on whether or not they make the playoffs. The significance of each regular season game is magnified at this point in their season.

"The season hasn't gone the way we wanted, but we're in a position where we still can
accomplish our goal," Earl Boykins, who scored 18 points on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"And that's playing in the playoffs. It's definitely a second chance, especially with winning the last few games. They're games we had to win. And earlier in the year they could have been two losses. I think guys realize now is the chance. We don't have any more time."

The Celtics have plenty at stake in this game, too. After losing to the Clippers and 76ers, the Cs (46-17) have just a half-game lead over the streaking Chicago Bulls (46-18) for the top seed in the East.

We expect to win every game, Ray Allen said following the loss to the Clippers. But any team at any point in this league is capable of winning any game. Were not better than them because of our record. Were better than them because we play hard every night and we play together. Walking into a game, record doesnt get you the next win.

You have to take a team like that and youve got to show them why they dont belong on the same floor as us.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."