Celtics

Roster numbers influence Pats call on Fletcher

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Roster numbers influence Pats call on Fletcher

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a decision to make with Dane Fletcher and his torn ACL:

Put the third-year linebacker on injured reserve right away and have him occupy a spot on the team's roster for two more weeks, or waive him as an injured player and hope that none of the other 31 teams are interested in paying Fletcher his 2012 salary while he sits on their injured reserve.

The Patriots -- apparently -- decided to take the chance with Fletcher, waiving him Monday. Once he clears waivers, Fletcher will, according to an NFL GM, revert to the Patriots' injured reserve.

I say "apparently" because Pats Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio reacted as if he'd been asked for the nuclear codes on Tuesday when the Fletcher topic arose.

"We made the decision that we made, and were moving forward, Caserio stated. When the question of whether Fletcher would have counted against the roster if he was put on IR was posed, Caserio seemed exasperated.

"We make decisions every day on the roster," he said. "If there are any rules questions, I would direct those to the league and their interpretation.

The decision exposes one of the roster idiosyncrasies we don't often see. If it were the regular season, Fletcher could have gone straight to IR and a roster spot would have opened up.

But when a player is IR'd with the roster limit still at 90, the team does not get to fill his spot until the cut to 75. Presumably, the rule was enacted to head off any teams hoping to stash young players on IR during camp with phantom injuries.

Fletcher's injury isn't a put-on, though. And the fact his knee is blown will -- the Patriots seem to hope -- scare off any suitors.

And Fletcher's very specific role with the Patriots -- a coverage linebackerspecial teamer in a multiple defense -- may not have as much relevance around the league as it does here.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. 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.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE