Celtics take down Wizards, 104-88

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Celtics take down Wizards, 104-88

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON When you go through the great games in Boston Celtics history, chances are good - OK, great - that Friday night's 104-88 win over the Washington Wizards will not qualify as time capsule-worthy.

But the victory was significant, nonetheless.

Sure, the Wizards (21-58) are one of the league's worst teams and the Celtics (55-24) should have had no problem defeating them at home.

But on the back end of a set of back-to-back games?

Facing a bad team?

For most of this season, it has been a recipe for disaster.

And when you look at the way Boston allowed the Wizards to come within four points with more than seven minutes to play, there was a definite, 'here-we-go-again' feel about the game.

But that's when the Celtics showed us something we haven't seen much of lately - the ability to close out an opponent.

After Jordan Crawford's lay-up cut Boston's lead to 87-83, the C's responded by finishing the game with a 17-5 run.

"It was nice," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to his team's ability to finish the game off strong.

However, he wasn't particularly pleased with the fact that a number of his players had to play extended minutes because the game became closer down the stretch than Rivers would have wanted.

"Too many minutes," Rivers said. "They (players) don't care about the minutes; I do."

One player whose minutes were not an issue on Friday was Jermaine O'Neal, who was held out by Rivers.

Rivers didn't like the way O'Neal was moving around in the second half of Boston's 16-point loss at Chicago, and made his mind at that time to not play O'Neal tonight.

"I just thought, 'let's not take any chances,'" Rivers said.

O'Neal, who has played in five games since returning to the lineup following left knee surgery on Feb. 5, is expected to play at Miami on Sunday and at Washington on Monday. If the Celtics can lock up the No. 2 seed after those two games, there's a chance that O'Neal will not play in the regular season finale against New York on Wednesday.

Even though all five Celtics started scored in double figures, once again they were being led by Rajon Rondo.

He finished with 20 points and 14 assists for his 31st double-double this season. Kevin Garnett also had a big game, tallying his 28th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul Pierce led all scorers with 22 points, although he shot just 5-for-14 from the field.

The bulk of Pierce's points came from the free throw line, a clear indicator of how aggressive he was in attacking a porous Wizards defense.

"I try and make a concentrated effort every night in getting to the rim," said Pierce who made 12 of his 13 free throw attempts. "That's part of my game, I slash to the basket, finish it, try and get some easy ones. That's why I am able to shoot a high percentage."

Pierce wasn't the only Celtics player in attack mode, which is evident by them outscoring the Wizards 25-12 in fast break points.

Even with the Celtics doing a better job of attacking the woeful Wizards, and contributions coming from so many players, by no means was this an easy win for the Celtics.

"Every time we pulled away, they stayed just close enough," Rivers said. "And so, it was a win."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@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.”