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Celtics target ‘another level’ after extending lead with eighth straight win

The league-leading Boston Celtics are looking to go up through the gears after making it eight straight victories with Saturday’s 116-102 success against the New York Knicks.

The Celtics improved to 45-12 by continuing their best run of the season at Madison Square Garden, with Jaylen Brown racking up 30 points and Kristaps Porzingis adding 22.

Joe Mazzulla’s team now have an eight-game lead over the second-placed Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings.

That is a greater gap than that which separates the Western Conference leaders, the Minnesota Timberwolves, from the Phoenix Suns down in eighth (seven games).

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Center Al Horford, however, believes there is more to come, saying: “It’s just the way the season has gone. We’ve held our own, continued to work through things.

“Obviously the Sixers have injuries, different teams have different stuff going on, so that all goes into account.

“But we’re continuing to play good basketball. We’re really trying to play the right way. I feel like Joe is really challenging us to continue to get better.

“This is the stretch of the season where we can really take it to another level, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Asked what another level might look like for this Boston team, Horford said: “That’s a really good question, but I feel like we’re not where we need to be yet, and that’s a good thing.”

Brown echoed those sentiments, saying everyone associated with the Celtics was now focused on ensuring they enter the postseason in top form.

“When it comes down to the playoffs, none of this stuff really matters,” Brown said. “I feel like it’s going to be about matchups, it’s going to be about playing hard.

“Obviously, home court matters, so that is key, but when you get into the thick of it, you’ve got to win basketball games, regardless of what your seed is.

“If anything, it puts more pressure on you. But we’re an experienced team. We’ve been in these situations before and I think we’re ready.”

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