Celtics

Belichick, Brady explain end-of-half clock management

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Belichick, Brady explain end-of-half clock management

FOXBORO -- In the waning moments of the first half, the Patriots were caught in a time crunch that forced them to settle for a field goal when they hoped to take a shot at the end zone for six points.

With just under 30 seconds remaining, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scrambled from the pocket and gained three yards before sliding at the Baltimore seven-yard line. With 20 seconds left, and one timeout, the Patriots had two options:

1) Call timeout, throw a pass into the end zone and hope for a touchdown catch or an incompletion, which would stop the clock and allow the Patriots to attempt a chip-shot field goal to end the half, or 2) spike the ball at the line of scrimmage, stopping the clock, and then still have time to run one quick play for a touchdown; if that didn't work, the Patriots could call time out and finish the half with a field-goal attempt.

Going off of coach Bill Belichick's explanation after the game, the Patriots tried for Option No. 2 but couldn't get to the line in time to "clock" the ball (read: spike it) in time.

Belichick said there was no thought of going with Option No. 1, calling an immediate timeout after Brady's run.

"I thought we could get up there, or we wanted to try to get up there and clock it and have time to run a play and have the timeout to kick the field goal," Belichick said. "So no there was no thought put into calling an immediate timeout, not really. I guess if we had known that it would take as long as it did to get the ball finally clocked we would have called a timeout, but then we didnt get a great look on the play."

Eventually, the clock ticked all the way down to four seconds and Brady was forced to call timeout just so the team had enough time to kick a field goal.

"Tom actually called timeout at the same time I did," Belichick said, "so we just didnt have it."

However, it looked like Brady was trying to line up a play without ever spiking the ball to stop the clock. He was lined up in the shotgun, lining up his teammates for a play before he looked up and realized time was running out in the half.

"Well, we had one timeout left so we were trying to save that for the field goal," Brady said. "I would have loved to get the touchdown there, but we settled for the field goal to go up, whatever it was, 13-7 at the half. We felt pretty good about where we were at halftime, but we just didnt come out in the second half and execute very well."

It was a bit of awkward time management that rarely seems to grip the Patriots, an uncharacteristic moment in a night full of them.

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”