Bruins

Doc: 'We're a soft team; we have no toughness'

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Doc: 'We're a soft team; we have no toughness'

BOSTON NBA players are a prideful bunch who don't take too kindly to their manhood being questioned.
But there was no mistaking what Doc Rivers and all those Celtics fans at the TD Garden witnessed in Wednesday's 95-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
This team, as talented as they might be on paper and on the floor some nights, lacks a certain toughness that can no longer be ignored.
"If I'm Brooklyn and the league, you've got to think we're pretty soft the way we're playing," Rivers said. "We're a soft team right now; we have no toughness."
And for those who want to throw Rajon Rondo's incident -- lead official James Capers referred to it as a fight -- with Kris Humphries into the category of exuded toughness, Rivers isn't trying to hear that.
Especially when he knows that there's a chance that it will likely cost Rondo at least one game via suspension.
"That stuff's not toughness," Rivers said. "All that stuff, that's not toughness."
Inside the Celtics locker room, the disappointment was apparent on the faces of all the players.
And when told of Rivers' comments, players had no choice but to agree.
"It's the truth," said Jeff Green. "That's how we're playing."
Part of the Celtics problem might be that they are not taking these games as serious as their opponents.
The issue isn't whether the C's are showing up ready to play.
That's a given.
The real problem is that far too often, they're not showing up to win.
Boston guard Courtney Lee acknowledged that the Celtics didn't approach this game with the sense of urgency to win that their opponent did.
"I feel like they (Brooklyn) came into the game and approached it as a big game playing us, and we approached it like it was just a regular game," Lee said.
It was clear that the Nets, winners of four in a row now, came to Boston with one thing in mind -- a victory.
That "soft" play that Rivers speaks of has a lot to do with his players simply not understanding fully what it means to play for a team that has been the target of just about every team in the East for a number of years.
"When we play, every team is attacking," Rivers said. "It's a big game for them. What I saw tonight, honestly, was I thought Brooklyn looked at this game as a huge game. Huge game."
Following the victory, several Brooklyn players acknowledged the importance of not just playing with -- but actually beating -- the Celtics for a second time in as many matchups.
"Definitely a big game," said Nets guard Joe Johnson. "You know we're just trying to hold our own at this point. It's still early in the season, but this is a division game. We know if you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, regardless of their record, is still going to be right in the hunt. We definitely came in here trying to test ourselves."
Brooklyn's Jerry Stackhouse, who had 17 points which included 5 3-pointers, agreed.
"This is a team that we look at as a barometer, with their core guys," Stackhouse said. "I know it's different now, they made some changes. But with Doc as their coach, we know they're going to be good at the end of the year. We have to establish ourselves and if there's room for us to try and make up some ground or show that we're for real and be there at the end, I think we're doing that."
Still, Stackhouse believes the Celtics are a team that can't be taken for granted.
"Even with the new pieces, there are some champions over there," he said.
Maybe so, but they certainly aren't playing like ones.
Far too often, they have played a weak brand of basketball that doesn't resemble what Celtics fans have come to know and expect from them in recent years.
Garnett, well aware of the historical relevance of his play and those that donned the C's uniforms before him, does not take any of that for granted.
Getting some of his teammates to understand this is among the many challenges that lie ahead for both him and the Celtics.
"There's a lot of people who built this before me; there's due diligence and responsibility that comes with that," Garnett said. "We gotta get that back somehow."

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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