Celtics

P-Bruins lay an egg against St. John's

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P-Bruins lay an egg against St. John's

PROVIDENCE, R.I. All good things must come to an end, and an eight-game point streak for the Providence Bruins fell to a crashing thud Sunday afternoon. The P-Bruins fell behind early and never truly got it together in a 4-0 loss to the St. Johns IceCaps on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

The Black and Gold skaters probably knew it wasnt going to be their night when IceCaps forward Aaron Gagnon tipped a puck past P-Bruins goalie Michael Hutchinson just 45 seconds into the game.

Things didnt get better from there.

We had two goals that went in off us right out of the gate and were not a team that really fills up the net, so those are going to be tough games for us, said Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy. We had our chances to come back, but that was the story of our day. We didnt finish all that well around the net. It wasnt the first time this year, and it wont be the last.

But Providence also had its chances.

Craig Cunningham had a breakaway in the first period that was turned away by St. Johns goaltender Mark Dekanich. Chris Bourque had his own golden scoring opportunity mere moments into the second period off a faceoff play, but he missed high with a shot targeted for the top corner. Those were the best among 40 shots amassed by Providence in the shutout loss, but it was to no avail.

Paul Postma finished off the first period with a power-play strike from the high point that pinballed off bodies in front before catching the back of the net. The power play came courtesy of Jordan Carons second minor penalty of the first period, and the second of three overall the Bs forward would take in the game.

With Christian Hanson off for a kneeing penalty in the middle 20 minutes, Kael Mouillierat jumped on a loose puck to make it 3-0 when Hutchinson couldnt cleanly glove a point shot through traffic in front of the net. A third period David Warsofsky turnover in his own end led to an unassisted Jason Gregoire goal for the IceCaps, and finished off an uninspiring shutout loss for the P-Bruins that dropped their record to 14-9-0-2 on the season.

Cunningham and Jamie Tardif led the P-Bruins with five shots on net apiece in defeat.

GOLD STAR: Defenseman Paul Postma had a solid day for St.Johns: he helped set up the IceCaps goal 45 seconds into the game and thenhelped St. Johns build a 2-0 lead on a rocket from the high slot during apower play that put Providence down by a decisive two scores. Postma finishedthe day with two shots on net and a plus-1 and was part of a St. Johns crewthat had a solid day top-to-bottom against the P-Bruins. Mark Dekanich getshonorable mention for a 40-save effort against Providence, but many of theshots were from the outside perimeter area. BLACK EYE: Jordan Caron finished with zero points and hasbeen stuck on five goals scored for quite some time, and took a hat trick ofthree minor penalties during the game. The IceCaps scored their second goal ofthe game after Caron took a high-sticking penalty in the first period, andthings never got better for the Bruins forward. It wasnt very shocking thatCaron was slapped with several penalties as his skating appeared sluggish andlabored for much of the game. It just wasnt a good night for a player thatsexpected to have an NHL spot waiting for him in Boston.

INJURY UPDATE: Ryan Spooner was out with an upper-bodyinjury suffered on Saturday night, and P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said theseverity or lack thereof hadnt been determined. Torey Krug still out witha lower body injury that might keep him out until the Christmas break. JaredKnight is skating while recovering from a hamstring injury, but also might beout until after the Christmas break. Bruce Cassidy said that defenseman GarnetExelby might be ready to return to action next weekend. 

TURNING POINT: A nifty play off the face-off freed ChrisBourque for a shot all alone in front of the St. Johns net during the openingseconds of the second period, but Bourque missed high with a top corner bid. Awell-executed shot could have brought Providence to within a goal with nearly40 minutes left to play in the hockey game, but the P-Bruins couldnt get shotsto fall on Sunday afternoon. Craig Cunningham and Max Sauve had their own GradeA scoring chances, but Dekanich stopped both of those cold during his firstcareer shutout with St. Johns.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7. That's the number of games since Jordan Caronhas scored a goal for Providence. Caron has one goal in his last 18 games forthe P-Bruins after a solid start to the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: I think Hutchinson has really come around.All four were funny goals tonight. His game has been better. He hasnt playedback-to-back games in a long time, so starting him Sunday was kind of a gutfeeling. He played really well last night in Albany. I dont think today evengives a fair assessment of how hes been playing. P-Bruins coach BruceCassidy on goaltender Michael Hutchinson, who played in his first back-to-backgames since October.

Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

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Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

It gets harder to find problematic areas when a team wins 15 straight, like the Boston Celtics have.
 
But there are some. Boston’s inability to develop a consistent scoring threat when the second-unit players are on the floor hasn’t cost them a game yet, but you can see it coming if they don’t address this at some point.
 
Well, the answer to their second-unit struggles may be staring them right in the face – Marcus Morris.
 
While he does go back and forth as a starter, keeping him on the floor in the second quarter with the second unit makes sense for all involved.
 
Morris is a better scorer than many expected, but opportunities aren’t as plentiful with the first group. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are the top two options. The team’s young wings, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, probably stack up slightly higher in the scoring pecking order than Morris.
 
So for him to get quality looks with the second unit in the second quarter not only helps the team offensively, but it keeps Morris even more engaged than he already is.
 
We saw that in Saturday’s win over the Hawks.
 
Morris had 14 points, with 10 coming in the second quarter when he was surrounded primarily with players off the bench.
 
 “We need Marcus quite a bit,” said coach Brad Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back.”
 
Morris missed the first eight games of the season because of a sore left knee. Since his return, his minutes have been capped at around 25 or less, in addition to not playing back-to-back nights..

But as he continues to play a more significant role, look for his minutes -- and his role as a primary scorer in the second quarter -- to increase.
 
“He brings us scoring," Stevens said. "He brings us defense, he brings us toughness, and we really needed his scoring (against Atlanta), his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”
 
Here’s a look at five other takeaways from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta to extend the team’s winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.



 
JAYLEN BROWN'S EMERGENCE

The improvement in Jaylen Brown has been evident all season, but it's really spiked the last two games. The second-year wing player dropped 22 points on Golden State Thursday, then followed that up with a career-high 27 Saturday. Conventional wisdom tells you not to bank on Brown delivering like that on a consistent basis. But as a former No. 3 overall pick who works as hard as Brown does . . . would anyone be surprised if this becomes a new-norm when it comes to Brown?


 
HORFORD STREAK CONTINUES
 
Early foul trouble and an overall lack of flow offensively had Al Horford looking at having his first game of the season with a negative plus/minus. At the half he was at -16. Then came the Celtics’ second half surge which saw them turn a 16-point deficit in the first half into a double-digit victory. And Horford’s plus/minus? For the game he stood at +2, keeping his streak alive of having a positive plus/minus in every game played this season.

KYRIE IRVING
 
An efficient scoring Kyrie Irving is an NBA team’s worst nightmare. One of the league’s well-established scorers, Irving was just too much for the Atlanta Hawks to handle. And the end result was one of the most efficient scoring nights in Irving’s career as he tallied a game-high 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting.


 
TATUM'S SECOND-HALF SURGE
 
For the second straight game, Jayson Tatum did not begin playing his best basketball until the second half. Against the Hawks, Tatum scored all of his 14 points in the second half. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, 10 of his 12 points came in the second half. “For whatever reason he was pretty tentative (in the first half),” said Stevens. “He’s a good player, so struggles aren’t going to last long. He’ll figure it out.”


 
SMART'S SHOOTING (SLIGHTLY) BETTER
 
There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to Marcus Smart’s shooting. Against the Hawks, he had 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Now the numbers won’t wow you, but they are a huge step in the right direction in comparison to how he has been chucking up shots lately. In Boston’s previous five games, Smart was a face-cringing 10-for-52 shooting, or 19.2 percent from the field. Even with all the impact he makes consistently with his defense and effort, that number has to continue to improve if Boston is able to continue along its winning ways.

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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