Curran: Quick analysis


Curran: Quick analysis

INDIANAPOLIS -- When the final play of the Super Bowl comes down to a Hail Mary that either team could have come down with, well, I think that's how they're supposed to end.
Quick reaction to the Patriots' 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI:
The game-winning touchdown drive by Eli Manning -- highlighted by his brilliant, 38-yard throw to Mario Manningham down the right sideline -- marks him as one of the greatest clutch quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. The David Tyree catch in 2007 may have been lucky and memorable, but the throw to Manningham was majestic.
Tom Brady had a bad miss on the throw to Deion Branch that fell incomplete with four minutes left from the Giants 44. On that play, a third-and-11, Wes Welker had come open in the middle of the field. As brilliantly as he played for a huge stretch of the game, Brady had three game-altering mistakes: That miss, the safety he took at the start of the game, and the pick he threw at the start of the fourth quarter on a bomb intended for Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots had two plays to thank for getting them back into the game after falling behind 9-0. The first was a third-and-4 completion for 15 yards to Branch that saved them from going three-and-out and saved an exhausted defense from going back on the field. The Patriots only got three on the drive, but they perserved their defense. Also, the hold on a third-and-1 play that wiped out a 10-yard Brandon Jacobs run was huge as the Patriots got the ball, drove 96 and scored a touchdown before the break they followed up with another score to start the second half.
The similarities between this game and the way the 2007 Super Bowl played out were remarkable. For the Giants to beat the top two seeds in the NFC and come from behind to beat the Patriots in the fourth quarter shows that when talk of resilient teams starts, the conversation should start with this era's Giants. And the conversation should end with them too.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks


WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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


Celtics-Hawks preview: C's 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.”