Patriots

Celtics-Cavaliers review: Pierce, C's get it together

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Celtics-Cavaliers review: Pierce, C's get it together

BOSTON Facing a wounded team without one of their key players, the Boston Celtics did what you're supposed to do - show no mercy.

The Boston Celtics led the entire night in handing the Anderson Varejao-less Cleveland Cavaliers a 103-91 loss.

Varejao, the NBA's rebounding leader with 14.4 per game, did not play due to a right knee injury sustained in Cleveland's loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

His absence was clearly felt by the Cavs (5-22) who have lost five in a row.

But the way the Celtics were playing leading up to Wednesday's game, it didn't matter who they played - they were not playing good basketball.

And that more than anything else, is what they take away from Wednesday's victory that snapped a three-game losing skid.

Offensively, they steadily knocked down one shot after another before finishing with a season-best 59.7 percent shooting from the field.

And Boston had a strong game defensively in limiting the Cavs to 40.9 percent shooting.

"When you play like that it can be contagious," said Paul Pierce who had a season-high 40 points. "Offensively, guys knocking down shots, and then other guys getting up in there and defending."

Pierce's scoring along with solid play defensively were just a couple of factors contributing to Boston's win. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game, and how they played out for the C's in what players and coach Rivers agree was a much-needed victory.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even though Boston has struggled, the Cavaliers still view them as one of the league's better teams. That's not necessarily a good thing for Boston when you consider the Cavaliers' best play tends to come against the best teams. Of their five wins, three have come against teams with a winning record at the time.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston didn't waste much time getting a firm grip on this game as the Celtics opened with a 7-0 spurt and spent the rest of the game with a lead or tied.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo and Kyrie Irving. Irving put Rondo and the rest of the NBA on notice a year ago with his late-game heroics against the Celtics, and has done more of the same this season when healthy. His speed, strength and ability to score in a variety of ways will be a good test for Rondo.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo was a bit more assertive with his scoring as he tallied 20 points to go with eight assists. Irving once again more than held his own against Rondo, but he has to continue to improve as a playmaker. He had 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, but Irving only racked up two assists while turning the ball over three times.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett continues to have the fullest plate of any Celtic, and the weight of all that has hurt his ability to have the kind of impact he wants and needs. With tonight being a back-to-back, it'll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers elects to trim his minutes some or sub him in and out differently than he has in the past.

WHAT WE SAW: Doc Rivers' decision to move Jason Collins into the starting lineup clearly benefited Garnett who was able to move back to his natural power forward position. Garnett had 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with six rebounds, three assists a steal and a season-high three blocked shots.

STAT TO TRACK: How the Celtics defend in the first quarter will go far in determining whether they win tonight. This season, the Celtics are 4-1 when limiting opponents to 19 or fewer points scored in the first.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't lock down the Cavaliers as well as they would have liked in the first quarter. But to come out of the quarter with the lead has usually been a good thing for Boston. They led 27-25 after the first, and are now 9-3 when they're ahead or tied after the first quarter.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

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Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."

Marcus Morris targeting Oct. 30 game vs. Spurs as date for Celtics debut

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Marcus Morris targeting Oct. 30 game vs. Spurs as date for Celtics debut

WALTHAM -- It appears Marcus Morris’ debut for the Celtics will be when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 30.
 
The 6-foot-9 forward confirmed to reporters on Monday that, for now, that’s the target date.
 
Morris spent time after practice playing some one-one-one against rookie Jayson Tatum.
 
“I’m trying to push on it a little more,” he said. “Felt pretty good beating the rook’s ass one-on-one.”
 
The addition of Morris to the lineup can’t come soon enough for the Celtics (1-2).  They have already lost Gordon Hayward (ankle) for the season, and Marcus Smart (ankle) missed Friday’s win over Philadelphia. Smart said he would probably be in uniform for Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks. 
 
Those injuries have forced the Celtics to dig deeper into their roster, resulting in several first-year players seeing action. 
 
Having a veteran like Morris on the floor would bode well for the Celts in their quest to remain among the better teams in the East this season. 
 
Morris, who went through the non-contact portion of practice on Monday, joined the Celtics on Oct. 5, shortly after he and his brother Markieff (who plays for Washington) were acquitted of assault charges involving an incident in Phoenix in January of 2015. He appeared in one preseason game, scoring seven points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field.

Coach Brad Stevens said Morris was having some knee discomfort when he showed up for training camp. That, combined with showing up late to training camp because of his court case in Phoenix, resulted in him not having the level of conditioning he’s used to at the start of training camp. 
 
“It’s not that I’m in bad shape,” he told NBC Sports Boston earlier. “It’s just that I’m not where I expect myself to be conditioning-wise, right now.”
 
Morris echoed similar sentiments on Monday. 
 
“I’m in great condition,” he said. “I just want to be a little better. My conditioning has never been the problem. It’s the soreness in my [left] knee. It’s gotten a lot better over the past 10 days, so I feel I can play now. But be cautious because it’s a long season.”
 
Morris was acquired in the summer by Boston from Detroit, in exchange for Avery Bradley. The move was done to not only ensure there was enough salary cap space to sign then-free agent Gordon Hayward, but also for the Celtics to add a versatile player who can play both forward positions.