C’s Chomping at the Bit to Compete After Playoff Prep Week

BOSTON – After having a week off between the regular-season finale and Game 1 of the playoffs, the Boston Celtics are itching to get back onto the court. They’ve been preparing for the Brooklyn Nets since Tuesday night, and come Sunday afternoon, they’ll be ready to burst out of the tunnel at TD Garden.

“You can tell the group is ready to play,” head coach Ime Udoka said following practice Saturday afternoon. “The rest is needed and is good, but at some point, you start to get a little jittery and ready to play after this much time off and knowing what's coming up. So you can feel the anticipation and our guys are ready to roll.”

Game 1 of the first round is all that’s occupied Jaylen Brown’s mind over the past week, and he’s admittedly gone a bit stir crazy with anticipation. Though, he’s also trying to keep his cool, knowing how important it is to keep his composure at this time of the year.

“It's exciting. I’ve had a little bit of trouble sleeping, so I'm just trying to calm myself down,” the sixth-year wing with a smile. “I’m ready to go, I'm excited. It's playoff time, it’s the best time of the year. This is what you work for. So ultimately, going out there and just breathing and being yourself is going to be key because I know it's gonna be a lot of energy in the Garden."

Udoka says it’s important that the team harnesses that energy by putting all of their focus into what they do best. For them, that means locking in on the defensive end from the get-go, as they prepare to take on two of the league’s most skilled offensive players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“I think it's important to continue to be who we've been, which is guarding at a high level,” said the first-year head coach and former Brooklyn assistant. “We don't want it to be a shootout. They have some tremendous scorers, but we rely on that end every night.”

Marcus Smart can’t wait for the challenge of going up against the likes of KD and Kyrie. Being the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner that he is, Smart wants to show the world how he handles going up against two premier scorers.

This will give him another chance to prove why he’s the best defender on the planet and why he’s the heart and soul of Boston basketball.

“As a competitor, as a professional, you’re out there trying to do something special for the team and the city,” Smart said. “Moments like this are what you live for. If you can’t get up for moments like this, then you’re in the wrong profession. We’re going out there against two of the greatest players in the history of the game – to ever do it. We’re going to go out there to compete, work, and challenge each other against those guys.”

The only obstacle that’s been standing in Smart’s way is time. But now that their week of preparation is almost over, he and his teammates are ready to go out and show what they can do.

“We want to go out and we want to hoop,” Smart said. “It’s our passion, it’s our love, it’s our careers. It’s something that we enjoy doing. So when you’re so used to playing every other day, back-to-backs – you have a full week, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on? Things feel different.’ But it’s there. The energy is there. The guys are ready on both sides, I can speak for that. I know for a fact that guys over here aren’t getting any sleep because of that and I’m sure it’s the same for those guys. But the playoffs and this moment and this stage is an exciting moment for everybody. And we just want to all go out there and prove that the work we’ve been putting in can show the results for us in our favor.”

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