Patriots

Rondo shines in Celtics loss

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Rondo shines in Celtics loss

NEW YORK Whether it was the result of not having Paul Pierce (right heel), or motivation from the trade rumors involving Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo looked like a different kind of player for the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Fans are used to Rondo run the game well. But hitting jump shots? And free throws?

Where did that come from?

Rondo's play was one of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing start to the season for Boston, as the team dropped its season opener 106-104 to the New York Knicks.

"He attacked early. He set the tone, got into the paint and softened up their defense," said Allen. "That's a great sign for us."

Carmelo Anthony's late-game heroics aside, for most of Sunday's game Rondo was the best player on the floor.

And unlike the Rondo we've come to know, he didn't rely primarily on his ball distribution skills either.

He had a team-high 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Of his 11 made field goals, three of them were jumpers from 17 feet or further.

A 57 percent free throw shooter, Rondo also showed a greater willingness to get into the paint and draw contact.

In addition to knocking down 11 of his 19 shots from the field, Rondo also connected on 9 of 12 free throws.

To put that in perspective, the most free-throw attempts that Rondo recorded last season was 11 (he made 5) against the Knicks on April 24.

"I'm going to try and get to the line a lot more," said Rondo, who also had 13 assists and five steals. "Some calls went my way early on. I just have to stay aggressive."

Coach Doc Rivers isn't into moral victories, but he couldn't deny the impact Rondo had on the game -- and how that impact is a positive for the Celtics moving forward.

"We want him to be aggressive," Rivers said. "The best part of the game for us was that, I thought Rondo attacked the basket. This is the Rondo we want. This is what we talked about last year, getting to the free-throw line, taking the shots when they're open. I thought he was the aggressor in the game."

And with Pierce out indefinitely, the Celtics will need more of the same with the Miami Heat up next.

But don't think for a minute that Rondo is all of a sudden going to morph into a scoring point guard.

"It's just one game," he said. "Obviously, when Pierce gets back, some of the shots will go to P. But whatever the team needs me to do; if it's being aggressive or being a pass-first point guard like I am . . . Whatever the team needs, whatever Doc wants me to do."

It's clear that Rondo has the right mental approach to this season.

But what remains vague is whether the trade talk involving him this summer, is at the root of what appears to be a different Rondo.

"I tried to have a better focus, each game," he said. "It may not be me scoring every night like I scored tonight; just try to do the intangibles out there on the floor, whether it's loose balls, diving on the floor, getting my hands on deflections, whatever the team needs me to do."

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

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