Patriots

Celtics-Bucks review: Jennings leads the way

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Celtics-Bucks review: Jennings leads the way

BOSTON No one expected the Boston Celtics to run the tables and win all its home games.

But to lose the opener to the Milwaukee Bucks, a team the C's have dominated?

Few saw this coming.

The breakdowns were clear on so many fronts for Boston.

Defensively, they couldn't keep Brandon Jennings in front of them. When he broke them down, he either scored or racked up an assist on the way.

And offensively, the C's never played with any kind of continuity or flow which resulted in them facing an uphill battle almost the entire game.

Of course, all the changes made during the offseason is certainly a factor in the team's lack of cohesive play.

And while the talent level of the Celtics has certainly increased significantly since last season, that in itself doesn't guarantee a victory - home or on the road.

"At times I think we thought we would show up, because we have a lot of players on the team, and that would mean we would win," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Our guys have to understand you have to invest, invest into the team to become a team. And I don't think we've done that yet. I think we will."

Here are some of the keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Bucks have one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Rajon Rondo and Courtney Lee will have their hands full keeping these guys in check.

WHAT WE SAW: Brandon Jennings wasn't just the best point guard - he was the best player - on the floor Friday night in tallying 21 points and 13 assists. Ellis wasn't nearly as effective in finishing with 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Mike Dunleavy: Both of these guys will come off the bench even though they have the skills to be starters for a lot of NBA teams. After an underwhelming performance against Miami, Green will look to be more assertive and aggressive Saturday night.

WHAT WE SAW: This matchup of sixth man standouts didn't have a significant impact on the game for either team. Dunleavy only had seven points, but he did a nice job rebounding with six boards. Although Green had 11 points, seven came during the third quarter when the C's gave up 30 points - something that should not happen to a team that's supposed to be all about defense.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass had 15 points and 11 rebounds against Miami. No one expects him to necessarily put up similar numbers against the Bucks, but he does need to continue making his presence felt on the boards. It's the best way to keep himself in the game and Jarred Sullinger on the bench.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass didn't have a huge night (10 points, six rebounds), but he continues to be a solid producer for the C's with the starting group. However, the Celtics may consider replacing him with Sullinger if the second unit continues to struggle generating points.

STAT TO TRACK: With the additions made by Boston, bench scoring should not be an issue. And yet despite having what most believe is one of the deepest teams in the NBA, Boston still managed to be outscored 32-29 by the Miami Heat in the season opener. You can bet Jason Terry and the rest of the second unit will be on a mission to make sure that what happened in South Beach, stays in South Beach.

WHAT WE SAW: For the second straight game, Boston's bench came up short in terms of scoring (37-31) and impact on the game.

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.

1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right. 

They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected. 

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3

2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead. 

The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards. 

3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one. 

They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.

4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late. 

They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE