Celtics

Chiefs moving on in light of Cassel's injury

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Chiefs moving on in light of Cassel's injury

FOXBORO -- The Patriots' defense is dealing with plenty of injuries. But Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley was quick to point out that his team is dealing with some significant injuries of its own entering Monday night's game at Gillette Stadium.

Perhaps the Chiefs' biggest injury was suffered by quarterback matt Cassel last Sunday in a loss to the Denver Broncos.

Cassel will miss his return to New England on Monday night, and it won't be because he's soft.

"He's a tough, tough guy, and has played through a lot of aches and pains here, since we've been together," said Haley. "I think he's most devastated that he's not going to be able to play, period, for our team. Because he's such a big part of our team, and the guys count on him. And he's a prideful, prideful, competitive guy that wants to play every week, and he's proven that.

"It's been impossible to really take him out of the lineup, barring maybe an organ removal ,and a couple of those things," added Haley. "It's disappointing to him, and I know we've got high goals and expectations for this year. And he'll just have to be on the sideline, rooting his teammates on, which I know that he will."

Replacing Cassel will be quarterback Tyler Palko. It will mark Palko's first career NFL start. And while some adjustments must be made to Kansas City's offensive attack because Palko throws left-handed, the Patriots' banged-up defense will see a similar offensive style from the Chiefs.

"Obviously, we've got a lefty, so some things are going to change," said Haley. "But Tyler's a drop-back quarterback, much like Matt. They have similar skill sets, so I don't think that we can dramatically make a whole bunch of adjustments, other than little tweaks here and there."

The Patriots will have to make some tweaks of their own, on the defensive end, as it doesn't look like cornerback Devin McCourty will be able to play on Monday night, after leaving Sunday's game against the Jets with a shoulder injury.

But still, the Chiefs know that the Patriots will make the proper adjustments, regardless of personnel.

"Their secondary has had some injury issues that they continue to fight through, but they're a competitive, tough group that makes plays at the right time, when they need them most," said Haley. "That has really helped their team win a bunch of games here.

"I think McCourty's a really good player," added Haley. "He plays physical, tough. But we've had our own share of injuries as New England has. Coach Belichick is one of the greats for a reason. And one of the key things to being a great coach in this league, and at any level really, is to develop your players that aren't necessarily frontline players, that are ready to play when they need to. I don't have any doubt that coach Belichick and his staff will have that done.

"So it's hard for me to look and say, well, we have a huge advantage in any area really."

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”