Celtics

Bruins quick-strike offense stunning opponents

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Bruins quick-strike offense stunning opponents

BOSTON -- The Bruins made a name for themselves last season with scoring depth among their forwards, and routinely overwhelmed opponents with the sheer volume of their relentless and variedattack.

The Bs breadth of scoring manifested itself on numerous occasions with quick-strike attacks: theywould score multiple goals within a minute or twoof each other and demoralize an opponent with the ultimate momentum-builder ina two-pronged attack that's nearly impossible to counteract.

Three times the Bruins potted goals within a minute of another score in the resounding win over the Leafs last weekend, and the lightning-in-a-bottle Bs once again scored twice within a minutes time against the thunderstruck Islanders in their 5-2 win at the Garden.

Its part of an offensive renaissance thats seen the Bruins pot 18 goals in the first three games in November after they managed toscrap together only22 goals in the 10 games during a fitful month of October.

Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin notched goals within 29 seconds of each other in the first period to hand the Islanders an initial gut punch in the first 20 minutes. That 1-2 combination chased Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov out of the game with the final strike from Bergeron-to-Seguin. Then Milan Lucic and Horton teamed up again within 49 seconds in the third period to pile on insurance goals to a slim one-goal lead heading out ofa second periodthat featured some offensive frustration in a scoreless 20 minutes with 16 shots on goal.

Therapid fire goals areactually part of a quick-strike philosophy employed bythe Bruins that Claude Julien and his coaching staff preach to their players. It's also a game-changing philosophy they used to big advantage in winning the Stanley Cuplast season. The Bruins basically target the beginnings and endings of periods along with the first shift after a goal is scored by either teamas major momentum shifters during a game. It's apoint of emphasis for the players, and it was plain to see on Monday night how disorienting it was to an Islanders team frantically searching for a foothold.

I think a big thing if you look at it whether its a goal that we score or the other team that next shift is always big. For whatever reason the last couple of games its almost like we score a goal, and we dont get too high and we go right back to work, said Lucic. We go right back in the offensive zone and try to create that chance we just had. "Its really been working for us. We cant lose that. Its a mindset, and its a mindset we cant overlook. The best way to put it is that weve really learned as a team not to get too high or low about things, and thats why we can get right back to work and get that next goal.

A website called The Checking Line compiled the NHLs best defenders against quick-strikes last season, and described them as: allowing a goal in the first 1:30 of a period and allowing a goal before either team scores in 2:30 following the goal. The Bruins actually allowed the fewest of those goals (36) in the NHL last season en route to the Stanley Cup, and it appears their attention to quick strike detail is once again working in their favor. Whether it was defending quick strikes or inflicting them as a damaging body shot to their opposition, the Bruins have been in control of the hockey phenomenon over the last two seasons.

When we score a goal, we seem to come back the next shift and weve always emphasized how important that shift following the goal for or against. Our guys just have been good at responding when they go back, and they get off to a real good shift, said Claude Julien. In Toronto, same thing we scored a couple of quick goals. Tonight, was the same thing against the Islanders. Its just paying attention to little details and what every part of the game means to your hockey club. Our guys are just responding to all of that right now.

The modest three-game winning streak in Novemberisa good sign for the Bruins this hockey team is beginning to take on some of the personality of last years special bunch: the return of the quick strike attack is proof positive of it.

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

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Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

BOSTON -- These are tough, heart-tugging times for the Boston Celtics, who are less than 24 hours removed from the gruesome left-ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of their 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
 
Hayward is scheduled to have surgery today, and potentially could be out for the entire season.
 
As much as their hearts go out to Hayward and his family, the Celtics know they can’t spend too much time sulking. The nature of this business won’t allow them, evident by the fact the C's step back on the floor tonight to host the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
“You hurt for him,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of great work. I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well. It’s a tough, tough deal but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
 
But in the same breath, Stevens is a realist.
 
He's been in the league long enough to know that grieving for a lost player won’t help that player in the short-term. Or the team, for that matter.

MORE ON GORDON HAYWARD

 
The best way the Celtics can help Hayward is to continue to compete in his absence.
 
We saw that in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers.
 
When Hayward was carted off the floor, the Celtics were ahead, 12-9. The lead disappeared and was eventually replaced by an 18-point deficit, only for Boston to chip away and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter.
 
But down the stretch, too much LeBron James and Kevin Love would prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
 
While the loss was disappointing, it gave the team some insight into how to fight on now that one of its main guys will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
We saw Jaylen Brown emerge from being a second-year pro on the rise into a matchup problem who dropped a career-high 25 points on the Cavs.
 
And Jayson Tatum reminded us all that he’s a teenager in age only, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The last rookie to tally a double-double for the Celtics in his opening night debut was Larry Bird in 1979, who had an identical 14-point, 10-rebound line.


 
But Bird didn’t have to play most of that game with one of the then top-three Celtics out for all but the game’s first five minutes.
 
When it comes to adversity, NBA players don’t have the luxury to pick which ones to handle and which ones to pass on. They either step up to the challenge or be consumed by it.
 
Under Stevens, Door Number One is the only option under consideration.
 
And since Stevens has been in Boston, his players have risen to the challenge.
 
That doesn’t mean they'll win every game, but they've shown the ability to at least be competitive. And in defeat, they'll refuse to use injury as an excuse.
 
That means younger players like Brown and Tatum will assume a larger role at both ends of the floor if Boston is to make it through these tough times relatively unscathed.
 
Veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Smart will be leaned upon more heavily to be leaders, both on and off the floor.
 
And Stevens, considered by many to be one of the better coaches in the NBA, will once again be tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments with his lineup and rotations under less-than-ideal conditions.
 
Nobody hurts more than Stevens when it comes to Hayward’s injury. Remember, he's known him longer than anyone associated with the Celtics, having recruited Hayward to play for Butler. It was the platform that launched both of their NBA careers.
 
Which is why the way he approaches not having Hayward is the example for all his players to follow.
 
Shortly after the loss to the Cavs, Stevens was asked about moving on while handling the emotional dynamics of losing Hayward for an extended period of time.
 
“We’ll be ready to play [tonight],” Stevens said with a heightened level of seriousness in his voice that spoke to how important it was to him and his players that they came out and performed at their best on Tuesday against Cleveland.

And that's the blueprint required for them going forward if they hope to be successful in handling adversity as it comes their way.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.