Patriots

Celtics-Bulls review: Bulls bring the intensity

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Celtics-Bulls review: Bulls bring the intensity

CHICAGO The Boston Celtics were not playing one of their better games against Chicago on Tuesday night and there they were, down by just three points following a lay-up by Rajon Rondo with 3:40 to play in the third quarter.

"I told our coaches that this game was about to go one way or the other," recalled Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

He was right.

Chicago reeled off nine straight points to take a commanding double-digit lead and never looked back in handing Boston a third straight defeat, 100-89.

As much as Chicago's third quarter spurt was about execution, it was fueled primarily by the Bulls bringing better, more consistent effort to the floor.

"Their intensity was harder throughout the game," Rivers said.

Even sadder was that the Bulls were coming off a game at Memphis Monday night while the Celtics had been prepping for Tuesday's game in Chicago since Sunday.

There was no denying that the Bulls, from the opening tip to the final horn, were the aggressor.

And it left the Celtics a defeated bunch that's trying to make sense out of a season that's still young, but clearly slipping further and further away from the kind of season they were expecting.

Getting beat is bad enough.

But getting beat because the other team played harder than you - which is the reason behind the bulk of Boston's losses this year - only adds insult to injury.

"That's the one thing I feel we can control night-in and night-out," said Paul Pierce. "We may not shoot the ball, we may not execute the offense but to say we get outworked night-in and night-out ... I'm embarrassed to even say it. But that's just the facts."

Chicago's effort was indeed a major factor in the game's outcome. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics took just eight free throw attempts in their loss to San Antonio, so you can expect them to attack the rim more often as well as get the ball to Kevin Garnett early in the post. The eight free throw attempts were the fewest for the C's since they took five in a home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last February.

WHAT WE SAW: The C's spent more time on the line, connecting on 14-of-19 attempts. But at no point did the Celtics establish this as a something they could go to with any consistency which is unlike the Bulls who were led by Luol Deng's 21 points that included 11-for-12 shooting from the line.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs Carlos Boozer. Bass is due for a breakout game after shooting just 2-for-8 in his last two games. That wouldn't be that big a stretch against Boozer who is not exactly known as a defensive stalwart.

WHAT WE SAW: Brandon Bass' shooting touch continues to be off, but he did provide eight rebounds which for a rebounding-challenged team like Boston, is a big deal. As for Boozer, he benefited heavily from the Celtics defensive problems. He had 21 points which included 12 in the first half.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has rolled sevens - as in turnovers - in each of Boston's last two games. His name is all over the C's record books already, but he'll clearly be looking to avoid becoming adding another historical footnote with what would be a third straight game with seven or more turnovers - something no Celtic in franchise history has ever accomplished.

WHAT WE SAW: His turnovers were down to just three on Tuesday, so that's a start. But his ability to dominate the game, much like the Celtics, came in spurts. He finished with a game-high 26 points and eight assists but there was never really a point in the game where it seemed his strong play was going to swing the game's momentum in the C's favor.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston is looking to avoid giving up 100 points or more for the fourth straight game, which shouldn't be too difficult to do against a Chicago team playing without their starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton. Regardless of the opponent, the Celtics have not had much success when opponents meet or exceed the 100-point plateau with a less-than-stellar record in such games of 3-7.

WHAT WE SAW: The Bulls are not a high-scoring team, so to give up 100 points to them like the Celtics did on Tuesday looks a lot worst than when the C's did it against Houston and San Antonio who are among the NBA's highest scoring teams.

Jags safety says Gronk hit was unavoidable

Jags safety says Gronk hit was unavoidable

FOXBORO -- During the tail end of the season, Rob Gronkowski was probably the league’s most unstoppable skill player. If any team was going to beat the Patriots, it needed to stop Gronk.

The Jaguars stopped Gronk on Sunday. They still didn’t win.

PATRIOTS 24, JAGUARS 20

The Patriots tight end was driven from the game by a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church. Gronk, running down the seam on a first-and-10 play with 1:28 left in the half, was hammered by Church, who really didn’t have a lot of options on the play. The throw was too up-for-grabs for Church to ignore the chance of picking it off. And by the time a pick was out of the question, the collision was inevitable.

“I just tried to dislodge the ball,” Church explained. “He’s a big dude and I was just trying to dislodge the ball but I gueess they felt it was too high of a hit. I hope he’s healthy. I know he didn’t come back so I hope he’s alright. It was a tough call but you have to go with what they call. It’s the toughest play in football.  If you go low for the knees you are considered a dirty player and if you go high, they throw the flag at you. It’s a bang-bang play and I was just trying to play football. I tried to lead with my shoulder.”

Gronk was slow to rise and when he did, he was unsteady. Teammate Chris Hogan kept Gronk steady until he got some assistance to the sideline. From there, we was squired to the locker room and into the concussion protocol. He didn’t return.

The hit, the flag and the fact the Patriots would soon score a touchdown to chew into the Jaguars lead caused the inevitable discussion of what Chruch was supposed to do on that play.

Church had the same debate himself.

“It’s tough, that guy s humongous,” said Church. “If you wait for him to catch it and bring it down, he might run you over. You have to go with it and try and hit him in the right target zone but, going 100 MPH, that is nearly impossible.”

Gronk wasn’t spotted in the locker room after the game. He’ll have checkpoints to pass before he’s cleared to play in Super Bowl 52. 

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First look at Tom Brady's injured thumb

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First look at Tom Brady's injured thumb

Apparently there was a miscommunication of sorts during Patriots practice this week.

Reports of gushing blood and Brady screaming in pain left many wondering what type of shape Tom Brady was in.

It turned out that he was just fine and ready to go, leading the Patriots to yet another comeback postseason victory.

But a first look at Brady's thumb was finally captured by an Associated Press photographer after tonight's game.

The collision occurred during a handoff and Brady needed 12 stiches, it also injured the collateral ligament in his thumb.

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