Patriots

Celtics-Suns review: Boston bench key in win

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Celtics-Suns review: Boston bench key in win

BOSTON The Boston Celtics starters weren't too shabby against the Phoenix Suns. 
But the C's second unit?
Better.
Better than their Phoenix counterparts.
Better than the Phoenix starters. 
Better than their own starters. 
It was the kind of performance that once again showcased the promise that this unit has, and reaffirmed why players such as Jason Terry remained confident in the second unit's success even when they weren't playing particularly well.
"We'll get it together," Terry told CSNNE.com recently. "It's going to take time, but we'll get it. We'll start clicking. We'll take off."
That was indeed the case on Wednesday night as Boston's second unit outscored the Suns' backups, 47-16.
And it wasn't just one or two players, either. 
It was the kind of balanced bench attack that has made the Celtics (18-17) one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Bench play was among the many keys weighing in the C's favor on Wednesday against the Suns who have now lost 11 in a row on the road. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they eventually played out. 
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The days of scoring a ton of points seems to be a thing of the past in Phoenix. They come into tonight's game averaging 96.4 points per game which ranks 16th in the league. They haven't finished outside of the top 10 in scoring since the 2003-2004 season.
WHAT WE SAW: Phoenix continued its season-long trend of not scoring a lot of points. Their 79-point total on Wednesday was the 10th time in their last 11 games in which they failed to score 100 or more points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Brandon Bass vs Luis Scola: Bass isn't scoring as much as he did last season, but his defense and rebounding has been solid during Boston's current three-game winning streak. Scola is a high-energy, multiple-effort kind of player so keeping him off the boards - especially the offensive ones - will be key for the C's.
WHAT WE SAW: Scola got his share of points (16) and rebounds (8) but there was never a point in the game in which his play was making a huge difference or impact on the game. Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) didn't have a huge game scoring the ball himself. But his defense more than made up for whatever he didn't get done offensively.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It seems playing against the Boston Celtics brings out the best in Marcin Gortat, a player the C's may have some interest in as we get closer to the trading deadline. In the three games he has played against Boston since joining the Suns, he has averaged 18.7 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.
WHAT WE SAW: Gortat did what Gortat always does against Boston and that's leave the game with a double-double under his belt. It was essentially just another day at the office against the Celtics for Gortat who had 12 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 6-for-12 from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: The third quarter has been decisively positive for the C's lately, and quite devastating to the Suns. In its last three wins, Boston outscored its opponents in the third quarter each game, by an average of 12.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Phoenix is giving up a league-high 25.6 points in the third quarter this season.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics' string of dominating the third quarter came to an end. Fortunately for them, the same can not be said for their winning streak. Despite being outscored 23-14 in the third, Boston's ability to dominate the second and fourth quarters would prove to be the difference on Wednesday night. 

Protoypical Patriots: What they want on the O-line - Smart, tough, athletic

Protoypical Patriots: What they want on the O-line - Smart, tough, athletic

Before the Super Bowl, Dante Scarnecchia spoke to a small group of reporters and laid out exactly what the Patriots look for in their offensive linemen.

"We covet three things when we look for offensive linemen," Scarnecchia said. "They have to be smart, they have to be tough, and they have to be athletic enough."

PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS - Previously in the series:

While there's certainly more to it than that, those are the basics. Check those off the list, and you'll have a chance. Someone like Cole Croston -- an undrafted rookie out of Iowa -- was able to spend the entirety of the 2017 season on the active roster with the Patriots because he met New England's criteria. 

The Patriots have a clear need for depth at offensive tackle after Nate Solder signed with the Giants, but are there players who can come in to be an immediate stopgap on the edge? If so, who are they? And if not, which developmental prospects could be fits?

Here are some names to keep in mind on draft weekend. These "prototypes" have what the Patriots typically look for in terms of size and athleticism up front:

PROTOTYPES IN RANGE
MIKE McGLINCHEY, NOTRE DAME, 6-8, 309


I've been told by evaluators that when it comes to this class of tackles, McGlinchey might be the only one who is truly ready for regular work in the NFL. That doesn't mean others can't develop into starters -- and do so quickly. But it sounds like McGlinchey is already there, particularly in the running game. He has the requisite size that the Patriots look for. Though he's not one of the top athletes in the class (his 28.5-inch vertical is a little under what the Patriots often like), he seems athletic enough (his broad jump, for instance, was 105 inches, which meets New England's criteria). That he comes from a pro-style blocking scheme could also make him a quick fit. Scarnecchia attended McGlinchey's pro day.  

KOLTON MILLER, UCLA, 6-9, 305


Length. Athleticism. Experience in a varied offense. Miller seems to have just about everything the Patriots look for. There seem to be some technique issues that Scarnecchia will have to work with to get Miller ready to go, but he's physically impressive. His 40 time (4.95 seconds) is more than quick enough. Same goes for his 31.5-inch vertical and his 121-inch broad jump. The jumps are significant because they show explosiveness, which for linemen -- who have to operate with force in tight spaces and explode out of their stances in pass protection -- is important. Miller told me at the combine he was scheduled to meet with New England. 

CONNOR WILLIAMS, TEXAS, 6-5, 296 


Williams has been deemed a guard by some because his size isn't necessarily ideal to play on the outside. And if he were drafted by the Patriots to play tackle, he'd be on the smaller side. But at 6-5 he's about the same height as Matt Light, and his arms (33 inches) are just a hair shorter than Sebastian Vollmer's (33 1/4). Athletically, he hits every standard. His 40 (almost five seconds flat) and jumps (34-inch vertical, 112-inch broad jump) were all very good. Belichick has a good relationship with Texas coach Tom Herman, and Williams reportedly paid the Patriots a visit during the pre-draft process. 

BRIAN O'NEILL, PITT, 6-7, 297 


O'Neill, like Miller, is another athletic prospect who will need some time. The former tight end is a little light compared to players the Patriots have drafted in the past. (Even Tony Garcia, whose knock against him was that he was light, weighed 302 pounds at the combine last year.) But athletically there are some eye-popping traits. He ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash and had a 7.14-second three-cone drill. His jumps were good but not out-of-this-world (28.5 vertical, 107-inch broad). 

BRADEN SMITH, AUBURN, 6-6, 315


How much does arm length matter? If the answer for the Patriots is "a heckuva lot" then Smith may not be deemed a fit. His arms measured 32 1/4 inches, which would be shortest for any tackle they've ever drafted. Otherwise? He's just about what they're looking for. Trusted player in the SEC. Tough. Good height. Good athlete. He ran a 5.22-second 40, benched 35 reps, jumped 33.5 inches and broad-jumped 113 inches. 

IMPERFECT BUT INTRIGUING
TYRELL CROSBY, OREGON, 6-5, 309
 


Crosby measured in at 6-4 and one-half inch, earning him the "6-5" listing by a hair. And his arm-length (32 1/4 inches) are short. But athletically he's solid -- 30-inch vertical, 105-inch broad jump -- and he's considered to have good toughness. Late on Day 2 could be the right time to pounce if he's available. 

JAMARCO JONES, OHIO STATE, 6-4, 299


Jones is short but his arm length (35 1/8 inches) might make up for what he lacks in height. Athletically he's not outstanding. His 40-yard dash time is slower than what the Patriots typically like (5.5 seconds), and his jumps were nothing to write home about (24-inch vertical, 102-inch broad jump). But the Ohio State connection, where the coaching staff has obvious connections to New England and the offense is relatively balanced, could help him get drafted in the middle rounds. 

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Bergeron on Game 4: "It's about giving everything we have tonight"

Bergeron on Game 4: "It's about giving everything we have tonight"

TORONTO – Every game in the Stanley Cup playoffs is of great importance obviously, and teams approach each one with the kind of singular focus and intensity that makes for great postseason theatre. But some games within a particular best-of-seven series are more important than others, and Thursday night’s Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre will be one of those kinds of games.

The Bruins are up 2-1 in the series and should still have plenty of confidence based on the offensive chances they’ve been able to carve out again a compliant Toronto defense, even if they were stopped in Game 3 by some bad luck, an appearance by Auston Matthews for the first time in the series and a superhuman effort from Frederik Andersen in the third period of that game. In many ways -- whether it was liming Boston to just one power play or holding down Boston’s top line despite their 22 shot attempts -- it was the Leafs playing at a level they may or may not be able to replicate a few more times in this series.

MORE BRUINS

All that being said, if the Maple Leafs can ride their streaky hot goalie or have Matthews take over a game with his undeniable skill they will head back to Boston tied at 2-2 apiece with two-way forward Nazem Kadri entering back into the series following his suspension. That would be a big swing that certainly could shake the confidence of the Black and Gold, who have looked like the better hockey club through the first three games of the series.

With that in mind, the B’s bench boss was taking the “straight ahead” approach to Thursday night’s pivotal game and not looking to put additional pressure on a result that clearly would make a big difference for either club.  

“We try to play the game in front of us and we’ve done that all year,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s Game 4 tonight and we’ll live with the result. We just want to play our game and improve in the areas that we thought we could be better at that Toronto did well. I think offensively we’ve been pretty consistent generating chances. The defensive side of things, there some plays that we need to defend a little better to limit their chances.

“I thought we did a better job of that at home than we did [in Game 3]. Give them credit, they came home and kind of like us they had a lot of energy coming out [of the gate]. So, we need to expect that and match that.”

It’s a much different series if the B’s can once again impose their will on the game, take a decisive 3-1 lead in the series and head back to Boston where they enjoyed two blowout victories over Toronto in the first two games.  The Bruins weren’t shying away from the game’s importance on Thursday night, or how key it will be to keeping the momentum on their side in the series.

MORE HAGGERTY

“There’s a big difference and we all know that. At the same time, we’re approaching this game like we have from the start of the series,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s about giving everything that we have tonight. We know last game was about the way they came out and [in Game 4] we’re expecting the same. So hopefully we can handle that better.”

The best guess here: The Bruins offense breaks through against a Leafs defense that hasn’t been able to effectively stop them, Toronto can’t replicate the highly disciplined approach they took in Game 3 and Andersen again becomes a mere mortal that’s given up some soft goals in this series. But if Toronto can play at that high level again for a second straight game, well then, it’s a whole different-looking playoff series that could indeed go the distance as many people predicted at the outset of the seven-game series between Boston and Toronto.

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