Celtics

Pinning down the Patriots in prime time

736262.jpg

Pinning down the Patriots in prime time

Another national holiday for the NFL, "Schedule Release Tuesday!"

Yes, we all know who the opponents are for every team, but the order in which those opponents will be played matters.

How's the early schedule? Who's playing in cold-weather cities late? Which games are in prime-time? Can I sell my tickets to the Jaguars game to some sap?

Some swaths of the media sneer at the excitement over the schedule release. Those would be people who don't plan their yearly entertainment around the NFL team they root for, the people whose fall and winter recreational schedule is unveiled today.

Eight of the Patriots 16 games are against opponents that finished with records of .500 or better. The fact the Pats play the 2-14 Rams (in London) and the 2-14 Colts (in Foxboro) drags their opponents combined winning percentage down to .453, lowest in the NFL.

The Patriots will be loaded up with prime-time games. Teams can play in prime time a maximum of five times and you have to figure they'll hit the max.

The Patriots will almost definitely play the Peyton Manning-led Broncos and the Jets in prime time.

Other strong possibilities are the 49ers, Texans and Ravens. The Bills, who have added Mario Williams, are also in the mix there.

The NFL last year made it a priority to have teams play divisional opponents early in the season and in the closing weeks.

The Patriots played three of their first five last year against AFC opponents (opening in Miami on Monday night). They closed with two AFC East games (Dolphins, Bills), both at home.

There's a good chance the Patriots will have to close on the road this year. Since the Patriots are playing in London against the Bucs in October, they will have their bye week after that game.

Here's a list of the Patriots 2012 opponents.

HOME
Niners
Texans
Broncos
Jets
Cards
Dolphins
Bills
Colts

AWAY
Ravens
Titans
Jets
Seahawks
Dolphins
Bills
Jaguars
Rams

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Celtics, Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON – The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 

MORE CELTICS:

But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

matthews_leafs_bruins_game5_4212018.jpg
File photo

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE