George Karl on Celtics: ‘They have a chance against Cleveland’

Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives past Celtics' Evan Turner (11).
Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives past Celtics' Evan Turner (11). –AP

The streaking Celtics turned plenty of heads around the league with their upset win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

One NBA figure who was impressed with what he saw on film in the victory was Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl. The 64-year-old believes that Boston’s performance is an indication that the Cavs will have a fight on their hands if both teams face off again this postseason.

“I’ll tell you what,’’ Karl said before his team lost, 128-119, to the Celtics on Sunday. “They have a chance against Cleveland.’’

The notion that the Celtics have a chance in a seven-game postseason series against the defending Eastern Conference champions may sound far fetched, especially after the Cavs dominated the first-round matchup against Boston last April. However, Karl believes that Boston’s effort should translate well against premier opponents.

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“They’re a 48-minute team, that’s what I like about them,’’ Karl said. “The first thing I saw was that their bench is probably as strong as their starters. Their energy is good — more consistent than most NBA teams. They don’t have a lot of ego, and they know that their defense creates offense, for them, so they play at a very difficult and high energized level.’’

Karl later added: “I think NBA players play hard. It’s the teams that have the talent to play harder than their opponent is what the Celtics have,’’ he said. “In a 48-minute game it’s not dominant. But they have those five-minute moments, or those 15-possession moments where their energy is substantially stronger than their opponent. Some of it comes because they’re a defensive team that creates turnovers.

Some of it comes from young kids fighting for minutes. Coach Stevens does a great job of pushing buttons and keeping everyone highly motivated. They’re a fun team.’’

The Celtics have won nine of their last 10 games overall and 13 of 16 dating back to January, catapulting them up to the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

“We’re starting to get a little respect,’’ Thomas said. “We just have to keep playing our game. Keep fighting, keep grinding it out, and hopefully it puts us in the best position possible when the playoffs start.’’

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