BOSTON — Out of his work clothes, Keyon Dooling could easily be mistaken for a business mogul. Decked out in expensive-looking three-piece suits and shiny wingtip shoes, Dooling resembles a CEO as much as an NBA player.
When the Celtics guard pecks away at his smartphone, though, it is more likely he is checking basketball scores than stock prices, especially at this time of year.
After the Celtics beat the Utah Jazz on Wednesday to pull even with the Philadelphia 76ers atop the Atlantic Division standings, a prevalent topic of conversation was how much attention the players pay to the nightly results from around the league as they pursue a higher playoff seed. A few of the players, including Dooling, were candid about how much they monitor the league scoreboard.
"I do," Dooling said after scoring five of his seven points in the fourth quarter against the Jazz. "I keep up with the league. You guys do a great job and I support you guys' craft. I keep up with the standings."
This has been a tough season for Dooling. A combination of injuries and difficulty finding his niche in the Celtics' system have limited Dooling to only 14.2 minutes per game, his fewest since his second year in the NBA. Perhaps that is why he is so intent on the playoff race. The postseason is where he sees the Celtics — and himself — making noise after a roller-coaster regular season.
"This team is built for the playoffs," Dooling said. "It's built for grind-it-out type games. That's usually how playoff games are, so we're building our habits, guys are executing their roles and we're starting to get better."
Paul Pierce, unlike Dooling, likes to go with a more business-casual dress look. The Celtics captain has not had as much time of his hands as Dooling, what with leading the Celtics in scoring with 19.0 points per game, but he said he often multi-tasks.
Score 20 points to keep the Celtics in contention for the division crown? Sure, Pierce does that. He also sneaks a peak at how Philadelphia, Atlanta and the rest of the Eastern Conference are fairing, sometimes in the middle of games during halts in play.
"You know I keep up with everything," Pierce said. "I follow it religiously. I'm constantly on ESPN.com, NBA.com, all the websites. I'm always checking the scores, even during games, checking out who's winning.
"I pretty much know all the scores from the night. I'm just a basketball junkie. It's something I live, and I'm sure the other guys probably do the same things I do and are very aware of it."
Many are, but not Celtics forward Brandon Bass.
"I'm not looking at what Philly's doing," Bass said. "I don't care what they do. We're just taking care of what we can take care of, control what we can control."
Few teams are controlling things as well as the Celtics have lately. They are 11-5 in March and 13-5 since the All-Star break, and have lost consecutive games only once since Feb. 22. If anything, they might prefer more teams paid as much attention to the standings as they did. That way, opponents could see that the Celtics are just seventh in the Eastern Conference and let up a bit.
That is unlikely to happen, they admitted, as long as Boston is still considered a title contender.
"I feel like every night's going to be a challenge," Avery Bradley said. "It doesn't matter what night it is, you know people are going to come out and play hard no matter what because, as the Celtics, we always have a target on our backs. We just have to come out and keep playing the way we are playing, and if we do that, we are going to be successful."
Not every player keeps one eye on the scoreboard, but it is a lot more enjoyable for the Celtics to watch their deficit in the standings dwindle after spending the early part of the season watching it grow.