Grueling stretch awaits Celtics

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Grueling stretch awaits Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA Five games. Seven days.

Not exactly the schedule you want to see if you're the injury-riddled Boston Celtics, who are riding a two-game losing streak and holding on to the top seed in the East over Chicago by the slimmest of margins.

But if history - you know, like games played last month - is an indicator of future results, the C's are on the verge of a breakthrough.

This is the fourth time the C's have lost back-to-back games this season.

In the previous three instances, the C's reeled off winning streaks of 14, 4 and 3 games.

But there's one big difference between those hot stretches and where the Celtics are currently.

All that success came about prior to the Feb. 24 trading deadline, which is when the C's traded a third of their team while taking back just two players, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Shortly after that, the C's added Troy Murphy (he was bought out and later waived by Golden State), Sasha Pavlovic and Carlos Arroyo, who was waived by the Miami Heat.

With all the new faces, there's a lot of feeling-out, getting-to-know-each stuff happening on the court.

Because of that, no one - including the players - knows how they will handle the team's current struggles.

While the level of uncertainty is certainly high, the same can be said for this team's confidence despite their recent struggles.

And it's not just the core guys who feel strongly about the team's chances of turning things around quickly, either.

"You're going to lose some games over the course of the season that you probably shouldn't," Arroyo told CSNNE.com. "But this is a veteran team. A loss or two every now and then isn't going to make us panic. We know the big picture, and that's to win it all."

How they handle their current two-game losing skid will go a long way towards establishing whether they are in fact as good or better than the pre-trading deadline Celtics squad that had a relatively firm grip on the top spot in the East.

History is certainly on the Celtics' side, but they'll need more than that in order to reverse their losing ways.

At the top of the C's must-improve list certainly has to be their defense.

Boston still ranks among the league's leaders in just about every statistical category, there's no doubt that the defense hasn't been nearly as good since the Feb. 24 trade.

That's not a shock when you consider Kendrick Perkins, one of the league's best interior defenders, was part of the trade with Oklahoma City that sent Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Green and Krstic.

"I'm not the one to make excuses, but we're in transformation here," said Kevin Garnett. "It's not an easy thing. Whatever we gotta do, we gotta fix it. I'm sure we will."

Garnett added, "Right now, we're in spurts. Me myself, I have to be more consisten with what I'm doing. We're all figuring it out on the go. But nonetheless, we still gotta get it done."

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

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

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Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
 
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
 
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
 
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
 
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
 
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
 
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
 
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
 
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
 
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
 
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
 
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
 
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
 
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
 
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
 
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”