Patriots

Celtics-Bulls: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Bulls: What we saw . . .

CHICAGO The Boston Celtics were up by double digits at the half, and coach Doc Rivers was convinced his team wasn't working hard enough.
And it indeed caught up with the C's. They were no match for the Chicago Bulls' second-half surge, which propelled them to a 93-86 win.
After the game, Rivers said Thursday's loss was the worst one of the season.
"We were the cool Boston Celtics tonight," said a visibly upset Rivers. "That's who we looked like; you could see it. Walking around, walking the ball . . . couldn't get the ball inbounds? It was a joke. We were the cool Celtics. You don't play basketball cool."
Paul Pierce, like the rest of his teammates, was disappointed in the team's second-half struggles.
"We just didn't match their energy level in the second half," said Pierce, who led all Celtics with 22 points. "They came out with more purpose. We didn't show the sense of urgency in this game. I don't know if it was tired legs or mental weakness, but we didn't come out like we should have to put this team away."
Had this been December, January or even early February, that would have not been all that surprising. Back then, the Celtics were a team that teetered around the .500 mark. But they came into Thursday's game playing their best basketball of the season.
For a game like this to happen now is a tough one to swallow.
"This team has shown great resolve, but right now, that's twice now, they get into us, they frustrate us and our guys let go of the rope, bottom line," Rivers said. "We're not going to go a lot of places playing with that kind of mental toughness."
Indeed, the C's showing a lack of mental toughness in the second half was among the factors contributing to the loss. Here we'll examine a few keys identified prior to Thursday's game, and see how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's rebounding struggles are an issue unto themselves. But they really become problematic when it comes to second-chance points. You look back at Wednesday's 87-86 loss to San Antonio, and arguably the biggest shot of the night was made by Matt Bonner with less than a minute to play, a shot that came about because of San Antonio's ability to get multiple shot opportunities. No team is better at getting second-chance points than the Bulls, who average 15.9 second-chance points per game (tied with Utah for tops in the NBA). And it should come as no surprise that Boston, the league's worst rebounding team, is also among the NBA leaders in second-chance points given up. Boston gives up 14.2 second-chance points per game, the seventh-highest average in the NBA.WHAT WE SAW: Boston literally held its own on the boards in the first half, grabbing just as many boards (20) as the Bulls. Even better, Boston had a slim 7-6 edge in second-chance points which is a rare - extremely rare - occurrence. However, that all changed in the second half with the Bulls taking control of the glass and with it, the game. By the end of the night, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics, 44-36, and had a slight edge (15-14) in second-chance points.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Joakim Noah: You thought watching Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan on Wednesday night was a treat? Watching KG and Noah go to battle could be even better. In their last meeting on Feb. 16, Garnett had a strong game with 18 points, 10 rebounds and a blocked shot. Noah was even better, finishing with 15 points, 16 rebounds and most important, the victory.WHAT WE SAW: Garnett (four points, seven rebounds) was losing the head-to-head battle in the first half with Noah (11 points, six rebounds), but there was no mistaking he had the more positive impact on his respective team. The C's were plus-5 with Garnett on the floor in the first half, while the Bulls were minus-9 with Noah over the same period of time. Garnett continued to struggle with his shot in the second half, while Noah did a lot of the dirty work around the boards while the rest of his teammates handled the bulk of the team's scoring.PLAYER TO WATCH: If he plays - and that's a big 'if' right now - all eyes will be on Derrick Rose. The reigning league MVP hasn't played since March 12 against New York. And even though this will be the fourth and final regular-season meeting between these two teams, it's only the second time the C's could potentially see Rose on the floor. He missed the last two matchups with a back injury, and is currently out with a groin injury. However, his status is questionable after he was able to participate fully in Chicago's practice on Wednesday. I really dont know. I felt good, but me playing against Boston, I dont know," Rose told reporters after practice. "Im able to run a little bit more, but not at my top speed. Top speed or not, Rose playing at all will only add to the list of concerns Boston has to worry about.WHAT WE SAW: With Rose out for an 12th straight game due to a groin injury, that meant C.J. Watson - Rose's replacement in the starting lineup - was once again the man being called upon to fill some pretty big shoes. Watson had a solid night, finishing with 15 points and eight assists.
STAT TO TRACK: Keeping the Bulls from running will be among the many challenges Boston will face. The Bulls average 14 fast-break points per game, which ranks 10th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics defense is only giving up 12.1 fast-break points per game, which ranks seventh in the league.WHAT WE SAW: Chicago did damage in a number of areas, but their fast-break points wasn't one of them. Boston limited the Bulls to just 11 fast-break points, with all but two of those points coming in the second half.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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