Notes: Celtics back in first place in the East

191544.jpg

Notes: Celtics back in first place in the East

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Well, so much for the Boston Celtics having to look up in the Eastern Conference standings.

After falling behind the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the Eastern Conference by half a game, the Celtics are once again at the top following Wednesday's 92-80 win over Indiana.

Both Boston and Chicago have identical 48-18 records.

The C's currently have the tiebreaker because they won two of the three regular-season matchups.

If the Celtics lose to Chicago when the teams meet on April 7, that would result in the series being even and the tiebreaker would then go to the Bulls because they have the better division record.

That's why this upcoming road trip, which includes games at Houston, New Orleans and New York, is so vital to Boston's chances of getting back home-court advantage throughout the playoffs in the East.

"We need all these games," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "This is the time of the year, this is an exciting time of the year. You smell the end coming. We smell the playoffs coming, so guys are really starting to buckle down, trying to finish the season off on a good note."

While Rajon Rondo didn't exactly dominate on Wednesday, it was clear that he was making strides in the right direction. He didn't score against the Pacers, but he did have eight assists with just two turnovers. It was a good showing for Rondo, who has been in a bit of a slump lately.

"I thought he played terrific," coach Doc Rivers said. "He played with great energy and you that third quarter, that one stretch, and even when he came back in the second quarter, I thought he played with great speed, I thought he created a lot of problems. So I was happy."

Rondo is one of the fastest players in the NBA. Jeff Green is surprisingly faster than you would think for a 6-foot-9 forward.

When asked who would win a race between himself and Rondo, Green responded, "I would win. I would definitely win."

Green quipped about running 40 yards in 4.2 seconds. "I'm pretty fast. It would be a tight match."

Moments later, Green was told about Rondo challenging world class sprinter Usain Bolt to a race a couple years ago.

"He did?" Green said when told of Rondo's challenge. "I ain't gonna do that."

Troy Murphy is a work in progress.

So far, he's progressing quite well of late.

In about 18 minutes, Murphy had six points which included an unexpected reverse dunk.

When asked if he was surprised by Murphy's dunk, Rivers said, "Yeah, yeah. I think he Murphy was surprised. I was worried about him getting hurt coming down, because I don't think he's jumped quite that high in quite some time. It was a slow-motion-reverse dunk. It was terrific."

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

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart will get start for Celtics for injured Isaiah Thomas

As expected, Marcus Smart will get the start for the Boston Celtics tonight against the Orlando Magic in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas. 

Thomas, who leads the Celtics (12-9) in scoring (26.0) and assists (6.2) this season, suffered a right groin injury in Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday.

Head coach Brad Stevens explained his decision a few minutes ago.

“He’s started a lot of games here in the past as a point guard,” Stevens told reporters. “He’s basically our sixth starter. It wasn’t one that I had to think a ton about.”

Starting Smart also allows second-year guard Terry Rozier to continue in his role coming off the bench. 

Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Smart’s production has been consistent. 

In the five games he has started this season, he has averaged 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. 

His numbers off the bench are almost identical with Smart averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a reserve. 

Stevens also mentioned that Amir Johnson would be back in the starting lineup in place of Jonas Jerebko. Earlier in the day, Stevens told reporters the decision to start Jerebko on Monday was strictly because of the matchup with Houston. 

“We have to be able to be flexible in doing that,” Stevens said. “Houston plays four guards. We didn’t feel like we could defend them unless we switch one through four. I thought he (Jerebko) did a pretty good job. This (Orlando) team is different than Houston other than both are super-hot.”

Orlando (10-12) has won four of its last five games in part because of its size, strength and versatility along the frontline which includes Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic who now comes off the bench. 

And while the Celtics have benefited heavily from the play of their guards, obviously that plan will be amended tonight with Thomas out. 

“He (Thomas) generates a lot in the open offense what we call flow, spread offense,” Stevens said. “So some of those type of things you may not generate at the same rate. But certainly there are other ways that we’ll look to play when he’s not in the game normally, or when we’re trying to play through bigs in the post. You have different ways to play within all your schemes. Hopefully we can play to each other’s strengths and go from there.”