Like we said: Celtics in 6

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Like we said: Celtics in 6

Before the start of the CelticsHawks series, there was a legitimate consensus as to where this thing was headed.

Celtics in 6.

It was such a safe, easy and logical prediction.

Celtics in 6.

Once it hit your lips, it was so good.

Celtics in 6.

And we were all drinking it in.

So while no ones entirely surprised by the fact that we sit here today, after six games, with the Hawks in the rearview mirror and the Sixers (OK, THATs a surprise) in our sights, lets take a second to reflect on how we got here. Because even if the Celtics end result is about what we expected, the path they took to get here was anything but.

Game 1 was less than two weeks ago, but it feels more like two months, what with Al Horford and Ray Allen both long shots to see the court, with KG looking older than Hubie Brown, with the Hawks trotting out a starting line-up that featured Jason Collins and Kirk Hinrich, yet somehow dictating every aspect of the game. Bostons eventual comeback was canceled out by Rondo's ridiculous chest bump. He was tossed, the Celtics lost and you wondered if that might be it. But obviously, it was just the beginning.

Pierce threw the Cs on his back in Game 2, before Tebowing at center court. KG saved the day in Game 6, before psychologically-destroying a billionaire at the post game podium.

And in between, there was chaos.

Injuries to Pierce, Josh Smith and Avery Bradley. The return of Horford and Allen. Run-ins with Ed Malloy, Joey Crawford, Billy Boy Kennedy, Mitty Boy Romney and a brief but terrifying encounter with 2005 T-Mac. We saw significant minutes, at various times, from Erick Dampier and Marquis Daniels. We saw SO MUCH ISO Joe. A little bit of "No. 2 Overall" Marvin. At the end of Game 5, we saw Rondo steal the ball a poor man's Bird against the Pistons! before proceeding to dribble into a corner, pass the ball out of bounds, throw on a patent zebra-skin coat and nearly accost a cameraman.

Looking back, who would've thought that wed see Ray Allen shoot 57 from the foul line while Rondo shoots 50 from three-point land? That Keyon Dooling would score more than twice as many points as Mickael Pietrus? That Ryan Hollins would steal Greg Stiemsmas spot in the rotation, Brandon Bass crunch time minutes and the key to Doc Rivers heart? That Kevin Garnett would average 18.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, shoot 50 from the field, 88 from the line and average nearly 38 MINUTES a night? That we'd see the Celtics desperately try to give away TWO home games, and come damn close on both occasions?

Man, saying Celtics in 6 was so easy, wasn't it?

Watching them do it was a two-week anxiety attack.

But that's the playoffs. Things change from day-to-day, game-to-game, possession-to-unbearable-possession. There are so many times when you're so sure of everything; when it all makes sense. Two seconds later, nothing is real. I've used this analogy before but it's like constantly running back and forth between the hot tub and the pool. Every time, you know it's coming. Every time, it's such a shock to your system. After a while, you can lose your mind.

I remember my dad sending me a text down the stretch in Game 5. This was long before Rondo's steal, but after the Celtics had woken up and started to make their run.

"Crazy game."

I wrote back: "Yeah, I can't believe they're still in this."

I put down the phone, thought about what I'd just said, and shook my head:

I can't believe they're still in this?

What the hell?

Didn't we just spend the last 48 hours digging Atlanta's grave? Weren't we all so unbelievably sure that the Hawks had already quit?

Now I can't believe that the Celtics are even in the game?

But that's the way it was. Right down to last second of last night.

It will go down in the book as Celtics in 6, but we know it was much more than that. We also know that the Celtics will bare the scars from this series for the rest of their playoff run.

They may have escaped, but not without an injured Paul Pierce, a re-injured Avery Bradley and a sure-to-be-aching Ray Allen. Not without asking and taking A LOT from Kevin Garnett. Obviously, it could be worse, but the Celtics at least physically are not in great shape.

But again, that's the playoffs.

It's just as much about survival as it is skill.

The Magic lost Dwight Howard they're gone. The Bulls lost Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah they're gone. The Knicks lost Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and a little bit of Amare Stoudemaire they're gone. And you know what? Had the Hawks played with Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia for the entire series

Whatever.

It doesn't matter.

Those teams are done.

The Celtics survived.

In six games, just like we all thought. But in six games we never could have imagined.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."